MN Nice Advice: Making Friends

How to expand your Midwest social circles

An illustration of a group of people standing in a circle and conversing on a giant map of Minnesota.

illustration by darren gygi

Q: I’ve heard newcomers to the state say it’s hard to make friends here. Sure, we’re “Minnesota Nice”—friendly to strangers, happy to talk weather with fellow bus commuters—but we stop short of welcoming transplants into our inner circles. We’re cagey, for instance, about extending dinner invitations. I want to counter that notion by inviting my new coworker (moved from Virginia) to a hotdish supper. But here’s the catch: My friend circle is genuinely full. I don’t want to sacrifice time with my pals of 20-some years; that wouldn’t be fair to them. So, should I do the one-off hotdish formality or embrace this Minnesota stereotype?

A: You raise a good point: In some large urban ecosystems, such as D.C. and New York, people migrate through all the time—in and out of jobs, in and out of friendships. Their social circles expand and contract accordingly. But that’s not us. Our friend circles are full because Minnesotans have deep roots; people stay here, so we don’t need to cycle through acquaintances. But our state is expanding and diversifying. To keep up, we need to grow outside of our comfort zones. Instead of sacrificing time with old friends, invite them to the hotdish supper, too. Think of our many lakes becoming one ocean.