More on Seattle and snobbery

Reddit logoOf all the online forums available to discuss the ecstasy and the agony that is Seattle, for sheer entertainment value it’s hard to top the local boards on the website Reddit. Especially interesting are the questions–and answers–propounded, threads often started by folks getting ready to relocate to the Emerald City.

One such recent query on the subreddit page Seattle–“What’s a good area/apartment building that doesn’t have a lot of kids around?”–prompted more than 100 comments and even a Seattle Times story listing neighborhoods with the highest and lowest percentage of populations under age 18. The query itself struck me as amusingly naive, since Seattle already has the nation’s second lowest percentage of kids among major cities (No. 1 is San Francisco). This means all the neighborhoods relatively are kid-free.

Responders to the post went all over the place, suggesting neighborhoods to seek or avoid, often accompanied by snarky social commentary (“Children aren’t illegal per se in Seattle, but having them is generally discouraged …”). However, not a few thought the unnamed couple asking for information were simply poor human beings. This in turn prompted the pair to add this a few days ago to their original query:

Thanks for the input. Was kind of surprised to see the Seattle Times thing, but not really surprised to see in the comments for that article (and somewhat in this post) that we are apparently considered weirdos for not wanting to be around kids (and not wanting to have kids at all for that matter; I didn’t explicitly state that but some of you put 2 and 2 together). It’s disappointing that this attitude seems to persist, even in a seemingly progressive place like Seattle. We don’t go around chastising people for having children, so it would be nice if people afforded us the same courtesy. It’s odd to us that we’re considered snobs and that not having children is an unfathomable life choice in some people’s minds.

Snobs! Another derivative of the S word rears its ugly head again in Seattle!

It was just two weeks ago that the website of Travel+Leisure branded Seattle as the nation’s fifth most snobbiest major metropolitan area. My take on this as someone New To Seattle:  Seattleites aren’t snobby but just reclusive due to a collective inferiority complex also known as the Seattle Freeze. A link to my essay posted on LinkedIn prompted a long string of comments commendably long on substance and short on personal invective.

I’d say a majority of the commenters agreed with me that Seattleites aren’t the warmest bunch but that the character flaw of snobbery isn’t the reason. However, there was a fair split of opinion.

“If you didn’t grow up on Seattle they look at you like you are from Mars and the turn their backs,” wrote an event manager. “The Seattle freeze was something I thought couldn’t be true until I experienced it time and time again.

But declared a life care planner, “I grew up on the East Coast but find people here to less defensive, less aggressive, and quite friendly and normal.”

Now, the couple on Reddit was complaining–rightly, in my judgment–about the abuse endured for asking a reasonable question about the best place to enjoy a particular and lawful lifestyle. To me the ridicule didn’t smack of snobbery, but rather political correctness. From what I have seen, there isn’t much of a marketplace of political ideas in Seattle. In the long run that may prove to be a far bigger problem than a lack of kids, or unclued-in newcomers.

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More on Seattle and snobbery — 6 Comments

  1. After two months of living in Seattle with my sister, my impression of the place as a newcomer has changed. Initially, I thought that Seattle was a place where my introversion would be respected, and it would be easier to make friends because of this. But this really is not the case; I think Seattle is suffering from a case of primitive and worsening materialism, and you can call this snobbery if you like. Though I find Washingtonians to be quite friendly and approachable, I find that the closer one gets to Seattle, the more the hostile, evil, “introverted” vibe gets palpable (what I would correctly label as the Seattle freeze). I would not recommend this place for the faint of heart, because it is apparent to me that, even though my hometown of Detroit has major social problems, it doesn’t compare to Seattle’s. It is a city where everything looks perfect, and is even labelled progressive, but is INCREDIBLY materialistic and primitively selfish. After a careful 2-month examination of the place, and dealing with how business and administration of things seems to go around here, there is an unmistakable sense of negativity and despair that you just don’t find even in a place like the Detroit area. Seattle is not remotely progressive, because its culture is staunchly left-wing, and thus as closed-minded as any place with a conservative mainstream. Maybe Seattlites don’t intend to “freeze” or be rude, maybe it is just a culture of despair that forces people to be cranky in their social lives and draconian-ly inefficient in their work. But as a midwesterner, I just can’t handle it. As a political moderate, I can’t handle it, and I would rather live in south Georgia anyday. It’s not that I don’t support social freedom, I just appreciate it when people can be normal and not pretentious with one another Seattle is so full of pretension and artificial social justice do-gooderness that I can’t deal.

    That being said, I do think Washington is still a great state, I just don’t like the alpha city because it has an evil and selfish vibe. Now please, don’t stone me, I will leave you all to enjoy your freeze with your $8 lattés in your hostile and lonely, yet fabulously-gentrified inner city. (note: I will tell all the anxious midwesterners to stay away from west coast cities after my experience, the grass is markedly browner here).

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  4. I think I’m talking more about a collective societal inferiority complex rather than individuals one by one. But it’s all just opinion, so your take on this is just as valid. I am mindful that many people in Seattle think there is no Seattle Freeze at all. although in my experience newcomers tend to see that differently.

  5. I’m a native Seattleite who enjoys reading your blog occasionally, because it provides an interesting perspective. I don’t always agree with what you say, but that’s what makes it interesting.

    I have to admit though, that I don’t understand the connection between the “Seattle Freeze” and inferiority complex at all. As a person who probably causes some of the “Freeze” reputation on my bad days, I think my motivations are as follows.

    1) I’m introverted, and I grew up in a town where being introverted is OK.

    2) I’ve know most of my friends for decades, so I don’t feel a lot of pressure to acquire any new ones.

    3) I find it tiring to deal with the endless streams of people who move here and basically seem to say and do the same things over and over again with each new wave of newcomers.

    Maybe I’m just not seeing my own inferiority complex in all this. Care to enlighten me?

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