15 things you should know about Seattle

Posted on
Feb 28, 2011

As I noted last week, Tom Critchlow is currently in Seattle, and our home has never been happier, nor more reminiscent of a Justin Bieber concert (seriously, we’re screaming and running around like pre-pubescent girls. We’re a little crazy right now). After noting that there are a few common, innocent phrases that don’t translate well from English to American-English (and vice-versa), I feel like it might be time to give you all (and Tom, especially) a crash-course on Seattle.

After all, our town is a little quirky. Personally, I happen to find all our little idiosyncrasies adorable, and I can’t understand why anyone would live anywhere else (what’s that? You disagree? Then kindly move along … TO CALIFORNIA.) For those of you who like the Emerald City as much as I do, and have decided to stick around, here are 15 things that you should know about Seattle that will have you blending in like a patchouli-scented, REI-loving, CSA-supporting local.

  1. It’s called Pike Place Market, after the street. Meaning it was not named for some dude named Pike. It is NOT called Pike’s Place, or Pike Market (calling it that will instantly peg you as a newbie). Though you can call it “The Pike Place Market,” or if you want to be really bad-ass, simply “The Market.”


  2. Seattle is located in King County. As in Martin Luther King, Jr. County. This wasn’t originally the case, though – it was first named King County after William R. King, who was vice-president when the Washington Territory was created. He died from tuberculosis after only 45 days in office. In 1986 the King County Council passed a motion to rename King County after Martin Luther King, Jr., instead. 
  3. Nobody has an umbrella. My friend’s mother used to boast that she had lived in Seattle for 30 years and never so much as owned one. Truth be told, it rarely rains hard enough to justify needing an umbrella, so most people just have raincoats. If you want to fit in, tease your local friends the second they pull of these out. Though, if they truly are locals, few of them will.
  4. Everyone looks pretty darn good. Even those of us with debilitating cake addictions (um …) are fairly healthy up here. Steep hills, cute walking neighborhoods, and lots of nearby hiking and skiing have helped land us a spot as one of the fittest cities in the U.S. for a few years running. Rand and I do our part by choosing not to live within walking distance to a cupcake shop.
  5. Flannel can be formal wear. Seattle is an incredibly casual town. I’ve seen people wear cargo shorts to weddings up here. That’s what happens when a city is founded by loggers and prostitutes. There are few places in the city that would require you to wear something nicer than a dressy shirt and a pair of jeans. And frankly, I can’t name a single one.  (Note: if you do decide to dress up, weird things happen. My old apartment manger inexplicably thought Rand was my lawyer because he was wearing a suit. And I watched my mom walk directly onto the field at a Seahawks game because she was dressed up – no one batted an eye.)
  6. There’s a little hippie in all of us (that’s what she said.) We’re reasonable, logical folk up here. But there’s still an element of counter-culture in Seattle that’s so prevalent, it’s actually just become the culture. So even the most buttoned-up and formal of us do yoga, shop at farmers’ markets, see an acupuncturist, or smell a little, um organic. And that’s okay.
  7. There’s no jay-walking. I was recently ridiculed by someone who had just moved to Seattle recently for not blindly walking against the traffic light. Sorry – that’s just not something we do here. Not only will you get a ticket for it (yes, I’m serious), IT IS AGAINST THE RULES. And we like our rules up here.
  8. We like to shop local. Fortunately, this can include Amazon.com.
  9. We can get nostalgic over anything. The closing of a peep-show club downtown (link is sooooo NSFW). The demolishing of a Denny’s. A wall covered in gum. What? When a city is as new as ours, the 1990s are historical.

    See? It's ... um ... historical.

  10. Seattle leans more than a little to the left. 70% of King County voted for Obama, and more than 80% of Seattle residents did. Seattle is so predominately liberal, it’s actually surprising to see bumper stickers for conservative candidates within city limits.

    We flew a rainbow flag atop the Space Needle for pride.
  11. We know our music. Even those of us who don’t know music know music. We freak out about indie cover bands of already indie bands, fronted by a guy with a ukulele. Even if we aren’t that into music in the first place.
  12. No one speeds. I remember the time I found myself driving down I-5, and zooming past every single other car on the freeway. Panicked, I checked my speed – and found that I was going 64 miles per hour. In California, that is what they’d call slow. But not up here.  Like jay-walking, speed limits are another rule that we just can’t seem to ignore.
  13. We’re still a little sore about the Sonics. So let’s just not talk about that one, okay?
  14. It’s okay to talk endlessly about the weather here. We all do. Anywhere else in the world, it seems like a last resort – by the time you’re talking about the weather, you might as well be discussing your uncle’s vasectomy. But in Seattle, the weather is actually interesting. I’ve seen it go from sunny and warm to gray and hailing to sunny and hailing in about 20 minutes.
  15. The Starbucks in the Pike Place Market isn’t the first Starbucks. It’s just the oldest one. The first Starbucks moved from its original location on  Western Avenue to the Pike Place Market (a block or so away) sometime in the 70s. It’s a silly distinction, but think about how much smarmy cleverness you’ll exude when you walk by all the tourists and mumble, “It’s not even the first Starbucks.” That sort of attitude? So Seattle.

    Also, the original Starbucks logo featured a mermaid with boobs.

So there you go – 15 things you should definitely know about Seattle. Obey them diligently, and you’ll find yourself growing out your facial hair and ignoring Dave Matthews at the Wallingford QFC in no time at all.

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