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Building a Circle of Friends in Minnesota

Have you heard this saying yet? “Minnesotans will give you directions to anywhere except their own house.”   Ouch.  Hitting too close to home?  Okay, it’s no secret that it can be hard to make friends here.   What the heck is going on? 

Corey, the Minnesota Native Says...

1.  We like to stick around.   We have more natives here than almost any other state.  Over 19 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here and there are all kinds of jobs.  Basically, you can stay put and still find a decent job.  

2. We have lots of friends already.  This is related to item 1 above.  Because they don’t leave the state we still socialize with our high school and college friends.

3. We don’t know what it’s like to be the new person.  This is related to items 1 & 2 above.  We are comfortable and haven’t experienced the stress of leaving our support structure and moving to another place.  If we need help with yard work or are lonely and want a companion for dinner it’s easy to fill these roles.   

4. We don’t like change.  Ask a person who was born in Minneapolis if they spend a lot of time in St. Paul (and vice versa).  The answer is likely “no.”  We like things that are familiar to us and aren’t very good at getting outside our comfort zone.    
Minnesota has a unique friendship culture and no matter how much you wish it would, it won’t change just for you. 

Jerilyn, the East Coast Transplant Says...
Just because they won’t change, doesn’t mean we can’t find some friends around here and actually have a social life.  Here’s some tips:

Tip 1: Be patient.  Of course Minnesotans are going to be wary of you.  Their friendships frequently started in Pre-K and have gone unbroken right into adulthood.  They are built through spending *a lot* of time getting to know the other person and by sharing common experiences.   These things don’t happen overnight.   Get into groups that meet frequently and over long periods of time
(see Connect Locally and Meetup.com).  Then, in about 2 or 5 years, maybe you’ll be invited over for dinner in a native’s actual home (but just you, not their friends from Pre-K!).  Exciting and worth the wait.

Tip 2: Find other newcomers.   Okay, patience is great, but let’s face it - what East Coaster has an abundance of that?  I don’t know any.  So - you might want to forget the natives and just focus on the other ex pats hungry for someone to grab a beer with or hit a movie.  Check out the Twin Cities Transplants Meetup group and connect with the transplants group on Facebook.

Tip 3: Expand your search.  It is easier to build relationships with those who have similar interests and values.  Join organizations and clubs.  Minnesotans love their houses of worship.  Give it a whirl!  Check out Connect Locally for ideas.

Tip 4:  Show up, get involved.  Minnesotan’s pride themselves on being civic minded and basically expect the same from others.  Suck it up.  Even if you have nothing to sell, volunteer to help at the neighborhood garage sale, make an appearance at that the block party, help the elderly person next door rake their leaves in the fall.   Don’t give others a reason to not be friendly with you.  To learn what else you shouldn’t do check out  How to Be Passive Aggressive for Beginners.”

Tip 5: Explain the challenges of living here.   Minnesotans will say they want to be welcoming but most are just clueless about how unfriendly their insulated culture can be to newcomers.   It could be that your target buddy  needs to be told that their behavior is problematic in order to fix it.   Give it a go and explain the challenges of making friends to your Minnesota-born neighbors, co-workers, or fellow soccer moms.   It might just be enough to get the real directions to their home!

Get even more tips and approaches to help you in our book,
Minnesota Nice? A Transplant's Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Minnesota!

© Jerilyn Veldof and Corey Bonnema