Are you lost? No? You chose to come to this gray, rain-soaked hamlet and live in the shadow of a massive, active volcano? (Wait, you thought Mt. Rainier was just a mountain? What else don't you know?)
Sorry, never mind: Welcome to Seattle! Here—have a survival guide:
You need a place to live: I'm going to assume you are not uber-wealthy, which means you are most likely a renter. Go to Padmapper.com. It maps available pads (get it?), and you can select by how many bedrooms you want and what prices you can afford. It maps them onto Google Maps. For free. Essential.
You need stuff: You can always buy new, of course. But if you want to save, check out Goodwill's thrift stores (the Capitol Hill and South Lake Union locations tend to have higher-end stuff). There's also Seattle's thriving Craigslist. When I moved back here, I searched "IKEA" and had myself a like-new table, sofa, set of chairs, and desk within days.
You need to know your rights: Once you have your place, how do you make sure you're not taken advantage of by a shitty landlord? The Tenants Union of Washington State is your friend, and they've got a "know your rights" hotline available for when the landlord doesn't bother fixing that stove that keeps off-gassing something greenish into your living room. It's 206-723-0500. There's also the Seattle Solidarity Network (seasol.net)—a group of volunteers who will mobilize a campaign to defend you if your employer or landlord is being sketchy.
You need the internet: If your apartment doesn't offer bundled wi-fi, you're going to need to purchase internet service. But you're stuck—stuck with high prices and low speeds from the likes of Comcast or CenturyLink or Wave. Sorry, there are no good options here thanks to all kinds of problems, including political inertia. See page 14 for how to get involved in changing that.
You need a phone: Everyone tends to have different needs for phone service, but odds are your best bet around here is T-Mobile. Coverage is strong in this region, they offer per-month plans instead of ones that lock you in for years, and, to boot, the company is based on the other side of Lake Washington in Factoria. (By the way, because this can be confusing: Bodies of water from west to east are Puget Sound, Lake Union, and Lake Washington. Drill that into your head.)
You don't need a car, but you do need to get around: Don't buy a car unless you absolutely have to! Traffic here is the worst. First off, get a blue ORCA card. No more fumbling for change when you get on the bus—just swipe and go. If buses aren't your thing, try Car2Go, a hugely popular car-sharing service. There's also a brand-new bike share system called Pronto! Memberships are $85 a year, allowing you to take as many 30-minute rides between stations—look for those bright green bicycles—as you need to. If you want your own bike, check out the University of Washington Police Department's annual bike auction—amazing deals. There's even a self-repair shop, where friendly volunteers will show you how to take care of your bike, called the Bikery (thebikery.org).
You need to know where you can buy and smoke weed: Pot is legal here! But that doesn't mean you can smoke it just anywhere. In general, you're only allowed by law to do it in the privacy of a home or apartment. Smoke in public and you risk getting a ticket. You have to be 21 or older to purchase weed, and you can't possess more than an ounce. The rules are pretty similar to those governing alcohol, though some folks are lobbying to change them. Currently, legal weed's more expensive than the black market stuff, but some say it's worth it because you know exactly what you're getting. Odds are the store closest to you is Uncle Ike's (uncleikespotshop.com).
You need to be supported: The neighborhood of Capitol Hill may not be the LGBTQ stronghold that it used to be—in fact, there's been a rash of hate crimes over the past year, which many believe has something to do with the influx of newcomers—but that doesn't mean this isn't one of the gay-friendliest cities in the country, or that resources aren't available if you need them. The Gender Justice League (genderjusticeleague.org), Gay City Health Project (gaycity.org), and the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse (nwnetwork.org) are all here to offer support and to advocate for change. Take advantage.
You need to get out sometimes: We have fabulous parks. Seward Park, Golden Gardens, Volunteer Park, Lincoln Park, Alki Beach, and even the Olympic Sculpture Park are all must-walk-throughs, whether on a wintry morning or a brilliant summer afternoon. And we have hikes in the wilderness galore. Find the right one for you and your buds at the Washington Trails Association (wta.org).
You need the government to do what it's supposed to: Make the officials work for you. Folks with big houses and white picket fences get up in the faces of the city council all the time, yelling about changes to their neighborhood they don't like. And too often, they get their way. The entire city council is up for reelection this year, in a new vote-by-district system, so they basically have to not piss you off. Call their offices or stop by City Hall or tweet at city departments (e.g., @SeattlePD, @seattledot, @OfficeofMayor) if you've got a problem they should help solve. Kick ass and take names.
You need to read the news: This town has only one newspaper. Congratulations, you are reading it. Keep it up. (Other offerings include: Real Change, whose weekly editions you should definitely pick up from the vendors standing outside stores, and Seattlish on Twitter and Tumblr.)
You moved here because Seattle is amazing. Let's keep it that way. Leave this place better than how you found it. Take care of those around you. Don't hold yourself apart—be a part of this big, awkward, interconnected-but-could-be-even-tighter-knit community. Hi!