Arts & Culture Poll: Are Minnesotans friendly to newcomers? Stephanie Curtis March 9, 2012, 4:08 PM Mar 9, 2012 39 Did you move to Minnesota from another state or country? How welcoming did you find the state? (Natives, you can answer, too. I’m a native and I have an opinion about our warmth to outsiders.) Are Minnesotans friendly to transplants? We’ll be talking more about this on The Daily Circuit at 11:06 a.m. Monday. -Stephanie Curtis, social media host ‹ Older Cute baby goats, Ciudad Juarez and why you shouldn’t spend a lot on wine Newer › Poll: Do you support a voter ID law? Browse by category Arts & Culture Education Behind the scenes Science Economy, Business & Jobs News & Trends Politics & Government Books Health & Medicine Field Notes Book Lists About the blogger Stephanie Curtis firstname.lastname@example.org • @stephcurtis Stephanie Curtis has produced events, daily news shows, documentaries, conferences and call-ins for MPR News. She also was among the pioneering producers who launched The Current. You can hear her discuss movies every Thursday on The Cube Critics. Kevin I answered “no” but my real answer is more complicated. Of course some Minnesotans are very welcoming, and some are not. But Minnesota has an unusually high level of state cohesiveness. Minnesotans are proud of their state, and each other, and they tend to stick together. Also, there are a lot of activities that are part of the culture in Minnesota that aren’t as common in other states. Hockey. Hunting. Hanging out by the lake up north. Not being into those activities makes it hard to break into the inner circles. Paula Moving from the Southwest to Minnesota it was tough to break into the “accepted zone”. I would say good morning and get blank looks, no acknowledgment or my favorite “Is it?” The grocery clerk was the same person I saw each week and it took about a month for her to actually talk to me. Minnesota has state pride, city pride, and school pride, but doesn’t seem to know how to make newcomers feel included in sharing that pride. Don’t get me wrong, I love living up here, but it was a tough breaking into the club. They know if you are not from here and seem to want to make sure you are worth the effort to include. Four winters later and I think I have been included. Alison Maybe it depends on how outgoing you (the outsider) are. I’m not from MN (not that you could tell), but I don’t sit around waiting for others to include me. In my experience, if you make an effort to show interest in others they will most likely show interest in you, MN native or not. Kate We moved here from California three years ago and immediately found it difficult to engage people in conversation. In California it’s very common to talk to the person next to you in line at the grocery store or coffee shop. I tried that several times here and was greeted with blank stares. We’ve managed to make some great friends but they are all also recent transplants from other states – largely from places like New York or California where being outgoing is an asset and not a character flaw! That said, we love Minnesota. It’s just a bigger adjustment than I anticipated. Disco I think the level of acceptance in any place is based on the number of transplants in that area. There are relatively few here; consequently, people aren’t very nice. Renee Dell My experience has been most are cold fish, distant, odd, and I do mean odd. I have found them to be aloof when trying to have a casual exchange. kelly I am reminded how un-friendly people are when I run. I smile and say “hello” or “good morning” with little response on the Minnehaha Parkway. A glorious spring weekend with few people expressing the joys of spring with a smile in return is sad. I travel to LA quite a bit and have found it much easier to engage in conversation and muchless merge onto a busy freeway there. I hope the transplants in the area stick around and infuse some flavor of their backgrounds into ours. Minneapolis/St Paul has a lot to offer, it’s a shame so many are gaurded. Heather I moved here 14 years ago, and it wasn’t until I had a child and enrolled her in the local elementary school that I felt accepted. It took the better part of 8 years to make a really good friend other than my husband.. of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, the friendship circles I have witnessed started out as early as grade school, and these people are still a circle 20-30 years later… its kind of cool in one aspect, but I think they are missing out on some great opportunities for new friendships.. As others have said, most of my good friends are transplants themselves… Alison I did read one definite Metro area poster above, but I wonder if there’s a difference between the city and rural areas. Maybe the rural areas have that sense of a small, tight-knit community that’s hard to break into, but I don’t sense that in the Metro. Maybe I have just managed to make friends with many people who aren’t from here. Maybe it’s because I’m transgender and I just accept that I’m probably going to have to take the lead in starting conversations