Minnesota: Truly Nice?

For being such a cold place (in the winter), Minnesotans are known for being the opposite. We’re warm, friendly. Nice. Sometimes too nice. Sometimes nice in a passive-aggressive way.

Credit: National Geographic

Credit: National Geographic

(hey, I’m all about being honest on this blog – and I AM a Minnesotan)

So are we really nice or is it just a “nice” label? According to an article by Stephanie Simon, The United States of Mind, “Even after controlling for variables such as race, income and education levels, a state’s dominant personality turns out to be strongly linked to certain outcomes. Amiable states, like Minnesota, tend to be lower in crime. Dutiful states — an eclectic bunch that includes New Mexico, North Carolina and Utah — produce a disproportionate share of mathematicians. ”

Amiable. I think that’s a good word for the Minnesotans I know. Clara James, commenting on that same study, concluded, “…the Wall Street Journal reported that Minnesota scored highly on agreeableness and extroversion. Minnesotans were around average in conscientiousness. Minnesota residents were some of the least neurotic and also some of the least open.”

Agreeable? Why, yes we are. Extroverted? Mostly. Least neurotic? You bet!

Least open? Unfortunately, I think I’d have to agree with that.

I know many transplants who say we’re friendly – to a point. What I’ve heard countless times in my life are comments such as, “Minnesotans rarely move away so they already have all the friends they need. That makes it hard for non-native Minnesotans to join in.”

In my scientific study (of one – me), I suspect that comment has a lot of validity to it as most of the people I know are Minnesotans from birth. And yet, so many of my adult friends are people I met at church (as an adult myself), through my kids’ schools, in the neighborhood. Do I gravitate toward other Minnesotans? Or do they just happen to be Minnesotan when I meet them in random places? As Jason deRusha says, “Good question.”

Perhaps when someone calls us “Minnesota Nice,” there’s more sarcasm there than we’d like to think. Do you have co-workers or neighbors who are not “from here”?800px-Lima.mtn.Summit.view  Have you ever invited them over for dinner, or just coffee? How about inviting them “up north” to the cabin? When a holiday rolls around, have you considered inviting someone from church, who has no local family, to join yours?

Wow – I can feel a whole lot of Minnesotans squirming at those ideas!

So many sites I looked at around the Minnesota Nice concept don’t give flattering descriptions. We ARE an amiable group (as someone said, “Minnesotans will give you directions to anywhere – just not to their house”). We’re a helpful, caring lot. And apparently we’re among the least neurotic in the country. Not a lot of navel gazing going on around here (it’s too cold, for starters).

But we’re also among the least open. Hmm. Definitely something to think about. What do you think? If you’re Minnesota-born, do you think those descriptors are accurate? If you’re not Minnesota-born, tell us some of your experiences. And be honest – we can take it. (or so we say…)

I like being Minnesota Nice. I just think I need to expand my definition.  And be more intentional about it.

P.S. Maybe we should change the title to Minnesota Amiable.


About Stacy Monson

Stacy is an award-winning author and freelance writer. Shattered Image and Dance of Grace, Books 1 and 2 of the Chain of Lakes Series, are available on Amazon in print and ebook formats. Book 3 will release Spring of 2017. Past president and founder of MN-NICE, the Minnesota ACFW chapter, she is now the Area Director for Minnesota.
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8 Responses to Minnesota: Truly Nice?

  1. dtopliff says:

    I really like this and written great. I’m a native Washingtonian and still love the Pacific Northwest lots, but grandparents on sides were from here and God brought me here. I’m gaining insights into MN-Nice and especially appreciate the can-do and neighborly helpful spirit maybe most noticeable in northern or farming communities. (Maybe loving that is one reason I bought a small farm?) Thanks, Stacy.


  2. StacyMonson says:

    Glad you’re now part of Minnesota, Delores! There are probably more opportunities to be helpful in the farming communities. The suburbanites seem to have an “I can do it myself” attitude.


  3. This is so true, Stacy. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, but my husband and I detoured to Moorhead, MN for 7 years (Our kids were all born in Fargo, but they still turned out okay. ;)). People were very friendly in the F/M area, but the only friends I made were originally from other areas. It’s no surprise that all of those friends moved away before we did.

    And I can understand how this happens. My husband and I both come from families who stayed fairly close to home. Those are *safe* relationships, especially for the introvert. And in an age when busyness is rampant it’s difficult to find time to reach out to new people–not that making the effort shouldn’t be a priority.

    Excellent post, Stacy!


    • StacyMonson says:

      I think the fact that most of us don’t move away is a major contributor. It’s not that we’re not friendly (or at least amiable!) – we just, like you said, have enough trouble keeping up with family! But it’s really an excuse to not look beyond our own circle.


  4. Camry says:

    “They’ll give you directions to anywhere…just not to their house.” HA!!


  5. writerbev says:

    Great observations, Stacy. When I moved here from Texas 20 years ago I noticed the difference more clearly. Perhaps cold weather keeps residents cloistered away in the winter and the brevity of summer prevents looking beyond one’s own established family and circle of friends. Your comments will keep me thinking for some time to come.


  6. This seems to hold true in many cases, but I think it has something to do with where people are in their lives.

    When I was just out of college, I was a lot more open to new people and made friends with people from Florida and California and even Canada! I think as people get older and settled into family life that takes such a priority that there’s less time and energy for meeting new people and forming new relationships.


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