- The Midwest has a rep for friendly people, cheap land, and a stress-free lifestyle that differs dramatically from other US regions.
- Many people are flocking to the Midwest because of its affordable cost of living, open spaces, and relaxed pace of life.
- Here are 6 ways the Midwest is different than the rest of the country.
There’s only one place in the US where traffic jams are often caused by tractors on the road and weekends consist of floating down rivers and modelling clothes through the aisles of Walmart.
Middle America has long been classified as a “flyover country,” comprised of more corn fields than major metropolises and mum-and-pop shops than Fortune 500 companies, but the 12 states that constitute the Midwest have a richer culture than many people give it credit for – take it from me, a native of small-town Ohio myself.
In my hometown, “porch sitting” is a perfectly sound and popular pastime, the parking lot of our only supermarket is a common meeting place, and Friday nights out usually include a high school football game.
About 21% of the nation’s population call this region – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio – home, according to the 2017 US Census, and that number is growing. The Daily Beast reported that lately, Millennials are kissing big city dreams goodbye to seek lower housing costs in cities like Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis instead.
But while this influx of 20- and 30-somethings is proof that America’s “breadbasket” is undergoing significant change, some Midwest traditions are simply ingrained. Here are six ways the Midwest differs from the rest of the country.
1. The people are genuinely nice
It’s true: some stereotypes are built on bold-faced lies. The archetype of Midwesterners being – sometimes alarmingly – nice, however, is rooted in truth. The University of Cambridge released a 2013 study assessing the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people and found that personalities of the Midwest had “moderately high levels of extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.”
Inhabitants of the so-called heartland smile and wave at every person they come by, friends and strangers alike, on footpaths and in supermarket aisles. I speak from experience when I say they will even show up on your doorstep with a home-cooked casserole if they see a wrecked car in the driveway or have gotten wind of the death in the family.
2. The weather is unpredictable and extreme
In Los Angeles, one could wear a summer dress nearly every day and rarely ever have to pack an umbrella at the last minute. Midwesterners, on the other hand, never know whether to don a parka, a crop-top, or a poncho.
The climate can change by the day, or by the hour, for that matter. According to a 2016 study by Save On Energy, the top 10 US cities with the most unpredictable weather – including Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, and St. Paul at the top – are all located in the Midwest.
Whatever the weather, it’s almost always extreme. Without oceans to regulate temperature,USA Today reported, the summers tend to be sweltering and the winters outrageously cold.
3. Midwesterners are always finding new ways to have fun
Even though the University of Cambridge study ranked the East and West Coasts higher on the creative spectrum, anyone who grew up in the Midwest would probably agree that living in the region does require creativity when it comes to finding fun.
4. Life might be slower, but it isn’t any smaller
When it comes to work-life balance, many Midwesterners seem to have gotten it right. That doesn’t mean, however, that Midwesterners – whether city folk or country dwellers – have any less ambition than Americans living on the coast.
Crowd Companies founder Jeremiah Owyang polled the Midwesterners in his network about what they consider “Midwestern values” when it comes to work. After collecting their responses, he wrote in VentureBeat that “both Silicon Valley and the Midwest share the same ethic of hard work.” Owyang also said that Silicon Valley could take a few pointers from Midwesterners’ modest integrity and genuine willingness to help others.
A slower lifestyle means less stress, too. Earlier this year, WalletHub released a study ranking states by stress levels, and four of the five least-stressed states were located in the Midwest: Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, and South Dakota.
5. There’s more room to move around
Maybe Midwesterners are less stressed also because they have more room to breathe. Wyoming, for instance, is the least densely populated state in the contiguous US, with only about six residents per square mile – compared with Washington, D.C., which tops the list with a whopping 11,377 heads per square mile, followed by New Jersey, with 1,225 – according to the 2017 US Census.
Not everyone likes to look at wide-open wheat fields and rows upon rows of corn, but that’s precisely what gives Midwesterners so much space.
6. A dollar goes further in the Midwest
While the Midwest has long been known and appreciated for its open spaces, it might not be able to maintain that reputation for much longer. More people are flocking to the region because it’s affordable.
According to a recent US News report, Ohio is the least expensive state to live in, based on cost of living and housing expenses. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri made the top-10 list of most affordable states to live in as well.
As the Millennial generation enters the housing market, a surprising number are settling down in cities like Athens, Ohio; Aberdeen, South Dakota; and Williston, North Dakota, USA Today reported, which goes to show that things in small-town America are about to see big change.
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