Minnesota Nice


lake wobegon

Minnesota nice is the stereotypical behavior of long-time Minnesota residents, to be courteous, reserved, and mild mannered. The cultural characteristics of Minnesota nice include a polite friendliness, an aversion to confrontation, a tendency toward understatement, a disinclination to make a fuss or stand out, emotional restraint, and self-deprecation.

It can also refer to traffic behavior, such as slowing down to allow another driver to enter a lane in front of the other person. The negative side of ‘Minnesota nice,’ occurs in the form of passive aggressiveness and resistance to change.

Playwright and corporate communications consultant Syl Jones suggests that Minnesota nice isn’t really about being ‘nice’ at all. It’s more about keeping up appearances, maintaining the social order, and keeping people in their place. He relates these social norms to the literary work of Danish-Norwegian novelist, Aksel Sandemose, Jante Law, and more generally, Scandinavian culture. Garrison Keillor uses the concept of Minnesota nice on his radio program, ‘A Prairie Home Companion.’ One show discusses ‘Wobegonics,’ the supposed language of Minnesotans which includes ‘no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference, you know.’

Sometimes area residents who move away, or otherwise come in contact with others who don’t subscribe to the ideal, say that they have to shed their ‘Minnesota nice’ in order to interact properly with others or get out of troublesome situations. The generosity of state citizens has gained respect—the heavily-reported influenza vaccine shortage of fall 2004 did not strike the state as hard as elsewhere since many people willingly gave up injections for others.

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