A friend read my blog the other day and we started chatting about what makes the Midwest so unique. She has grown up in Minnesota her entire life, but commented that what she thinks makes the area so special is that the people that live here really have a sense of pride in their community. Now, I’m sure most people have heard of the phrase “Midwestern nice”. I’m going to take a wild guess here, and assume that the term was most likely coined by someone not from the Midwest. (No one from the Midwest would be so vain to admit that they are in fact nice) But the truth is, people in this area are programmed to be nice. Ok, I mean, I’m not so naive to assume everyone is nice at all times, but to acquaintances and random strangers, they are the friendliest bunch of folks I have ever come into contact with.
I started to think. Is this sense of pride honest love for their community or does it just go back to the Midwest nice? When Fargo ranks in the top lists for friendliest people and best place to live, would anyone here ever actually admit to disagreeing?
Judging on the people I’ve met, they truly do love their community. I remember talking to a friend when I moved here. She too had lived in North Dakota her entire life. I was in a panicky phase because I had just moved to a new community far away from any family and friends, and had no idea what to expect. Our conversation went something like this…
Me- “Well it can’t be that bad here, right? I mean, you like it don’t you?”
Friend- “Yeah, I love it here. But then again, I don’t really have anything to compare it to.”
At first her response didn’t really reassure me. The majority of the people I have met have lived here their entire life. Not only have they lived here but their parents have lived here and their parents have lived here and… you get the idea. The thing is, the people I have met in the Midwest have been other places. They are not secluded by what they know but seek out opportunities to learn. What keeps them here is not out of obligation, it is because they honestly love being right where they are. They don’t need a new location, a bigger town, more shopping, etc.
I’ve visited other parts of the country, and most places have an atmosphere specific to that region. For example, the majority of the Pacific Northwest has a laid- back “outdoorsy” vibe. North Carolina, South Carolina and much of the South still holds true to their Southern post-Civil War roots and everything seems to move at a slower pace. On the East Coast, especially near DC, life is crowded and hectic yet energetic and stimulating. Even Southern California has a culture all its own of beach bodies and surfing. Sure, all of these places have stereotypes, the occasional accent specific to the area, and popular local cuisine, but none have a culture like the Upper Midwest.
With people having legitimate roots in their communities, and with not a lot of outsiders moving in, it creates a unique culture that I have not seen anywhere else. Many of the families can trace their roots, undiluted, right back to Norway or Sweden. And with such an influx of Scandinavian heritage, the culture is celebrated. With unique places like the Hjemkomst Museum where a giant replica of a Viking ship is proudly on display, and bazaar festivals like Lobster and Lefse, Viking Village, and the Scandinavian Festival are the norm, customs and traditions live on.
While Midwest nice may be a stereotype, I don’t think its a bad thing to have prescribed to the area. In fact, I think other regions of the country should take a lesson or two from the Midwest: Be nice to others, help your neighbor, and appreciate where you came from.