1. Not judging a place before you get to know it.
Growing up in a place people often can’t find on the map (or if they can, then just associating it with corn fields and frigid winters), gives us locals an appreciation for not making blind assumptions. Prince, Atmosphere, Poliça, the Coen brothers, Charles Schultz, and F. Scott Fitzgerald have all come from the Twin Cities. But what really makes the Twin Cities great are all the things that outsiders don’t even think about, like that sense of community on the first Spring day when everyone is smiling and making a point to play outside and revel in the fact that we’ve survived another winter.
So when I go to other parts of the world, I know it may be much more awesome that it initially appears.
2. Having fun without ever setting foot in the Mall of America.
I admit I went to the Mall of America by choice when I was young. But it was quick to prove itself as no cooler than any other mall, which is to say, not really cool at all. Wandering around Ragstock and thrift stores in Uptown, going to Annie’s Parlour in Dinkytown, or getting cheesecake at Café Latte on Grand Avenue is so much cooler.
3. Naturally knowing how to do all things related to camping.
Regardless of how “outdoorsy” one supposedly is, knowing how to put up a tent, build a campfire, put up with smoke burning the eyes in order to keep the mosquitos away, roast hotdogs and marshmallows, make s’mores, cook pancakes over an open fire, and rig the food bundle up in a tree so bears don’t come into the camp and maul the tent open is just part of everyday summer life.
4. Skillfully driving across the city only using side streets to avoid traffic.
Traffic in the Twin Cities is admittedly not as bad as LA, but trying to cross the city on the freeway during rush hour means being stuck in miserable stop-and-go traffic, with your leg cramping from the clutch and your butt starting to sweat. Every local knows how to drive through the city on side streets. Need to get from Uptown to Golden Valley? Easy, take West Lake Street, to Dean Parkway, to Cedar Lake Road to Wayzata Blvd. Voilà.
5. How to determine which neighborhood coffee shop is the best.
Before coffee shops became such a hip thing around the country, we already had them all over Minneapolis. As a teenager, it was important to know which of the neighborhood haunts was the best — such as my favorite, the May Day Café in Powderhorn Park.
Checking out the coffee, seating options, music selection, pastries, and which places would leave me alone for hours and had baristas who would turn into friends and give free coffee was critical information to be able judge a coffee shop on.
6. Being able to survive a winter anywhere.
Brutal Minnesota winters taught me that if I can survive –20F temperatures and piles of snow for months on end, I can deal with whatever winter some other place in the world throws at me — like biting cold wet winds that seep through to my bones and weeks on end of no sun and daily rain. I may not like it, but I know I can deal with it.
7. Coming up with a kick-ass Halloween costume that can be worn with a winter coat.
October 31st is basically full-on winter in Minnesota. This required talent to be able to come up with a creative and recognizable Halloween costume that can be worn with a winter coat, boots, hat and scarf — something besides just wearing a bed sheet and lamely calling yourself a ghost.