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What is the "Seattle Freeze" and is it a real thing?

Updated on November 22, 2013


This article is about the notion of the Seattle Freeze and is based on my own personal experiences and, thus, opinions expressed are my own. I have lived in, and near, Seattle for over a decade. Before moving to Washington, I lived in Texas and Germany. Needless to say, I have also done a lot of traveling across the world, staying in different places for long periods of time (sometimes months at a time). So, I feel confident about my opinions on the social differences I will be discussing in this article.

I love Seattle and Washington, as a whole. This article is meant to explore the Seattle Freeze and not meant to demean anyone. I hope you enjoy reading!

Are you aware of the Seattle Freeze?

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So, what is the "Seattle Freeze"

Generally, it is the idea that people in Seattle aren't friendly and making friends in the city is difficult. The Seattleites (citizens of Seattle) are often "cold" towards people and hard to get along with because they always seem to have their social defenses up and/or seem snobby.

I understand how some visitors or new residents may feel this way because there is some truth to it, but it is mostly misinterpreted truth.

Photo by my cousin, Angelica Garcia.
Photo by my cousin, Angelica Garcia.

How it is True

In a way, the Seattle Freeze is a real thing. What I've noticed in Seattle that differs from other places is that Seattleites like to avoid contact with strangers. It seems that direct eye contact is avoided at all cost. Seattleites like to stare straight ahead or keep their heads down while walking by others. It seems off to me because in other places such as Southern California or Texas, people greet each other with a simple "hello" or smile. I regard these small gestures as courtesy, as in "I recognize your presence as another human being" and, for myself, it's a compliment compared to being ignored.

How it is False

After the initial interaction, if things go well, Seattleites are actually really amazing people. They are so diverse and it seems like I find new interests every time I meet a Seattleite. For me, that is a great thing because I love trying new activities. It keeps my life interesting. Their exposure to diversity allows them to be open minded and easy to get along with because, generally, they don't judge you for who you are.

I've heard that Seattleites are cliquey (too dependent on their exclusive group) and this is apart of the Seattle Freeze, but I disagree with that. I feel having a close group of friends is a common thing everywhere. At least, from what I've observed, there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary compared to places I've been. Let me know if you feel differently about this, because this opinion could be the Seattle Freeze culture coming out of me.

Photo by my cousin, Angelica Garcia.
Photo by my cousin, Angelica Garcia.

Speculation About the Seattle Freeze

So, the Seattle Freeze is limited to initial interactions between strangers and maybe (for the sake of speculation) they might be too cliquey. So what might the reason for the Freeze be?

To be completely honest, I believe it to be the result of the weather. Before diving into this theory, I feel that I should note that, yes, we do get sun here. More than what it is believed by most people, but it is also true that we get a lot of rain, clouds, and cold weather. Here is a visual of what our weather is like:

Rainy Months
Months w/ Only Clouds (no Rain)
Sunny Months
November to March
September and April
May to August
(5 months)
(2 months)
(4 months)

As you can see, it rains nearly half a year and is still dark for an additional two months. So how did the weather create the Seattle Freeze?

I believe the cold, dark, wet, temperatures makes it difficult to sociallize outside. Being outside is where many initial public interactions occur among strangers. But, there is no casual chatting outside for us! It's freezing and/or raining and, thus, everybody is in a rush to retreat indoors.

When we get indoors at a public place, let's say Starbucks (for Seattle's sake), we aren't in the mood to interact! We're freezing, soaked, look terrible, smell like rain, feel sticky, etc. No one is ready to interact in that kind of state! Anyone native to the area will generally understand that the first minute or two of meeting up with someone (anyone) is going to be complaints about how sarcastically "great" the weather is.

So, visitors and newcomers believe we are not friendly, when in truth, we are probably just uncomfortable in our wet clothes and not in the immediate mood to be social. Give us a minute, or two, to get situated (aka warm and dried up) before approaching and you will find that we are very friendly.

Photo by my cousin, Angelica Garcia.
Photo by my cousin, Angelica Garcia.

In Conclusion

The Seattle Freeze is a real thing, but only holds true to the initial interactions between the Seattleites. But, if in a similar position, wouldn't everyone feel the same way? Most people aren't in a completely social mood when soaked and cold.

I hope this article as been informative, because I definitely had fun speculating why the Seattle Freeze is a thing. I wasn't serious when blaming the weather, but as I was writing justifications it slowly made sense to me.

Thanks, again, for taking the time to read this. If there's a way I can improve this article, please let me know!


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