and friendships. I really haven’t had problems fitting in or making friends. I’ve found Minnesotans to be quite welcoming. Scott I have found Minnesotans to be very distant and non-committal. It has been extremely hard to breakthrough and make any friends. Since we don’t have family here it has been very challenging especially around the Holidays. I’m happy to see this study – to know that I’m not crazy! In New York (where I’m from), you know where you stand with others – I have learned that “Minnesota Nice” is another way of saying Passive Aggressive. Anonymous As a lifelong Minnesotan, I feel good when I take the time to shovel my elderly neighbor’s sidewalk. But I do it very early in the morning so she doesn’t know it was me because I am uncomfortable with gratitude. Occasionally, I find it already shoveled. I do not know by whom. Chuck As a Minnesotan, I believe “Minnesota Nice” is a synonym for passive aggressive, a way to avoid confrontation but still trying to get a point across. In our defense, we folks of northern European descent are not noted for wearing our emotions on our sleeves. On the other hand, to tar all of us as distant is probably not fair either. On the third hand, I can definitely see a problem with trying to break into longtime groups; I have had that problem myself. But is that really unique to Minnesota? At any rate, on behalf of the natives, I apologize to all those who have felt slighted and held at arm’s length. Don’t give up! But don’t necessarily wait for us to make the first move either. Joanna I’ve lived here for three years this month…and unfortunately, I cannot wait to move. I have never had a problem making friends any place that I have lived or traveled to. I am outgoing and positive. I find it easy to find common ground with others….not here. I have tried so many different things to find my “niche” (clubs, meetups, classes, online forums, school, dog clubs, craigslist…you name it!) and I have found nothing but non-committal folks that aren’t open to making new friends. If the topic of me being an “outsider” (I HATE that word) comes up and I express that I don’t like it here, those that are from here take immediate defense and basically say, “Well, if you don’t like it, get out. We don’t want you here anyway.” OUCH! Not ONCE has someone said, “Wow, I’m sorry for your experience. How about you let me show you the Minnesota that I know and love?” If I bring up that I’ve had a hard time with making friends, they say, “Well, have you ever thought that you are the problem?” Yes. Yes I have. Many, many times. Then, after looking into it and getting help from a psychologist, I realized that I am not the problem. I mean, if there are programs and articles like this discussing the difficulties that transplants have with Minnesotans, doesn’t that make you think about yourself and your culture, too? Whether or not they realize it (or intend it), most interactions that I’ve had with native Minnesotans are cold, unwelcoming, close-minded, and suspicious of my intentions. I can’t even hold a door open for a stranger or say “excuse me” without a look in return like I am going to murder them. Where I’m from, they’re called “manners”, and they are in place to make others feel comfortable and cared for. When I ask a clerk at the store how they are doing and I don’t get a response back, it hurts my feelings so much. They’re not acknowledging that I exist – that I, too, am a human. That sort of thing wears down on me, and I’m sure it wears on other transplants, too. I’ve tried my hardest to do what is within my power to fit in here, but unfortunately, making people think of me as their friend is not in my power. I am currently saving up to move out of this state – my emotional health can’t take much more. Leo I moved here in 1988 to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Bearing in mind that I was raised on the east coast by Minnesotans, have relatives here in Minnesota, and came here almost every summer as a child, you would think it would be easy for me to integrate into Minnesota culture and society. But I continue to find it difficult. Minnesotans seem suspicious and cold toward people they perceive to be outsiders. Pleasant conversation at a store or public event is not welcomed. Good luck even making eye contact with a Minnesotan when you sharing a conversation with them. I have more than one Minnesota “friend” that have been to my house several times for parties and/or dinner and have never reciprocated an invite to their house. I am not suggesting that Minnesotans are mean. I am just saying that “Minnesota Nice” is better described as “Minnesota Nice.” Ironically, I travel to New York City several times per year and find the people there to be much more friendly and outgoing. J. Wolfe We moved from NE to MN in 2000 and noticed immediately that people seemed less outgoing. We laughed at the whole “MN nice” thing, thinking it should be more accurately “MN cold”. This isn’t true of everyone we met, but we certainly noted a difference. It took us 2 years or more before we actually had people we could call true “Minnesota friends”. To be fair, you have to make an effort to get to know new people, but I was fairly shocked at the general tepid/lack of response to “hellos”, “good mornings” and other polite greetings or invitations to hang out. That being said, I think the trend toward being insular is, unfortunately, a country-wide epidemic. Danielle I’ve lived many places but have never been so lonely as here. After 11 years I finally feel like I understand but have become involved in the community in other ways through sports and volunteer and work. Minnesotans are so connected to family and high school friends and work that they don’t have time to create new connections. They are always friendly but the ‘non-intrusive’ midwest way makes it difficult to make close connections. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about our lives and places outside of Minnesota. Eric Bloomquist I’m not A Minnesotan,I am thee Minnesotan.I am a farm raised blue collar Swedish Lutheran Democrat.I haven’t made a new friend since I was 5.I’ve married 2 girls I went to gradeschool with.I love to hear a relative is coming for a visit,and I love to hear the exact date they will be leaving.If you are new in town,you and your children will always be new in town.I’m not sure about your grandchildren. Cindy I lived in 3 countries before returning back to Minnesota – I loved going to new places and meeting new people, lots of friends everywhere. Coming home and adjusting back was the WORST experience I have ever had – and I am from here, and had family and old friends here!!! It wasn’t the same. I guess I was so used to people being outgoing and friendly everywhere else in the world. People here seem scared to get to know someone new, especially someone who does not fit the “norm”. Now married (to someone not from here) with children, we have a great life, but ultimately I don’t think I want my children to grow up in a culture which has passive-aggressive and insular qualities. There are far friendlier places in the world!! Doug I’ll admit that I’m not friendly to newcomers. To be frank, I really don’t want them here. One of your guests said that she is originally from Texas. I can envision nothing more horrifying than Minnesota being overrun by texans; or any other confederates for that matter. Everyone who wasn’t born here really need to return to wherever they came from. Josh I have been a life long Minnesotan and feel this is not just an issue for people coming from out of state. I moved from a large city Saint Cloud to a smaller rural community. This town has welcoming friendly people to a point. My closest friends here are young adults in my age group that have also just recently moved to town and we see large sections of the community closed off because we have not lived here for generations and are thus outsiders. 1st on 2nd questions is always who are your parents. Minnesota nice if we know your great grandparents. Josh I have been a life long Minnesotan and feel this is not just an issue for people coming from out of state. I moved from a large city Saint Cloud to a smaller rural community. This town has welcoming friendly people to a point. My closest friends here are young adults in my age group that have also just recently moved to town and we see large sections of the community closed off because we have not lived here for generations and are thus outsiders. 1st on 2nd questions is always who are your parents. Minnesota nice if we know your great grandparents. Jennifer Flavin I am from MN, but lived in NYC for 8 year. When I moved back with my child, I went to the park and the only people that spoke to me were people from someplace else. I wondered what was wrong with Minnesotans, and I am one! 🙂 Chuck Maybe we Minnesotans need a shared experience before we feel like we can be friendly? But how can nonnatives have a shared experience without an invitation? It’s a catch-22. Chuck I just sent the following sheepish message to my wife: “Wow, I’m listening to a radio show about how distant Minnesotans are to outsiders. It sounds like a real problem. One guest said we should ask ourselves when in the last 5 years have we invited someone into our homes whom we didn’t know already. I feel kind of bad, especially given all the times we have said “We should invite those people over for dinner” and then never follow through. All these transplants talking about how long they’ve been here and have never been inside someone else’s home, how cold people are in line or on the street. Sheesh. We need to shape up.” Suzanne This is a great topic and one I wish I’d had insight into when moving here 20 years ago from East Coast. I think the extroverted transplants can do well (if they don’t put the natives off with their exuberance) but the introverts like me can take a long time to fit in. Have managed it only by way of kids, profession, and communities of interest (music and dance). Advice: be a joiner, be a volunteer, remain positive and learn to be indirect! Daisy Minnesotans seem to form bonds with relatives and friends in grade and high school and resist forming