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.

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