What Does “Minnesota Nice” Really Mean?

Even if you’re not from Minnesota or the Midwest, you’ve probably heard of the term “Minnesota nice.” A somewhat mysterious term used to describe the culture of polite friendliness in Minnesota, the true meaning is a little more nuanced.

Vertical Endeavors

Vertical Endeavors, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of Palisade Head on Lake Superior from his Minnesota gallery collection.

Midwestern Warmth

Minnesota is undeniably “nice.” Stunning landscapes of well-preserved forests, glittering lakes, and rolling grassy plains make Minnesota a true wonder to behold. A nature lover’s paradise, Minnesota is flush with state parks, nature preserves, and incredible natural landmarks.

The people of Minnesota are also undeniably “nice.” When you visit the Midwest, you’ll be greeted by smiles, friendly hellos, and likely an offer of food. Minnesotans show their love through simple acts of kindness: shoveling a neighbor’s walk, making a jello “salad” for a potluck, or offering to drive you to the airport early in the morning.

However, the initiated Minnesota traveler knows that “Minnesota nice” has another side!

Minnesota Nice

Minnesota Nice, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of Superior National Forest from his Autumn gallery collection.

Killing with Kindness

The secret side of Midwestern friendliness is passive aggressiveness! No, you don’t have to think that Minnesotans are always holding in a snide remark, but they will almost always show emotional restraint rather than become outright confrontational.

Just as the southern states have “bless your heart” to let each other know they’re displeased, Minnesotans have phrases like “that’s interesting” and “I didn’t mean to be a pest” to subtly let you know how they’re feeling.

Henry's Woods

Henry's Woods, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of a red barn in winter from his Minnesota gallery collection.

Let’s take a quick look at some secret Minnesota nice terminology:

  • “That’s interesting” — the person is probably not interested and could be letting you know they’re bored or unimpressed.
  • “I don’t mean to be a pest, but…”—you’ve taken too long to do something, and this person is getting impatient!
  • “Uff-da”—you’ve made an error, or something is going wrong.

Remember, Minnesotans are genuinely warm people! Many Minnesotans also have dry humor and will enjoy a bit of friendly banter. Don’t be afraid to try breaking out some Minnesota nice yourself, you might just make a new friend.

Explore Max Foster’s full collection of Minnesota landscape photography to see more of the beauty of the Midwest.

Blazing Falls

Blazing Falls, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of Judge CR Magney State Park from his Minnesota gallery collection.