It’s been almost three months since I picked up my life and headed to the Midwest. There are a lot of things I miss about home. My family, sunsets over the ocean, the sun being around for the majority of the day, and, of course, ridiculously large burritos. I’ve only tried Mexican food twice since getting to Minnesota and both experiences only served as sad reminders of how far away I am from home.
Despite what I miss, I am having a really great time in Duluth. The town has endless places to explore and I’ve had a lot of luck with finding people who share similar passions to my own, or who in the least have a knack for convincing me to leave my cozy studio to come do something new with them (and trust me, with my love for Netflix, that’s hard to do).
I have noticed a lot of differences between my new and old home that have made for an interesting transition to life in Minnesota. For other West Coast to MidWest or vice versa transplants, I’m sure some of these will ring true of your own experiences.
All salads come with a surprise
Most of us can probably agree that healthy food trends more in the West and that makes a lot of sense considering the wholesome, farm lifestyle in the MidWest promotes a meat and dairy heavy diet. I haven’t found a lot of health conscious restaurants in the area and the ones who seem to think they are often negate the healthiness of their recipes by adding large quantities of butter or some ingredient to an originally healthy recipe. For example, I haven’t been to a restaurant yet that doesn’t have meat or some odd ingredient in their salad. By odd, I’m talking jello or something created with a lot of mayo. I don’t eat jello so I guess I shouldn’t knock it before I try it, but you would definitely have a difficult time finding a jello-based salad at a restaurant in Encinitas.
As far as food culture goes, it’s a whole different ballpark here in Minnesota.
Totes and other confusing words
Part of my job has me working in the receiving department at our retail store organizing inventory. There’s one woman who works there with me who always cracks me up with the things she says. Sometimes it’s the way she says it, “bag-el” instead of “bay-gul” or the word “bag” but with an extremely Minnesotan accent, but often times it’s the phrases she says. Today she was talking about “pancaking” which I still don’t fully understand enough to explain. One time we got talking about accents and she said she was trying describe my accent to her husband. I found this really funny because I don’t see myself as having an accent when compared to all of my coworkers, but of course that’s not what they’re going to hear when they grew up surrounded by it.
On confusing words, it’s taken me sometime to understand what some of my coworkers are saying because of different word choices. The hardest one for me was a tote. We use these giant plastic containers at our retail store and here everyone calls them totes. I always called them a plastic container or box, so whenever someone told me to look for something in a tote I would wander around looking for tote bags all the while thinking, “there isn’t a single tote bag here and that’s such a horrible way to organize things”. It took me about a month to piece that one together.
For the love of country
I wasn’t using my car a lot when I first moved here because work is close enough to bike to. Now that winter is setting in and I’m too much of a wimp to be outside for long, I’ve been driving a little more frequently. I reprogrammed my radio stations to local ones but really I’ve only used NPR since getting here. NPR is great, but my main reason for only listening to NPR is because I cannot for the life of me find a radio station that isn’t country or religious music. I thought I would find at least one that played some horrible top forties music where you can always count on hearing the same ten songs played each week, but seriously, it’s all country or gospels. Traveling longer distances has become a bit of a challenge. I lost my AUX cable for a little bit and once I got far enough out of Duluth, it becomes a silent ride until the cities where I can catch an hour or so of top forties and then I’m back at silence again until I reach my destination. Sometimes, the radio will trick me. I’ll begin listening to a station and the song sounds kind of bluesy or like classic rock… and then slowly it will become something so very different…
Work hard, play hard
One thing I have come to love about Minnesota is this attitude of working hard. While on FMT, I worked with three Minnesotans and while each had varying personalities, all three of them worked extremely hard. Now that I’m living here, I’ve noticed that a lot of Minnesotans are extremely resourceful in that if something is broken, they will try their hardest to fix it themselves. At Cooper’s house, for example, his parents and family are always doing things themselves whether it’s installing new windows, scraping paint of the house and repainting, doing yard work, etc. A lot of my coworkers work on their cars themselves whenever there’s a problem, and some of my coworkers have put in a lot of effort to building their homes. The culture in California is very different. When something is broken, you hire someone to fix it. I’m sure this isn’t the case always, but I can think of a lot of families I know who would never think of fixing an issue around the house themselves or trying to salvage something broken. It has made me a little regretful that I’m not more self sufficient. I would love to be able to fix things myself or build a loft out to live in out of a friend’s basement. Motivated by this idea, I set a goal for myself to be more self sufficient while Cooper is gone in Death Valley. We have a leaky shower that’s been an issue since we moved in and my sewing machine hasn’t worked since I got it from my Grandma. I gave it my best but three months here hasn’t instilled enough of the Minnesota resourcefulness that I crave and I am embarrassed to say neither problem is fixed yet.
Weather, weather, weather
At work, all of our name tags have our hometowns listed on them. I’ve slowly reached the point since moving here where I don’t like to tell people where I am from because I’m tired of talking about the weather. It seems like anytime a customer learns I’m from California from my name tag or through conversation, the first thing we talk about is winter. I’ve received the same winter advice from so many people and have heard the same speculations almost daily about what the el niño year will mean for snowfall in Duluth. It was endearing at first feeling that so many people were genuinely worried for me during my first winter but with time the topic has worn and I’m a little tired of talking about weather. To play devils advocate, I do know that when Californians get together they can also often talk about the weather but who wouldn’t want to talk about the weather when it’s always so warm and perfect out?
Despite it wearing on me, it has been really fun this week since we had our first snowfall. The snowfall wasn’t much but a lot of my coworkers were really excited to see me come into work so they could ask me what I thought. One of my coworkers even said I should get a picture with my first snow jacket and she seemed genuinely excited for me to be seeing snow.