Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Our Members

Many thanks to Kathleen Brooker and Louis Rowan some of our many supporters.

ALL MEMBERS »

Seattle's 'niceness' problem

The city has a reputation for being nice, but many agree that's a myth. So, why the cold shoulder to newcomers? Here are a few possible reasons.
How are we going to keep the state's ferries afloat?

How are we going to keep the state's ferries afloat?

As I've been giving readings and interviews around Puget Sound the last two months, a topic that frequently comes up is the subject of Seattle's "nice-ness," or lack of it. The subtitle of my book Pugetopolis promises, among other things, to tackle "The Myth of Seattle Nice," so you know where I stand.

At most readings I discuss an essay of mine from Seattle magazine on the topic and it gets a big, approving response, especially from transplants who seem delighted to have a Seattle native acknowledge that, despite our smiles, we can be a passive-agressive, cold-shouldered kind of place.

The audience frequently offers the corroborating evidence of miserable pot-luck experiences, failed attempts to get to know neighbors, and being foiled in getting new local acquaintances to socialize or have a cocktail. Steve Shay, a reporter for the West Seattle Herald, once wrote a short piece for his hometown Chicago Tribune about the phenomenon. He had a great word for it: Seattle "nice-olation."

I try to be supportive to newcomers during their immersion in the nice-olation tank. One pointer: If you're the kind of person who invites neighbors you've never met to a get-to-know you barbecue, well, it might help you to know we have a name for people who do things like that: They're called "stalkers."

If you want to get to know your neighbors, go slow, take some time. In 20 years of next-door living, you might finally have something to say to one another. No one likes superficial chat, right?

At any rate, I've been gathering theories from the audiences and elsewhere, about our social frigidity and here are some of the top speculations about why we're not so nice and sociable.

1) We're Misfits: This theory holds that folks who move to Seattle didn't fit in where they came from. In other words, they're part of the "loose nuts" that rolled to the West Coast. From fur trappers to computer geeks, we're just socially inept and we pass that on.

2) We're Not Boring: You'll love this one. We in the Seattle area are simply more interesting than other people and fully capable of being pleased with our own company. We're a big reading town, right? We don't need other people because we're just so damned fascinating. Of course, there's a term for people who spend too much time alone pleasuring themselves, but you get the idea.

3) Homestead Mentality: We're all a little stuck in the frontier days where we were once self-sufficient in our little wilderness log houses. Your organic pea patch makes you a Jeffersonian yeoman even though your cabin today is a bungalow in Freelard. You can take care of yourself!

4) Don't Kiss Us, We're Norwegian: Authors Tim Egan, Jonathan Raban and others have raised Seattle's ethnic roots as cause for diffidence: our so-called Scando-Asian reserve. It's literally in our DNA, the habits of our ancestors. Not to mention that many of our region's first institutions were founded by lonely Scotsmen who worked for the Hudson Bay Company. If we're quiet, dour, and reserved, blame it on grandpa.

5) Mellow Yellow: I think this idea was first proposed in Bellingham. We don't socialize because we're just so damned laid back. You know, a Lava lamp, some Hendrix, a little BC bud...this is slacker/stoner paradise.

6) It's the Weather: We'd be more friendly, but we're a) cocooning because it's dark and rainy out or b) we need to save our happy face for those one or two days a year we're not suffering from the debilitating depression caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

7) It's All Hooey: This last theory is that I am wrong, that in fact Seattle is the nicest place on earth, it's as plain as our ubiquitous smiles, gorgeous landscape, and determination to do the right thing always. We save the salmon, we ban the smokers, we vote for higher taxes, we'll even make your latte with 23 ingredients if that's how you want it. We're so nice, so damn nice, and you must be stupid not to notice it.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 7:53 a.m. Inappropriate

My entire last weekend was spent chatting with strangers. First, at the Unitarian book sale where I met a woman who was midway through moving up here from Oregon when her fiancee, who she said had lied to her about having cancer, died. Now she's in sort of an in-between land, but she can talk about it without crying. And she's buying books so it can't be all bad. We sat with a woman who belongs to the church whose son was playing guitar and, despite being only 19, doing a fairly credible brogue on one folk song. The other two women, in turn, began talking about swimming at the local health club it turns out we all belong to.

