16 Things You May Not Know About Seattle Until You Move Here

No UmbrellasThis one’s written for anyone who is reading from afar, considering a move to the Emerald City. But Seattleites should read along and lend their expertise.

  1. It really doesn’t rain that much (except sometimes). The skies are overcast more often than not, it’s true. And it drizzles like crazy. But if you’re from a climate where it actually rains, our “rainy” city will disappoint you. Some new rain vocabulary: “It’s spitting.”
  2. Related to point one: almost nobody carries an umbrella. Someone with an umbrella is likely to be in one of four categories: executives, small children, limousine drivers, or fashion iconoclasts.
  3. “Jesus Christ made Seattle under pressure” is not a moral judgment on the city. It’s a mnemonic device used to remember the order of downtown streets (south to north): Jefferson, James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, Spring, Seneca, University, Union, Pike, Pine. Remember that it only works downtown.
  4. If you’re like me, you’ll initially struggle to remember the difference between Pike and Pine Streets. If you’re really like me, you’ll still have that same difficulty 10 years after moving to Seattle. My tip, which sometimes helps me: PiNe is North of Pike.
  5. There are all kinds of people in Seattle. However, perhaps due to the soggy weather or the many burst bubbles we’ve endured (grunge, dot com, and now real estate??), the city inspires attitudes of irony, tedium, and angst. Enthusiasm is suspect. Cool is literal. Think back to high school.
  6. Newcomer origin stereotypes: you’ll endure less judgment if you’re from New York (City, even) than California, but it’s best to be from the Midwest.
  7. Companies that headquarter in the greater Seattle area: Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing (or they used to — they moved their corporate offices to Chicago), Nintendo, Costco, Amazon.com, Tully’s, Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Real Networks, T-Mobile (USA), Safeco, Alaska Airlines, and Washington Mutual.
  8. It is often difficult to get a job with only the aid of your spiffy resume. Better to have an inside connection, unless you’ve performed exactly the same position for ten years at another company.
  9. Be warned: you might actually get a ticket if you jaywalk. It costs $40.
  10. I-5 not only clots up during rush hours, but at random times of day — and night — for seemingly no reason. Often traffic during rush hours is far worse going “against traffic.” You’d think it’d be easier to travel into the city at 5 p.m., but the reversible express lanes relieve the downtown folks’ commute. The express lanes open, close, and switch directions at approximately the same time every day.
  11. “Right about now, while you are reading this, I-90 is faster than SR-520, regardless of your location or direction.” This and more biting truths for frustrated Seattle drivers can be found at Driver’s Etiquette for Seattle — worth the click.
  12. You can bring your dog on the bus. If s/he is a large dog, you will have to pay a full adult fare for your pooch.
  13. If you’re in your twenties or early thirties, it’s possible to have a semi-respectable job and blue hair at the same time. As the ad campaign proclaims, we’re a little different around here.
  14. Every day is casual Friday. You will have a hard time finding a restaurant where someone dining therein is not wearing jeans. People might even wear jeans to your wedding. A friend visiting from New York City once commented on Seattle fashion: “Everyone here still dresses like they’re in college.”
  15. Washington is a bluish purple state, and it gets redder east of the mountains. Like many states with one major city, lefty Seattle usually overpowers the vote.
  16. In this city, it’s far better to be politically correct than sorry. In fact, even using the term “politically correct” may draw attention, since it’s usually used negatively.

Speak up, transplant Seattlites (read: most of us) — what have you learned about Seattle since your move here?

  • Casey Halcro

    Seattle people – These are some of the hardest people to crack, the hardest people with whom to form close friendships. However, once they are your friends, they are forever friends, the best people, the ones who’ll always be there for you. They are totally worth spending the time to crack…

  • http://jeffcroft.com/ Jeff Croft

    Hah. Great list. I just moved here from the Kansas City suburbs about five months ago and have found nearly all of these to be true!

