“Seattle is like Minnesota… You don’t tell your family you’re angry with them. You take it to your grave.” - a friend from the Midwest
Most Seattle folks are nice. It’s nice and friendly to give people the impression that you want to socialize with them. Tell people you like that you think they should stop by sometime, get a drink with you, or go on vacation together. Maybe you can even propose an arranged marriage between your toddlers. It’s nice, and it’s just being nice. It’s more than likely nothing will come of these pleasantries. Bottom line: always tell people that they are welcome anytime.
However, don’t make the potato salad for the backyard BBQ until you actually get an official invitation. You’ll know the welcome is legit when you get it, because it’ll be super last-minute, casual, and feel like it came at you like a secret word-of-mouth. “We should get together sometime, seriously” is completely different than getting an invite Friday night to come over on Saturday morning.
A real Seattle invite will leave you with the feeling of “don’t they even think I might want to plan ahead?!” You’ve totally arrived if that happens. If you want to do this west coast Seattle socializing thing in style, immediately promise to possibly show up, and then decline an hour beforehand due to your need to go across the Cascades for a last-minute hike because it’s sunny over there. Or even better than that, don’t say anything, and show up unannounced with a bottle of local bourbon-barrel aged beer and act as if you were planning to show up the entire time because you never said you weren’t coming.
I have enough friends
A statement I’ve heard in confidence a number of times is “I have enough friends” or more noxiously “I don’t have time for new friends.” This is often from people that have lived in Seattle a number of years, and it’s simply an excuse for not including someone new or making an effort to meet new people.
When you think someone is waving at you and they’re really just saying hi to the dog behind you.
Always give the impression of serene, calm and cool
“Suppose someone is being awful at a party. Maybe they’re being really loud or something. I don’t know, I don’t want to be that guy. That person that nobody likes. That person that’s being a jerk.” - friend from Oregon
A woman I know prided herself on her reputation for not planning. “You see, I’m not a planner. I just go with the flow.” A classic Seattle statement, because of course you make plans, sweetheart. You plan your Mexican vacations 8 months in advance to coincide with spring break, the Hawaiian vacation at Christmas, the numerous after-school classes for your children, the anniversary date at Canlis.
All of this planning involves very unlaid-back, stressful and sometimes nail-biting amounts of planning. But to admit to any of this is uncouth. It is far more relaxing for all involved to never commit and never give a definite answer. To do otherwise would seem desperate.
Honesty is Taboo
Speaking your mind, especially to someone’s face, is frowned upon. In other parts of the world, deliberately not telling the truth is seen as dishonest, back-stabbing, disingenuous or spineless. Here, it’s being nice - why start a scene?
The Parking Garage Incident
There are a number of very wonderful patisseries in Seattle. One in the Eastlake neighborhood has a selection of croissants and pastries. It also has a parking garage very typical of this city - cramped, fit for only the tiniest of cars, blind turns, and no way to easily turn around. I also tend to only show up when the 15 min slots are open.
I was in a rush - there are so many possible reasons, perhaps this time it was between school pickup and a doctor’s appointment.
The parking garage was completely, maddeningly crowded for 11:30 on a Tuesday morning. I had a camera on the back of the car, and slowly backed out of the parking spot. Someone else started backing out. I immediately stopped, opened my window and started yelling -
“Hey! Watch out! You’re going to hit someone!”
And in Seattle, instead of looking at the offending party (this nutcase that wasn’t paying any attention to where he/she was backing up), everyone in the garage looked at me. The old couple walking to their car, another person in their car, a mom with her baby. They looked at me as a crazy curiosity, and I know why now - I was the rude one. They were thinking
How rude, how dare she!
Opening her mouth to yell, disturbing the peace and quiet of this crowded parking garage!
The Perfect Blend
I would like to propose that the perfect blend (think coffee!) of personalities in the United States of America would meld the honesty and chutzpah of New York City with the polite restraint of the Pacific Northwesterners and the gracious hello-how-are-you-doing-thank-you manners of the Southeast.
I’ve been in Seattle almost 10 years. I feel like I get it now. Sometimes I think it’s odd and weird but on the other hand the road rage is less pronounced here and I like the overall calm vibe.