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Minnesota nice

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minnesota nice is a cultural stereotype applied to the behavior of people from Minnesota, implying residents are unusually courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered compared to people from other states and more akin to their Canadian neighbors in Northern Ontario. 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] It is sometimes associated with passive-aggression.[2]

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.[3] 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".[4]


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.[5] 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".[6]

The tradition of social progressivism in Minnesota politics has been linked to the Minnesota Nice culture.[7]

Since the 1960s and 1970s and continuing into the present, Minnesota has been a leading state in refugee resettlement, which can be linked to the traditions of progressivism and generosity associated with Minnesota nice. Various groups, especially Hmong from Laos and Somalis, as well as large numbers of Vietnamese, Burmese, Ethiopians, Laotians, Tibetans, and Liberians, have found homes in the state, particularly in the Twin Cities. Since 2002, Minnesota has harbored the largest population of Somalis in North America.[8]

Minnesota nice was an influence on the Coen brothers movie Fargo, set in both Minnesota and neighboring North Dakota.[9][10] A 2003 documentary about the making of the movie was entitled Minnesota Nice.[11][12]


History professor Annette Atkins suggests that the concept is a marketing myth, emerging from the work of Howard Mohr and Garrison Keillor in the 1980s. Atkins notes that prior to the popularity of such works, Minnesotans differentiated themselves from the people of Iowa with corny "Idiots Out Walking Around" jokes at their neighbors' expense.[2]

Journalist and Minnesota native Michele Norris argued the phrase had acquired "undertones of irony and despair" following the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Atkins, Annette (2008). Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out. Minnesota Historical Society. pp. 242, 243, 248. ISBN 978-0-87351-633-4.
  2. ^ a b Hutton, Rachel (April 23, 2019). "Is Minnesota Nice even nice? Where did the term originate?". Star Tribune. Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Wobegonics" on A Prairie Home Companion, Saturday, April 19, 1997. Retrieved December 14, 2009.
  5. ^ New York Times. "In Minnesota, Flu Vaccines Go Waiting". November 12, 2004.
  6. ^ 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. S2CID 17059908.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 4, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2024.
  9. ^ Fuller, Graham (March 17, 1996). "How Frances McDormand Got Into 'Minnesota Nice'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  10. ^ Meslow, Scott (October 12, 2015). "Minnesota Nice vs. Evil: The moral universe of FX's remarkable Fargo". theweek.com. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  11. ^ Jacobson, Colin (September 16, 2003). "Fargo: Special Edition (1996)". www.dvdmg.com. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  12. ^ "New 'Fargo' truly a special edition, you betcha". TODAY.com. November 7, 2003. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  13. ^ 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.