During my life thus far (sorry, that sounds more pretentious that I mean it to), I’ve only really lived in two states: South Dakota and Minnesota. I spent three months in Colorado and three months in Louisiana, but that doesn’t count as REALLY living there. South Dakota has been my home for the majority of my life: from the time I was born until I went to college (18 years), and again when I moved back from Minneapolis until we moved to Luverne (almost two years), not counting odd summers back in South Dakota while I was in college. I lived in Minnesota during college (four years) and again in 2010 (almost two years), and we’ve been living in our house for almost seven months. That gives me close to twenty years in South Dakota and around seven in Minnesota.
Though they’re neighbors, South Dakota and Minnesota are worlds apart. Over the years, I’ve noticed the differences here and there, but especially now that I have to do adult things like register my car. As you would expect, each state has good qualities as well as bad. So which should I be more proud of: my roots as a South Dakotan, or my new status as a Minnesotan? Like the logical list-maker that I am, I cobbled together a list of pros and cons for each state. Let’s see which state comes out ahead!
Way at the top of the Minnesota pros list is the fact that gay marriage is legal here. I am indescribably proud to live in a place that gives equal rights to everyone, gay or straight. Lots of love to Minnesota.
same day voter registration
Minnesota also makes it nice and easy to vote. When I lived in Morris, I was able to vote in the 2008 presidential election by registering on the same day – same thing for the gubernatorial election when I lived in Minneapolis. When 2012 the presidential election rolled around, James and I found out (too late) that South Dakota was not so nice. We had missed the registration deadline, but we waited at the polls anyway to see if there was any way we could vote. There wasn’t. I know it’s our fault for not doing our research beforehand, but same-day registration is nice, and it makes a lot of sense – if you want people to vote, that’s a great way to increase your numbers.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Minnesota nice” before, and you’ve more than likely experienced it as well. It’s that extra politeness that comes with being a Minnesotan. Most Minnesotans shy away from conflict and just want everybody to get along. (This is not true of every Minnesotan, but on the whole, they’re a friendly bunch.) South Dakotans are pretty pleasant, too, but “South Dakota nice” is not a thing.
nobody has anything bad to say about Minnesota
When I went to college in Morris and told people I was from South Dakota, I almost always got a sneer and a “hmmm.” South Dakota carries a bit of a stigma with it; it seems to be Minnesota’s white trash cousin. I never got that kind of reaction when I told people in South Dakota that I was going to college in Minnesota/buying a house in Minnesota. The most I got from them was, “Ohhhhhh! Minnesooooooota!”
I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere now that I live outside of my home state
I’ve talked before about my hesitance to move back to South Dakota after spending time in Denver, New Orleans, and Minneapolis. Coming back to my home state kind of made me feel like I never left – like I never got out and did anything. It’s silly, because I know that I did get out and experience life outside of South Dakota, but it felt like I still had a whole lot more to see before returning. I still feel that way, but now that I’ve officially put down roots in Minnesota (I feel like buying a house qualifies as rooting), just crossing the state line makes me feel like I’ve expanded my horizons just a little bit.
cool drivers licenses
I’m going to be totally honest with you: one of the major reasons I gave the ok to buy a house in Minnesota was the fact that I could finally get one of their cool driver’s licenses. Have you ever felt a Minnesota driver’s license? If you haven’t, you need to find a Minnesotan right now and ask for their license. It’s SO COOL – they’re bendy! And they’re way better looking than the South Dakota licenses. What can I say; I’m a bit shallow.
Minnesota is the birthplace of all sorts of famous people, including artistic giants Prince, Bob Dylan, and F Scott Fitzgerald. Can you name anybody famous and awesome from South Dakota? Me neither.
Twin Cities, Lake Superior, etc
Minnesota is a huge state: almost 87,000 square miles (thanks, Wikipedia!). There are so many neat places within Minnesota: you’ve got cool cities like Minneapolis and St Paul, beautiful forests, a kick-ass State Fair, 10,000 lakes (including a Great Lake), and tons of state parks. South Dakota is a smaller area than Minnesota (around 77,000 square miles – thanks again, Wikipedia!) and has significantly less to do. South Dakota’s major attraction is the Black Hills, which is gorgeous – but that’s only one part of the state. The rest of the state is pretty devoid of attractions. There are state parks and my favorite lake ever (Lake Poinsett), but when a giant drug store counts as a major tourist destination (I’m looking at you, Wall Drug), you know it’s really stretching.
