Minnesota is pretty great. Sure, sure we get a bad reputation because of the harsh winters, and it’s mostly truth. The polar bears we ride into work every day are tough to park, but we make do.
Lately, I’ve noticed an influx of social media comments and questions from mamas who are moving to our great state. I’m a “lifer,” having lived the first half of my existence in the cities (which if you’re a newbie, you should know that “cities” is code for Minneapolis and St. Paul. Together.) and the latter half in Duluth. So I figured, why not offer unasked for advice from an insider!
Ahh, Duluth: A gorgeous, lovely lake town. The sight of the water is spectacular. But, the lake likes to do its own thing. As in, it controls our weather. Lake Superior is so large, and situated just perfectly, that it can be dozens of degrees warmer or cooler down on its shores than it is in other parts of town. It all depends on the wind and which way it blows. Which brings us to…
Keep at least 60% of your wardrobe in your car. You need layers, and mittens, hats, boots for snow, a good scraper, a swimsuit and extra socks. Multiply that by how many kids you have, your spouse, and pets. (For real: keep a sweatshirt for everyone in your car always.)
Alrighty, so you have your car loaded with clothes and you want to drive somewhere! Let’s say that you’re headed to the grocery store. “Up the hill” means going northwest from the lake. This is where the mall and Target and many other shops are. (Up the hill will very likely be 20-30 degrees different from the temp down by the lake.) You park, go in, and you have someone you need to get past politely in order to reach for toilet paper. Here’s where you’ll employ…
When you bump into someone, or need to get around someone, it is the Minnesota way to say “Ope!” This can be followed with “Sorry” and “Excuse me,” but neither are technically necessary. “Ope’s” roots come from “oops,” and it’s a Midwestern colloquialism for recognizing a bump-into or a surprise interaction. It means no harm, and can be said over and over forever. (For real: it’ll happen to you all the time and then one day, YOU’LL say it too!)
Congratulations! You survived the grocery isle dancing. You heard “Ope” 30,000 times. Now it’s time to checkout. Chatting in line is common. It’s trickier for us introverts, but babies and kids make it so much easier! You pay, leave, and probably heard “ope!” 5 more times. You decide to take the kids to the playground. You will see lot of other people enjoying our vast and varied parks, The Lakewalk, and other trails. There are just tons of gems for moving and getting fresh air. If it’s nice out, you’ll see a whole ton of dogs taking their owners for walks. (It’s commonplace to say hi, and then “OHMYGOSHLOOKATTHATPUPPPPPPPPY!” in that high-pitch, baby voice.) Then, make sure to…
Ask first, but pet all the dogs. Or don’t, if they aren’t your jam. But we typically love our dogs around here. There are tons of local joints that let in well-behaved dogs. Lots of places will surprise you, but we are a super dog-friendly town.
Now I’m going to jump into a touchy subject. You may have heard the phrase, “Minnesota Nice.” It’s become trendy for outsiders to actually call Minnesotans passive aggressive. I think that there can be truth to it; there’s seems to be a high percentage of introverts here, so we get all flustered in social settings. But I am going to argue strongly that there is an honest-to-goodness, genuine niceness here. I wont go as far as saying other states aren’t as nice (because that wouldn’t be a very nice thing to say), but if your car gets stuck in the Minnesota snow (and it WILL) the odds are someone or many someones will help you out… and then give you directions… while also sprinkling in compliments about your hat. It can take a while to make friends once hibernation season hits, but it’ll happen, and it starts by being neighborly. So…
Don’t let the stereotypes freak you out. Friendly finds friendly! For real: We are nice. There’s always exceptions, but when things get tough, we like to help each other out.
Make sure you do your research on cars too. They matter around here on the hills in winter, and it takes some practice getting used to driving in snow. Be patient, and go slow. In the summer, the roads are in a constant state of construction, which means that it may take forever to get places no matter what the season, so enjoy the view! Ours is pretty spectacular from almost every angle. If you’re not quite sure of where your going, or if you need advice on where to find something…
Don’t be afraid to ask an opinion and then make your own!
I could rattle off a list of best coffee shops, restaurants, and so much more, but I would suggest looking at all of the amazing guides written by DMB. They’re comprehensive and organized. If you don’t see what you are looking for, then head to our Community + Conversation page on Facebook. There are just so many amazing mamas who will be happy to help you out. You need the best brand of winter coats for your kid surviving these winters? Ask! You want the name of a killer hairstylist? Ask! You want to know what that house thingy is in lake by Canal Park? Don’t ask… Kidding! Ask. You’ll get about 15 different answers to all your questions, but they’re a great jumping off point so that you can decide what’s best for you and your family.
This is a freebie bonus tip! Play tourist. Go to the Glensheen Mansion, like, all the time. Hike around Enger Tower, stroll through Canal Park, and throw rocks at Brighton Beach. Explore and enjoy! (For real: Duluth is awesome. Go play!)
This barely scratches the surface, and I hope it’s a starting place on how to get by in Minnesota, and in Duluth specifically. Oh, and also know that the U of M is NOT the same as UMD. (GO BULLDOGS!) I promise, you’ll be fine when you move here, and we welcome you!