Except for a one year stint in Indiana, I have been a Minnesotan all my life. And Minnesotans are known for being nice, or specifically, “Minnesota Nice.”
Definition of Minnesota Nice: Passive Aggressive
Minnesotans are only considered nice because by and by, we aren’t trouble makers. We don’t get in screaming matches in parking lots or throw things in Wal-Mart, cops don’t come out to our houses for domestic violence and our friends all think we agree with every damn thing they say. Minnesotans don’t like to stir the pot. We don’t like to be direct about our feelings, especially negative ones, in fact it makes us nervous. It makes our heart race and our palms get sweaty and all of a sudden we can’t hear what we’re saying because the pounding of our heart is on stereo in our brain. This makes us passive aggressive at best, exploding time bombs at worst.
For lack of a better way to approach this, I’m going to write a two-point list.
Why Minnesotan’s Aren’t Nice
1. We’re clique-y. Minnesotans form these extremely tight bonds of friendship that from the inside seems like big, healthy balls of friendship and loyalty and from the outside looks like The Wall at Castle Black, daunting and impossible to scale. And these friendships seem to last for life and be extremely impenetrable. I know entire groups of people whose members have not changed since high school, 8 long years ago. And for those of us who aren’t still in our high school groups, we have new groups, formed by new interests, usually in college or through work.
But what if you didn’t go to college? What if you work with a big group of fuckers you never want to spend you’re clocked out time with? What if you’ve just moved here from out of state? What if you moved away and just came back? (I’ll talk about that last one last, because it is such a prime example of Minnesota Clique-y-ness.
People who don’t have a pre-set friend group and especially people who have just moved here from another state mat find it very difficult to establish lasting friendships or make their way into a group. This is not true of all people, the very bold and self-confident, those who have low awareness for awkward, or those who are exceedingly awesome might be able to wheedle themselves into a group. But it’s not common and it’s hard. Where do you meet these new friends? Where do Minnesotan groups of friends hang out? Bars and Bowling Alleys, Coffee Shops, Restaurants, and people’s houses. None of these prime places to try to intervene and introduce yourself. The trick is to someone meet just one of them. In line at the store, in the coffee shop, around the lakes or taking a class and hope that person will be your in.
A few years ago my computer broke down and I brought it to the Best Buy Geek Squad the MOA. The girl who helped me was fun and we hit it off, exchanging emails. We talked for a week or so, and I was like, “Hey, a new friend. One new friend can lead to many new friends!” But then she stopped emailing me and I never heard from her again. I never know what happened. As for the friends I met from school, while I’d hang out with them one on one, they’d never invite me to meet their friends. (I would, but since I’m aware of the clique-y-ness problem, I’m very self-aware of what I’m doing in those situations.)
This is a problem I’ve heard time and time again from people who have recently moved to Minnesota. It’s so hard to meet people. Well, it’s harder if you’re moving back. My brief time in Indiana. I had a very well established group of close friends when I moved. A year later when I came back… well, let’s just say they’d moved on. They did not welcome me back with the open arms I’d been hoping for. The group dynamics had shifted and now instead of being an integral part of the group, I was a side member. The affect was jarring and everyone was uncomfortable. We tried to make it work, pretended like nothing at happened, but everything felt off, uncomfortable, for everyone. Not only had the group changed, but the people had changed. When a group all changes together this isn’t noticed as much, but when you change separately and try to come back together… well, it’s like two groups of people who evolved on different sides of the river. They’re not the same anymore. And three years later I’m not friend with those people anymore. I have other friends who have moved back from other places and they often worry about the strength of their friendships and if they really belong here.
Minnesotans just don’t really have open arms. We’re a hard working people, but not an easy going people. We like routine and we like what we know. Change is scary and new people means change. We build walls against it. We are elitist.
2. We’re passive aggressive. This doesn’t really need a lot of explaining. We don’t tell people how we really feel, we smile and play nice while being secretly angry, we ignore, we cut off, we talk behind each other’s back. We say “I’m fine” and “I don’t care,” “you choose” and “Do what you want.” We can hate multiple things about a person and they will think they’re our best friend. We’re not altogether honest, as a group. It’s one of the reasons those cliques survive so long–no one tells anyone what they really think about them. And somewhere down the line this trait must have been inherited as a survival skill. Maybe during the long winters it’s better if you’re neighbor doesn’t know you hate his dog and wish he’d not talk to you when you’re gardening because if you run out of rations, you might need to share his.
The long and short of it is, we’re nice on the outside. “Minnesota Nice” is a label given to us by outsiders, travelers, people who meet us when we’re not home. I was on vacation in Florida this spring with my sisters and we would strike up conversation with anyone. People in line with us, sitting at the same table, people in the elevator, on the bus, at Waffle House. And every now and then they’d ask where we’re from and when we told them they’d say, “Ooooh,” like our friendly manner suddenly made sense. And it does. We’re friendly on the outside and that’s what makes us so NOT nice. It’s only on the outside.
Of course, I’m not saying that there aren’t nice Minnesotans. Of course there are. But as a whole, as a culture, we’re hard, we’re sheltered. Maybe a new nickname should be Minnesota Polite.