Minnesotans weigh in on "nice" reputation

We wondered, what exactly is "Minnesota nice?" Are Minnesotans really nicer than residents of other states?
We wondered, what exactly is "Minnesota nice?" Are Minnesotans really nicer than residents of other states?

Maybe it's our friendly faces or inability to merge onto highways, but Minnesotans are known for our kind (some may say passive-aggressive) demeanor.

Minnesota has gotten national press for its happy and caring residents. A 2008 study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science ranked Minnesotans as some of the most extroverted and agreeable people in country. We ranked toward the middle on conscientiousness and toward the bottom in neuroticism and openness.

In 2004, the New York Times ran a story about how in Minnesota, unlike other states, lines for flu vaccines were short and at-risk individuals were forgoing vaccines so that other people could receive the shots. It was seen as a classic example of "Minnesota nice."

But the phrase has also been twisted to "Minnesota ice" and "Minnesorta nice" to reflect the opinion that we are polite and well-mannered, but won't go out of our way to be welcoming.

Having lived in other states, we wondered how true Minnesotans define the term and whether it still has merit.

So, we went to the food trucks at 7th Street and Marquette Avenue over the lunch hour to hear your definitions of this well known phrase. 

Carol Henderson, 52, art director 

"Lutheran and guarded (laughs)."

David Walsh, 23, historian

"I was just in Washington and, when I compare and contrast, it's cleaner here, it's less cluttered, there's a sense of community and belonging. I've heard transplants say 'Minnesota Ice' and I think there's an element of that, too, but 'Minnesota Nice' is mostly a good thing."

Shevaun Church, 33, server; and Jeff Erkkila, 32, bartender

"I think people are nice everywhere"-- Shevaun

"Yeah, I don't think Minnesota is any different than anywhere else." --Jeff

"We've got some nice lemon bars here, though." --Shevaun

Cher Lindberg, 58, piano player and project manager

"It's saying something nice even if you don't really mean it. So what happens is people think you're being nice, but you're not. Avoid conflict at all costs!"

Cindy Farr, over 50, secretary

"Feeling guilty saying no. And living by the Golden Rule."

(Cindy at first declined to answer our poll, and then came back several minutes later because of her "Minnesota nice" guilt, she said.)

Lynn Reimer, 58, restauranteur

"Friendly, open, willing to talk to anybody. Willing to help anyone out."

Sam Wagner, 20, intern

"I grew up here and went to school in New York. You can take it two ways: 'Minnesota Nice' and 'Minnesota Ice.' People say things to your face and say something different behind closed doors. I think that's true sometimes. In New York, I like people's honesty, but sometimes I think I'd prefer if people lied to me."

Chelsea Wren, 25, reservationist at a hotel

"It's not as fake as Southern hospitality. My parents are from Tennessee, and it's not that hospitable but there's still a genuine warmth. It's kind of like that, but to a lesser degree."

Mike Wangstad, 27, insurance salesman; Steve Minnell, 26, insurance salesman

"I think it just means being respectful."--Mike

"It's a small-town feel." --Steve

"The respect issue is a big thing. Respecting what people would want you to do."--Mike

"It's just slow paced here. Not so self-involved. We care about others." --Steve

Kyra Seahorn, 20, call center representative; Sharita Seahorn, 22, customer service

"It's friendly. We're originally from Detroit, and people are really nice if you ask for directions. There's not a lot of rude people at all. I think that, here in Minneapolis, people aren't going through as many financial stresses and people in Detroit are, so they're much more relaxed." --Kyra

"It's very diverse here, and people are very tolerant." --Sharita


One of the most interesting aspects of our poll was how we saw different definitions of "Minnesota nice" play out as we talked to people. At first we got many polite declines but few people willing to open up. But just as some of you had described to us, people warmed up to us and showed us just how friendly Minnesotans can be.

Erika Wolf contributed to this story.

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