“We’re all unfriendly.”
It’s called the Seattle Freeze: the generally distant attitude adopted by city residents and a propensity to murmur, “Let’s have brunch soon” and not mean it at all. The unfriendly stereotype probably comes from both the city’s Nordic heritage (those frozen Swedes!) and tech culture (nerds can’t hang, right?), and the term was coined by The Seattle Times in 2005.
Sure, Travel and Leisure once ranked us only the 17th rudest U.S. city, behind even Philadelphia. Such warmth! And yet a 2016 Civic Health Index from the Seattle City Club grades Seattle 35th of 51 U.S. cities when it comes to talking to neighbors frequently—so Freeze Truthers may have a point. Eh, the cold never bothered us anyway.
“Umbrellas are verboten.”
In a city with a lower annual rainfall than Houston or New York City, why do you need an umbrella? That’s an opinion you’ll hear from a lot of your new neighbors. But the idea of a bumbershoot boycott may be more pervasive than the reality, said Bella Umbrella owner Jodell Egbert. Of course, she told us that before her shop, at the time the only umbrella store in the city, pulled up stakes and moved to New Orleans.
But Washington just isn’t that into rain gear. Only five companies make waterproof clothing here—the same number as Utah. And since only eight percent of central Seattle commuters walk to work, there are only a few of us with wet hair.
“We’re all lefties.”
Between the legal pot, a socialist on the city council, and high minimum wage, Seattle is a blue-state fantasyland, right? By some measures, sure. We’ve been called the third-most liberal city in the fifth least-churchy state. President Obama scored 68.72 percent of the vote in King County in 2012. But compare that tally to Portland (75.4 percent) and Manhattan (84.2 percent). This is a city that still hasn’t quite figured out public transportation, and the whole state has high sales tax but no income tax—generally not progressive trends. Washington preemptively banned affirmative action in 1998, and 90 years transpired between our first female mayor and our second (and current) female mayor. Calling Seattle “blue” might be too liberal a definition of liberal.
Editor's Note: Updated September 14, 2018 to reflect Bella Umbrella's move to New Orleans, Jenny Durkan's election as our second female mayor, and new stats related to the Seattle Freeze.