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Old 07-22-2012, 02:57 PM
33 posts, read 80,103 times
Reputation: 62


I moved to Madison, WI about a year ago. Overall I think it was a good decision. My job is great, and it offers me the work-life balance that I need to spend time with my kid, and the reasonable cost of living has a positive impact on the quality of life of my family. But one thing I have found is that is not so easy to make friends here. My perception is that Midwesterners are really nice in general, but when it comes down to making close friends, there is a barrier that is hard to break. Somehow it’s like being kept at arm’s length.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I am originally from South America, so no matter what, I am a foreginer. However when lived in the West Coast (California, and Oregon) it seemed somehow easier to establish closer or more meaningful relationships. My impression is that people in the West Coast are more used to outsiders, and the fact that one might come from another part of the world is kind of common.

Here in the Midwest, I feel sometimes like trying to break into some kind of closed circle. Like a club, where membership is exclusive to old timers. It’s been surprising to me; because I was told many times about how friendly folks were in this part of the country. And again – I think people here are friendly and nice, but no more than “necessary”.

It’s possible that people in the Midwest are more private, due to some kind of regional character, or maybe the fact that most folks have been here for most of their lives (there is not a lot of transplants here) has created a culture that is more reserved.

Perception or reality? What do you think?
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Old 07-22-2012, 03:27 PM
Location: Middleton, Wisconsin
4,229 posts, read 17,615,838 times
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I agree, the midwest does have a more conservative climate. You also have to remember Madison isn't very diverse. Most of us here are German, Polish, Norwegian, Swedish, yadda yadda. I'm sure there are other influences.
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Old 07-22-2012, 03:59 PM
3,326 posts, read 8,864,570 times
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Lack of transplants would be the reason, I think. They're just not used to people moving here from some other area. Obviously they're not completely closed off to the rest of the U.S., but there is an isolated feel to Wisconsin. Almost like it is it's own little country.
It's sometimes hard to see or understand the exact differences. They are just there.
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Old 07-22-2012, 06:22 PM
Location: North Monterey County
4,971 posts, read 4,453,874 times
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People don't move to Madison from other places to go to school?

When I lived there most of my friends were locals combined with east coasters and Chicagoans.

It takes awhile to break through the facade.
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Old 07-22-2012, 08:49 PM
5,680 posts, read 10,338,401 times
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I've heard it called "Midwest Nice." People will smile at you, say hello over the back fence, wave when you pass by on the sidewalk, but reaching any more significant level of interaction is kind of a challenge. It's not you - there is just a reserve, a barrier, that is tough to get past with many Midwesterners, particularly those who were born and raised here.

The best way I can suggest to overcome that problem involves being a bit proactive and going after connections. Seek out a group that pursues an interest or hobby you like, and join them. Off the top of my head, I can think of book groups, food enthusiasts, art studios, parent groups, skiing or sailing clubs, music performance ensembles, and at least two local science fiction conventions where you could find folks who share your passion. Is there a particular cause (literacy, equal rights, disability access, etc.) that interests you deeply? Chances are excellent that there is at least one organization in town that works on that cause, and that will provide you with a ready-made bunch of potential friends.

My family and I moved here twelve years ago, and even though my spouse and I are native-born Midwesterners, we still found it hard to create a niche and make friends here, until we sought out and found groups that interested us. The friendships we forged in those groups have been lasting and deeply satisfying, and in some cases, have outlasted our association with the groups themselves. I strongly recommend the same approach to you.
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Old 07-22-2012, 09:21 PM
Location: Madison, WI
1,741 posts, read 5,399,354 times
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Midwesternbookworm provides solid advice as always. I can't add to what she said, but heartily agree about seeking out people with similar interests.

Meetup.com is a good site to use to find groups of people with like interests.

If you are outdoorsey there is always Hoofers (Hoofers | Excellence in Outdoor Leadership & Recreation Since 1931).

What are your interests? Maybe we can come up with some ideas of where you should start looking.
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Old 07-23-2012, 12:00 PM
160 posts, read 397,967 times
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Originally Posted by mlb View Post
People don't move to Madison from other places to go to school?
They do, but then they move somewhere else afterward. This is a severe generalization, but there's a lot of truth to it.
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Old 07-23-2012, 03:23 PM
2,987 posts, read 10,139,885 times
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Also, the "outsiders" that tend to relocate to Madison tend to be from the Twin Cities, Chicago, NYC, the Pacific Northwest...which are areas where people have similar traits regarding personality types. Not too many southerners moving here to shake things up and get the outgoing vibe going. And of course, all the people from small town Wisconsin reinforce the Midwest nice....so yes, there are people from different areas, but they don't offer a huge difference than what a native is, other than New Yorkers.
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Old 07-24-2012, 04:46 AM
Location: WI
3,961 posts, read 11,026,691 times
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we lived in WI for 40+ years, and past 3+ in SC. I'd say the main difference in what we've found is the locals here in the south can be more "outgoing" in their friendliness. I've had more times down here where strangers start up conversations, or say high as they walk by on the street, etc then back home. We were always able to make and maintain good friendships in WI, but now having something to compare to i think perhaps that initial contact in the north may be a bit more restrained if that's the right term.
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Old 07-24-2012, 11:19 AM
33 posts, read 80,103 times
Reputation: 62
Thank you. I like music and everything that has to do with design, photography and the arts in general. I always like to come to these forums because the answers are helpful. I like my life in Madison and want to do the beat of of the time I am here, so thank you again for all your advice.
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