What does “Midwestern friendliness” really mean?

by | Jan 16, 2019 | Networking & Connections, Recruitment & Relocation

A lively discussion at last month’s staff meeting centered on the topic of the term “Midwestern friendliness.” And, what does it really mean? Executive Arrangements has Project Managers and Northeast Ohio Regional Guides who are native to Cleveland and Akron plus staffers who have relocated from various cities around the country and globe. We discussed a lot of questions regarding the Midwest’s personality perception.

Do Clevelanders/Akronites really embrace newcomers relocating to our region? Is it easy to break into small social circles in Northeast Ohio and begin making connections? We know that “it’s been ‘proven’ that Midwesterners are super friendly.” But, we know that some newcomers need help feeling like they are part of the community. We put some thought into the topic and did a little research. And, here is what we believe…

It’s all relative.

How friendly you think Clevelanders/Akronites are depends on where you have previously lived and where you settled in Northeast Ohio. Every suburb or neighborhood has a unique vibe.

People relocating from the South might at first find the Midwestern version of friendliness quite different than what they are use to. A Midwestern neighbor will always greet you with a warm wave or hello but might not invite you over for dinner right away.

Those coming from the East Coast might think Clevelanders are a bit too friendly. They are used to people rushing by on busy urban sidewalks without ever meeting each other’s eyes. An Akron transplant of ours said they found it amusing that everyone they passed on their daily walks in the nearby parks would smile, say hello, and comment on their dog or the weather. “That would never happen in Philadelphia!” In the busy Northeastern Corridor, many people are so surrounded by noise and humans all day long that they cherish their privacy and quiet time. Thus, they focus inward while out and about.

We are happy that you are here!

Most people in our region are genuinely happy that new people are moving to Cleveland or Akron. We are not overpopulated, overrun by traffic congestion, and waiting in giant lines to buy tickets. It’s a fairly easy, low-hassle life here. We don’t look at an influx of newcomers and think, “Oh rats, it’s already too crowded and expensive here. This will only make it worse.” We are thrilled that we will have someone new with whom to share the love that we have for our town. But in order to get on our social calendar, you have to make a bit of an effort yourself.

According to one article, Midwesterners are kind and genuine “But unlike with Midwesterners’ counterparts in the South or their neighbors to the north in Canada, you have to put a little work in to experience genuine Midwestern friendliness. Once you do, though, a Midwesterner will be the first to get you anything you need, bring you a pasta bake during a time of need, or apologize when they’re in the wrong.”

We know that putting yourself out there repeatedly can be awkward for newcomers, but the reward is worth the effort. Invite us to lunch or ask if we can walk our kids to the bus stop together. Just persist! We will begin to get to know you and include you in things. It might not happen immediately, but the friendships you will make here will be a mile deep. A Burbank, CA transferee just said this morning, “We didn’t wait for neighbors to come knocking on our door, we threw a party and invited everyone on our block to our house to meet them.” Now that is bold thinking!

Put your eggs in more than one basket.

While inviting the neighbors over so you know who lives nearby is a fun idea, chances are your new best friends in Cleveland won’t live next door. Get involved in something, anything you are passionate about. Volunteer at your kid’s school, offer to usher at the local theater or church, take classes or attend a lecture/happy hour at a nearby museum, join a committee at the golf or swim club…anything to consistently get you in front of other people who like what you like. As soon as you volunteer to raise money, organize an event, or help with marketing for a school play, everyone will notice and the social invitations will begin to flow.

Anthony Bartlett, owner of EA’s affiliate firm in Missouri, St. Louis Transplants, believes his Midwestern city has a lot in common with Cleveland along these lines. He sums up the challenge of making new friends in our region of the US like this: “The Midwest is the friendliest place in America where no one wants to be your friend.” And by that he just means, we are super friendly and happy you are here, but it just takes a bit of effort on the newcomer’s part to make it known you are eager to join our social circles and make friends. Like people from all over the world, we are so used to our go-to friends that we are sometimes neglectful of the new guy!

This article sums up his feelings on how it’s the responsibility of locals to make newcomers feel welcome, not the other way around, and we could not agree more.

Some newcomers are ready to hit the road running when it comes to making friends in their new community. Others prefer to settle in a community with a demonstrated history of welcoming new people. We’ve noticed that several of the  new hires, job candidates, and families that we help are able to find their home in communities like Chagrin Falls, Cleveland, Hudson, Rocky River, Shaker Heights, Solon, and Twinsburg. That is just to name a few. We know that there are numerous neighborhoods filled with both native and adopted Midwesterners ready to welcome you to your new home!

At Executive Arrangements, we help new hires and their families settle into their new community by helping them cultivate relationships. Think of us as community consultants and network experts! Does your company need help welcoming, educating, and connecting top talent and their families to Cleveland or Akron? Call EA to discuss how we can help. 216.231.9311.