Getting to know Minnesotans as a transplant is tough. They’re friendly at work and polite on the streets, but it can take years for transplants to count more than a couple of native Minnesotans as true friends. It can be tough, but if you stick around until you break through you’ll make awesome friends AND get to live in the best cities in the whole world.
As a transplant myself, I’ve tried it all from signing up for socializing opportunities to desperate pleas for friendship. What I didn’t realize at first was that I needed to become more like a Minnesotan in order to break through Minnesota Nice. Here are a few of my favorite ways to make friends and fit in like an (almost) native.
Minnesotans are active people. Be active with them.
Even on the hottest and most miserable day, Minnesotans are outside and moving around. Be one of them and hop on your bike or take a run around a lake. If you don’t like to go out alone, ask a friend to join you or join a team. Pretty soon you’ll be swapping stories about your favorite lakes and complaining about crowded bike paths.
I’m a team sport player myself, and some of the longest friendships I have are with people I met through soccer and broomball. Joining a team gives you a chance to release tension, celebrate your victories/defeats, and have scheduled time with soon-to-be good friends. There are adult recreational and competitive leagues for a wide range of sports all over the cities, but for the newcomer I recommend City Sports Connection (CSC). The atmosphere is more social than in the city leagues, and it’s a little easier to meet new people.
Minnesotans make the most of the seasons, especially summer.
The long winter makes summer that much sweeter. More than anywhere else I’ve lived, Minnesotans take full advantage of the long, not-freezing days with celebrations and events. Big must-do events like Aquatennial or the State Fair are tough to do on your own, so see if there is a group you can tag along with. You are pretty much guaranteed to have a friend who would love to show you what makes Minnesota special. I’ve been to the fair with every native Minnesotan I know and the experience is different every time.
Even better than big events are the hundreds of outdoor concerts and movies held throughout the summer. When I was new to the state, I would pack a picnic, make a few calls, and bike over to a concert. Most of the time one or more of my friends would join me. If I was alone, the people watching was fantastic, the entertainment free, and the environment friendly. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board holds music and movies in the park every day of the week from May until Labor Day. My favorite concert series in St. Paul is Music in Mears.
Minnesotans care about their communities.
I cannot emphasize enough how valuable getting involved with an organization is to making friends. The key is to work with an organization whose mission you are passionate about… but is very different from what you do professionally. Getting outside your area of expertise will help you meet like-minded people who might not otherwise overlap with your personal and professional circles.
When I was looking to expand my circle of friends, I started looking for organizations I believed in that had nothing to do with my background. My background is in the arts, and I ended up spending many hours volunteering for a rape crisis center. Being an advocate was a great way to develop new skills while giving back to the community. Plus, the connections I built there have helped me stay grounded in the community long after I left the organization.
Be in it for the long run.
When I talk to my Minnesotan friends about how hard it is to break into their culture, the reason they often cite for being “cold” to outsiders is that they don’t expect us to stick around. They know how awesome the state is, but also know how easy it is for a transplant to pack up and leave when they get sick of winters. Let them know that you plan to stick it out and they’ll help you put down roots. They’ll probably even invite you to the cabin up north (as long as you’re willing to do some chores).
How have others adjusted to Minnesota? What have you done to help newcomers feel welcome?