Is it a Seattle Thing?

Since moving to the Emerald City, I’ve noticed a few odd things. I don’t know if they are pure coincidence, or if they’re some form of Pacific Northwest culture that I’m finding hard to comprehend.

The first is eye contact. It seems that you get one of two extremes from people here. Either you get no eye contact at all, or you get someone who pins you down with this non-blinking, inescapable stare that makes you want to hide behind something large. Even if you bob and weave those staring eyes follow you.

I tested the no eye contact type of person today. I wore antlers to work. I had a 10 minute shift change with my supervisor in a small room, and sure enough, she didn’t even notice. No, she wasn’t ignoring it. She never even looked up. How do you overlook antlers?

Another thing is either a strong sense of privacy or a total lack of curiosity. I’ve been wearing this big brace on my wrist for several weeks now. It makes it hard to sign credit card receipts or put on jackets or carry groceries. And yet not one single person has said, “What happened to you?” In Florida, total strangers would have been stopping me in the street to inquire. Every cashier would have wanted to know. I’d have gotten sick of hearing, “Well, bless your heart” after telling the story.

The third thing kind of makes sense. It’s a total lack of acknowledgement of rain in any form. I’ve seen people gardening in the rain. Jogging, rowing, playing sports… they’re not going to let a little rain slow them down. This is probably coupled with the fact that not once since I’ve been out here have I heard a crash of thunder or seen a flash of lightning. In Florida when it rains we take cover. Storms in Florida can kill you. Here they just benevolently drive you crazy.

The final thing I find kind of hard to describe. It’s like… nice, but not. You meet someone, and they’re so incredibly friendly that you start thinking you’ve really hit it off with this person. It seems like you’re making a friend. You get all happy. And then they say, “Nice meeting you! Bye!” and off they go. Are friendships a dime a dozen here, where you can just dismiss someone you click with like that? Or is the friendliness insincere? It’s very disconcerting, and makes me question every connection I think I make.

Half the time I have no idea what the cultural subtext is in this amazing city. But I’m looking forward to getting to the bottom of it. If I figure these things out I’ll be sure to let you know.

running

[Image credit: flickrhivemind.net]

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Is it a Seattle Thing?

  1. It’s true… everywhere you go, people handle the little details of life just a bit differently, and the longer you live there, the more you switch over… unless you moved there when you are old, I guess.

  2. Colin Klett

    Barb – can’t say I’ve experienced either the evil eye or the privacy quirks you mention. Having lived in both Seattle and Florida I suspect you may be over-generalizing a bit about Seattleites. Certainly situations such as you mention could (and do) happen most anywhere. On the other hand, you’re spot on about everyday activities not being halted by a little “liquid sunshine.” Avid Seattle golfers are quite a sight whacking balls around the course in their yellow LLBean slickers!

  3. Christina

    Actually… yes – it IS a Seattle thing. Local residents are notoriously introverted and detached, even while they’re being friendly and kind. Here’s more about it: http://seattletimes.com/pacificnw/2005/0213/cover.html

    For the record – the ones that stare you down – they’re not introverted, but they are sort of anti-social. I’m (formerly) one of those. They stare because they don’t know the proper way to engage with you. Just be patient with them; they mean you no harm.

  4. Christina

    Oh, and about the rain thing – that’s overzealous local pride. No true blooded Seattleite worth their salt would let something as unimportant as rain stop their plans.

    If you have to hide indoors during the rain, well then – you should just move your sad ass back to California! ;-D

  5. Pingback: Two Years in Seattle – The View from a Drawbridge

  6. Pingback: A New Take on the Seattle Freeze – The View from a Drawbridge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s