There’s a term you may or may not be familiar with called “Minnesota Nice”. I’ve no doubt that it has its equal in other parts of the world; but as I don’t get out much, I couldn’t tell you what the, say, reputation of the average Belgian or Latvian is.
But those dirty lousy English?*
And right there, you can know that I am kidding, as your average Minnesotan would never, in sincerity, say such a thing.
Think it, yes.
Say it? Never.
Because that’s not nice.
The repute of the average Minnesotan is one of modesty; of being, perhaps, slightly overweight; of being able to drink many of the people in These United States under a snow-laden table; of saying things like “you betcha” and “uff-da” with a faintly discernible Swedish accent.
These things are true and probably obvious.
But what more should you, as a traveler to the Land Of Ten Thousand Lakes, know?
1. We smile a lot, even to strangers. If our eyes meet, it is nine times out of ten that I’ll smile at you. It is our way of showing that we acknowledge your presence. And, like the open-palmed greetings of the peoples of many lands, it shows you that we do not have anything in our mouths that we will be using later to hurt you.
2. We do not always say what we mean. This makes us seem as if we are complacently agreeing with you. Not true. “Mm-hmm” is not so much an agreement as it is not a disagreement. In another example, the phrase “that’s interesting” can be used in such cases as a thing being truly interesting, a thing being completely uninteresting, or a thing being horrifyingly tacky.
Inflection is everything.
3. There is the possibility – particularly in Greater Minnesota, that Jello/gelatin may be served to you as a salad, possibly with grated carrots in it, even, potentially, being “frosted” with mayonnaise. The proper response to being offered this dish is to smile and say, “So retro! That’s interesting.” Dispose of this dish as unobtrusively as possible.
There’s more, of course, but this is a weekend after all; and I’ve got lutefisk to make; Tuna Noodle Hot Dish and bars to bring to the new neighbors; and then of course there’s the meeting of P.O.L.K.A. club (Polka Lovers Klub of America) later.
* In typical Minnesotan fashion, I must now back up and say that this is a joke. I read many English blogs, have enjoyed many English beers, and own all of The Jam’s albums – why, some of my best friends are English!
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