The next morning, at the cafe that was closing and serving its last breakfast that morning, I met a Jewish woman who'd only been married a short time and who works as a teacher for the school district in the city I work for, who promptly inquired about carpooling opportunities. She was eating alone because her husband's in DC taking his medical boards. They met through an online dating service and quickly hit it off. She has Celiac's Disease and can't eat gluten. We both nabbed seats next to one another in the small, crowded space, where she ate corn tortillas with her eggs as I ate my toast.

Afterward, I went to a coffee shop a couple of blocks away to sit and read a book, and there she was again. It was very busy and there were no seats, but I saw one opening up behind her. She got the table plus the one next to it for me. We got our coffee and sat down, and as I settled into my book she settled into her computer work, prepping for her national teaching boards.

On my other side was an older woman in a wheelchair, looking at mail-order catalogs but more keeping an eye on what was going on around her. A lady in a walker came over to her, and I discovered that she just comes there to watch people. We chatted about the weather before she left.

I saw a guy with his coffee looking for a seat, so I offered him the other chair at my table. He sat down and sipped his coffee as I kept reading, but eventually we got into a conversation (including the teacher at the next table) about where a good spot would be for him to buy some bulk chamomile tea for his stay-at-home wife, about whose daily mom duties I sort of wondered because their daughter is now 11. He works for MS and commutes all the way from Olympia to Issaquah each day; then we discussed various road construction obstacles along the way.

Finally, I excused myself to go home and do laundry.

As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. How could I?! In two short ventures I came to know a lot of personal details about several people I will probably never see again. Niceness? Yes, but built of what?...boredom, social isolation, and the desire to reach out to others. Still, I'm glad for it. It keeps us connected, it keeps us talking, and sometimes it even allows us to therapeutically dump our sh*t at the feet of strangers then go home feeling like we've just had a therapy session.

debbalee

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 9:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Mossback is quite right that the region's niceness or not makes for a topic of perennial narcissistic interest.

Before doing a numeral by numeral comment, a couple of observations:

Seattle must have by far the nicest and talkative bus drivers in the nation, no doubt they are trained to be nice but curious and talkative too?? The unnicest Rita Meter Maids, who I suspect must be on some kind of incentive.
A comparatively - to NY, Chicago, especially of course to the Marine Corps derived LAPD occupation, police force; unless... but that applies everywhere you mess with them. I would say that Mossback's generalizations do not apply to our African-American brethren, except that the gang-bangers are as nasty here as everywhere. Some people have said "too few Jews", and that is true enough except that the Jews who have been here since the early days have become like the rest of the sorry lot. More Hispanics, more spice for the Lute Fisk!! And that is definitely happening!

1] Misfits, maybe at some point early on; not now when you get that uniform stupidity of, say, laughing uniformly
at stupid jokes, behaving like sheep, applauding sets at the theater; unwilling to voice criticism, or even ability to think critically.

2] If one is as uncurious as the average Seattliter is you ARE going to be boring! A European mongrel meself, I've lived 25 years in New York, but in most regions of the country; Seattle is not Dubuque, but there's a lot of Dubuque in the Seattle soul; I can do Gin-dry humor, and sometime you actually do encounter that kind of humor, but far too rarely; as to the variety of Jewish humor, see above.

3] is a restatement of Mossback's point 1: don't see too many sodhouses about any more. However, the Seattletites are not even social with each other; much less to new-comers. The exceptions to these generalizations do not disprove them.

4] I expect Rabaan and Egan whose work and sensibility I respect are on to something. The Puritan ethic prevails. They closed down the after hours clubs and Jazz scene on South Jackson around 1945.
It's getting worse!
No wonder at all on my part that Seattle produces so few writers and artists of national note. Well, Mary McCarthy lost her virginity here at age 14 and bemoaned the fact for the rest of a life spent elsewhere.

