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Ya, you betcha: 13 signs you live in the Midwest

Some Midwesterners have no problem driving on ice-covered lakes to ice fish.1 / 4
Soda vs Pop What do you call it? Dave Wallis / The Forum2 / 4
Sunday's unseasonably warm weather had area residents like Artie Karvonen, 17, of West Fargo, out taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy more summer-like activies, such as skate boarding at the Fargo Skate Park. Dave Arntson / The Forum3 / 4
Our scandinavian heritage is still present in our language – and we’re proud of that fact. Forum file photo 4 / 4

FARGO — In the Midwest, we're used to being told we have a "Minnesoooota" accent, we dress like tourists and we're sickly sweet. It's ingrained in us from our childhood — that gene dubbed "Midwest nice."

It's not until you visit other states and arrive home that you really witness the difference for yourself — an inherent collection of knee-jerking niceties, an almost involuntary reaction in hospitality.

"'Midwest nice' means being very polite even in situations where frustration or anger could be justified," says Danella Myers, digital marketing manager at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau. "(It's about) not wanting to cause conflict or create uncomfortable situations — just going with the flow."

When outsiders visit the area, they're quick to point out the differences they witness between our area and the rest of the country.

"One of the main things people mention when they come to the Visitors Center is how clean our city is and how friendly everyone has been during their trip to the area," says Danni Riley, center manager. "I would say that 9 out of 10 visitors will comment on how many friendly people they have met during their travels around the Midwest. We humbly say that we hear that all the time."

Among the obvious niceties, here are 13 signs you live in the Midwest.

1. Everything is shareable but the last slice.

Whether eating out or ordering pizza in, the dish is devoured up until the last piece when everyone becomes reserved, regardless of their ravenous hunger. It's common knowledge: no one takes the last slice of pizza or anything shareable for that matter (i.e. breadsticks, cookies, cake — always wasted in the name of kindness).

2. You call soda 'pop'.

"Soda" sounds totally formal. And "Coke"? We know that as Coca-Cola, which does not refer to all kinds of pop. "Pop" on the other hand is catchy and short, just the way we like it.

Our area is also known for accentuated vowels, especially the "o" and "a." Known as monophthongs, you'll hear the distinction in words like "Minnesooota," "boooat" and "baaag."

3. You wave at anyone who passes.

"Hey! How are ya?" you yell out the window as you drive down an extra wide Main Street. If it's not a wave, you're giving passing cars the infamous head nod. Even if you don't recognize the other driver, you still politely smile — you never know whose niece or grandson it could be.

4. You apologize for everything.

Right in line with other Midwestern niceties, one character flaw that's evident in many locals is the tendency to over-apologize.

You already have plans tonight: "I'm sorry. Are you sure that's OK?"

"I'm so sorry I'm late for work. I was in a car accident."

Someone else bumps into you: "Oh, excuse me. I'm so sorry."

You apologize for everything — even when it's not your fault.

5. You have a fit when there's a line anywhere.

In small town America, cover charges are rare, but acceptable. A line outside the bar? A guest limit? Now that's just asking too much.

6. Forty degrees is considered warm.

Any temperature above freezing is borderline shorts weather — everybody strips down, shedding winter layers in exchange for warm sunshine on their skin.

"Many visitors will ask about how cold it gets here or how much snow usually falls in a year," Riley says. "We try to make it sound as pleasant as possible without stretching the truth — 'Well it has been warmer these past couple years than in the past,' or 'You just need a really nice coat,' or my favorite 'The snowfall isn't too bad, it's mostly the wind.' "

And summer? Summer (and 85-degree weather) is welcomed, always.

7. You let other drivers pull out in front of you.

The highway is a dog-eat-dog world anywhere else, but if you see another car trapped in a driveway, parking spot or left-hand turn lane, you're instantly Mother Teresa. What goes around comes back around and your Midwest niceties ought to pay off someday (or at least the next time you're stuck).

8. You make small talk with strangers.

Whether in an elevator, on the street or in a public bathroom, you believe life's too short to ignore your neighbor. Besides, it's a small world. We all know each other here, right?

9. A 'farmer's permit' is unusually necessary.

Even if you're not a farmer, all you need is a bail of hay or bag of feed in the back of the truck and you're set for the road. Around 14 and 15, the only thing you can't do is get into the R-rated movie with your date.

10. You walk on ice-covered lakes.

Midwest winters call for creativity (and a hefty winter coat). You grew up riding shotgun in your dad's pickup to the middle of the lake to catch some fish. The best advice he ever gave you? "Unbuckle your seat belt and roll down your window." Why, Daddy? "In case we go in."

11. Your parents still own a landline.

"Somebody get the phone!" Mom begs. Absolutely not. If someone was trying to get ahold of you, they'd call your cell phone. Who uses a home phone these days anyway? As tradition would have, Mom just won't give it up.

(Although the opportunity to take the phone "off the hook" when you're sick of being bothered is always a nice feature.)

12. Grain silos are more prevalent than skyscrapers.

Even in Fargo, the tallest building is the 207-foot, 18-floor Radisson hotel. Skyscrapers are nonexistent but grain solos are prevalent. In fact, North Dakota is so agriculture-infatuated they built the capitol to look like a grain elevator.

"Another thing that many visitors will comment on is how wide open the plains and fields are and how you can see for miles," Riley says. "People from more mountainous areas will comment on how beautiful our sunrises and sunsets are here because of how much of the sky you can see."

13. Your trends are 2.5 years behind mainstream.

Ombre? What's that? Have you seen those new pants? They call them skinny jeans. Chokers? Those were so '90s. Are you telling me they're back in?

In the Midwest, our way of life may be different but we prefer it that way.

Alexandra Floersch

Alexandra Floersch has worked for Forum Communications since February 2015. She is a content producer and photographer who enjoys writing about finance, fashion and home.

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