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 (although this year they seem to have been fall, summer, winter, winter), 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 (ok, we don’t take them for granted, we actually take great pride in claiming these born and/or lived-in-Minnesota heroes). 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 those glorious summer months, mosquitoes and all—we’re tough). Many of us have carved out a nice little existence in Paul Bunyan’s homeland. It might be 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 two non-natives to see what they thought about Minnesota before they moved here, and what they think—and know—now. Their answers might help you see the beauty of Minnesota in a different way.
Names: Kyle and Rachel
When did you move to Minnesota?
Where did you live before that?
We lived in Phoenix, Ariz. for three years.
Where did you grow up?
Outside of Boston, Mass.
What did your friends say when you told them you were moving to Minnesota?
“Are you crazy?!? You’re leaving sunny Arizona for snowy Minnesota?!?” Most of the comments surrounded the drastic weather change. Everyone and their mother also wanted to know “Why?,” to which we responded for a graduate school opportunity at the University of Minnesota.
What were some of the misconceptions you had about this state?
We thought Minnesota would be politically conservative, religious, friendly, and safe. We assumed the weather would be pretty much the same as Boston.
What were you expecting when you moved here?
We were both hoping to make friends quickly, and adjust easily to the long winters (we didn’t get too comfortable in Arizona, only living there for three years). We also were expecting Minnesota to be a bike-friendly city, and sold one of our cars prior to moving here. I think the biggest surprise since moving here, though, has been the sense of having to defend WHY we moved here. Whenever we introduce ourselves and briefly describe what brought us here, people constantly follow-up with: “So … did you grow up here? Do you have family here? Why Minnesota?” We’ve noticed that “the Cities” (as we’ve learned to say) seem to be filled with far less transplants than the other places we have lived, especially Phoenix.
Has the weather been about what you thought it would be?
The summer and fall were better than we were expecting. This winter, though, has been brutal. Even though we are outdoorsy people and did a lot of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, once March came and went and the snow kept on falling [as late as April 22], we both thought: “This is just too much!” We felt like failures until we heard that even hardened veterans of the state had had enough of the snow and cold. In all seriousness, we really love the changing seasons. [Editor’s note: According to MPR, this has been the third-snowiest and fourth-coldest April on record in Minnesota, with more than 17 inches of snow at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Blech!]
What do you think of the people? The art and music scene? The outdoor recreational opportunities? The academic community? The restaurant scene?
The people: Minnesotans are diverse, educated, open-minded, and more liberal than we expected (especially in Minneapolis). Being here for the presidential election, we were blown away by the outwardly democratic feel of Minneapolis! We live in the Northeast neighborhood, and people here seem to be very community oriented, engaged, vocal, and proactive.
Outdoor recreation: I am in disc golf heaven here! (Kyle) I like how accessible—and clean—the state parks are. (Rachel) We also both love that we live in an excellent biking city with great dog parks. Given our limited time here so far, we haven’t ventured too far out of the city, but we did manage to go camping in Lake City on the shore of Lake Pepin and hiking in Banning State Park near Sandstone. We plan to go to the North Shore this summer and do more exploring.
Art/music scene: The Cedar Cultural Center definitely gets an A+! It’s an amazing venue featuring very unique artists that bring in vibrant, diverse crowds—this has been one of our favorite places to see music. We have also been impressed with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Ritz Theatre, the Powderhorn Summer Arts Festival, the Saint Anthony Main Theater, and some of the smaller/independent art studios in Northeast. There are so many free (or low-cost) and accessible ways to experience the arts in Minnesota. Coming from the East Coast—where going to the theater or opera is associated with having money and being part of “high society”—this has been a breath of fresh air.
Academic community: The public school system seems to be very robust with strong general academics, a lot of extracurricular activities, and many opportunities to explore art, music, and athletics. The College of Science and Engineering at the U of M has a world-class reputation, and relocating to study here has proven that reputation to be well-deserved … worth every chilly morning bike ride to class (Kyle). From a medical standpoint, the whole state seems to be very primary care oriented, which I view as a positive thing! (Rachel, a recent medical school graduate, will be starting her residency at a local hospital next month.)
Restaurant scene: Bun Mi Sandwiches on the U of M-Twin Cities campus should win the “Best Sandwich on the Planet” award. So simple, so good. (Kyle) We’re also big fans of the Indian cuisine at Gandhi Mahal in the Longfellow neighborhood, where every self-respecting, cheese-loving Minnesotan should try the Palek Paneer with warm garlic nan, stewed goat, and spicy rice. And lastly, one of our favorite places is Anchor Fish & Chips in Northeast (Alaskan cod fried in 100 percent beef tallow the way God and Dublin intended).
Church community: Saint Joan of Arc in south Minneapolis is as forward thinking, open-minded, and welcoming as any church we’ve ever been. The parishioners, clergy, and staff are superb.
What are some of the things you do/places you go when you have out-of-town family or friends visiting Minnesota for the first time? What have they liked/disliked?
Midtown Global Marketplace has been a big hit with visitors! We’ve also brought out-of-town friends to Minneapolis craftbreweries Indeed Brewing Company and Dangerous Man Brewing Co. At these two places, a few different friends commented on how “Minnesotan” these places seemed. When asked to describe what they meant, they mostly talked about the flannel shirts, down vests, beards, and general winter apparel. Our out-of-state visitors have noticed the religious billboards that line the freeways, and the way people say “bag”… and they LOVE the dog-friendly and bike-friendly atmosphere, the diversity, easy-to-navigate public transportation system, and integration of parks and green spaces throughout the city.
Would you like to add anything else?
All in all, we are very happy here in Minneapolis and despite the long winter, have really enjoyed being back in a place with four distinct seasons that is only a three-hour flight from our family in Boston. We still have so much to explore and are excited for the warmer weather!