Today is the first day of Spring, and yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny day. So, maybe I’m seeing Seattle with rose-colored glasses, but I’m reminded of all the reasons I love Seattle. Reasons that I usually keep to myself, but I find the more I travel, the more I see the cultures of other corners of the world, that I appreciate my town’s quirks. If you’re just getting to know Seattle (like the 1,000 Amazon employees who move here each month), I hope you’ll grow to love — or understand — Seattle, too.
Seattle’s best eye-candy is when “the mountains come out.”
Yes, Seattle is beautiful. Green, lush, with waterways and hillsides dotted with ferns and big evergreens. But to me, Seattle’s best eye-candy is when “the mountains come out.” That’s the moment you see the Cascade or Olympic Mountains rise up out of the misty clouds and stand stark in their purple-green and white majesty against a vibrant blue sky. This is usually just after a rainy day, when all Seattle’s (unfortunate) air pollution has been rinsed away, the clouds break, and the mountains come out, shining reminders of “Hey, you live in an amazing environment. Appreciate it. Honor it. Don’t fuck it up. And, what are you doing Saturday? Want to come play in the mountains?” These crisp, geologic reminders of nature’s power and beauty hit Seattleites by surprise, even if we’ve seen them thousands of times before. It’s a lovely moment.
These are often appreciated, but poorly adopted by newcomers to Seattle, so sometimes, Seattle thoughtfulness seem endangered.
Thoughtfulness. I can’t quite place where this quality came from (maybe a mix of Native American culture and that of Scandinavian settlers?), but Seattle has a knack for thoughtful practices and designs which ease elements of life. These are often appreciated, but poorly adopted by newcomers to Seattle, so sometimes, Seattle thoughtfulness seem endangered.
What does this thoughtfulness look like? Friends, clearing their table at the local coffee shop, to make way for the next guest (and ease the burden on the lone barista). A steep hill’s sidewalk, designed with deep ridges for traction on rainy and snowy days. The stranger in traffic, who lets you merge in. The driver who merges in, waving “thanks” after they’ve merged. Nice rest areas along the freeway. People who stop and ask confused-looking pedestrians if they need directions. Pedestrians who wait for crossing lights (an increasingly important habit given rising distracted driving and accident rates) in a city where cars can take “free rights” at red lights. People who clean up campsites, leaving them better than they were found. We compost and recycle like it’s part of our religion (see the “mountains” section for why). This quirky tendency for thoughtfulness shows up in ways big and small in Seattleites’ daily lives.
Seattleites aren’t content to just vote.
Civic engagement. Seattleites (and fellow Washingtonians) aren’t content to just vote. They volunteer more than other cities, their professional lives probably include founding a nonprofit, and there’s a good chance they’ve been to City Hall at least once.
Growing up in Washington, I frequently saw the wealthiest amongst our neighbors as the most active volunteers in the communities. The guy driving the decade-old Volvo might earn over $100k per year, but he counts his value in the impact he makes on his community. This culture of giving back as a way of life seems to have spurred some of the greatest philanthropists of our time, such as Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and global-impact nonprofits like Path and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Our local culture has big, global impact.
We knock off work early on sunny days.
We knock off work early on sunny days. New York transplants may have a love-hate relationship with Seattle’s work culture, but it’s hard to argue with the urgency and glee Seattleites bring to making the most of a sunny day. Most offices clear out by three o’clock on the first sunny afternoon of Spring. Maybe they’re working from a nearby, outdoor cafe. Maybe they’re out paddleboarding on Lake Union. The work will get done — probably later tonight after the sun goes down — but sunlight, unlike work, is a precious commodity here and residents will find a way to balance both.
Fascinating people doing interesting things.
I was once asked in San Diego where I was from. Answering “Seattle,” the clerk said, “Oh, that’s where smart people are.” As shocked as I was by her reply, it was spot-on. Seattle has one of the most highly educated and literate populations in the US.
Many neighborhoods boast populations where over 70% hold bachelor’s degrees. While smartypants neighbors can have a downside (we tend to debate things to death), the upside is that there’s a lot of support for innovative ideas here and your bus ride, cafe conversation, or networking event is filled with fascinating people doing interesting things. If you ever fly to Seattle on its hometown airline, Alaska Air, your Seattleite seatmate will probably have an interesting answer to, “So, what do you do?” I’ve made several friends and professional contacts over the years just through Alaska Air seatmates. Got a technology development question? The person next to you at a cafe likely has the answer. With all these smart people, Seattle is fertile ground for great ideas and solid advice.
While Seattle may not be perfect (homelessness, rising rents, uncontrollable traffic, invasive ivy, a rash of ugly, bland buildings), these quirks of the city I live in keep me thankful I live here. Especially on sunny days.
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