is the Arabic word for when wanderers lost in the desert were given food, water, and shelter until they recovered. Because survival required the help of others, every visitor to an oasis was greeted with open arms and no questions asked.
Here in Minnesota we’re also known for the extreme hardships of weather. Our winters are long and cold, and until you’ve had your parked car buried by a snowplow– or licked a metal pole on a dare– you don’t know the fun of a Minnesota January.
Somehow we acquired the moniker “Minnesota Nice" (we even have our own Wikipedia page
!), but ask some of the transplants
to our state about how “nice” we are and they might call BS. To more than a few outsiders, we’re a state full of polite, but shallow, conversationalists who will never let you break into our inner circles no matter how many generations you’ve lived here.
Harsh, perhaps, but coming from a long line of stoic and stand-offish Scandinavians, I have to agree. The family I grew up in wasn’t exactly known for our gushing effusiveness– and our “yah, sure you betcha” agreeableness is more indifference in disguise. Try to make an emotional connection with us you’ll discover we’re just as frigid as our climate. Personal space is practically part of our religious beliefs.
Sure, we may say “please” and” thank you” a dozen times in the simplest interactions. We’ll wave at you driving down the road, and let you pull out first at a four-way stop. We’ll stop and give you directions (anywhere but our house). And we’ll happily help you dig your car out of the snowbank, even when the wind chill is 40 below. But come any closer and “Minnesota nice” becomes “Minnesota ice”.
Unlike in Iraq– where stranded travelers would be welcomed with the best seat in the house, served the first cup of qahwe
(traditional Arabic coffee flavored with cardamom), and offered every comfort the hosts can afford– stranded travelers stopping by a Minnesota home probably won’t get past the front door, but we’ll cheerfully let you use our phone to call a tow truck.
Finally, when leaving an Iraqi home, the hostess will sprinkle rose water on visitors’ heads from a silver decanter to ensure good fortune and to ward off evil.
When leaving a Minnesota home, a hug isn’t likely, but we’ll make sure the door doesn’t hit you in the behind on your way out.