I’m not a huge sports person, but I do love the Twins. Baseball is a sport I can actually follow, and I love to go to Twins games at Target Field. I’ve only been to a handful of Twins games over my lifetime, but I’m pretty sure they’ve won every single game that I’ve attended. Maybe it’s just me. South Dakota doesn’t have a baseball team, so most South Dakotans tend to root for the Twins. Plus, Joe Mauer and have the same birthday. Extra points for the Twins.
I can’t tell you enough about how much I love Minnesota Public Radio. A lot of what I love comes to MPR via NPR, but some of it is pure MPR – like Paul Huttner the weather guy and Stephanie Curtis the movie lady. Even though I live quite a ways away from Minneapolis, I love hearing the Minneapolis news stories. Every once in a while, they’ll throw in a Worthington area news story, which is just a little closer to home. Friends, you can always find my car radio tuned to MPR.
Lastly, a whole bunch of special stuff has happened to me in Minnesota. It’s where I went to college and met some of my dearest friends – not to mention my husband. This is where James and I bought our first house, so you can say that Minnesota is our first real home. That definitely counts for something.
Minnesota is expensive
Prices in Minnesota don’t vary that much from South Dakota as far as retail goes – Minnesota doesn’t charge a clothing tax, which is nice. However, when it comes to actually living here, you pay an awful lot more. Upon moving to Minnesota, I went from a 0% income tax (SD doesn’t have state income tax) to a 7% income tax. The price to register my car tripled. I’m trying to tell myself that the extra money I’m paying to live in Minnesota goes toward good things, like keeping the roads in good shape and housing homeless animals (hopefully) and doing my duty as an American citizen, but it’s tough to remember that when you’re writing out fat checks to the IRS.
boring license plates
I am unusually observant when it comes to license plates. It comes from years of playing the license plate game on road trips: you count how many license plates you can find from different states. I’ve seen an awful lot of license plates in my day, and Minnesota plates fall on the boring side of the spectrum. Two blue stripes and a faded picture of a lake? Zzz. Minnesota does have some decorative wildlife plates that you can get, but they cost an arm and a leg (see: expensive).
I say my os weird now
In the Midwest, we have a distinctive inflection. You won’t notice it until you spent time in another part of the country: it never really hit me that I had a crazy accent until I went to New Orleans and everybody told me so. Back then, my accent wasn’t too bad… it took buying property in Minnesota to really transform my accent. Take a look at this book review video from the library: pay attention to how I say the word “show.” You don’t get much more Minnesotan than that.
Minnesotans are WAY into Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. Listening to MPR comes with the hazard of being stuck with A Prairie Home Companion, and I’ve given it a shot – and I just do not think it’s funny. I don’t think it’s a generational thing – there are tons of people my age who love it. My dad, on the other hand, is in the same boat as me, so maybe it’s a South Dakotan thing. We’re Scandinavian Lutherans, too, but Garrison Keillor is just not up our alley. Not much can make me change the station from MPR, but A Prairie Home Companion can.
Compared to South Dakota, Minnesota is on the spendy side. In South Dakota, there is no state income tax – cha ching! I’m not sure what the tax on a new car is in Minnesota, but South Dakota didn’t charge me too much when I bought my car. Getting your car registration renewed is also pocket change compared to Minnesota.
easy to do everything
In South Dakota, there are very few hoops you need to jump through to get things done. We weren’t yet married when James wanted to put me on his car insurance, but James had to do next to nothing to get me on his insurance. Way back when I was in driver’s ed, all it took was a week of classes, a short written test, and about three hours of actual driving time before you got your learner’s permit at age 14, which magically turned into a regular driver’s license at 16 (no additional testing required). James has informed me that getting your license in Minnesota is significantly more difficult. When I made the switch from my SD license to MN (the bendy license!), I had to take a written test, and THAT was a lot of work for my lazy South Dakota self.
