I recently marked my five-year anniversary of living in Minnesota. When I announced that I was moving here, my friends and family back in Seattle were aghast, unable to figure out why I’d want to live in a place where the persistent precipitation came in crystal, rather than liquid, form. Everyone had heard something troubling about Minnesota and used these stereotypes to warn me against coming to the land where Paul Bunyan and Bud Grant dug 10 million lakes so they could go ice fishing. At the time, these stereotypes struck me as unfair and wildly inaccurate. I’ve since discovered that not only are they true, they are the best part. Let me explain.
Stereotype no. 1: “But it’s so cold!”
Dang right. When I first woke to minus-20 degrees, I skittered around the house, too terror-stricken of The World Itself to even sit down. I imagined that the Norse gods, Odin and Thor and so forth, were trying to Ice Murder me. I was stunned to learn, however, how quickly one can accept dangerous temperatures. As long as I ran—screaming—from house to car to work, adrenaline would stave off death. Neat! I’ve since realized it’s not so much attempted murder as a sort of land war. The soul breaker isn’t minus-20 in January, it’s shoveling in April when you notice bits of your spirit intermingled with the stubborn ice wads. But if you make it, you feel like you’ve outsmarted the gods, and nothing can ever go wrong when you feel that way. ”¨”¨
Stereotype no. 2: “The people seem nice, but it’s this thing called Minnesota Nice.”
The way I understood it, Minnesotans would talk your ear off on the sidewalk, but it would be a good 10 years before they invited you into their home. What I didn’t realize is that this would be AWESOME. I have a family, a job, and a busy schedule—I have no time for closely bonded turbo friendships. Not when there are all these TV shows I’d like to watch. I have developed good, real friendships along the way—it can’t be helped—but I’ve also honed impressive skills in chatting about the weather with baristas.”¨”¨
Stereotype no. 3: “People talk funny there.”
”¨I’ll go a step further. People talk HILARIOUSLY here. And I didn’t know it was contagious. I’ve imitated the accent so much—for sport, sorry—that it’s taking over my speech. It’s phonetic Ebola, but with positive results and little to no bleeding or abdominal pain. ”¨”¨
Stereotype no. 4: “They’re crazy about hockey.”
”¨Well, you are. And I’m not. I can’t play, and I skate like a moose shot by a tranquilizer gun. I try to watch hockey but worry that I’ll look away when that little black thingy goes into the stringy part, or whatever. Though finally I can see a sport the way my wife sees my preferred sports, those involving balls of the base, basket, and foot. Hockey ambivalence has strengthened our marriage.
Look, maybe the state tourism board has an opportunity. It can use the slogan, “Minnesota: Land of Funny-Talking Hockey Fans Battling Odin For Survival and Just Waiting to Be Your Acquaintance.” Catchy!
John Moe hosts Wits, an American Public Media live-radio show, at Fitzgerald Theater, featuring Patton Oswalt and Ben Lee on May 3; Rob Delaney, Neko Case, and Kelly Hogan on May 10; and Colin Hanks and Jason Isbell on May 31.