Downtown Minneapolis skyline
Downtown Minneapolis skyline Glen Stubbe

Minnesota is a mostly German state best known for its Scandinavian forebears, with a French motto and the largest concentration of Somali and Hmong residents in the U.S.

So explaining our culture can be as complex as debating who’s been the top Vikings quarterback, or whether lutefisk is best served with cream sauce or butter.

Yet one thing binds us: Fellow Americans consider us fearlessly frozen.

We embrace our identity as “the Star of the North,” or “L’Etoile du Nord.” Alaska notwithstanding, we have the northernmost border, thanks to a notch that nudges into Canada just a skosh.

International Falls is “the nation’s icebox,” we fish through holes in the ice and note how cold keeps the riffraff out — which also conveys our self-image of non-riffraffness. (Come on, it’s a joke.)

One result is that Minnesota’s culture is rooted in and challenged by a sense of reserve, and a slightly perverse philosophy: We’re not for everyone.

Our immense Minnesota State Fair retains the trappings of a county exposition — and nobody else enshrines dairy princesses in blocks of butter. The Guthrie Theater is a regional gem. The Mall of America is the biggest shopping complex in the U.S. The Minnesota Orchestra has an international reputation.

We vote like it matters, our 75 percent rate leading the nation.

Our culture binds generations, notably in how passionately Minnesotans love their cabins. On average, people own them for 24 years, a span among the highest in the U.S. for seasonal homes. Great-grandchildren marvel at knotty pine walls.

Our culture also is wet, for many of those cabins are “up at the lake.” And while we’re known as the Land of 10,000 lakes, there actually are 11,842.

Our culture lauds reading, with both Minneapolis and St. Paul in the top 10 of America’s most literate cities. Yet we must be honest: That’s partly due to our arguable isolation, and our manifest winters.

We write, too. Think F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ole Rolvaag, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garrison Keillor, Louise Erdrich, Robert Bly. Now a raft of fine young authors is championed by local presses with national reputations.

Our culture also includes Minnesotans who have made our population more diverse over generations.

Native Dakota and Ojibwe tribes saw French voyageurs come ashore, explorers arrive from the east, and European immigrants fence the prairie. The Hmong were crucial allies in the Vietnam War. Somalis fled civil war to settle here; Rep. Ilhan Omar is now the nation’s first Somali-American legislator.

Yet we’re not very diverse. Of 5.3 million residents, more than 4.5 million are white. Divisions among races ebb and flow, as do the tensions between rural and urban.

Still, here we are, a progressive state known for its myths — for Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, for Rocky and Bullwinkle, for Lake Wobegon.

We are by the shores of Gitche Gumee. We are the state of hockey (and the State High School All-Hockey Hair Team). We are the Star of the North.

And we like it here.