Experiencing Minnesota Nice

by | Feb 16, 2018

When talking about the state of Minnesota, individuals often reference “Minnesota Nice” or make jokes about the Canadian/Minnesotan pronunciation of the word, with emphasis on the “o.”

“Min-nih-SOH-tuh.”

As a Wisconsinite, I notice accents in a few native Minnesotans sometimes, but I think the entire concept of “Minnesota Nice” shines through more poignantly here than any accent.

For people not familiar with the term, “Minnesota Nice” is defined as “the stereotypical behavior of people from Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, very family-focused, and mild-mannered,” at least according to Wikipedia. Many Minnesotans pride themselves on these traits, and you can even purchase apparel and gifts playing off of the phrase or their “passive aggressive” tendencies at places like I Like You or Minnesota Awesome.

I discovered the Minnesota nice concept when I began announcing that the University of Minnesota Twin Cities was my top choice during my college search. When people would make jokes about it, I would smile and nod along, but I didn’t really understand what that meant until I moved here.

Although I’ve noticed smaller examples of Minnesota nice here and there, Minnesotans really proved their nature to me this weekend while I was visiting a coffee shop in Uptown. When leaving Vicinity Coffee, I left my trusty black Coach bag that I’ve had for six years just sitting on the floor by my chair as I walked out. In my favorite purse was my entire wallet, containing my driver’s license, my U-Card and U-Pass, my credit and debit card, my medical insurance card, some cash, and a few gift cards.

I didn’t realize this until I was back on campus, 20 minutes away, dropping off my friend at her apartment in Dinkytown. I began to panic, but I was hoping that a nice Minnesotan person would help me out in my time of need as I headed right back to Uptown.

As soon as I got back, I ran up to the counter, and the sweet barista handed me my purse with a gracious smile. As I (literally) sighed with relief, I acknowledged that my gut instinct telling me to trust “Minnesota Nice” was right. It was almost as if I’d left my purse at a close friend’s house, not an off-campus coffee shop—it was that easy.

As I reflected on this later in the day, I was reminded of my first glimpse of Minnesota nice when I began touring colleges four years ago. Even though I knew the University of Minnesota was the school for me from the start, I applied to and toured a few other places just in case, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While Madison is a great school option, especially to a Wisconsinite, I was put off by something that I kept hearing while touring. The tour guides and speakers kept opening with, “You’re lucky to be here,” referencing how prestigious the school is and their selectivity of students. While I’m sure they intended to make me, an accepted prospective student, feel special, it had the opposite effect on me as I just thought the Badgers were being arrogant.

In comparison, when I toured the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, they opened with something similar, but three simple word choices they said made all the difference. “We’re lucky to have you.” While the phrases were very similar, the humility and the arrogance were apparent in both places, and this attitude factored into my decision to become a Gopher.

While for some, “Minnesota Nice” frustrates to no end, with people not being definitive and avoiding conflict for as long as possible, the people of Minnesota are simply being kind and considerate to those around them. While visiting Minnesota, I hope that tourists notice and love “Minnesota Nice” and come back for more, just like I did.

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