5] I would not say that Seattle is laid-back in the sense in which I came to understand the meaning and being of that word in Californeeä. Smoking weed stupefies everyone or turns them into rapists, as the case may be.

6] Yes, of course the weather keeps folks indoors, and you can tell a local when they walk in sandals without socks in midwinter; and their brains never dry out even by late summer when there is a summer; so global warming may have some good to offer! And the moss on the north side of the roof...

7] I am not sure about the general Seattlelite's or Mossback's mis-use of the concept passive-aggressive. But I would say Seattle's deep-rooted provincialism and consequent nepotism and thus unselfconsciousness produces a lot of hypocrisy and claiming of tiny bits of turf.

mikerol

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 9:07 a.m. Inappropriate


D.H. Lawrence had a poem about the niceness phenomenon, but he was writing about the English, and their niceness toward Americans, French and Germans. It starts "The English are so nice/ so awfully nice/ they're the nicest people in the world" ...and ends "..just be nice, you know!/Oh, fairly nice/not too nice of course, they take advantage/but nice enough, just nice enough/to let them feel they're not quite as nice as they might be."

Bob Simmons

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

You are right on the mark. I've lived here for three and a half years. I've also lived in Portland, Vancouver BC, Chicago, Western Mass, S Illinois, and born in Missouri ... Portland has a very different feel - much easier to meet people. I think this might be related to the high amount of MidWesterners there, from what I could tell. Seattle is by far the least friendly town - it reminds me of a crunchy green Boston. I do think the bus drivers are the friendliest folks in town. I'm on a first-name basis with some. My neighbors, however, prefer to jog past me stone-faced. I have no idea who they are. I did have one friendly neighbor when I first moved here and lived on the outskirts of Beacon Hill. They were 700 Club Christians. The opposite of the Seattle stereotype. The nicest couple I've met in Seattle, actually.

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 10:28 a.m. Inappropriate

An inability to make connections with people here means that Seattleites are too nice to tell the person what an annoying jerk he or she is. That's also a Nihon-Scandinavian thing, incidentally.

smacgry

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

I think part of the reason is that, historically, this is not an area that people leave. If you either lived here all your life, or came here with your parents, you have little concept, as an adult, of pulling up stakes and starting over somewhere else. Those newcomers aren't like you, because they are newcomers. They come from a different culture, not just a different locale. The fact that they would just pick up and go somewhere else proves that.

All of my best friends are friends I made in high school. All but one have lived in the Puget Sound area all their lives. We have that in common. The exotic foreigners, those who attach definite articles to freeways and major bodies of water; those who bemoan the lack of some unheard of drive-in burger place; those who think we should do things the way things were done in their homeland -- those people are just a little annoying, and sometimes downright creepy. In the last few years, I've gotten new neighbors on either side of me. We all get along famously. But then, we're all from around here.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 12:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Let's get back to having newcomers take a Seattle 101 course.

Art

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 12:16 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm a newcomer, been here three years. People are friendly on the surface, but not much farther. As debbalee described, it's easy to get into conversations with strangers on neutral ground, but they remain strangers. Sadly, I find it common for neighbors to ignore our hellos. Our immediate neighbor is somewhat more friendly, but after owning her house for nine years, she knows no one on her block besides us.

One nice thing up here is how polite drivers are. They stop unnecessarily a block away for pedestrians, and I often get into a staring contest at uncontrolled intersections waiting for someone to make a move. My girlfriend, also non-native, puts it this way; "They'll let you into their lane, but not into their lives."

I do think it's largely the Nordic heritage; I've known Swedes and Finns in other locales, they were reserved and cool to friendships there, too. The weather doesn't help, it reinforces the instinctive reserve. dbreneman seems to say that anyone who would leave home is automatically suspect, and overly-friendly people are creepy; how insular and small-minded.

