I took a trip with some friends to Seattle this weekend. Although I briefly passed through the Seattle airport a few years ago, the last time I was actually in the city itself was at least 10 years ago. Overall I had a great time, and learned quite a lot about Seattle, and could actually imagine myself living here at some point in the future.
1. A Gentle City
The entire first day I was trying to figure out what exactly it was that was different about Seattle, but couldn't put my finger on it. Everyone was nice. People were patient. A driver stopped their car at a green light on a fast road and waved for me to cross. The 'loud' bar we went to had arcade machines, comfortable chairs, and was playing music at a volume such that you could still carry on a conversation. It wasn't until our bartender at The Whiskey Bar took the time to how whiskey was made to us like we were 5 years old that it dawned on me. The people of Seattle are very gentle. There isn't the hustle bustle of NYC, the hardness of a crime ridden city, hardly any obnoxious 'bros', not a whole lot of East Coast conventional thinking. People were pretty relaxed, forward thinking, and kind-spirited.
2. Lots of Marijuana But Few Marijuana Stores
The State of Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. Although it's still illegal to smoke marijuana in public, I walked past many people doing just that on the street. Now, this happens all across the country, but it felt like it was happening more in Seattle than I've experienced in other cities. What is also interesting is that the roll out of legal marijuana isn't as swift as outsiders may have imagined. There are only a few stores where you can purchase it, and they aren't open late. This is contrast to Colorado, where I've heard there is a more mature marijuana industry cropping up.
3. Seahawk Mania
I think the most surprising thing I learned about Seattle was just how fanatical this city is about the Seahawks. Maybe they've always been like this, but it certainly can't hurt that their team is the raining Super Bowl Champions. It seemed like every third person was wearing some sort of Seahawks merchandise - even the Sommelier at the winery we went to was decked out in a Seahawks jersey! The Indian restaurant we had dinner at gave half priced drinks for every touchdown, and Alaska Airlines offered us free drinks because the Seahawks won their game! The city itself was actually busier on Saturday, because of the Seahawks game, then it was on Friday - a normal business day.
4. It's Very Rainy and Cloudy
Seattle is perhaps most well known for it's perpetual rain and fog, and this trip did not disappoint in this regard. Granted, we decided to go to Seattle during the time of year when it rains the most, but it was still jarring how dreary it was outside. The rain also doesn't fall hard - it just kind of gently sprinkles in a very fitting way for this gentle city. I think this is probably the thing I'd have the hardest time with if I lived here. I really like a nice clear day with blue skies, and statistically there just aren't as many in Seattle as there are in most of the rest of the country. I guess if I used Seattle as a home base and frequently traveled to sunny spots, it wouldn't be so bad.
5. Lots Of Room
Despite being a big city with a lot of people everything felt empty. I spent a lot of time downtown on Friday, and didn't run into crowds of people or see a lot of street traffic. All the bars and restaurants we went to had ample room to relax and enjoy yourself without having to cram next to other people. I think my time in NYC, and travels to cities in Asia, has made me think that all big cities are super crowded - but at least in America the spaciousness of Seattle is more of the norm.
6. Very Interesting History
I randomly decided to take the Underground Tour - which turned out to be a great decision. In just about an hour I got a concise and entertaining history lesson of how Seattle started, and learned all about how they raised the city 20 feet to combat exploding toilets after a devastating fire destroyed most of the city in the late 1800s. I'm a sucker for learning about history, and had a really great time on this tour. I'm going to try and make it a point to do more things like this the next time I'm traveling.
7. Lots Tech Companies
I know of a bunch of Seattle area tech companies such as Amazon, Boeing, and Microsoft - but never really connected the dots and thought of them together. I've always heard of SF and NYC as places that have the best tech scenes, but after visiting Seattle, I'd have to wonder why they aren't mentioned as much. I could definitely find a great tech job here, if I ever decide to move here, and wouldn't really be beholden to one single employer, as there is an entire ecosystem. Given all of the housing and gentrification woes in SF, perhaps some West Coasters might migrate to greener, more gentle pastures up North?
8. Huge Subway Opportunity
Seattle is the absolutely perfect place to plop down a few hundred miles of subway lines. It has a dense downtown, a large metro area population, jam packed bridges over waterways carrying in traffic from the suburbs, and a populace that is environmentally conscious. The most tragic part the history of Seattle is that when the city raised it's height, they could have also been building the heart of a subway system at the same time for not that much more money. It may be expensive to build now, but Seattle would be even more amazing if it built out a subway system.
9. Nature Is All Around
Everywhere you looked (when there wasn't too much fog) you can see tons of beautiful pacific northwest pine trees. In New York, I don't really see much besides concrete, and the occasional park - nothing like you get in Seattle. I also ended up taking a drive about 45 minutes out of the city to get a look at Snoqualmie Falls - which didn't disappoint. As amazing as living in a place like NYC is, getting out into nature and soaking it all in reminds me of what I'm missing. I need to do this more often.
10. It Doesn't Freeze
We ate breakfast near a marina at Lake Union and ogled at all the house boats. It was this time last year I was living on a boat in the Hudson River when it literally froze, which just doesn't happen in Seattle. It was in the mid 50's, and dropped into the 40's at night - which is about as cold as it gets here. This is about 20 degrees warmer than NYC - and it makes a big difference in terms of comfort in the winter. I've been asking myself for years why I live in a place where it's really cold for 5 months of the year. Every time I visit a place, even a place like Seattle that's only marginally warmer, it nudges me closer to finding a new home base with a better climate.
11. Lots of Homeless People
I was also surprised at how many homeless people I ran into on the streets. I even saw some homeless camps near the highway. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the relationship between the homeless and the city of Seattle seems different than NYC. There have to be more homeless people in NYC, but they don't seem as visible, and thus I don't really end up thinking about homelessness as much when I'm back in NYC. I think Seattle has a more lenient, and perhaps gentler attitude towards the homeless, but that's just a hunch. Having to confront so many people that had so little really made me think a lot about poverty, education, welfare programs, and income inequality. How can the world be so rich, and yet have so many people without a roof over their head?