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What is 'Minnesota Nice'? Exploring the meaning behind the popular phrase

Is it friendly? Is it passive aggressive? Locals and experts weigh in.

MINNEAPOLIS — What is "Minnesota Nice"? It's the question KARE 11 Sunrise anchor Jason Hackett has been pondering since he moved here.

Corey Bonnema and Jerilyn Veldof know a thing or two about the phrase.

"We've talked to so many people who've moved here from really just right around our state who get here and say...'this is different. this is different'" Veldof said. 

They dove into the topic in their book 'Minnesota Nice - A Transplant's Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Minnesota.'

After research and countless interviews - they boiled the phrase down to seven characteristics:

  1. Polite friendliness
  2. Aversion to confrontation
  3. Not wanting to intrude
  4. Emotional restraint
  5. Resistance to change
  6. Passive aggressiveness
  7. Understatement

Bonnema provided an example of that passive aggressiveness.

"I have a relative… It's been a hot summer day and she's in the car with me. She'll just say, 'Is it hot in here?' Versus making a request to turn on the air conditioning," Bonnema said. "So that's often how it will come out."

As for understatement...

"You give a presentation and you ask someone how you did and they'll say, 'Oh, you did fine.' I call that the 'Minnesota F-word' because it's used for everything, and 'Fine' doesn't really tell you anything," Bonnema said.

If you're not from here, it all takes some getting used to.

"You keep your friends from preschool," Veldof said. "You know, you're still hanging out with your high school buddies. If you're a Minnesotan, you're not changing up that much. You're not bringing a lot of new people into your life."

They say when people are unable to figure out the culture or make friends, they end up leaving. 

"The neighbors will come over and bring a hot dish, and you go 'Oh, we should go out for coffee sometime,'" said Bonnema. "But it's kind of that surface friendliness."

If you're not from here, navigating Minnesota Nice takes work.

"We're always advising people, 'You have to be very sensitive to the communication and styles, and sort of the body language, and so forth of, people around you or else you really can't be that successful here," Veldof said. 

Bonnema has some advice for transplants.

"I think Minnesotans really appreciate people that are really making an effort to try to be part of it. Again, we're not saying you're gonna have to thoroughly enjoy it or do it for the rest of your life. Maybe someone's out ice fishing or neighbors (are) going fishing. Say 'hey, can I tag along?' The things that Minnesotans take pride in, you know, make a hot dish or go to a hockey game." 

He says Minnesotans have to do their part, too.

"It's such a great place, and that's why I simply want Minnesotans to be aware of the challenges of Minnesota Nice," Bonnema said. "If someone moves in your neighborhood, invite them over for dinner and actually have them over. You're not signing up for lifelong friendship."

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