So, in short, you're "just not that into" us transplants. That's OK, I don't need false, surface friendships which locals seem to prefer. I'll look for fellow invaders to have relationships with.

agwinner

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 12:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle is not the nicest town. I have lived in every part of the country, in many major cities, and I haven't ever encountered the degree of cliqueishness, snobbery, and unwelcoming behavior anywhere else in the country.

Seattle is too vain. It really does think the song is about it.

Not "pretty" vain. Seattle people are convinced that they are the ONLY people who care about the environment, the ONLY people who understand technology, the ONLY people hip and different and educated. There are two types of these annoyingly Seattlish people.

First is the type I married. 4th Generation+ Seattlites who think they gently tolerate new people, but turn up their noses at anyone who do not have a street named after their great great grandpa, or who did not get the family Santa pics at Frederick and Nelson's. Nordstrom's santa may be in the same place, but it is not the same.

Second is the recently arrived. Recent covers the last 20 years. Each believes that too many people live here, and all of these new people are ruining the city they themselves came to enjoy. Of course their arrival does not count, because they, are, after all, wonderful and a grand addition to the Seattle population.

Every perceived quirk in the real citizenry is cherished. Waiting for a light to change to cross the street at midnight- in the rain- not cute, annoying. And the corollary, Seattlites dressing all in black at night and expecting drivers will see them and stop as they cross without looking at every other intersection in the city. Just Stupid!! (by the way bike people- the headlights that rely on pedal power to work don't. You can not be seen- buy a damn battery!

AS a three time newbie over the past 10 years, I can assure you that the elitist qualities of the Seattle population is annoying and predictable.

Amgiz

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 12:53 p.m. Inappropriate

The longer I live here in the land of my birth, the more I hear this complaint. I think about it more than I should. I wonder where these unfriendly people came from originally and how long they have lived here and what their personalities are like to their friends and families. I wonder where the complainers came from and why they came to Seattle in the first place and what they were like when they were at home. Superficial relationships are easy to start and easier to end. Intimate relationships take longer. What is wrong with being polite to all but actually friendly to fewer and intimate with even fewer than that? I guess I will require more convincing that Seattle is just so different from anywhere else. My personal experience living here and elsewhere does not lead me to the same conclusions.

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 1:11 p.m. Inappropriate

As one who has lived in this region a long time, I'd expand the notion of Seattle Nice into a more general ``Northwest Nice.'' The same polite but standoffish attitude described in the article is present in Eastern Washington, northern Idaho and Montana. I always attributed it to a social awkwardness that makes people reluctant to appear vulnerable by welcoming newcomers. This is in sharp contrast to my experiences living in Illinois and California, where people were much more forward.

ngeranios

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 1:48 p.m. Inappropriate

I suspect most of the above come from a"lets have lunch, love ya" culture.

relax; real love takes time.

sunshine

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 2:41 p.m. Inappropriate

"agwinner" writes:

dbreneman seems to say that anyone who would leave home is automatically suspect, and overly-friendly people are creepy; how insular and small-minded.

And agwinner seems to read comments only superficially and without enough understanding to see the humor in them, while also inferring things ("overly-friendly people are creepy") that are not in the original comment. Fair enough?

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 2:46 p.m. Inappropriate

"Which means the "It's Hooey" theory simply proves, rather than refutes, my thesis that Seattle Nice is a myth. So, thank you, naysayers, for proving me right."

Genius!

matassa

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 3:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Well done!

I am constantly stunned by the social awkwardness of the city. Going to a bar and trying to strike up a conversation with a total stranger is a chore. I'm not out to get your number, man or woman, just a little chit chat while I swill my bourbon and ginger. But most of the time it's an affront of biblical proportions. My friend recently returned from Australia and during an evening out said, "does anybody smile in this city? why does everybody looks so bloody unhappy?"

Apparently he forgot why he left.

pfc

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 3:26 p.m. Inappropriate

A constantly recurring subject in a laughably self-obsessed place.

I was born and raised in Bellingham, was graduated from the UW, then lived variously in Boston, New York, D.C. and Los Angeles over many years, periodically spending time here until returning in semi-retirement some eight years ago to finish things out.

