by Dan D. 5/10/16

There isn’t a whole lot of literature on the Web about moving to Minneapolis. There’s quite a bit that’s been typed on the subject of moving to New York/Los Angeles/Chicago/Columbus, OH/Miami, whereas Mill City isn’t widely recognized.

Minneapolis often gets looked over as a destination, even though it often receives high praise for its quality of life, cultural institutions, and relatively low cost of living. I’m not here to dispute any of these points. There’s a certain level of validity to each, depending on your perspective.

Minneapolis (and its neighbor, St. Paul, which is also a legitimately cool city) is a great place to live. It has a lot “going for it”. However, it isn’t a great fit for everyone, and I think it’s important to encourage people to look past the boosterism that’s often all too common among the city’s residents before moving here with your expectations set too high.

Though I typically don’t like to resort to list-based absurdities like “FOUR REASONS WHY POLAND SPRING IS BETTER THAN AQUAFINA” and “HUGGIES VS. PAMPERS: EIGHT WAYS YOU CAN FIND OUT WHICH BRAND YOU’RE MORE LOYAL TO AS A CHILD OF THE ’90s”, I gotta keep these blog posts fairly short in length so as to be readable. So, I apologize for the clickbaity headline, but folks, we need readers.

Here, then, are the only two reasons why you should move to Minneapolis:

1) You grew up in the Twin Cities and are looking to move home and settle down after slogging it out in a more expensive place. 

2) You want kids. 

That’s it. A lot of people may gain interest in Minneapolis as a destination, as larger cities become the playgrounds of the moneyed and push out everyone without access to a sizable trust fund. They’ll look at housing prices and say “shit, that’s a hell of a lot cheaper than Brooklyn”. They’ll see the low unemployment rate and high wages relative to cost of living and solemnly swear that the cold is bearable if they can live in a city on a modest income. They’ll visit, try a burger at the Nook, and declare “That’s it. I’m making this my home”.

This was me, two years ago. This, and a few other factors, drove me to leave New York City for Minneapolis. Friends and colleagues thought I was nuts. In a way, they were right, but not at all for the reasons they took into consideration.

If you’re moving here as a transplant, chances are you will have a hard time feeling like you “fit in”. There’s a lot of literature on the Web about this: a recent CityPages piece, this 2012 Minnesota Public Radio series, and a MinnPost article from last summer, for starters. Poke around Minnesota-related subreddits and you’ll find some vocal outsiders who feel strongly about feeling excluded. A local community radio station I used to volunteer at went on the offensive, taking a super-weird approach to keeping Minnesota as “pure” as the waters of you-know-where.

Now, look. You can contend, as many have, that it’s hard to make friends as an adult. I don’t doubt that your experience may reflect this. Mine hasn’t at all. I’ve made some of my closest friends as an adult, and I met my significant other at 25. I can see how in some situations making friends as an adult can be difficult, but as a sweeping, across-the-board, objective assertion, “it’s hard to make friends as an adult” is invalid.

Thus, if we leave the notion of challenging adult friendship formation aside, what we’re left with is something unique about the Minnesota transplant experience. What could be the cause of this phenomenon? I’m sure it’s not limited to one factor. I suspect, as some others have suggested, that it’s due to the area’s relative geographic isolation, migration patterns, and heck – weather. Without another major metropolitan area to compete with, a relatively static population, and with the outdoors a frigid wasteland five months out of the year (it’s certainly bearable, but it isn’t at all pleasant), I can see how people would not want to be particularly sociable and find comfort in their established connections and routines.

There’s also the notion that the culture eschews outward forms of conflict – indirect communication (often characterized as “passive aggressive” behavior) is a function of this. I don’t know where this comes from. Some might point at inherited Scandinavian values (I think this argument is flawed), others might see it as descended from a functional need for everyone to cooperate to survive winter, and another view may be that it’s similar to the “small-town” mindset, where everyone perceives their reputation as being of paramount importance and will do anything and everything to avoid damaging it. It’s understandable, but at odds with the popular perception of the area as “progressive” – how can one move forward if they aren’t challenged to do so by their peers?

Why, then, these two reasons I’ve cited? Well, if you grew up here, chances are you understand the local customs, mannerisms, and thought patterns. It’s possible you maintained your childhood friendships, and it’s likely that some of these friends are back home waiting for you to return. You may want to be near your family as they age to provide care for them.

Hell, you may be tired of getting less and less for your money in a more expensive metro area, frustrated with its people and customs and pace, and long for a place you understand that you can call your own.

These are all understandable reasons. Hell, they’re all reasons I’d use if I decided to move back to Connecticut, where I grew up (except for the money part…Fairfield County, CT ain’t exactly cheap). Life’s short, and you want to surround yourself with people you love who support you.

That satisfies reason one. As for reason two, Minneapolis seems to me to be a great place to raise kids. Jobs seem stable – most people I know here have stayed in their jobs for longer than anywhere else I’ve lived – and wages seem fairer than other parts of the country. The cost of living, while still high for the region, is far better than that of the coasts.

I was going to cite Minnesota’s open enrollment program as a factor that lets families take advantage of better-performing school districts, but that seems to have backfired (the state also has a miserable achievement gap between white people and people of color).

So, uh, maybe point two isn’t as clear for me. I don’t have kids, nor do I want kids. Point Two, then, is admittedly a product of my own perception: I’d rather raise kids here than in other cities I’ve lived in – namely NYC (forget it, it’s one thing to make ends meet without kids there, I can’t fathom trying to raise a child there) and New Orleans (institutional corruption, historically poor-performing public schools that may or may not be improving depending on your perspective, and HOLY SHIT GUN VIOLENCE). Your mileage may totally vary here, but here’s one guy saying Minneapolis might be good as far as a major urban center goes if you want kids.

Look, I don’t hate Minneapolis, Minnesota, or Minnesota culture. I’m frustrated with it, and I often feel like a space alien speaking in grunts and gurgles trying to communicate with people here, but I recognize there’s a lot of great things to have come out of the area. I don’t think Minnesota gets enough respect for what it has produced, including (but certainly not limited to): Prince, the Coen Brothers, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Lizz Winstead, Al Franken, Maria Bamford, Michael Yonkers, Husker Du, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, the Replacements, Peter Graves, Lea Thompson, “Funkytown”, sleep aids, and the endless hours of entertainment unwittingly brought about by Jesse Ventura.

It’s a cool place (literally, “sometimes it snows in April”) and absolutely worth a visit, but it’s not without its drawbacks.

“Every place has its drawbacks, Dan”.

Yes. I know. Thank you for that. I’m not disputing that maxim at all. I’m simply here to provide people interested in the area with a perspective. Contrary to popular hyperbole, the winter weather here is actually quite bearable if you prepare for it well.

However, do consider this: if meeting new people is of interest to you, if you prefer a more direct style of communication, or if you possess a more critical mindset and find value in challenging established social norms, you should not consider moving to Minneapolis.