After reading James Liliks’ Sunday column in the Star Tribune, I had to chuckle because he aptly synced-in with a major observation of mine. In writing about why Minnesotans decide to leave this state, the first thing on his list was – “13 percent are transplants who can’t wait to leave because Minnesotans are a cold, clannish tribe whose outward politeness masks a bottomless well of Scandinavian gloom.”
Ouch! I could add that we transplants of only three winters felt satisfyingly superior about our ability to adapt until – well, until this winter. Gone is the glee about wafting snowflakes, the thrill of experiencing seasons, the novelty of it all. But that’s another story.
What Liliks (who also writes a blog appropriately named “The Bleat”) was referring to, was a strange, surprising, dirty little secret about the tribes in this prairie/lakes land. Given the well-known moniker about Minnesota Nice, it took us awhile to unearth the truth.
At first we wondered why the neighbors didn’t arrive post haste bearing kaffe-kage (coffee cake) and Spritz. And invite us to their cook-outs. To be honest, the neighbor across the street arrives after each snowfall to plow our long driveway and even apologized for not doing it the first winter of our arrival. He is an angel and I am beyond grateful. But in California, in all our many moves, we inevitably became “kitchen pals” and barbeque buddies.
Here, the niceness syndrome is everywhere in evidence. It is a pleasure to make a business call on the phone in this town, where everyone goes out of their way to be accommodating and pleasant. Not a hint of L.A. impatience and snippiness. And passing others on the street inevitably rates a smile and usually a comforting, aren’t-we-just-in-this-together quip about the weather.
Was it us, we wondered?
A fellow RE-transplant gave me an answer. “It isn’t,” she explained, “that Minnesotans are made up of “Scandinavian gloom. They are just too polite for their own good and don’t ever want to seem too forward. Too pushy.” And furthermore, she added, “A Minnesotan is always happy to stop and give you directions, but never to his house.”
Her perspective helped to explain too, why locals sit primarily in the middle to back pews in a church. That practice bothered me whenever I went to our Shepard of the Prairie Lutheran Church with Aunt Lil. And when I queried her, she told me that, of course, no one wants to look like they’re “forward” or that they think they’re better than anyone else. Uff Da!
No wonder people looked uncomfortable and didn’t take us at our word whenever we proclaimed – “Stop on by anytime!” We’re gradually learning the proper lingo and mannerisms. And whether or not we actually adopt the traits of a native born, we are still happy in their midst. After all, the neighbor, bless his heart, is still plowing the driveway, and the clerk at Service Foods is cheery and accommodating, and the oil fuel delivery man is grateful to leave with cookies. Not to mention, most of our new good friends are part of the local Unitarian Church and they are natural rebels who don’t mind sitting in the front row.
So, I don’t entirely agree with James Liliks. At least about the gloom. But if Spring doesn’t arrive soon, I’m outta here!