Growing up, I found Bellingham a generally welcoming, friendly place. Of course, those were depression and WWII years when people hung together.
I regularly return to Bellingham to visit friends and attend reunions. I find it still the open, happy place it was many years ago. Seattle, though, is somewhat different. A bigger city might be expected to be a bit more unfriendly. But there is a definite passive/aggressive strain here. Is it the Nordic heritage? Maybe. I have spent much time in Minneapolis, even more Nordic than here, but it seems a bit more friendly than Seattle.

I have concluded, over time, that local coolness stems in large part from a provincialism and insecurity that often characterize people and places not sure of themselves. We obsess over our local culture and whether it is leading edge. Will loss of the Sonics mean we are not a big-time city? Are we as culturally advanced as we think we are? Are not WTO demonstrators simply flower children expressing their right to dissent? Will Seattle be world class if it does not squander billions on a light rail system far more expensive than ordinary bus transit? If we build more and taller skyscrapers, will that make us seem truly big time? When public issues are discussed, local elected and civic leaders, and media as well, often seem aggressively ignorant of experience elsewhere. Ignorance leads to insecurity which leads to standoffishness.

There remains another factor which I recognize in myself. The forests, water, brilliant sunsets and our natural surroundings make this a place to enjoy without having a large number of superficial friends. One needs only family, a handful of true friends, and the nature which surrounds us. At times, nature itself is enough.

This can be tough on newcomers. For those bothered by it, I commend a strategy of forgetting one's immediate neighbors or workplace colleagues, if they do not offer friendship, and finding affinity with those who share
your interests, ranging from baseball to music to fishing to volunteer work, wherever you find them. In time you will find them.

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 3:52 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm a native, but also a transplant in a sense. After high school in the 1970's I left the state for college in Oregon. Not much different there. Then in the late 1980's we moved to Buffalo NY. What a culture shock - never had I been around so many people of non-Scandanavian heritage. At first the "in your face" approach to discussions freaked me out, but eventually I learned to stop being so passive/aggressive and speak my mind. It was honest and refreshing.

We only lived there for 8 years before moving back to Seattle. In those 8 years we made some of the deepest, most meaningful friendships of our lives (and they are still active). It's just as dark there and a lot colder and snowier, so the weather excuse doesn't work. We've lived in Seattle for 12 years and have yet to make friendships of such depth. And I've found my direct approach to discussion hasn't served me well at work, either. (If I were a man, of course, I would be labeled assertive, but you can imagine the adjectives I get instead.)

I love Washington - I was so happy to be able to come home after 20 years -but I know how the transplants feel.

lindacs

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 7:09 p.m. Inappropriate

I moved here from Atlanta seven years ago and prior to that I lived for many years in Texas and Florida. I have to agree with Mossback: this place is full of cold fish and I'm not just talking about the salmon.

Never has it been so difficult to make friends and, no, I'm not a stalker, weirdo or overly aggressive in the pursuit of companionship. Before you native Seattleites whisper politely, "Why don't you just leave if you don't like it?", I've made a good life here. The natural splendor, the (up until now) decent job opportunities and the real friendship of like-minded laid-back transplants, including my boyfriend, make Seattle a wonderful place to call home.

Here's an idea, natives: if you gave newcomers the time of day or even made eye contact, who knows, you may find that you like us. If not, it's no big deal. I won't miss the passive-aggressive xenophobia one bit.

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 8:09 p.m. Inappropriate

The truth is that most human beings only have 3-6 true social intimates. Everyone else, including extended family members, is an acquaintance of varying degrees of closeness. I don't find evidence that Seattle is much different in that regard from other places I have been.