friendships with neighbors and new people as adults. I’ve lived half my life in MN, and still feel like an outsider, where I never felt that way in other parts of the country. When my spouse and I bought a house, we were happy to greet the neighbors who came by to find out who we were, including the neighbors across the street with a daughter the same age as our own. The second time we talked to them was ten years later when we moved out and they came across the street to ask why we were leaving. The only other time I encountered one of these neighbors was when he came to turn on the sprinkler for the next door neighbor (who never greeted us at all) and informed me that he intended to turn on the sprinkler next to my clothes on the line and to consider that they might get wet. If you are a relative of a Minnesotan or went to grade or high school here (no, college doesn’t seem to matter), you have connections; if you are not related or a school mate, even many years later, you don’t fit in. In my experience, if you spin out and land in a ditch, you’ll be surrounded by helpful people, but none of those people will ever invite you for coffee, and will “get back to you” if you extend the invitation. Minnesota Nice? Not so much. Sara Feinberg My mom was a transplant from NYC and my dad was a native (I’m a part true Swede!). I have grown up here but have never felt like I fit in, even though I too still have friends from High School. Many of my friends are not from Minnesota or are children of people not from here, and many transplants have told me that I am more friendly than natives. It is just as hard for children of transplants to connect and become friends with other Minnesotans, mostly because my parent’s way of getting friends is different from the natives way. I still feel like people won’t tell me when they don’t like me, and feel uncomfortable when I reach out too much. I love this city but this is something I have struggled with for a long time. Thank you for this talk and have more! Michelle We have a phrase at our house (2 transplants, one from WI and one from AL), “Minnesota Interesting”, to differentiate from when we think something is just interesting. Michelle This also varies tremendously in different small pockets. I lived at my previous home for 3 years. I barely knew 3 neighbors. When we moved to our current house I knew 3 neighbors before I moved in and we have a very active block group and I know EVERYONE on the block. Ann Fromell-Theis I moved to Minnesota in the early 1970s. My husband is a native minnesotan. Both of us are shy but i have always felt that the people are friendly if not ready to take you to their bossom. This is normal for me since the culture I grew up in is very similar i.e. Sweden. Here in Minnesota when you go for a walk and meet someone they invariably smile and say hallo, not like in California where they apparently look away. Melinda I live in St. Cloud (Stearns County) and I haven’t found Minnesotans to be friendly to transplants. (I’ve lived here 12 years and have lived in Iowa and Nebraska. I’m well aware that I’m an outsider and can expect to be so for the rest of my days here.) But, in their defense, they don’t need us. Most of the native Minnesotans I know have plenty of family and childhood friends close by. However, I’ve heard several natives brag that they haven’t added a friend to their circle since high school or college (in state, of course), maybe even grade school. The implication seems to be a superior level of commitment among friends. I had never viewed friendships that way before moving here. Stacy I’ve lived here for 40+ years (20 years rurally and 20 years in the Metro area) and can vouch for both the helpfulness and generosity of Minnesota communities but also the suspicion toward and exclusion of outsiders. I think it stems from a pretty-healthy insecurity complex…we regard ourselves as “flyover country” so we project this passive-aggressive facade to people who come here known as “MN Nice” (nice and polite but also cold and indifferent). I think we just need to come to terms with the fact that we’re not NY and we’re not California. But we’re just as good and valid for our own reasons and be happy with that. (A Superbowl Championship wouldn’t hurt either.) Ray Many of the comments here sound like my experience when I was in college a couple years ago (and I’m a native Minnesotan!). I transferred from a college in rural Minnesota (where I was treated like an outside for not being the correct type of Christian) to a “suitcase college” in the Twin Cities. It was staggering how many students who lived on campus went home all weekend, every weekend, starting with their first weekend to hang out with people they had been friends with since elementary school. Making friends is hard for transfer students at any school, but the vast majority of friends I made were from out of state. It seemed like making friends is like finding a job; you need to know someone who knows someone to be considered. This article and the comments I’ve read make me hope I don’t end up trapped here, but I have to agree