Tag Archives: cultural differences in Dickinson North Dakota

Many Local Men And Women In Dickinson Will Never Date, Marry, Or Have Children

Many local men and women in Dickinson will never date, marry, or have children.  I have lived in Dickinson for about four years now, and I want to explain what I have seen and describe the people that I have met.  This aspect of Dickinson is culturally different than where I am from mostly, but not entirely.  I have seen this happen where I am from too, but this is much more common in Dickinson.

I have met many men and women in Dickinson who do not date, will not marry, and will not have children.  Their backgrounds are similar.  They have a normal mother and father, who have normal jobs, and they grow up in a normal household.  When these children are born, their mother and father love them and take care of them.  When they enter school, these children are kind of in the middle of their class as far as size, appearance, physical ability, and mental ability.

These kids fit in O.K. all through elementary school.  However, once these kids are in high school, they fall behind without anybody really noticing.  One of the reasons why nobody really notices that they are falling behind their peers is because these kids seem content mostly.  Their parents love them and provide for them, they aren’t unhappy.  Another reason why no one notices that these kids are falling behind their peers is because these kids don’t cause any problems.

No one is paying much attention to these kids because they are not gifted academically, athletically, artistically, socially, or appearance wise.  Their parents are satisfied with their “B” and “C” grades, and don’t pressure them to do better.  Their parents see no reason to pressure their kids to do better, or more, and don’t want to make their kids uncomfortable.  Their child has never expressed an interest in playing football, basketball, or baseball, and this is O.K. with them, they didn’t want them to get hurt anyway.  The parents didn’t try to push or steer their kid in any direction, not in academics, not in sports, not in music, not in art, not in drama, not in anything.  The parents thought that their kid was fine just as they were, no need to pressure them to do anything or be anything, or guide them in any direction.  Their kid was a good kid who never got into any trouble.  But their kid was not participating in anything, not trying anything, not competing, and perhaps not socializing.

Kids that are shy, awkward, not physically attractive, small, or overweight, they might not want to participate in sports, student government, drama, or band.  They may need some encouragement or coaxing to get involved.  But because their parents love them, don’t want to see their kid struggle, face disappointment, failure, and rejection, the parents just leave them be.

By the time these kids graduate from high school, that’s all they did, just graduate.  They didn’t participate in anything.  They probably didn’t date anyone or go to prom.  They didn’t find out what they were good at and what they were bad at.  They didn’t find out what they wanted to do, and what they didn’t want to do.  They don’t have any goals, aspiration, or ambition.  Without it being said out loud, the parents think that their kid is not good at anything, and the kid thinks that he is not good at anything.

(Everything that I have just described, I have seen before with parents and their children, and not just in Dickinson.  The parents were not bad parents, they loved their kid.  But because they did not want their kid to get hurt, become stressed, or uncomfortable, they spared their kid from the things that would have made their kid mature and grow up.  Especially if their kid was shy and awkward to begin with, their kid has not competed enough, failed enough, and participated enough to have the experience and confidence to go out on their own.  Now their young adult child will probably have to continue to live with their parents, but the parents headed things in this direction all along the way.)

With both the parents and the kid believing that the kid is not good at anything, this young person carries themself with very little confidence.  This young person gets the lowest pay entry level job that there is, if they are able to get a job at all.  This young person is not stupid, may be nice and polite, but they don’t assert themselves, have confidence, or take chances, so they just settle for the lowest pay job there is.  They may have so little confidence in themselves, both them and their parents, that they don’t even seek a job.  Their parents love them and don’t want to see them get hurt, don’t want to see them get turned down for a job, or lose a job, so they don’t even make them get a job sometimes.

These young people in Dickinson that continued to live with their mother and father, they became so accustomed to this sometimes that they lived the remainder of their lives this way.  I have met men and women in Dickinson in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s that continued to live in their mother and father’s home.  There are many many employers in Dickinson that have reliable competent employees that they don’t pay a living wage to because they don’t have to, because these employees live with their mom and dad.  I have met many workers in Dickinson like this.  I would say that about 15% of the local work force in Dickinson reside with their mother and father.

