When you’re from Minnesota, you don’t really think about what it means to be Minnesotan. In school we learn the state bird (the loon), state motto (“The Star of the North” [L’Etoile du nord]), where the capitol is located (St. Paul), and the fact that we have more than 10,000 lakes (11,842 to be exact). Some things, though, we might be guilty of taking for granted—like our change of seasons, our arts, culture, and intellectual life, our plethora of Target stores (including the first Target ever built!), the almighty, majestic, awe-inspiring MOA, our many pro and collegiate sports teams, our abundance of rail-to-trail biking paths, Prince and Bob Dylan and F. Scott Fitzgerald. We draw out our “o’s” and have nasally “a’s” and go to potlucks and bring a dish to share and talk about the weather—too humid, too hot, too cold, too much snow—don’tcha know?
Many of us live here because we grew up here and our families and friends are here and we learned early on how to take the good with the bad (we’ll put up with below-zero weather in exchange for sunny summer days, mosquitoes and all—we’re tough). Many of us have carved out a nice little existence in Paul Bunyan’s homeland. It might get cold here, but the people sure are warm.
Why, though, do people choose to move here? And once they’re here, what is it about Minnesota that encourages them to stay? I interviewed a non-native to see what she thought about Minnesota before moving here, and what she thinks—and knows—now. Her answers might help you see the beauty of Minnesota in a different way.
When did you move to Minnesota?
I moved to Minneapolis in August of 2012.
Where did you live before that?
Prior to moving to the Twin Cities, I lived in western North Carolina in the beautiful mountain town of Banner Elk. (Very close to Asheville, for those familiar with the state.) For those not-so-familiar with the state, it’s in the small bit of North Carolina between Virginia and Tennessee. I spent the last four years attending the private college of Lees-McRae, nestled between two ski resorts at about 4,000 feet above sea level. Pretty awesome, right? If you love nature, I highly recommend visiting the Blue Ridge area of North Carolina.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up about an hour and a half east of Banner Elk in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains (that’s pronounced app-uh-latch-in, by the way, not app-uh-lashe-in) in Hickory, North Carolina. I was born there and—minus a handful of surrounding-county moves—I essentially grew up there.
What did your friends say when you told them you were moving to Minnesota?
When I moved here, there were a few factors involved: my long-distance relationship (hey, Eric!), the economy in North Carolina (sad at best), the good job outlook for recent grads in Minnesota, and I was extremely ready for a change of scenery and a change of pace. My family was supportive, worried, excited, and afraid all at once. My friends were a whole different story… I got a lot of “Why Minnesota?” and “How long will you be living there?” questions, but only a handful of my friends were really supportive. That was the tough part about moving—not having support from friends back “home.” I would consider this the time that I had the dreaded (but much-needed) filtering of my friend-group. Sometimes, you need a big change in your life to figure out who your true friends are. I now know which friends will remain in my life forever.
What were some of the misconceptions you had about this state?
This might sound weird, but I figured everyone would eat cheese curds A LOT. I love cheese. Ask anyone who knows me, I eat a lot of cheese … and pizza. I’ve been disappointed by the lack of cheese curds being toted around (and being shared with me). Also, since it’s the land of 10,000 lakes, I was expecting to see huge lakes in every neighborhood.
I wasn’t expecting so many Minnesotans to actively support gay rights. I really respect that. I feel like, while the youth of North Carolina is supportive of gay rights, they aren’t as active in local government (tsk, tsk, tsk).
When I first moved here, job hunting was a doozie. I figured with the job market as positive as it is here, I would land a great job in no time. Instead, I searched high and low for months before finally landing great job opportunities in my field of interest.
What were you expecting when you moved here?
I don’t really know what I was expecting. I had visited my boyfriend and his family multiple times before taking the plunge to move, so I was sort of familiar with the Twin Cities. Mostly, I think I was naive and expected (or hoped) to instantly land a dream job, find a great apartment, and be swarmed with new friends in a short amount of time.
Has the weather been about what you thought it would be?
North Carolina = calm winter, very little snow, and maybe a temperature dip to 20 degrees on the very coldest nights; Minnesota = “HELP! I’m stuck in a snowbank and my eyeballs are frozen shut!”
Ok, that might be a little bit overdramatic, but holy cow. I think I speak for everyone when I say this was a loooong winter and a very wet and stormy spring. I’m glad summer is here.
What do you think of the people? The art and music scene? The outdoor recreational opportunities? The academic community? The restaurant scene?
So far, I love it all! The people have been slightly cliquey but I’m meeting some really great and interesting people through work and mutual friends.
The art and music scene is amazing. It’s so easy to find things to do, day or night. I’m looking forward to all of the upcoming festivals this summer!
I’m a huge fan of the greenway trails and how bicycle-friendly it is in the Twin Cities. I live within walking or riding distance to a lot of great places in Minneapolis, and that’s been a huge factor in getting to know the area and getting settled.
I’m a big fan of the restaurants. A few of my favorite places to grab a bite in my neighborhood are Holy Land (yum!) and Brasa (a southern girl needs her cornbread!).
What were some of the things you did on your first visit to the state?
On my first visit, my boyfriend came up with a “to-do” list that included a lot of the major tourist attractions, as well as some fun non-touristy things. We took a stroll across the Stone Arch at night and then went up to the observation deck at the Guthrie. We went to the Mall of America (that was exhausting). We went canoeing, rode bikes, and visited the Walker and Walker Sculpture Garden. There were a lot of things on our to-do list that we accomplished then, and many things that are still on it!
Would you like to add anything else?
All in all, I’m really happy that I moved here. I think it should be expected that no matter where you move—especially as a recent grad—the transition will be tough. I was lucky enough to have a supportive family, my sweetheart’s family, and some great friends. I’m not sure how long I’ll be a resident here, but I predict I will be pretty happy for however long I stay.