    I’ll add this: drivers here seem incredibly passive to me, especially at four-way stops. Moving to the city form the suburbs of a smaller city, I was expecting to have to get used to more aggressive driving. Not so. Rather, I find most drivers polite to the point of being annoying. My tip: if anyone at on the other three streets shows ANY hesitation at all at a four way stop: JUST GO. Taking turns is for pussies. Or, for Seattle drivers.

  • http://jeffcroft.com/ Jeff Croft

    Oh, yet another thing about Seattle: The level of PDA in this town is freaking insane. People are making out everywhere. Get a room! :)

  • Marie

    Jeff – when i first read your comment I thought by “PDA” you meant “Personal Digital Assistant” like a Pocket PC or something… which probably relates to #17 – you can’t swing a cat in this town without hitting a computer nerd :)

    I’ve lived here for 6 years and can also attest that the native Seattlite is a rare and illusive creature. Most people are transplants, it is so hard to meet someone that was born and raised here… and Casey’s comment especially holds true for these folks.

  • Sarah

    I would say that the thing I’ve had the hardest time getting used to is lack of driving sense people seem to have here.

    JUST this morning I was stopped at a red light on Market Street in Ballard and some guy behind me, pulls around me, into the right turn lane, and races through the red light because the street was clear.

    People run stop lights and stop signs more here than in any other city or town I’ve lived in and it astonishes me.

    Stop signs and lights are not suggestions, they’re the law, and they’re there for your safety and other peoples safety!

  • http://www.nemejo.com G Love

    On the highways, nothing is to be assumed. Sometimes the hov lanes are 2+, sometimes 3+. Sometimes the expressway is north-only, sometimes south. Sometimes the hov lanes are on the right, sometimes on the left. The highway exits are on the right, except when they’re not.

    Also, my favorite is that the fastest way from point A to point B is across 4 lanes of rush hour traffic. Wanna go from downtown to 520, cross 4 lanes. Wanna go from I-90 to the Seattle Center, cross 4 lanes.

    Lastly, there are 2 topics of conversation that are always acceptable:
    1. Making fun of people who can’t handle the weather.
    2. Looking down on the city/county/state for not being able to put together any sort of transit plan.

  • http://www.redfin.com Ellie

    I moved here about three years ago, around the same time as a few other friends. Generally Seattle wins on all points- fresh Northwest food and restaurants, good companies and a nice selection of them, lakes and mountains that take your breath away.

    But the Drivers? What the heck are up with them? Why is the leftmost lane the slowest? Why is 520 a 3-person HOV? Why do some people brake in advance of a stoplight that’s not yet red? Is it an inborn fear of hydroplaning?

    I love it here, but I still don’t get it.

  • Dr. lee

    Forget about the Driving…

    You failed to mention the views?


    Not sure why people are fascinated by the Locks?

    gettyImages is here too.

    Lots of Road Bike trails that take you literally around the city and all over the place.

    People don’t really look at you here in the eye on the streets. not sure why?

    once you talk to someone though, they open up like a flower…

    When is spring here?

  • http://seattle.redfin.com/blog/author/ruby.kane Ruby Kane

    Spring is in February.

  • Bernie Heffe

    “Every one I have ever met in Seattle are mentally ill
    and don’t know it.”
    Said by a beautiful and good person who used to live there
    and doesn’t any more.

    Just like me
    I don’t live there any more either
    and I could not agree more,
    I was glad she gave me the words for the feeling I also had.

    Seattle sucks
    and most every one who lives there sucks too.

    Fucked up.

    I fucking hate Seattle

    As does every resident I ever met, they just don’t know where else to go, even though they hate it there

    hate themselves

    and maybe they’re right
    they deserve nothing better

    like gross attracts like gross.

  • http://donthaveone whytni

    bernie heffe, you need to fucking chill.

  • I hate this fucking place

    Seattle is like living in a damp smelly kitchen sponge. It does not actually rain just this god damm constant drizzle. In inches they don’t get much rain. They just get no fucking sun. I need to get out of here


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