I do think there is a quality here that could be viewed as passive/aggressive, and it could be related to the Japanavian influence. Neither group usually ever wants to give offense to strangers. We, therefore, tend to show a very superficial kindliness to strangers, even when they are being, by our lights, extremely offensive. Instead of being confronted, they are dealt with politely and then avoided. I think natives also are suspicious or put off by friendly aggressiveness, and loud bonhomie; we wonder what might be wanted of us that we can't deliver, and so drift away, quietly. Perhaps our initial polite friendliness gets interpreted by non-natives as a desire to get closer, and so inspires some aggressive friendliness from a newbie, when it is really a desire to not give overt offense.

I tink Ted Van Dyke is correct in his observations as well. Our outdoor focus also changes how and when we relate to others. Seattle is not a great place for group "experiences". The tendency is to seek and harbor private joys.

Seattle nice a myth? Perhaps, but more likely a misinterpretation of local manners and mores.

walker

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 8:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, well. Lots of complaints from newcomers, as expected. Why not the usual approach of, "it's not you, it's me?". Instead it is us and not you. We are passive-aggressive, but you're not! We're introverted, but you're not!

In fact, somewhere it lands in the middle. Perhaps non-Seattlites expect a little too much home-down goodness, and perhaps they are just a bit into our own lives and not so much into yours.

I have the best friends in the world here; and I am a "recent" Seattle-ite. It is hard for me to think of leaving such wonderful, smart, loving people. It is refreshing; esp. the women here I find lacking the typical cattiness and schedenfreude envy and not much home economics/scrapbooking to be had either. They genuinely support me in everything I do; something I did not find in Portland or or LA or SF or Atlanta or NY. And they are wicked smart and savvy themselves.

Regardless, I think Ted Van Dyke hit the nail on the head; at least for me. I am so busy and have so many dear friends, I really don't think to chat people up and add more friends to my circle. It's really about focusing on what I already have and managing close contact with them, rather than thinking of expanding it.

But its a cheap shot to just lay the blame on the Seattle-ites. Reach down and put forth more effort rather than just expecting the same results from your typical routine.

We're not typical here!!!!!

bonafide

Posted Tue, Mar 3, 10:48 p.m. Inappropriate

I should note, as I usually do when this topic comes up, that it's not simply a matter of Seattle native being unfriendly to newcomers. I was born and raised here and I share many of the newcomers' complaints. As I also usually do when the topic comes up (I may have even done it on Crosscut before), I'll quote part of a letter I wrote to Pacific Northwest Magazine when they covered the topic (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2005/0213/cover.html) a few years back: "It's really a matter of those who belong to cliques versus those who don't — regardless of where they come from." (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20050313&slug;=pacificpletters13)

Posted Wed, Mar 4, 10:46 a.m. Inappropriate

What a lively discussion! I was particularly impressed by Ted Van Dyk's and lindacs's observations since they are old timers who then returned. Some features that seem to prove annoying to old timers and new comers can be found in just about any city. There will be a clique in Knoxville that it's only cool to shop at Lebeck's department store, as some swear by Nordstroms or whatever here. There will be latte drinkers who think they are on the cutting edge.
If you run into folks like that in New York City you will know that they are from Knoxville or from Seattle! Because as much of a village as Manhattan may be, within a short time you will be so overwhelmed by the offering that...
However, if you came with a New York City drenched arts immersion to Seattle you would quickly conclude that you're in Hicksville, and that it will be another hundred years. The superficial politeness is all right, it smoothes matters out, however it is when you get a tad beyond the superficial that you encounter some of the problems enumerated above. Dan Savage had it right many years ago when he said Seattle is a City for Breeders. And if you're middle class that is very nice. If you are not, it's not so hot.

mikerol

Posted Wed, Mar 4, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Funny that Seattle's thought of as a city for breeders, when I've heard it said time and time again that it's becoming less and less attractive a place to raise the product of that breeding! I wouldn't know... yet. It was fine growing up here from 1975 to 1993.

Posted Wed, Mar 4, 6:39 p.m. Inappropriate

The thesis of this article is that Seattle has a niceness "problem." However, if you read the article, you discover that the problem is not the Seattle is "nice," the problem is that Seattle has a "hard to get to know anybody" problem. Would anybody prefer it if the residents of Seattle were nasty with friendly people?

