Seattle Freeze

Seattleite Seattle Freeze
Seattle Freeze Seattleite

Probably all of us have a particular image of some nations coded in our heads. I guess Poles imagine Americas as either happy cowboys wearing hats and leather jackets saying ‘howdy!’ on the street, or those tired and a bit plumpy elders driving the mobility scooters in malls. And what about people living in various cities? 

Seattleite – that’s the official name of a person residing in Seattle. But to be honest, it’s hard to define who is the real Seattleite. When can you say that you are from Seattle or any other place you currently live in? Are we Seattleites when we’ve been born here or can you claim you belong when you’ve lived in the Emerald City for a significant number of years? Since the 90’s more than 60% of
Seattle’s inhabitants, don’t even come from the Washington state. So who’s this Seattleite now?

Seattleite in the Rain City

Seattle is full of coffee houses and coffee roasteries so you’d think Seattleite is a coffee gourmet. He or she won’t drink just any sort of black slop or sit in the full of tourists original Starbucks. Coffee is taken to go and enjoyed while reading ‘the Stranger.’ Those born and raised in Seattle claim it’s the best city in the world! Seattleites don’t carry umbrellas and probably have never even seen the house of Kurt Cobain. The average Seattleite doesn’t pay attention to what they wear, or else they have their hipster style and clothes that don’t match.

Seattleite is also more and more often a programmer that came to Seattle for work in one of the offices of the IT giants. He or she wears a grayish hoodie, big black backpack and a company badge with a weird picture dangling from his or her belt.

What is Seattle Freeze

Some time ago Seattle was called one of the kindest cities in the U.S. I wonder if that was because of the weather, climate or size of the country itself. For there is a small difference between being kind and being friendly.

seattle space needle
Space Needle in Seattle

In 2005 The Seattle Times published an article where the term ‘Seattle Freeze’ appears for the first time.
The article
talks about a cognitive dissonance that the newbies experience during interactions with Seattleites. Your first impression after somebody held you the elevator door or stopped the car when you wanted to cross the street is that locals are sweet and kind. As often as you’ll hear people saying ‘please,” thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ you will also spot that they don’t want to let you into their inner circle of friends. Birthday invites don’t pop up like mushrooms.

Conversations based on chit-chats that go no further than the present moment are daily bread in Seattle. It’s as if you needed to earn Seattleites’ attention by staying long enough in their surrounding. ‘Willing to get into the friend zone? Show me you’re worth my time.’ Sociology professor Jodi O’Brien from Seattle University calls it ‘the phenomenon of the plastic smile.’ Kind people wish you to have a good day; friendly people invite you to hang out after work.

It’s not that Seattleites are unfriendly or have something against the newcomers – they just guard their privacy a lot by keeping us all at a distance. However, we do hear a lot of negative voices from low-income Seattleites about the rocketing rent prices. Seattle rent prices are nowadays growing faster than in any other U.S. city. The rise is among others an effect of the booming tech industry that attracts new employees working within the field. The question is whether somebody who isn’t working in IT can afford the median monthly rent of $2,031?

Evening for Seattleites

Just a few weeks after we’ve moved to Seattle we happened to land on a stand-up comedy night joined with a couchsurfers meeting. To be honest, the guys on the stage did not get noteworthy laughs that evening, but that’s not what I want to write about. At some point, one of the comedians trying to tap into their “stage voice” asked the audience whether there are any locals / Seattleites in the crowd. One could think it’s a weird question to ask on a couchsurfers meeting where the majority of people is just visiting the city. What should we say; if we compare ourselves to Hans and Pedro who are in Seattle for two days, we are locals. What if we were to compare ourselves to the guy who was born here?

With time we can get used to wearing rain boots and stop telling them from other shoes. I wonder if as time goes by, we’ll also start isolating and protecting ourselves in cocoons…

Have you been born in the place where you currently live? Who will call themselves real Seattleite,
New Yorker or Bostonian? And when comes this time we can call ourselves local?