How to be “Minnesota Nice”

February 09, 2017

Middle School Director Beth Trout shares her thoughts on treating others with kindness like a true Minnesotan!

The following remarks were delivered by Middle School Director Beth Trout during chapel on Tuesday, February 7.

Good morning!

Being a native of Minnesota, I’m aware that some of our expressions can give non-native Minnesotans a good laugh!

I’m about to teach you a few of these, so pay attention! There is audience participation.

When it’s 20 below zero, with a wind chill of minus 30, we Minnesotans would say, “Could be worse!” Try it!

We like to use the expression “oh for _____” to emphasize something, like “oh for dumb, if we have forgotten something! “Oh for cute” if it is something adorable.   Try- oh for cute!

If I just bought gas at below $2 a gallon, I would consider that “a Heckuva deal!” Try it!

Apparently, we Minnesotans don’t get too exuberant over anything. Remember, we always feel that “It could be worse.” Even if our Vikings football team had a big win, we would say their performance was “pretty good.” Try it!

And when visiting somebody, we don’t want to create a fuss. So when offered coffee or a little lunch, we would decline the offer twice, but after the 3rd time, we will accept but with the condition “Don’t make it just for me!” Try it!

Even saying the name of our state, “Minnesota” gets a laugh. Apparently, we emphasize the “o” more than most!

This is all a part of How to Talk Minnesotan! The book with that title was made popular by Howard Mohr. Check it out. It’s pretty good!

Today I would like to talk about the expression “Minnesota Nice!”

The Wikipedia definition of Minnesota nice says:

“Minnesota nice is the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.”

The cultural characteristics of Minnesota nice include a polite friendliness, a tendency toward understatement (could be worse), and a disinclination to make a fuss or stand out (don’t make it just for me!).

Being a native of Minnesota, I have often heard the expression “Minnesota nice” used, and frankly I’m proud of it! To mean it means a polite friendliness!

When driving, Minnesota nice means signaling somebody to merge in front of you on road. (politely motion someone in front of you)

Or to wave to another driver you know as you pass him or her on the road. If you grew up in a rural area of Minnesota, as my husband did, the wave looks like this- (a one finger wave).

But most significant for me, Minnesota nice means greeting anyone I pass by, whether it is on the sidewalk, or in the hallway. It is so simple. As you pass by one another, wish that person good morning or simply say hello!

Over the years, I have passed by many people and greeted them. Often, I have to initiate the interaction. It is clear that the person passing me has no intention of saying anything. It makes me wonder if this is shyness, cultural, or just something that this person is not comfortable in doing.

At the Middle School, I love standing outside of Chapel with the other faculty, greeting each of the students as they enter. Often, we will stop one or two of the students, who intended to blow right by us without saying anything, and we back them up and ask them to pass by us again, but this time with a greeting. They may think we are picking on them, but in fact we are helping them to develop important life skills. It would be pretty hard to be successful in the business world if one can’t simply make eye contact and greet another person.

I have heard that the Girls Soccer program has talked with their teams about this very thing. Although not termed Minnesota nice, they have been encouraged to greet anyone they pass by. Bravo!

Many of you do such a great job of this and I appreciate that!

Now it is your turn to practice “How to talk Minnesotan.”

Wow, look at the weather, it’s 10 below zero- your response? (Could be worse!)

I just got a Vineyard Vines coat for the incredibly low price of $30 - your response? (a heckuva deal!)

A darling puppy walks into your history classroom? – your response? (Oh for cute!)

You get invited to Mr. Cavellier’s house. He asks if you would like some hot cocoa. After declining his offer twice, he asks a 3rd time and you accept with the condition? (Don’t make it just for me!)

One morning, you pass by me, or one of your other faculty members, in the hallway, and I hope you will say? (Good morning!)

And when your parents ask you how Mrs. Trout’s chapel talk went, hopefully you will respond? (Pretty good! But could be worse also works!)

Now you are talkin’ Minnesotan!

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