Congrats on the new job, Deb. (Mind if I call you Deb?) Good for you for getting that signing bonus (God, I hope you have one) and moving to a city you've heard so much about.
As a person who lived in Seattle for the last seven years, I have some thoughts about what Seattle is like to live in. I know what it's like to be new here, because I was new here seven years ago. And I also know what it's like to move away: I recently moved back to the Midwest, to a part of the country not frantically under construction, an area where the overall attitude toward life has eased into menopause. As innocuous as that analogy may seem, I can assure you that a Cap Hill resident is seething wildly after reading it.*
When I first moved to Seattle, the complaints from longtime residents were mostly that the old days of the early 2000s were long over—music venues with boxing rings or laundromats with pancake bars were replaced by off-white storefronts with a fiddle-leaf fig in the window. When I left Seattle six months ago, the sole complaint on everyone's lips was that Amazon had ruined everything. I don't know about that, but you should know there's a neighborhood with an Amazon chute system that delivers items to your Fjallraven Kanken backpack before you even know that you want them. I can't remember the name of that neighborhood, but I know they sell "keep [neighborhood] weird" T-shirts.
Oddly, the food scene in Seattle doesn't get the national accolades that it deserves. Cream cheese on a hot dog, why not? The sushi is tasty, the burgers are fine, and a passable version of any regional fare is a Postmate away. There's a vegan ice cream shop that sells the best salty charcoal caramel ice cream you'll ever taste (but oh, you'll pay). A slice of pizza served up by a tattooed brat over the din of obscure black metal could cost you $9.
Everything is clever these days, and a heavy-metal-themed pizza shop is borderline ordinary. (Soon just having a regular pizza shop will be shocking. "These gingham tablecloths," Caleb will say to Mason, "are lit as fuck.") I was once scolded by a bouncer of a heavy-metal pizza shop in Seattle for drinking homemade kombucha out of a jar on the sidewalk while waiting for a takeout order. "You can't fucking drink beer in front of places that fucking sell beer," he told me. When I told him that it wasn't beer, his response was that he didn't "fucking care." He had face tats and was wearing a Darkthrone hat. Very serious, very metal.
I'd recommend having a car. Most Seattle neighborhoods feel like small separate towns, and part of your life will be defined by where you live. The public transportation is clumsy, and the hilly street system (seemingly designed by dropping yarn on the ground) makes biking unpleasant for anybody who doesn't care about toe clips.
But driving in Seattle only works if you employ the offensive approach. I once witnessed a four-way stop result in a stalemate of Israeli-Palestinian proportions. (Someone in Shoreline is fuming that I just said that.) Lifetime locals seem to feel a deep guilt about the right-of-way. With just a tiny bit of aggression, you'll own the streets—but you'll lose some "friends" in the process. Aggression does not stand in Seattle. Unless it's expressed on Facebook.
Which brings us to the Power Hippies. This is a term that I learned from a person who was moving out of town as I was moving in, though it's become nearly extinct after years of use in hushed tones. The lush green spaces of the Pacific Northwest obviously attract nature-loving people with Gaia-worshiping tendencies. My experience with these types in other parts of the world has usually been pleasant (open-minded, live-and-let-live, "funky"-dressing outsiders who are kind and purposefully harmless). The Seattle version looks similar, perhaps Patagucci clad with neon-dyed hair, but the "live-and-let-live" stuff is right out the window. If you're not wholly convinced that burning palo santo can eradicate bad energy, maybe don't mention it out loud.
"Vibes" are a huge thing in Seattle and are taken as fact. A friend of mine made the mistake of saying she wasn't wild about the policies of a mayoral candidate and was branded a "literal Hitler." The lefties of Seattle politics are eating each other alive while the rest of the country burns.
There are a lot of unwritten rules in Seattle's social culture, and a misstep can land you in hot water. The last time I held a door open for somebody was in 2015, when I was informed that "bullshit like that is why men are garbage." I was perplexed but also relieved to never have to hold a door open for anybody again.
I'm sure you've already heard about the chilly non-relationships you'll form with your neighbors and coworkers. While a lot of that stuff is exaggerated, there are some truths—but also some loopholes.
Don't be alarmed if you're treated like a psychopath for trying to interact or make small talk. An older gentleman once backed into my car in a parking lot at 23rd and Union, and when we got out to survey the damage he'd caused, it became apparent that he was intoxicated. "Your car looks fine," he slurred. "And this isn't your neighborhood." Once while visiting the Tillicum Village longhouse on Blake Island, an older gentleman told me that the land in the area didn't want white people. My point is that you'll feel better knowing that you're not welcome in Seattle, instead of having no idea why a person who was enthusiastically friendly to you one day pretends not to know you the next.
Luckily, if you do work at Amazon (and if you're new here, you probably do), you've already passed one major hurdle by having a well-paying job. Seattle is not a place to arrive empty-handed. Too many have been lured by the bright lights of the "Thrift Shop," only to end up sleeping on the street in a heap of orange needle caps. With the exception of a crusty punk who brought her vicious barking dog that bit a child's face onto the number 11 bus, I didn't have any intense interactions with the outlaws of Seattle. The street maniacs are mostly harmless.
Overall, it feels a lot like living in a secondary college town—a maturity purgatory. It's commonly accepted to have three or four roommates who are unemployed musician-artists well into their 40s, as it should be. Seattle is a place that proudly challenges society's norms. Once, two friends heavily under the influence of some legal marijuana while listening to Sublime surmised that "there are no bad decisions in life." I married one of those people. Eventually we got divorced.
Oh, one more thing: If you're ever depressed during the winter, take some vitamin D and jog a mile or two. Also make a long-winded post on Facebook espousing a widely agreed upon political idea (e.g., white supremacy is bad, the future is female). Those likes will cheer you up in no time!
* No one refers to Capitol Hill as “Cap Hill” except new people.