10 Myths About Living In the Midwest Debunked

How do you see the Midwest?  Generally, Midwestern people have been described as honest, hardworking and neighborly. The more negative perceptions about us include that of brawny tan farm boys that are gullible, uneducated and uncultured, that our towns are small and the cities are old fashioned. People believe it's nothing but farmland and cows out here, and although we do have a lot of those things, we also have so much more happening than most people imagine.  I remember, when I moved to Kansas City 6 years ago,  a friend of mine had asked me if I got to see cowboys in hats and horses everyday where I worked and lived.  I was stunned...she wasn't kidding.  She actually thought it was like the wild west here in the city.  It was only when I sent her a picture of my office view over looking the Country Club Plaza that she finally got that my city was just like hers.  Let's bust a few of those myths!

Myth: That we are heavily religious based and primarily Lutheran or Baptist.

Reality: Roman Catholicism is the predominant religious denomination in the Midwestern states, although you can find a myriad of different religions practiced here. Even Minnesota, so well-known for its large Lutheran population, has a strong Catholic population. In St. Louis, there is a Catholic church practically on every corner.  Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques will be also be found in all the Midwest cities.

Myth: That the Midwestern states are primarily rural and are comprised of mostly farmland and small towns.  Hence the nickname for the Midwest, and one I personally dislike,  is "Flyover Country".  Nothing to see here folks so move along...but that couldn't be more wrong about the Midwest.

Reality: Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Columbus. All these cities are in the Midwest, along with several others, including my hometown of Kansas City.  Voted THE Number One Place To Be by the Huffington Post, and we made Forbe's magazine's Top 20 Best Downtowns. The Midwest is cultured, metropolitan and progressive, but that sometimes gets missed what with all the wheat field and cow talk. Although the states of the Midwest are also known for their farms and forests, they are not without their large urban centers that are important creative and business hubs for the nation.

Myth: The Midwest states have a lack of ethnic diversity

Reality: The northern states of this region have a large Native American population; many African-Americans migrated from the south to the industrial cities of the Midwest following the civil war era; over 40% of the Hmong population in the U.S. live in the Midwest states; in 2006 Minnesota ranked 5th in the nation regarding immigrants from Africa, many of them from Somalia. There is a large population of Bosnians and Italian-Americans in St. Louis. Cultural, race and religious diversity abounds throughout the Midwest, often celebrated in the many cultural festivals held throughout the Midwest year round.

Myth: Midwestern people talk funny

Reality: The movie Fargo has strongly influenced this perception with the strong emphasis on the Scandinavian and Slavic traits that can be found in Minnesotan speech. Is that true? Ya betcha, don't ya know? The accent in the rest of the Midwest, however, does not have those traits, and in fact is rather bland sounding. Because of this, the Midwest non-accent has become the standard for the nation when it comes to news broadcasters on tv and radio. In fact, our Midwest accent has been referred to as the American newscasters accent, as well as the Midwest occasionally being called The Land Without an Accent.  So, in reality, we Midwesterners aren't the ones who talk funny, it's everyone else!

Myth:  That the Midwest is not a vacation destination

Reality: Many of Hollywood's big stars vacation in the Midwest. It's the home of the Great Lakes, unique in themselves. Minnesota's Mall of America has become a big tourist draw in addition to its 10,000 lakes. The lake of the Ozarks, one of the largest lakes in the nation, is here in Missouri. South Dakota draws many to their scenic Badlands and the Mount Rushmore National Monument. St. Louis and Kansas City are bustling cities with a healthy abundance of visitors. All over the Midwest you will find cave tours, outdoor hunting, fishing and boating opportunities, unique communities and festivals, thriving metropolitan cities and always, that wonderful Midwest hospitality!

Myth: That the Midwest is nearly entirely politically conservative

Reality: A good portion of Midwest states have been dominated by the Democratic Party and a more liberal political bent. Vice President Hubert Humphrey being one of the highly noted Midwestern politicians to date. Several Midwest cities, such as Ann Arbor Michigan,  made it on the list of Best Cities for Liberals by Livability.

Myth: That we in the Midwest are uncultured

Reality: Minnesota has long been known for its strong support of the arts community, home of the Walker Arts Center and the Guthrie Theater. Iowa City is known as a center for the literary arts. Motown South came out of Detroit, the electrified blues from Chicago and Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Myth-That we in the Midwest are less educated and mostly farmers

Reality: The Chicago is home to at least two Nobel Prize winners in physics as well as the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. People from all over the world attend the Universities of Iowa and Minnesota because of their reputations in the medical field. Washington University in St. Louis is a nationally recognized top college.

Myth: That Midwesternern people are more gullible than most

Reality: Neighborly, friendly, trusting and, of course, 'Minnesota nice' all fit the description of many Midwestern folk but not all of us are the typical friendly type. Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger, John Wayne Gacy are names of a few men from the Midwest that you wouldn't want to try and hood-wink. Missouri is the "Show Me" state, almost demanding to see proof before believing. Being friendly and nice does not equal being gullible, it just means we will smile at you while we are somehow plotting your demise, so I don't suggest trying to fool those of us in the Midwestern states.

The Great Midwest Balloon Race

Myth: That we will use any excuse to make something an unusual holiday

Reality: Four inches of ice on the lakes of Minnesota (contrary to what is portrayed in some films) does not constitute a state wide shutdown to celebrate ice fishing. Although it may also seem like it to some, the opening day of deer hunting is not an officially recognized holiday in the Midwest either.

The main thing you should take away from this article is that there is a lot of variety and diversity scattered across the Heartland of America. Kansas and Wisconsin both are known for farming but one looks nothing like the other from the landscape to the cities. And what you find in Nebraska will be very different from what you'll find in Michigan or Missouri. I love the Midwest, it's just home to me, and it feels good to live here.

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