As I type this, people from all over the country are gathering in Minneapolis for this weekend’s Superb Owl* game. For over a week I’ve been meaning to go downtown and bring you a full report of the ice sculptures and the zipline over the Mississippi river, plus an assortment of other Superb Owl* festivities.
But since it’s either been snowing nonstop or too flippin’ cold, I thought it might be more useful instead to share some tips on how to survive a trip to Minnesota in the winter.
WHAT TO WEAR
When visiting Minnesota the most important consideration is your wardrobe, because you need to dress in layers. Here’s what the experts at Midwest Mountaineering suggest:
- Start with a base layer of polyester or merino wool.
- Then put on a mid-layer, such as a fleece pullover or hoodie.
- The next layer should be a shell that doubles as a windbreaker.
- Finally, add a big puffy jacket — preferably with a hood.
And that’s just for your upper torso! Repeat these steps for the rest of your body, including your hands, feet, and face. If you dress properly you will roughly resemble a ninja. Or maybe a seared marshmallow, if (like me) you’re carrying a few extra pounds. This is not only normal, but highly desirable.
Here’s my properly attired friend Norine, casually dropping by to say hello.
Please note that putting on all this clothing will take at least an hour, so plan accordingly if you’re expected anywhere that day. Also, you will need to pee immediately after you’ve zipped up your final layer (it’s the law). Add an extra half hour to your prep time if you plan to pee.
Once you’re properly dressed, the second step is learning a few key Minnesotan terms, phrases, and cultural nuances. You probably won’t be mocked if you order a soda instead of a pop (because we’re polite here). But why risk the chance of embarrassment? With that, here’s your guide to …
WORDS TO KNOW
Bar • Any quadrangle-shaped baked good. It’s terrible manners to take the last bar, even if it’s mummified after sitting untouched for two weeks.
Black ice • A thin layer of insurance claims that forms when car exhaust freezes on the highways at temperatures below 0º Fahrenheit.
’Bye, then • When repeated at least 12 times, this is one component in the hours-long ritual of leaving any social gathering.
Can’t complain • A superlative exclamation of joy.
Could be worse • If you report that “a meteor just squashed everything you love,” a true Minnesotan will reply that “it could be worse.”
Dang, danged • Signs of an enraged Minnesotan. Avoid eye contact and back away slowly.
Dontcha know • Tag it onto the end of your sentences for the Minnesota version of audience participation. (Nodding will ensue.)
Holy buckets • An exclamation of admiration or surprise. See also, uff-da.
Hotdish • This church-basement staple resembles a casserole, but contains up to 50% more tater tots and canned green beans (bonus points if you also add Spam).
How ‘bout dem Vikings? • Sore topic; don’t go there.
Inches • The preferred unit of measurement for exaggerating everything from trophy fish to snow accumulation.
Land O’Lakes • Abbreviation for “Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.” Also, a brand of dairy products whose logo features a young American Indian woman inexplicably holding a stick of butter.
Lutefisk • If you are offered this “food,” try to outrun it. If running isn’t possible, adopt the fetal position and feign death while protecting your head with your arms.
Meat raffle • You go to a bar. You buy a ticket. You maybe win a chunk of meat. Doesn’t everyone do this?!
Minnesota nice (1) • How Minnesotans appear to the world when they successfully hide their passive-aggressiveness behind a smile.
Minnesota nice (2) • How Minnesotans actually are when they gather to push a stranger’s car out of a snowbank.
Pop • It’s not cola or soda. It’s pop, dammit.
Spam • An inventive way to use the whole pig.
Tater tots • Small, cylindrical briquettes of compressed potato bits. Often deep-fried and used as a base for hotdishes.
That’s different • Minnesotan for “I don’t like it.”
Uff-da • The Norwegian “oy.” Avoid using at weddings, births and baptisms.
Up North • Anywhere outside the Twin Cities metro area, regardless of geographical direction. May also be referred to as “the cabin” or “the lake.”
Windchill • The combined effect of adding wind to an ungodly air temperature of, say, 20 below. In 2017 it was the #1 leading cause of Florida vacations.
You bet, you betcha • Minnesotan for “yes.”
WHERE TO GO
Finally, there’s the question of where to go when you’re smothered in wool and sound like an extra from Fargo. For that advice I will turn you over to the fine folks at Esquire, who have way better taste — and probably way more fun — than this introverted Minnesota girl.
As the first paragraph reads, “… traditionally there are only two kinds of people up [here]: those who never left, and natives who explored the world but returned.”
I’m lucky (and happy) to be among the latter.