Considering moving to Seattle? If so, you’re not alone. The city famed for rain and coffee was recently voted the Most Popular City in America, but is it really right for you? Here are 37 things you should know before you make Seattle your new home.
You’re not a real local until you’ve successfully hunted the ocean’s largest clam with your bare hands. Sorry, but rules are rules.
It Rains All The Time
Annual precipitation is actually less than in New York or Boston, but the rain seemingly falls in a constant, steady drizzle that can feel like Chinese water torture. But don’t worry, that only lasts for 9 months! The real hard part is it’s often dreary and gray. Seattle sees an average of 220 overcast days per year, the most of any major American city. Small children go without seeing the sun for so long that some have been known to ask “What’s the bright thing in the sky?” This is not a joke. This is real.
Locals are proud of Seattle’s diverse music scene and rich history so don’t dwell on just the grunge years dominated by Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Nirvana. Seattle is also the hometown of Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones, SubPop records and the radio station KEXP, as well as Heart, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Macklemore, Modest Mouse, Band of Horses, and plenty more.
Sleepless in Seattle
If you make repeated references to the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks film, or wear clothing with the film’s title on it, you will immediately be kicked out of the city. Is that clear?
The Seattle Freeze
Many newcomers say the city offers an icy welcome that’s come to be called “The Seattle Freeze.” The freeze is real and could be caused by the “Scandinavian factor.” You see, once upon a time Seattle was a heavily Scandinavian town and those Swedish and Norwegian loggers and fisherman were a polite, but guarded people. Eventually, that personality was adopted by the city as a whole. Fear not though, this Nordic reservedness is easily thawed by plying locals with free alcohol.
In San Diego, trained killer wales do tricks for sardines in a large pool while people cheer. In Seattle, wild orcas are frequently spotted as they roam Puget Sound in search of sea lions to nosh on. While the waters are filled with some of nature’s most feared killers, there are no poisonous snakes on dry land, so that’s pretty awesome.
Portland Is More Hip Than Seattle
Portland is like Seattle’s hipper sibling, the cool one in a band that rarely works and and borrows money from mom for more tattoos. Seattle is a little jealous of its edgier neighbor to the south, but Seattle wouldn’t trade its strong economy for the additional food carts, strip clubs, and tattoo parlors. If you really want to stoke Seattle’s insecurities just compare it to San Francisco or Vancouver.
Buying a House in Seattle
You can go urban and buy a modern condo Downtown or in Belltown, or you can buy a little house in one of Seattle’s unique neighborhoods. You could even live on a houseboat. The median home price is $310,300, but you’ll pay more than that if you want a view of the mountains or water. With few homes on the market, there’s a lot of competition among buyers so prepare for bidding war.
You can search for your dream home at the Seattle-based real estate search site Estately. There’s even this list of upcoming open houses in Seattle.
Are you attracted to ponytailed men who type code and speak Klingon? Does the combination of sandals and socks awaken your desires? If so, then prepare to feast upon the smorgasbord of Seattle’s male software geek population because they are everywhere. Female software geeks are harder to stereotype, but they’re also here in abundance.
As the #4 Safest City in America it’s no wonder jaywalking is something the police actually care about. The $56 fine should be considered robbery, but isn’t factored in the crime stats.
Winter Weight Gain
Overall, Seattle is a fit and athletic city, but when the weather turns dreary locals take solace in some of the best ice cream and gelato in America—Molly Moon’s, Mora Iced Creamery, and D’Ambrosio to name a few. It’s natural to add some pudge in the winter. To not do so makes everyone around you resent you.
A bastion of progressive leftyism, Seattle is a politically active city that frequently takes to the street in protest. While it prides itself on its tolerance, that tolerance doesn’t extend to social conservatives who disagree. Libertarians, however, get a pass. Seattle is enthusiastic about same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, was the first major U.S. city to elect a woman as mayor, and went heavily for Obama in 2008 with 84% of the vote.
Becoming a Local
Much like Jeremy Piven’s hair, Seattle is mostly transplants. Very few people who live in Seattle actually grew up there, so it won’t take much time until you start feeling like a local. True locals were once called “mossbacks” because they’d lived in the rainy Northwest so long moss grew on their backs. That little joke is just a sampling of the legendary humor Seattle is famed for.
The Agrarian Lifestyle
Kids growing up on farms often dream of moving to the big city, but it might actually be the opposite in Seattle. Locals turn their curb strips into garden boxes, convert backyards into chicken runs, and forage for wild blackberries in city parks. There are great organizations like Seattle Tilth to help you get started, or you can rely on CSAs like Local Roots to deliver locally grown fruits and veggies to your door.
Seattle provides ample opportunity for locals to let their geek flag fly, including Emerald City Comicon for comic book enthusiasts, Norwescon for literary sci-fi fans, Sakura-Con for fans of Japanese animation, ZomBcon for those into the living dead, PAX Prime for gamers, SteamCon for the steampunk crowd, and plenty more.
Various faults in the Earth’s crust crisscross under Seattle to form a spiderweb of danger, and Seattle is overdue for another severe quake. Seriously, this will probably be what finishes Seattle off, unless…
Seattle vs. The Volcanos
Some of those beautiful mountains you can see from the city tend to go boom every 500 years or so, and that day is fast approaching. So there’s that. A variety of other dangers can be found here.
While Los Angeles takes its ample sunshine for granted, Seattle makes the most of each sunny day. The good weather usually start right after a rainy Fourth of July, unless it’s late, and then don’t worry because it’ll be here by August, which is almost always lovely and sometimes September is pretty sunny as well. Summer weather is perfect, the northern latitude ensures the days are long, and the whole city ventures outdoors to soak up the vitamin D.
