20 Things to Know Before Moving to Seattle

Although it often seems like anyone who’s ever visited Seattle, WA, wants to move here, transplants often are shocked to discover that the Emerald City isn’t like any other place they’ve ever been. This guide should help make the city seem a little less Oz-like.

1. Don’t let summer fool you.

Many people move here after seeing the beautiful weather in July and August, only to discover that the gray, rainy season runs from September to early July.

2. Our reputation as Rain City USA is undeserved.

Much of our rain falls as a slow, steady, frequently foggy drizzle that can make it seem like you’re living in a noir movie. But the truth is that Seattle gets an average of only 38.6 inches of the wet stuff a year, compared with 44.1 inches in New York City, NY, and 48.6 inches in Atlanta, GA.

Cherry Trees Blooming in the Quad at the UW

3. Learn to layer.

Even on the sunniest day, summer-shorts weather may change to sweatshirt temperatures at night.

4. Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest.

This mnemonic is the best way to find your way around downtown because the main street names are paired from south to north: Jefferson and James, Cherry and Columbia, Marion and Madison, Spring and Seneca, University and Union, Pike and Pine. The streets criss-cross outside downtown, however.

5. Don’t honk if you love Jesus … or anyone else.

Seattleites use their car horns so infrequently that locals actually stare in shock at those who do, and police officers have been known to write tickets for such behavior.

6. Jaywalking is illegal.

The police will ticket you if they catch you crossing the street outside a crosswalk or against a don’t walk sign. With a fine of $56, it’s no wonder Seattleites wait at the light. Even when there’s no traffic.

A Fremont neighborhood signpost with world locations
A Fremont neighborhood signpost with world locations

7. Knowing your directions certainly helps.

Street-direction designations tell you where you’re going. Streets with Northwest in the name are in Ballard, West in Queen Anne, Southwest in West Seattle and so on.

8. It helps to pay attention to those directions.

If the direction comes first in a street’s name, it runs east-west. If the direction comes after the name, it’s north-south.

9. Is it chilly or is it just me?

Seattleites are known for being friendly and will talk to you on the street, but they’re also notoriously reserved and might not be as welcoming as Midwesterners are. Most don’t like it when you pop in for a visit without calling first. The best way to cope with the Seattle chill is to befriend newcomers. You’ll become so popular that Seattleites may want to find out more and actually might invite you in.

A big crate of geoducks
A big crate of geoducks.

10. It’s pronounced “Ray-near” and “Gooey-duck”

It’s not “ren-yay” and “geo-duck.” Mount Rainier is not French, and we’re not really sure about the origin of the name of the long-necked clam. Perhaps you might want to live here awhile before you try pronouncing the town named Puyallup.

11. We can’t drive in the rain.

Given the city’s constant drizzle in winter, you’d think Seattleites would know how to drive in the rain. You’d be wrong. Some say we don’t know how to drive when it’s snowy or dry, either.

12. At least we’re polite.

Seattle motorists drive so friendly that there can be traffic tie-ups when four cars come to a four-way stop at the same time.

13. We’re not fashion plates.

Maybe it’s because Seattle got its start as a blue-collar Boeing kind of town or because techno-geeks are more interested in computer codes than dress codes, but we consider Gore-Tex and flannel shirts to be stylish.

14. Sarcasm isn’t spoken here.

Despite the city’s reputation for being hipper-than-thou, our hipsters are irony-challenged.

Public Market Sign

15. It’s Pike Place Market.

Not Pike’s Market, Pike’s Peak Market or Pike Street Market. And it drives locals crazy when you say it incorrectly.

16. Every day’s a snow day.

Since snow is infrequent and snowplows are scarce, a few flakes sticking is all it takes to paralyze the city.

17. Our dirty little secret.

Seattle might have given Starbucks to the rest of the country, but most people here prefer neighborhood coffee joints.

18. About that original Starbucks.

The place in the Pike Place Market that everyone thinks is the first one really isn’t. It’s the fourth. The original was torn down years ago.

19. Not just for tourists.

Don’t let the flying fish fool you. Pike Place is a working market where locals go to buy and sell fresh produce, fish and other popular local food, as well as an assortment of merchandise.

Rowing On A Rainy Day

20. The mark of a true local.

Real locals don’t carry umbrellas or hunch over when it rains. They just accept it.

David Volk