Now some background on me. I've lived here for about 28 years. I'm highly introverted. Interacting socially is a miserable experience for me. Half my genes came from Sweden, so I'm sort of honorary Scandinavian. I've simply not observed a problem. It's great that people don't expect me to become one of their intimate friends. When I do have to interact with somebody, it nice that they're nice. So from my standpoint, the behavior that everyone else is complaining about is not a problem but a feature.

Perhaps Seattle is an introvert's paradise. It's a place where introverts can be their true selves. And it absolutely drives extroverts crazy. Well tough shit. Now they know what a quarter of the world's population has to put up with. Ain't revenge sweet?

dudester

Posted Thu, Mar 5, 1:02 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm an introvert too, though (and lived here all my 34 years), so I think your theory is incorrect. It's not simply extroverts complaining.

Posted Sat, Mar 7, 1:24 p.m. Inappropriate

I moved to Seattle from the northeast three decades ago, when I was in my twenties and also lived in Oregon for several years; so, as a long-term resident of the Pacific Northwest, I may now have become “nice,” (although apparently I do not always completely succeed!) My most recent experiences with newer transplants, mostly from larger American cities, however, include some extremely aggressive behavior on their part, with several very odd displays of anger and condescension. In these cases, it was easier to be relatively polite than confront the person, but it does not exactly make one want to be best friends! If they were trying to make friends, they seemed to be seriously socially challenged. Other transplants were extremely pleasant and seemed to be undergoing the classic "hazing right" of moving here or to a new city: suspicious room mates, unduly unpleasant teachers, etc.., but also homesickness for what is familiar.

On the other side of the spectrum are transplants from small towns in and around Washington State. They sometimes seem to be somewhat suspicious of people and truly reserved and even easily shocked. I suspect that some of the social difficulties may have to do with the differences between small town versus big city attitudes. More or less in the middle, there are what might be considered “Seattle natives,” people whose families have been in Seattle for 2 to 4 generations. Although thankfully, from my point of view, they are not as excitable and angry as some native New Yorkers, they actually seem relatively lively. And yes, they are mostly very polite, for which I am very grateful. I am wondering if some of the more recent transplants do not expect too much intimacy too quickly, or… have I lived here too long? On the other hand, it is always difficult to move to a new place.

Kamille

Posted Wed, Mar 11, 12:27 p.m. Inappropriate

I think that, too often, not-nice Seattlites are given a free pass by being described as "introverted" or "reserved". Introversion seems to be the Seattle excuse for recurrently turning one's nose up at others. Introversion sounds so much nicer than elitism, no? The transplants believe the myth that most Seattlites are merely "nice but introverted", so the transplants believe they merely need to try a little harder with this batch. Alas, the transplants receive the titles of "desperate", "creepy" or even "stalker".

My advice to the frustrated transplants? Stop trying so hard. Why would you want to be friends with someone who makes you do 95% of the work, throwing you a crumb or two every now and then? It's pretty easy to tell early on when a friendship is headed in that direction. Yes, this means you will spend some time on your own, but better an empty house than a bad tenant.

Oh and to the "introverts" of Seattle: if you find that 99% of the people you're meeting are beneath you, maybe you need to a) consider getting over yourself, or b) start hanging out in places where more people meet your standards--if those places will take you.

247

Posted Thu, Mar 12, 12:14 p.m. Inappropriate

I posted this on Twitter, but now that I have signed up online, I'd like to post it again. (Somehow, I'm rather proud of it, and it expresses my feelings exactly.)

Shy Seattlites Excel in Structured Situations.

You can usually talk about peoples' cats or gardens to break the ice. I've lived here 16 years and have grown quite fond of Seattlites; they're helpful and kind. But they're also very shy and need a little permission switch to click on before acting or speaking to strangers. One of the things I like best about Seattle conversation is that it always ends with a funny quip about something. Leaves you smiling. Thanks, guys.

