Minnesota nice

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Minnesota nice is a cultural stereotype applied to the behavior of people from Minnesota and Wisconsin implying residents are unusually courteous, reserved, mild-mannered and passive-aggressive against people who are not like them. The phrase also implies polite friendliness, an aversion to open confrontation, a tendency toward understatement, a disinclination to make a direct fuss or stand out, apparent emotional restraint, and self-deprecation.[1]

Social norms[edit]

Playwright and corporate communications consultant Syl Jones suggested that Minnesota nice is not so much about being "nice" but is more about keeping up appearances, maintaining the social order, and keeping people (including non-natives of the state) in their place. He relates these social norms to the literary work of Danish-Norwegian novelist Aksel Sandemose, the fictional Law of Jante, and more generally, Scandinavian culture.[2] Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion discusses "Wobegonics", the supposed language of Minnesotans, which includes "no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference".[3]


The generosity of state citizens has been commented on; the heavily-reported influenza vaccine shortage of late 2004 did not strike the state as hard as elsewhere since many people willingly gave up injections for others.[4] The concept has also received some support from the academic community; a national study by Peter Rentfrow, Samuel D. Gosling, and Jeff Potter done in 2008 found that Minnesota was the second most agreeable and fifth most extraverted state in the nation, traits associated with "nice".[5]

The tradition of social progressivism in Minnesota politics has been linked to the Minnesota Nice culture.[6]

Minnesota nice was an influence on the Coen brothers movie Fargo, set in both Minnesota and neighboring North Dakota.[7][8] A 2003 documentary about the making of the movie was entitled Minnesota Nice.[9][10]


Journalist and Minnesota native Michele Norris said the phrase has "undertones of irony and despair" following the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.[11]

One theory suggests that the concept is a marketing myth.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Atkins, Annette (2008). Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out. Minnesota Historical Society. pp. 242, 243, 248. ISBN 0-87351-633-8.
  2. ^ Jones, Syl (December 14, 2009). "The unwritten rules that tell Minnesotans how to be nice". Saint Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved December 14, 2009.
  3. ^ "Wobegonics" on A Prairie Home Companion, Saturday, April 19, 1997 Retrieved December 14, 2009.
  4. ^ New York Times. "In Minnesota, Flu Vaccines Go Waiting". 12 November 2004
  5. ^ Rentfrow, Peter J.; Gosling, Samuel D.; Potter, Jeff (2008). "A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics". Perspectives on Psychological Science. 3 (5): 339–69. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00084.x. PMID 26158954.
  6. ^ Eichenlaub, Christian (2008). "'Minnesota Nice': A Comparative Analysis of Minnesota's Treatment of Adoption by Gay Couples". University of St. Thomas Law Journal. 5 (1): 312–34.
  7. ^ Fuller, Graham (17 March 1996). "How Frances McDormand Got Into 'Minnesota Nice'". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  8. ^ Meslow, Scott (12 October 2015). "Minnesota Nice vs. Evil: The moral universe of FX's remarkable Fargo". theweek.com. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  9. ^ Jacobson, Colin (September 16, 2003). "Fargo: Special Edition (1996)". www.dvdmg.com. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  10. ^ "New 'Fargo' truly a special edition, you betcha". TODAY.com. November 7, 2003. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  11. ^ Norris, Michele (June 4, 2020). "Opinion: It's hard to hear 'Minnesota Nice' without undertones of irony and despair". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  12. ^ Hutton, Rachel (April 23, 2019). "What is Minnesota Nice and where did the term originate?". Star Tribune. Retrieved June 6, 2021.