New to Seattle? Here are 7 ways to make friends

We've got tips for thawing the Seattle Freeze.
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Impact Hub Seattle is a place to work, and network.

We've got tips for thawing the Seattle Freeze.

The Seattle freeze isn’t only the talk of dispirited singles or newcomers from faraway lands. It’s also a topic among homeless youth.

At the ROOTS Young Adult Shelter an 18-year-old man who recently moved from California to Seattle asked me, “What’s the Seattle freeze?” As if he knew I’d been crawling from coffee shop to bus stop to bar (unsuccessfully) for weeks asking people that same question.

There was a counter between us and my plastic glove interfered with our handshake. I gave him his first hot meal of the day, fresh from two minutes in the microwave. He showed me the tattoos on his arms, one reading “love is not love until it’s given away.” But we had more similarities than differences. Only one year apart and both new to Seattle, we were battling that Seattle aloofness.

The Seattle Freeze is a well-documented phenomenon, the inspiration for magazine articles, eight Urban Dictionary posts and a Meetup group with almost 5,000 members. Like the bumper sticker proclaiming, “Have a nice day … somewhere else,” the Freeze, Crosscut's Mossback columnist Knute Berger explained on KUOW, is “the surprisingly cold nature of Seattle residents towards newcomers." Freeze believers blame the weather, the nerdy techies streaming in and the fact that many natives claim Nordic heritage (in fact, Nordicians make up only 7.4 percent of Seattle’s population).

One psychological study that mapped personality traits across the country gave Washingtonians high marks for openness, but ranked us 48th in extraversion. Apparently Seattleites can’t even ask their neighbors for sugar. The 2014 Civic Health Index report ranked Seattle 48th among 51 comparable metropolitan areas for “talking with neighbors frequently” and 37th for “giving or receiving favors from neighbors frequently.”

Be that as it may. Jessica Buxbaum, a 22-year-old transplant, and my own 19-year-old newcomer self did not venture to Seattle this summer to wallow in self pity. We are determined to unthaw the city and ourselves. Here’s our list of groups and events that are helping us — and hopefully you — meet the frozen:

1. Greendrinks is pretty self-explanatory. Have a cocktail and discuss green issues … or not. At our first Greendrinks event, we met a few eco-conscious gals (one sipping beer out of a mason jar) who told us about art therapy, bodybuilding competitions and the best thrift shops in town. Greendrinks, managed by a nonprofit called Sustainable Seattle, is a way of connecting the city’s environmentalists and growing the green community, while enjoying free Snoqualmie Ice Cream (sometimes). Every second Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m., Seattle Greendrinks hosts an informal gathering to introduce new members to old. Alcohol and food are served — for a suggested donation. To get on the invite list, visit the Greendrinks website or join their Facebook group page.

Crosscut archive image.2. Underdog Sports is for people who like games which involve balls — bowling, cornhole, bocce, dodgeball, flag football, kickball, futbal, mini golf, softball, volleyball — and communication, in forms such as, “Hey, want to grab a drink after the game?” You don’t have to be athletic, or even competitive to enjoy Underdog Sports, says Crosscut's Development Director, Tamara Power-Drutis, who snagged a best friend and a roommate by joining a beach volleyball team. A relationship based on shared sand and sweat quickly led to more frequent off-court gatherings involving movies, canoeing and holiday parties, she says. You can sign up as an individual for about $45-$85, or as a team for about $195-$995. Power-Drutis recommends the individual route, because it forces you to interact with random people. Teams are usually co-ed, consisting of mostly people in their twenties and thirties. Visit Underdog's website to sign up for leagues in various locations around town. Leagues accommodate a variety of schedules and skill levels.

3. Organizing for Seattle is a neutral space for progressive activists to share ideas, and a few beers. Sol Villarreal, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign, founded the group so people could stay engaged and connected between election cycles. Anyone who’s burning with passion gets two minutes to talk about a project they’re working on or pose a question to attendees — who use words like “bicycles” and “dogs” to describe themselves. Organizing for Seattle meets the first Tuesday of every even-numbered month around 6:30 p.m. in the backroom of Spitfire. Informational flyers are fun to read, or to use as coasters. Email for deets about the next event.

4. Gasworks Gallery has been rolling out free gallery parties on the first Fridays of March, June, September and December for the last 10 years, often with several hundred attendees, according to Founder Matt Jones. There are rarely awkward silences at these gigs, because you can always fill them by chatting up one of the artists about his or her work. Boxed wine and lively conversations with men named “Shoes:" What more could you want at a party? If your answer is paint, well, Gasworks has that too, and not just on canvases. Gallery guests are known to get “down and dirty” while paint dancing. You can become a human canvas, as long as you bring a white T-shirt.

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5. Open mics in chill, ultra-hipster coffee shops allow you to sit back and check out local talent in a welcoming atmosphere. The only pressure is the steam coming out of the espresso machines. Couth Buzzard Books hosts open mics every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. with regular attendees — Radiohead wannabes, tap dancers, harmonica players, Joan Jett grandmas. While not all acts are equal in talent, none is cringe-worthy and everyone is respectful of each other’s time. And even if you’re not feeling gutsy enough to share your song or poetry onstage, watching others perform while sipping a latte is so satisfying. The more often you go, the more you appreciate the store’s comfortable used-books, old-posters vibe.

6. Impact Hub is a collaborative work space in the heart of Pioneer Square. The Hub provides a place where professionals can work on their Crosscut archive image.projects, and also have the chance to network and build teams. With weekly events ranging from educational workshops to cocktail hours, there are endless opportunities to meet people within or outside your field. The Hub offers conference rooms, kitchens, typical office equipment, informal lounges, open desk areas and private work zones. Under the guise of social entrepreneurship, Impact Hub believes that communities facilitate cultural change. Membership options range from twice a week drop-ins to a complete package with your own private desk set-up and an unlimited ORCA card.

7. Seattle Works connects volunteers to community service projects throughout the city. After crafting an online profile, you can teach seniors how to tap keyboards, build community paths or prep meals for the homeless. I recently joined the ROOTS Young Adult Shelter dinner-prep crew. With a group of mostly college student volunteers I dished out bowls of ice cream while chatting with homeless young adults about the NBA finals. We even heated up their hot pockets.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Jessica Buxbaum

Crosscut editorial intern Jessica Buxbaum recently moved to Seattle from California where she studied political science at Humboldt State University and worked on the university's newspaper and magazine.