Posted Thu, Mar 12, 12:54 p.m. Inappropriate

Knute, Knute, Knute. Did you really write "As I've been giving readings and interviews around the Puget Sound..."? The only people who ever call it "THE" Puget Sound don't come from here.

teolsen

Posted Tue, Mar 17, 11:49 a.m. Inappropriate

As a local, I have to say I am tired of this thread. When I visit another country, do I complain loudly to other visitors about the irritating habits of the natives? Do I talk about how much better we do things back where I'm from? No. I observe, I adapt, I try to stretch a little. I might get homesick. But some kinds of behavior get you labeled as an ugly American, and I wonder why on earth we put up with the same kinds of behavior here.

Posted Wed, Mar 18, 7:40 a.m. Inappropriate

teolsen: I just discovered this after another reader pointed it out. It was a typo (my mistake) and I can't believe I made did this because it is such a pet peeve of mine. I've even written and ranted about it! Arrrgh.

I continue to collect more theories on Seattle niceness or lack of it and will write an update sometime soon.

Posted Wed, Jun 24, 1:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Who ARE all these whiners? How do they try to meet people?

I grew up here and have lived in Seattle most of my life. Maybe I'm an exception (perhaps because I've travelled widely and lived elsewhere as well), but I have a wide group of friends that is, at most, 1/3 local. Since college I've made new friends with "outsiders" at work, at dance class, the soccer team, at parties, etc. I wish I could offer to spend more quality time with the latest arrivals, but my life is pretty damn full --- and I don't even have kids. (Most of my friends are married with kids and struggle to find time to socialize or have date-night.)

Anyhoo, none of this stops me from chatting with strangers -- I just might not invite them over for dinner. (Besides, I'm not a great cook.) Of course there's always room for another newbie in my life, but maybe I'm just a little more selective at this stage.

So welcome to Seattle everyone!
Get involved in something, join something. Enjoy and contribute to our great community and surely things will blossom for us all.

jsperry

Posted Tue, Aug 25, 10:24 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm someone who's been here since the end of 2007. And I've found that, to many here, that means I might as well be an alien invader. Just last week, in Albertson's, a perfectly nice old lady at the register happened to notice my still-Illinois DL(I haven't a car, so I haven't gotten around to changing it), and then made a remark about how they don't like the "new people." Meaning me, in this case. "They've changed the city. Have a nice night." This came out of nowhere, and if a Chicagoan notices rudeness, it's gotta be pretty bad. But she only said out loud what I've encountered ever since I got here. I've noticed that Seattleites don't need any prodding to be just plain, well, mean. I grew up in the South, and the attitude I see here is one I previously associated only with the tiniest redneckiest towns down there, only colder and more Norwegian, I guess.

A real city, a major one, isn't necessarily friendly, but you meet friendly people. I have yet to meet a friendly person here who isn't also from elsewhere, and over time I've been finding it stranger and stranger. It acts like a club that you'll never get into, or Kafka's Castle.

Don't blame us. Microsoft(no, I don't work for them) "ruined" you a long time ago, which is to say put you on the map as far as the rest of the country was concerned. Seriously, that, grunge, and pretty trees and mountains is all the rest of the country knows about you. And in almost two years of trying, the only additional thing I've noticed that makes you special is that you have a great library system, one of the best. Which is awesome because you leave me lots of reading time, what with your absolute zero-temperature personalities.

Get over yourselves and try to be nice for a change. It won't kill you.

dust1969

Posted Mon, Apr 5, 6:06 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm a pennsylvania transplant who has lived in the city the country the midwest and washington.
Here are three things about the northwest that aren't too mind-bogglingly deep or general.
1. Seattle natives don't make funny.
2. Interrupting someone will completely throw them off.
3. Disagreeing with people throws them off.

It sucks. I love funny argumentative discussions filled with interruptions!(

manimal

Posted Sat, Jul 23, 8 p.m. Inappropriate

The people who defend this place are somehow only half alive. Complete zombies, no emotions, no joy. I keep waiting for them to deliver my pod.

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »