Being a prominent big city can be hell, I guess. Last year Travel + Leisure magazine ranked Seattle in a tie for No. 5 on its list of “America’s snobbiest cities.” I really didn’t see it then, pointing out that the dictionary definition of a snob was “one who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors.” That was not the city I have observed since becoming New To Seattle.
But maybe I was wrong.
The real estate web site Movoto just published a list of the “snobbiest big cities in America.” Seattle checked in even higher, at No. 3, behind only the Other Washington and hated San Francisco.
It’s a little hard to assess the validity of a study like this, or even to figure out how seriously to take it. After all, snobbery is not exactly one of the questions asked on the census, and it’s much in the mind of the beholder. Even Movoto, which seems to be an after-thought in the online property wars led by Seattle-based Zillow and Trulia (who have announced a merger), allowed its research was conducted “whilst sipping tea with our pinkies up” and that the list was compiled “in good fun.”
But there was a stated methodology, and one seemingly more rigorous than that of Travel + Leisure, which unscientifically used online answers to posted questions. (However, T+L did break out responses by location of the commenter, and it turned out Seattleites often were harsher on themselves than visitors.)
From a universe of the nation’s 100 largest cities, Movoto dug out data on factors like median home prices and household income, percent of the population with a college degree, private schools, art galleries, and performing arts per capita; and fast-food restaurants per capita. (For this last factor, lower meant less snobbishness). Cities were ranked 1 (most snobbish) to 100 (Bubba-ville) on each of the criteria, and the numbers apparently equal-weighted, added together and divided by the number of factors to get a score.
After reflecting on the Movoto results, I continue to believe there is confusion over what is being measured. Those assessing Seattle are seeing snobbery and a connotation of superiority instead of what I think is being displayed: an inferiority complex and a connotation of a lack of self-esteem. That in my judgment is the reason why the concept known as the Seattle Freeze is now accepted as fact around Seattle. Here, folks simply tend to avoid others they haven’t known for a long time, whether higher or lower on the pecking order. It has little to do with social standing, especially if you’re in a Mickey D’s.