When these young adults live with their mother and father, I don’t think that their parents try to suggest or talk them into dating anyone.  They just leave their kid alone, their kid seems content enough.  The parents may be fearful that their son would get some girl pregnant, would be unable to support her, and that all three of them would just end up right back in their house, so it is better to have just the son.  The parents may have similar thoughts about a daughter, that she would be taken advantage of, become pregnant, and the two or three or four of them would be right back in their house, so it is better to just have the daughter.

In some cultures in different parts of the world, this is how things are done anyway.  The adult sons and daughters remain living in the mother and father’s home until a suitable marriage can be entered into, one that the parents agree with.  And if there is no suitable marriage that can be found, the son or daughter stays, until they are very old.  This may be working in Dickinson because I do not see very many local women being unwed mothers, and I don’t think that there are any North Dakotans on the Jerry Springer Show.

More Culture Shock In Dickinson, North Dakota

In the South, where I grew up, education is valued and respected.  If a person was a teacher, a preacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, they were respected.  I believe that there were several reasons for this.  Church and the Bible were important in the lives of people in the South.  The preacher was looked upon as a person with higher learning, as wise, as having sound judgement, as someone to be respected.  The preacher, nor the citizens, would tolerate disrespect towards a preacher. Similarly, teachers were looked upon as someone with higher learning, as wise, and having sound judgement, as someone to be respected.  Doctors were very highly valued, they were treated with respect and were treated as very important people.

Anyone in the South, would hope that their child would grow up to be a teacher, a preacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. It was good that a child would grow up to be knowledgeable, well read, knowing about the world, able to make informed decisions, to be able to practice their profession where they chose, to not be tied to a place, or to be limited in life by the lack of understanding or lack of knowledge.

I did very well in school, my classmates who liked me were proud of me, my classmates who didn’t like me wouldn’t deny that what I had done was good, that I would go to college, that that was good.  When I was going to college and working, my co-workers whether they liked me or not, they would not disagree that what I was doing was good.  When I graduated with a degree in engineering and went to work as an estimator, engineer, superintendent, and project manager, my employers and co-workers either acknowledged, or did not disagree that the engineering education and learning was important.

When I got to North Dakota, I found that the people here have disgust and hatred for people with an education.  In about the middle of 2013, there was a national newspaper article, that said North Dakota had the highest percentage of people in the United States with less than an 8th grade education, and, that North Dakota had the highest per capita beer consumption. That explained a lot.

As I explained in my previous post, I have been to the North Dakota pioneer museums, life was very hard in North Dakota, the early pioneers in the late 1800s and early 1900s lived in houses made of grass sod because there were no trees to make lumber.  They had to burn dried animal dung for heating and cooking.  Whole families of six to ten people lived in houses that were less than 300 square feet.  Life was very hard in North Dakota, even into the 1950s and 1960s.  What good would it have done for a man or woman to gain higher learning if they were going to have to fight the land and the cold to survive.  There would not have been a way to spare children from daily labor necessary for survival, for them to have the time to do a great deal of studying.  There would have not been any money to send children away to college.

If a man or woman did start to learn about the world, about what life was like in London, Paris, New York City, or Miami, and were interested in that sort of life, would they remain in North Dakota, and once they were away, and knew what it was like to have a toilet, would they ever want to return to Dickinson?  I imagine that the people who had the aptitude for college and were able to leave Dickinson, might not have wanted to return because there were not any job opportunities for them, suitable marriage opportunities, cultural or social opportunities, just a very hard bleak life of farming with seven months of winter.

So the reason why most of long time residents in Dickinson hate people with an education, is because they do not have an education.  They never saw the need for it, it had nothing to do with their way of life, or they wanted more education, but did not get it, and now they are bitter about it.  The people who got an education probably do not come back,  I know how they feel, it is very frustrating trying to live and work with the highest beer consuming/lowest education level people in the United States who hate people with a college education.

Culture Shock In Dickinson, North Dakota

I am originally from a small town in a southern state.  One of the elements of culture where I am from is hospitality.  I believe that two reasons why hospitality was important and apparent in the south, was due to the protestant religions such as Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian, and due to readily available resources.  I will try to explain this.