While South Dakota is lacking in the statewide attractions department, the Black Hills is definitely somewhere you want to go. It’s just beautiful out there with its forests, caves, and rugged landscape – much different from the flatlands east of the Missouri. The Black Hills is also home to tons of state history, and you’ll find all sorts of Old West-type things to see and do. And yes, there’s Mount Rushmore, and it’s probably something you should see once. My recommendation? Dinosaur Park! It’s a park full of concrete dinosaurs, and it’s where James proposed to me in June 2012. Not everyone gets a proposal surrounded by giant concrete dinosaurs.
cool license plates
While I am less than thrilled with my new Minnesota plates, the transition is even harder because I loved my South Dakota plates. Not only are they more colorful and have a better design, but you can tell where the car owner is from depending on their license plates. My old plates started with a 6, so you knew I was from Brookings County. Any plate starting with a 1 was likely a resident of Minnehaha County. When I lived in Minneapolis, I loved being out and about and seeing someone with a South Dakota 6 plate. We were county-mates, after all! (Well, they were my parents’ county-mates, anyway.)
South Dakota has higher speed limits than Minnesota, which is awfully nice. I drive on the interstate from Minnesota into South Dakota for work every day, and when that speed limit goes from 70 to 75, it feels like I’m flying. On the other hand, when I’m going home from work and cross from SD into MN, slowing down from 75 to 70 feels like a dead crawl. The state highways are the same: in South Dakota, you can drive 65 mph. In Minnesota, they slow you down to 60 or 55. Why, Minnesota? Why?
Like Minnesota, South Dakota holds all sorts of memories. This is where I met many of my closest friends (thanks to high school), and many of them still live in South Dakota. James proposed to me in South Dakota (Dinosaur Park!), and we got married in South Dakota. So yeah – South Dakota is pretty special.
it’s my home state
No matter where I go, I’ll always have an attachment to my home state. I was born and raised in South Dakota, and so were my parents… and their parents… and their parents. When my great grandparents hopped off the boat from Scandinavia, South Dakota is where they settled. So no matter where I live, deep down, I’ll always be a South Dakotan.
South Dakota can be a weird rednecky place – depending on what part of the state you’re in, you might hear people speaking with southern accents. You’ll see lots of big pick-up trucks, and once in a while, you’ll even see a Confederate flag bumper sticker. (I don’t get it, either. They know South Dakota is part of the North, right?) You’ll see tons of bad tattoos here (my brother Mitch and I always hit a bad tattoo goldmine at the Brookings Summer Arts Festival), and people love country music with a burning passion. But it’s all part of the charm, right?
Sioux Falls drivers
I’ve already written a blog post about Sioux Falls drivers, but here’s what’s wrong with them in a nutshell: they don’t use their blinkers, they change lanes without looking, and they just generally drive however they want and everyone else can get out of the way. Drivers in the rest of the state aren’t like this – there’s just something about Sioux Falls. I have had more near-misses on the roads in Sioux Falls than anywhere else – and that includes living in Denver, New Orleans, and Minneapolis.
the only major metropolitan area is Sioux Falls
Don’t get me wrong: besides its drivers, Sioux Falls does have a lot going for it. It’s got some neat waterfalls, an awesome library (not just because I work there – it really is a great system), and it does its best to bring in cultural events and restaurants. The problem with Sioux Falls is that it doesn’t seem to have its own identity. It’s chock-full of chain restaurants and whenever there’s new development, it seems like it’s a duplicate of something that’s already here (like the third WalMart that the city would like to build). Minneapolis, on the other hand, certainly has its own personality with scores of unique restaurants, bars, and shops, not to mention the lakes and parks. There are parts of Sioux Falls that have these same kinds of neat establishments, but there’s still not as much character as there is in Minneapolis. I know that comparing the two cities is like comparing apples and oranges, but I can’t help it.
South Dakota has little liberal pockets, but overall, it’s a red state. SD has goofballs like Kristi Noem roaming around, and I would be positively stunned if South Dakota approved gay marriage on its own. But at the same time, almost all of my wonderful South Dakotan family and friends would vote for gay marriage. Until the rest of the state catches up, I’ll count on them for my warm fuzzies.
Here I am at the end of my list. Both states have their ups and their downs; no place is perfect, after all. As far as which state is better, my conclusion is just what I thought it would be: I just can’t choose a favorite. While I think I made the right choice by moving to Minnesota, South Dakota will always be someplace special.