Earlier this summer, I attended a conference on social media where the speaker emphasized that any good blog these days needs to “make fart noises” every once in a while — and that a little controversy, here and there, was a great way to engage one’s readership.
Unlike many bloggers, I’m not all that willing to stir up trouble or be controversial, just for the sake of it. But I definitely hit a nerve with one of my recent blogs in the Seattle Times NWJobs Section dicussing the Seattle social scene and the “Seattle Freeze” phenomenon many of you likely have heard about. Even though this article (which you’ll find here) ran nearly two weeks ago, I continue to receive numerous e-mails about it from people who have tripped across the piece and feel compelled to comment on it.
Here’s a sampling of what I’ve received, offering useful insights, I think, both for those new to the area as well as anyone generally interested in understanding what makes Seattlites “tick” from a networking and relationship standpoint. See what you think…
“Seattleites are mean spirited, insecure, and generally just grumpy and irritable. ALL of us. This region is beautiful and it’s horrible, all in the same stroke. Don’t move here unless you like rain for 9 months a year, horrible traffic and mean-spirited people. Sorry but it’s true. I’ve lived here 42 years. If I did not have grade-school children, I’d be gone before this sentence was finished.”
“Stumbled on your article. Here’s my perspective for what its worth. I grew up in an industrial town in Ohio, went to college at UofW, was president of a fraternity, worked at Boeing as an engineer for 10 years, and then worked for myself for 10 more years before finally escaping Seattle. I’ve had friends and relatives visit and say, pretty place but no thanks. I wish I could put my finger on what it is, but the place seems to be full of detached and passionless people. Spiceless. Political correctness is rampant, people mostly do things for posture, and racism is much more prevalent than anyone will admit. Maybe in some strange way, there are too many “intelligent people” here in the area. Does the high-tech industry attract a certain personality type? Seattle is like going to a party hosted by a Microsoft employee — all the parts are there but it just doesn’t feel right. One would think that after having lived in a place, you would feel it was home, but Seattle is nothing more than an emotional dead zone. I live in Vancouver, BC and would never want to move back to Seattle.”
“This article is so perfect! As a true Seattle native (me, my parents, my grandparents were born and raised here), this is something I have heard many, many times. I actually try to go out of my way to make people feel welcome and introduce them to the town in an effort to fight this problem. But it’s hard. Probably 75% of the people I meet are new to the city. I meet at least 100 new people per month – that’s 75 people to try to integrate into my social circle, per month. Even if I just sponsor one person per month, that’s 12 people per year. I think the biggest problem is that there are too many newbies to Seattle and everyone feels like they’re outsiders. There’s a reason grunge music started here. We’re all outsiders!”
“I moved from the Seattle area to Silicon Valley in the early 90’s. Talk about culture clash. I traveled back to the NW about every other weekend for the first year to hang out with my old friends because I just couldn’t deal with the people in CA socially. It was values mostly. I am a Poulsbo native, and a church goer. Socially, most CAs are braggarts. Upon introduction they will immediately tell you what expensive but useless vehicle they own, how close their apartment is to a major interstate and affront you with tales of extravagant consumption. It is SO off-putting. My NW friends might, on getting to know someone well, expound on their older, extremely reliable, high MPG vehicle and how impressed they have been over the years with its performance in adverse weather conditions. They might compare REI numbers to see who has the lowest. If you really know someone well they might tell you that they are saving up to someday get a place nearer the Sound or the mountains, depending on their favorite outdoor pursuit. These are values I understand. Oh, and coffee, don’t even let me get started on that rant. Normally I dislike large chain, cookie cutter businesses, but Starbucks is a god-send from the NW to an impoverished land. They didn’t put the local coffee shops out of business here, because there weren’t any!
It’s really a clash of cultures; it’s not political or religious. I consider myself Independent (but with Republican leanings because my greater family is in farming, most Democrats do not understand land rights issues), attend church regularly, pay taxes without any contortions looking for loopholes, volunteer for various environmental and educational groups, grow my own organic berries and vegetables, and drive a hybrid car. I scuba dive, telemark ski, sail, and climb both rock and ice. My favorite place to eat is Ivar’s. I’m not for gay rights issues or immigrant issues; but I’m not against them either. It’s just not my personal business, and not my concern. Extremists of any type tire me out, and I smile when the coast guard hits them with power hoses. I’m just waiting to retire and move back to the NW, then I can go sailing, scuba diving, climbing, etc a little more often – with my true friends.”
“Seattle is the provincial capital of the American NW, settled by Scandinavian settlers. Behavior described as “Seattlish” is applicable to Scandinavia. People there are independent, practical, and mind their own business. They are also described as “cold” by their neighbors. Same with the provincial influence…feeling uncomfortable with outsiders. That is in common with provincial towns all over the world. Socioeconomic status has nothing to do with it, from my experience. Only a true Seattleite would pull rank with Seattle socioeconomically. Being Busy is part of a global trend everywhere, as people work more, and devoting leisure time to media is much easier than seeking out social interaction.”
“As a long-moved and long-gone former resident of Seattle (mid 60’s), I found that when I have gone back for a visit, the problem is no one is from there. You know, born and raised there, blah blah blah. They are from back East (omg) and California (well). The real natives are all long gone and I must say we were a great bunch, fun open and so on.”
“Being a native I I find some of the article’s theories off the mark – mavericks, insecure and paranoid? Nah.
I do agree about being introverts and being busy; attributes common if not precusors to being well-educated, highly paid, and highly engaged; this describes folks who work in software, law, finance, tech, and medicine (a good part of the Seattle demographic). Seattle is also extremely clique-oriented, which is also common with an upper demographic.
We are also very liberal, which is to say we are incredibly judgemental to anyone outside the prescribed liberal doctrine – Ron Paul supporter? Church goer? Believe marriage = one man + one woman? Listen to country music? Ha, ha, good luck.
If you’re some bloke fresh into town not in those job categories, aren’t making $100k+, aren’t a liberal, and aren’t heavily into at least a couple of outdoor/recreational/social activities, yes, you’re going to have a tough time getting ahead socially in the Seattle area. Three of those four are hard to change; one isn’t. Get yourself into a couple of the 327 activities popular in the area – from sailing, to mountain biking, to skiing, to volunteering. Even then it will be still take some work.”
“So true, all of it. I am a Seattle native who lived in several parts of the country before moving back to Seattle, and after being acclimated to how the rest of the country works, I had to move away again. For whatever reason — weather, cultural influences, the high number of transplants — Seattleites are anti-social and socially awkward. I found myself doing all of the work when it came to networking, forging friendships, etc. while living there — and it was exhausting. Even now, my supposedly “closest” Seattle friends don’t stay in touch with me (via email, phone, Facebook, etc.) as much as those I’ve met in other parts of the country. It’s seriously one of the greatest disappointments of my life: I love my hometown, and I miss so much about it including my family, the geography, the fresh air … but I just can’t stand to live there myself because the people are so lame. Breaks my heart.”
“So new people here say it is hard to get friends? Don’t you think new people everywhere say that? Was there a control?”
Your thoughts, folks? Does one of these perspectives ring more true than others? Are there any secrets that might help newcomers get acclimated here more quickly — or are we just destined to maintain this reputation, going forward, and people new to town will just have to fight through it?