It doesn’t snow much, but when it does the city comes to a screeching halt because nobody can drive in it. Unlike the soft powder that is packed down into a drivable surface in Chicago, Seattle’s snow tends to be wet and quickly turns to ice so the whole city turns into a skating rink. Use it as an excuse to stay home and catch up on your reading.
Seattle is America’s #1 Most Literate City and the Seattle Public Library system has the highest percentage of library card-holders per capita in the country. There’s even a librarian action figure based on famed Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl.
The city is an absolute foodie’s dream come true. Seattle’s talented chefs have created a unique cuisine that showcases the northwest’s incredible seafood, locally-sourced produce, award-winning wines, and a beer-brewing tradition that trumps just about any other city in America. There’s no shortage of great local food blogs—Salty Seattle, Eater Seattle, Gastrolust, and it’s home to some of the best northwest restaurants like Lark, The Walrus and The Carpenter, Revel, Hitchcock, and Sitka & Spruce. You’re going to eat well here, except…
Food—The Bad News
- Subpar Barbecue: It’s getting better thanks to Smokin Pete’s BBQ, Pecos Pit BBQ, Hole in the Wall BBQ, Bitterroot, and others, but Seattle has a long way to go before it rivals Memphis, Austin, or Kansas City.
- So-So Chinese Food: It just doesn’t come close to competing with San Francisco or Vancouver, but Seattle compensates with a vast array of Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, and other Asian restaurants. Try not to drown in delicious Vietnamese pho if you move here. That hot, spicy soup pairs perfectly with a winter day or a tight budget.
- No Sonic Drive-In: This is really hard to say, but Seattle has zero Sonic franchises, so no Sonic Happy Hour, no refreshing Cherry Limeades, and no cheesy tots delivered right to your car. Also, no Chick-fil-A or Whataburger.
Umbrellas Are For Tourists
Locals don’t tend to use umbrellas, but you can if you want to announce you’re from out of town or that your clothes are dry clean only.
Locals tend to be very environmentally conscious, but if you don’t feel like recycling you’ll face more than your neighbors’ scorn. Seattle law forbids residents from throwing “significant amounts of recyclables” in the garbage. If more than ten percent of the volume of your trash is made up of recyclables your garbage will not be picked up by sanitation workers. The first two times you do that you’ll receive a written warning and after that you’ll receive a $50 fine. Failure to be green will cost you green in the Emerald City.
Winner of the title of The Most Miserable Sports City In America, Seattle’s professional sports teams are famous for losing games, losing star players, and even losing teams. Seattle was crushed after its NBA team abandoned it for Oklahoma, but the recent rise of the Seattle Seahawks behind new quarterback Russell Wilson has Seattle suddenly feeling optimistic.
When the late Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus appears on the jumbotron at Safeco Field, you take your hat off and shed no less than a single tear. That’s not even negotiable. Niehaus is the soul of Mariners baseball and the whole city loves him.
If you’re looking for a job in tech, Forbes rated Seattle The Best City in America for Tech Jobs in 2012. There are tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft, but also plenty of young upstarts like Cheezburger, PopCap Games, SEOmoz, Estately, and more.
Seattle has plenty of great food carts like El Camión, Marination Mobile, Where Ya At Matt, and Maximus/Minimus, but Seattle trumps all other cities with the mobile food vendor Summer Dog, which delivers hot dogs by boat.
The waterskiing is uncomfortably cold, but Seattle is a great city for activities like mountaineering, hiking, biking, rock climbing, snow sports, fishing, sailing, mushroom foraging, berry picking, and searching for bigfoot. However, you are not required to participate in these outdoor activities. More people dress for these activities than actually engage in them.
Seattle is America’s Best Coffee City and famously home to the first Starbucks and its corporate headquarters, but the city has a mixed relationship with the coffee chain. Pro-Starbucks folks tout the company’s record for job creation, benefits for workers, quick service, and shrewd business model. Starbucks haters knock it for the burnt bean flavor of its coffee, for pushing out smaller coffee shops, and especially for Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz’s role in losing the city’s NBA team to Oklahoma. If you want to ruin a dinner party in Seattle just start a conversation about whether Starbucks is good or evil.
Seattle churns out a delicious variety of microbrews, but the beer ’round here is still Rainier because it’s light and refreshing, and Seattleites are a nostalgic people when it comes to the television advertising of yore.
Coyotes and raccoons eat a lof of house cats, but they don’t get on mass transit like the above coyote did in Portland. Sometimes, black bears swim ashore from neighboring islands, and on truly special occasions you might witness the majesty of a bald eagle eating out of a fast food dumpster on Highway 99.
Despite the lack of sunshine, Seattleites buy more sunglasses per capita than any other city in the nation. Infrequent could be why they’re lost more easily, or perhaps they’re broken while trying to put them on pets. A dog wearing sunglasses is great way to cheer yourself up during the dark days of winter.
When deciding how much you can spend on a home for sale in Seattle, try to budget in a winter trip to Hawaii or Mexico for a break from the gloom. Seriously.
Seattle’s hills are very steep, but they used to be even steeper before they were forcibly flattened with fire hoses. If your car has a manual transmission you should start saving money for a new clutch.
Seattle doesn’t appear very frequently on lists of Best Cities for Singles, but the romantic comedy Singles was set in Seattle so you draw your own conclusions.
Backyard Chicken Ranching
The only thing Seattle residents love more than backyard chicken ranching is talking to their neighbors about the joys of backyard chicken ranching. The hobby is so popular that building chicken coops is an actual profession here.
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