with an earlier commenter that becoming insular is likely a national trend. America’s new 50-70+ hour work week isn’t helping. Gordon near Two Harbors It’s hard to say if native Minnesotans are cool to newcomers, because personal interactions are all unique. We do have a reserved demeanor though, inherited from our mostly Germanic and Nordic ancestors, and many of us see some of the demographic changes to the state over the past 30 years as being mostly negative. In the 1970s there were no urban gangs in the Twin Cities, and places like North Minneapolis (where I grew up and many members of my family still live) were safe places to live. Today, I see massive urban sprawl into the wildlands I knew as a kid, less social and racial integration, population pressures that have forced lakeshore prices beyond the means of the middle class, and a bigger disparity between the haves and have-nots. In a nutshell, most native Minnesotans don’t want our state to become like the places that so many others have fled. Caroline I recently moved here from Iowa. I am not an extremely outgoing person in places where I am not comfortable or know anyone. However, I joined the YWCA and in the middle of a class last week a woman next to me asked if I had been a member there for a while. I told her I had recently moved from Iowa to the TC area and joined the Y. She instantly said, “I think Iowans are so much better than Minnesotans.” However, she was the one who initiated talking to me, so who can say for sure if Iowans are better or not??? I think Iowa does have a reputation for being a “nicer” state, but frankly, I don’t think there is much of a difference overall. John Five years here. Post secondary educator. Community of 8,000. Single. White. Male. Over 60. Have close friends every where I’ve lived previously. Invested homeowner on 20 wooded acres. Engaged in responsible forest management. Not a gang member. Not a hell raiser. Love winter sports. Even cheer on the Vikes!!! Numerous attempts to connect as a volunteer in “community” organizations. Still treated like an invasive species. After reading comments and listening to this series I’m not sure relocating to a new position in the metro will be an improvement. I suppose I’ll have easier access to the arts, culture and the airport to get out of town. Greatful! I live in a small town in which if your great-great-great grandparents were not born and raised here, you would normally never be truly welcomed. However, I have two wonderful friends (a married couple) who realized this problem and have been proactive in making as many people in our small community feel genuinely welcome as humanly possible. They each have one of those large extended families with a long history here (eight generations on one side!). Myself and other nonnatives have been so warmly accepted into that family and then introduced into others. I wish I could clone them to reach out to all who’ve not felt welcome in Minnesota; apparently we need more of them! Tracy I’m from Wisconsin and lived in the Cities for a few years, and now live in Texas. Texans are very cliquish, associated with church. Texans are REALLY aggressively friendly, though. You have to be pumped up to even go to the grocery store because you WILL have to have a conversation. MN people are much cooler. Friendly, but not warm. My impression was that they were also cliquish as associated with their churches! They are also not nearly as comfortable inviting people into their homes…it’s considered normal to have parties in your garage here, after all! However, I really must ask: what is with all you hosts and callers whining about not getting invited to peoples’ houses? I’ve never been thrilled with the idea of inviting casual friends or YIKES brand new people into my safe space! My home is my retreat! What’s wrong with developing a friendship on neutral ground with coffee and restaurant ‘dates’? I’m happy to do that, but I don’t really want to go into other peoples’ homes either, until I’m very close friends with them. It feels really invasive to me. Maybe MN just has a higher percentage of introverts…introverts are happy to get to know you, but we find socializing draining, so we would want to go HOME after work to recharge. I suspect we’re just hearing from a bunch of needy extroverts! GO HOME AFTER WORK AND CUDDLE YOUR DOG, ALREADY! LOL. Jerry When my wife and I first moved here last year we were welcomed with open arms…by our family…everyone else turned their backs on us. Especially since we used to live in Texas. Minnesotans have an extreme hatred for Texans. My new employer hired me but my supervisor did everything he could to get me fired. We have been told numerous times to “go back where we came from” which we are willing to do but since I was pushed out of my job we have no money and we can’t move anywhere. We tried to get help from the state but were told that what minnesota has is only for minnesotans. So it seems we will be homeless with no money or food. Way to go minnesota!! This torture is slowing killing us. Another Texan down…you must be proud of yourselves.