Minnesotans weigh in on "nice" reputation

Categories: Q&A
MN nice rect.jpg
We wondered, what exactly is "Minnesota nice?" Are Minnesotans really nicer than residents of other states?
Maybe it's our friendly faces or inability to merge onto highways, but Minnesotans are known for our kind (some may say passive-aggressive) demeanor.

Minnesota has gotten national press for its happy and caring residents. A 2008 study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science ranked Minnesotans as some of the most extroverted and agreeable people in country. We ranked toward the middle on conscientiousness and toward the bottom in neuroticism and openness.

In 2004, the New York Times ran a story about how in Minnesota, unlike other states, lines for flu vaccines were short and at-risk individuals were forgoing vaccines so that other people could receive the shots. It was seen as a classic example of "Minnesota nice."

But the phrase has also been twisted to "Minnesota ice" and "Minnesorta nice" to reflect the opinion that we are polite and well-mannered, but won't go out of our way to be welcoming.

Having lived in other states, we wondered how true Minnesotans define the term and whether it still has merit.

So, we went to the food trucks at 7th Street and Marquette Avenue over the lunch hour to hear your definitions of this well known phrase. 

Carol Henderson, 52, art director 

"Lutheran and guarded (laughs)."

David Walsh, 23, historian

"I was just in Washington and, when I compare and contrast, it's cleaner here, it's less cluttered, there's a sense of community and belonging. I've heard transplants say 'Minnesota Ice' and I think there's an element of that, too, but 'Minnesota Nice' is mostly a good thing."


Shevaun Church, 33, server; and Jeff Erkkila, 32, bartender

"I think people are nice everywhere"-- Shevaun

"Yeah, I don't think Minnesota is any different than anywhere else." --Jeff

"We've got some nice lemon bars here, though." --Shevaun


Cher Lindberg, 58, piano player and project manager

"It's saying something nice even if you don't really mean it. So what happens is people think you're being nice, but you're not. Avoid conflict at all costs!"

Cindy Farr, over 50, secretary

"Feeling guilty saying no. And living by the Golden Rule."

(Cindy at first declined to answer our poll, and then came back several minutes later because of her "Minnesota nice" guilt, she said.)


Lynn Reimer, 58, restauranteur

"Friendly, open, willing to talk to anybody. Willing to help anyone out."

 Sam Wagner, 20, intern

"I grew up here and went to school in New York. You can take it two ways: 'Minnesota Nice' and 'Minnesota Ice.' People say things to your face and say something different behind closed doors. I think that's true sometimes. In New York, I like people's honesty, but sometimes I think I'd prefer if people lied to me."

Chelsea Wren, 25, reservationist at a hotel

"It's not as fake as Southern hospitality. My parents are from Tennessee, and it's not that hospitable but there's still a genuine warmth. It's kind of like that, but to a lesser degree."


Mike Wangstad, 27, insurance salesman; Steve Minnell, 26, insurance salesman

"I think it just means being respectful."--Mike

"It's a small-town feel." --Steve

"The respect issue is a big thing. Respecting what people would want you to do."--Mike

"It's just slow paced here. Not so self-involved. We care about others." --Steve

Kyra Seahorn, 20, call center representative; Sharita Seahorn, 22, customer service

"It's friendly. We're originally from Detroit, and people are really nice if you ask for directions. There's not a lot of rude people at all. I think that, here in Minneapolis, people aren't going through as many financial stresses and people in Detroit are, so they're much more relaxed." --Kyra

"It's very diverse here, and people are very tolerant." --Sharita


One of the most interesting aspects of our poll was how we saw different definitions of "Minnesota nice" play out as we talked to people. At first we got many polite declines but few people willing to open up. But just as some of you had described to us, people warmed up to us and showed us just how friendly Minnesotans can be.

Erika Wolf contributed to this story.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

I have found people in Minnesota to be genuinely nice.  However, in Minneapolis, it's a little different.  There are very nice people who say 'good morning' and smile in passing, but there's also a lot of very narcissistic, arrogant young, recent Ivy League grads who are starting out at one of the many Fortune 500 companies whose main focus is me, me, me; 'get out of my way', 'don't you know who I am and what I do' kind of attitudes, driving a new BMW every year...we get it, you're rich and successful, now go away.  It's hard to compare to other cities because Minneapolis has such an air of affluence that, say, Buffalo or Detroit definitely does not.  In those two cities, I see a different kind of attitude, because people don't have as much, and don't have their face planted in a mirror all day or staring down at their $800 iPhone, and will tell you if a certain bus is coming, or where a good place to get breakfast is. 


Being from MN and having done business and now living in both NYC and Europe, people are generally very  nice in MN if everything is easy going and even keel. The tricky thing is when you start to have new provoking ideas that aren't standards to speak. People kind of start to loose touch and get specious then, which isn't conducive for developing bleeding edge business or really most any thing. Those who did generally had to do it some where else (NYC/LA/LN) so  I'd have to agree with the study as far as openness is concerned (MN was near the bottom). For me being open is in line with being nice, although perhaps not to some. Moi 2 cents. 

Sean Garrick
Sean Garrick

Exactly. It took me a while to realize that the "relationships" I thought I had weren't even flimsy. They were non-existent. 

Dr. J
Dr. J

 Good to hear from the openly racist coward how much other people suck.  Why ever would people people be rude to a pathetic coward that blames entire groups of people for everything that goes wrong.  I bet you are a really daisy of a person to deal with your racist stupid ravings boiling just below the surface.   We both know you are too much of a coward to express them because racists like you are stupid unlikable fools and everyone knows it.

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

I don't think Minnesotan's have an identity - that's why they need to by like NYC, or LA, or have every Pro Sport team.  They are not nice.  After living here 30 years, my impression is that they're mostly aggressive hicks.


Remember....."It Takes One to Know One".............I don't feel any Minnesota Ice..........I've fealt much more Iced in California.

Jeremy B
Jeremy B

This. Exactly. I've lived here since 1999 and my closest friends are all transplants too. My apologies to you Minnesotans for not attending your high school. I didn't realize that meant we can't be friends.

Not White
Not White

Ha! That's what I always say! Minnesota passive aggressive is exactly right on...


@Jeremy B I'm from MN, had good HS friends, but can only agree with that statement. I moved to Europe 4 years ago but I find it strange that people still continue to only hang out with  the same friends 10 years later.

Now Trending

Minnesota Concert Tickets

From the Vault