The protestant religions teach foremost the belief in Jesus, God, and doing what Jesus and God have instructed.  Jesus taught about giving and kindness to others.  As a brief example, Jesus was with his apostles and they witnessed church goers as they made offerings,  one man gave a substantial amount, one woman gave only a penny or two.  Jesus asked the apostles who gave the most, they answered that a particular man had given a substantial amount.  Jesus said, no, the woman who gave the few pennies gave the most, because she gave all that she had.  As another example, Jesus was invited to the home of a wealthy man, and upon everyone being seated, the household was embarrassed when a harlot showed up, and began to wash Jesus’ feet, and I believe I remember she dried his feet with her hair.  The house guests thought that this woman was trash and that Jesus should not have had anything to do with her, however Jesus pointed out that no one else had offered him the courtesy of washing his feet when he had entered this home, the woman was showing him reverence and kindness.  So, in the South, where they believe in the Bible, they try to incorporate what the Bible says into their day to day lives.  I will give an example.

I had a friend named Joseph who was from Georgia.  Joseph was 35 years old, he had a wife and a daughter.  He was a self employed tree trimmer, and he was poor.  In the winter of 2009 when the economy started to go bad, he had to go to the food bank, because he did not have enough money to buy food.  In the spring and summer, he got by O.K., but just barely.  I stopped by his house at about 5 p.m. one evening when he had just gotten home from doing a tree job, he had stopped at Dominoes Pizza and bought a large pizza.  He asked me if I would like some pizza,  I said no, thank you, I had already eaten, but the real reason was that I knew that that pizza was just enough for him, his wife, and daughter.  Just then, two young Mormon missionaries stopped at his house, Joseph and I both knew them, and talked to them from time to time.  Joseph said, “Hey you guys are just in time for some pizza, would you like some pizza?”  They said, “Oh yeah, great, thanks.” and they ate half his pizza.  There was just enough left for his wife and daughter after the missionaries left.  The rented house that Joseph lived in was very small and bare.  I had already passed through the kitchen and saw that there was not any food in the house, just maybe an almost empty bag of old bread, maybe a can of beans.  I said to Joseph, “Well, it looks like they ate all your pizza.”  Joseph said, “Oh, it don’t matter, I’ll find something else to eat.”

The second reason why people in the South have hospitality, is that they have been accustomed to having resources available.  In the South, trees are plentiful, so it is not difficult to get wood for furniture, firewood, or housing.  Domestic animals like chickens, cattle, pigs, and goats are not difficult to keep.  Wild animals like rabbits, possums, squirrels, turkeys, alligators, and fish are not that difficult to come by.  So, it was not that difficult to survive, you could afford to be hospitable, even if you were poor, it was not like you were going to die.

In North Dakota, things were different.  I have been to North Dakota pioneer museums, and have read and seen the exhibits.  I have talked to older North Dakotans about how things were growing up around Dickinson.  The pioneers that came to North Dakota in the late 1800s and early 1900s lived in small grass sod houses, the walls were constructed entirely of grass sod.  The houses were small partly because there was not a lot of things to burn to heat them, dried animal dung was collected to burn for heating and cooking.  I have been inside some of these houses on old farms outside of Dickinson, they were very small, very primitive, maybe a 10’x12′ room adjoined to another 10’x12′ room, and whole families lived in them.  I have talked to people who said that even growing up in Dickinson in the 1950s, that many people still had out houses.  It was common for the mom to keep the roll of toilet paper, that children were not given toilet paper, if you wanted toilet paper, you had to go and ask, and that you might be given three sheets.  Apparently life was brutally hard in North Dakota until recently, there had been a scarcity of basic necessities.  If you talk to people about it, you will begin to understand that hospitality was something that was not done, it was so hard for a family to survive, there wasn’t hospitality.

In the eight months that I lived in Dickinson in 2011, and the sixteen months that I have been living in Dickinson currently, it was not until I understood how hard life had been in North Dakota, that I realized this is one of the reasons why the residents in North Dakota are not hospitable and friendly, and why they don’t even know that they are not hospitable and friendly.