Seattle Gave Me the Cold Shoulder


I’m a California girl and anything below 65 degrees is unbelievably cold. In the Bay Area, located in Northern California, I was spoiled not only with warm weather somewhat year round, but also with the ability to welcome strangers.

When I moved to Seattle in 2017, I lost the warm weather and equally warm people.

In 2005, the Seattle Times referenced the “Seattle Nice/Ice Phenomena” or the “Seattle Freeze,” the belief that it is incredibly difficult to make friends in the Emerald City, especially if you’re not from Washington.

It’s clear that I’m not from here. I’m the tan, very out-of-place mixed girl who couldn’t say “Skagit Valley” correctly until recently. I’m not a Seattlite and I don’t plan on becoming one.

“People are nice in Seattle,” the Seattle Times said in a 2017 article. Seattleites will say hello to you, let you jaywalk with ease in busy intersections and will scoot over on the bus to make room for you. But the “niceness” ends there.

Furthermore, the article says that the general attitude is: “Welcome to Seattle… Now please go away.”

I experienced this first-hand when I first moved here. All of my friends and family were back in California, and during my first SCC orientation, nobody seemed to want to be friends with me unless I made first contact.

Without a social circle and anyone to guide me, I quickly learned to adapt to the loneliness that Seattleites seemed to push on out-of-state newcomers. They weren’t mean about it, but it was made crystal clear that there was an invisible barrier between me and them.

Other testimonies from the 2005 and 2017 Seattle Times articles describe Seattleites as keeping to themselves and not straying from the pack. They are “polite, but distant.”

Living and interacting with Seattleites is equivalent to hanging out with nice, tolerant family members during the holidays who are only nice to you because you happen to be in the same room as them — nothing more. They don’t really care about how school is going or if you like your job, it’s just the polite thing to ask about.

However, the Seattle Freeze phenomena does have its benefits.

More introverted individuals may appreciate the distant attitude and the lack of small-talk amongst strangers. There’s no pressure to make friends if you don’t want to, since they seem to not want to interact with you in the first place.

Also, although Seattle residents may be frigid at first, I’ve learned that many of them melt once you start getting to know them. Although personally, it’s taken a while to chisel away at those icy walls.

In comparison, the Bay Area isn’t so polarizing. Most people there know someone that I would know (and so on), since there were so many groups that anyone could be a part of.

The general attitude in my hometown is much more laid-back and inviting toward different types of people.

The Seattle Freeze is certainly believed to be a tangible issue, according to the online magazine Thrillist Seattle. The difference between Bay Area and Seattle residents is certainly noticeable, but what you make of it is up to you.

SCC tries to encourage diversity and acceptance of students from all around the world. Although it be difficult to make friends with the locals, there are other avenues around the problem. Joining on-campus clubs, finding groups around Shoreline or Seattle that share your same hobbies or even finding online forums that are local to the area are alternative ways of making new connections in a new place.

The ice-cold personalities of a majority of Seattleites may be off-putting at first, but it’s certainly not impossible to cultivate new relationships when you put your mind to it.