Tell me everything about Seattle.
January 10, 2012 7:19 PM   Subscribe

We're moving to Seattle. Tell me everything.

(Anonymous because still negotiating.)

Us: One of us is an academic. The other is a non-academic. 1 preschool aged kid and 2 cats. Used to living in very large and medium sized cities. Some of us are quite outdoorsy. We are all fairly crunchy. We like being walkable to stuff, especially groceries.

Temporarily: We're fortunate to be in temporary housing in Green Lake for approximately a year. We're also on waiting lists for many preschools (vetted by future colleagues) in that neighborhood.

But I don't know ANYTHING about Seattle. Please explain how this city works (layout, demographics, financially, traffic, attitude, pace of life, EVERYTHING.) Alternatively, books/websites/blogs would be helpful as well.

Eventually we'll want to start looking into schools/neighborhoods to look at houses to buy, but that will be a future question.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (36 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Here is My Ballard, an award-winning blog with links to other neighborhood blogs, including My Green Lake.

I like Queen Ann and would look there if I were to move to Seattle.
posted by jgirl at 7:30 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

The 1% now have their own bridge. Most estimates agree that new traffic patterns will restabilize by June.
posted by Ardiril at 7:38 PM on January 10, 2012

My sister lives in Seattle and here is what she's taught me:
- They take their coffee super-serious up there.
- Don't walk on metal grates in the sidewalk ever. It's a bad habit that will dump you on your butt the next time it rains.
- Go to Top Pot and get a feathered boa (doughnut).
- great parks both in the city and without.
- Yes, it really does rain a lot. But it also gets hot for a few weeks in the summer.
- If you're into indie music, check out Bumbershoot (annual music fest. In the summer)

It's one of the only other cities I could see myself living in, but YMMV.
posted by smirkette at 7:44 PM on January 10, 2012

Seriously consider investing in a Dawn Simulator light. I just got one, and it's such a boon in the winter.

Also, the public transportation here is pretty decent - but if you see yourselves taking it a lot, get an ORCA pass. You'll save money in the long run.
posted by spinifex23 at 7:52 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Didja hear about the Space Needle. It's cooler than the pictures.
posted by sammyo at 7:56 PM on January 10, 2012

Old, but the Almost Live! Guide to Living in Seattle is still a surprisingly accurate take on life in the Emerald City.

I live in Green Lake, it's nice. I walk and ride my bike everywhere, and my Subaru (everyone has a Subaru) is for driving out to the coast or to the mountains for adventures. Make sure you spend some good time walking or biking around the other neighborhoods, they really do all have different characters, though perhaps not drastically.

Also, everyone always talks about the coffee of Seattle, but I think they often forget that we also have amazing beer. Something about the dark and cloudy days of winter and spring seems to be inspirational.
posted by lantius at 7:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is everything you need to know, or it would be if it were true. Some of it is true. That's better than none of it.

Seattle is connected to West Seattle by a bridge, and on the other side of Seattle, connected to the East Side by two bridges that span Lake Washington (you can also drive around it).
The East Side is a bit more suburban, free parking everywhere, wealthier areas etc. Seattle is a bit more dense, more walkable, etc. One of the bridges (the 520) has automatic tolling. Get a Good2Go account and a tag, else the bill gets mailed to the registration address with an extra $1.50 tacked on, which is fine for a while, but it'll add up if you go to the East Side much)
Traffic is bad during rush hour. People don't drive aggressively, or use horns much. But passive-aggression isn't uncommon in all aspects of life.

Some hubs of industry include Microsoft (in Redmond and Bellevue on the East Side), and Boeing (centered in Renton, at the southern tip of Lake Washington, but with facilities elsewhere). There are also a lot of offshoot companies (eg ex-microsoft people starting their own company in the area)

It snows for a few days a year. When that happens, don't drive. Don't even try until you know what you're in for. Hills+ice is bad enough. Hills + ice+ people with asshole employers who insist they be at work regardless of danger, can makes for crazy conditions.
In winter, the skies are usually overcast. Some people find that depressing.

You'll have more trouble finding non-crunchy things than crunchy. A huge part of Seattle is all about organics, local, etc.

It seems like everyone is a foodie, photographer, hipster, geek, or all of those things. :)

Young adults tend to live (or at least play) in Capitol Hill and the University District, though neither of these places are cheap. Places north and south (eg Renton) are cheaper.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gasworks park is just amazing. Carkeek is even better. The arboretum, better still you can rent canoes around there. Ferries. Ferries to the San Juans. Tulips up in Skagit Valley. Hike up Sunrise on Mt Rainer. The market has nooks that are actually cool. Ephimires. Is there still a grand piano in the lobby of the Harvard Exit? Weird but great theater Teriaki. Ivers Salmon hose deck on a nice day. The locks on a nice day.
posted by sammyo at 8:10 PM on January 10, 2012

Random fact that took me a while of living here to realize: Teriyaki joints in Seattle are like taquerias of San Francisco, or Chinese takeout of NYC. It's a unique and specific type of junky take-out, nothing like the teriyaki sauce you get in a bottle at the grocery store. Try a few places and find your favorite.

Convenience stores here have beer on tap. Well, some of them anyway.

Everyone has a different opinion on where the "best" coffee is. My vote goes to Vivace and you should definitely try it. Ignore the creeptastic art on the walls and have your espresso at the counter.

If you eat meat and aren't allergic, you should give our local shellfish a try. Go to Taylor Shellfish for the best dungeness crab, raw oysters, mussels and scallops. Also, the geoduck. It looks like cock! Awesome. Try it.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:38 PM on January 10, 2012

There is a lot of good information about the school system on this blog. The public school situation in Seattle isn't good post elementary and location is everything so read up all you can so you can make an informed decision where to live (or what private schools to consider.) Preschools are expensive comparatively and most public schools only offer half-day kindergarten.
posted by Pollfabaire at 9:08 PM on January 10, 2012

It's really, really white. (But not as white as Portland.)
posted by mr_roboto at 9:14 PM on January 10, 2012

Crunchy and Seattle go together. Everybody in the PNW is very nice and nobody puts on airs. There isn't really a rich/poor divide the same way there is in other cities. The wealthy may have nicer homes and send their children to deluxe schools, but almost everybody will be wearing the same North Face hoodie and shopping at the same markets. It is impossible to be superficial in Seattle because everybody is so wet and soggy all of the time. You really can't look good. There will be lots of outdoors activities, lots of delicious food, and lots of darkness. Start taking your vitamin D now. Start loving coffee now. The only good coffee comes from the PNW. I've been all around the U.S. and I've only found one or two other roasters that even come close. There's a reason that so many places offer Stumptown and Batdorf & Bronson. It's really part of the Seattle-to-Portland culture.

Seattle is a very snarky city and a very smart city. The art scene is definitely growing, which is a plus. You will be very close to British Columbia--please, take advantage of the proximity!
posted by 200burritos at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2012

You should probably be warned about Seattle Nice. It might have to do with Scandinavian heritage.

"Pam Tate, left, lets her dog, Jett, greet Prin the poodle at Magnuson Park. She says 'hi' to Prin's owner, Jan Poore, who smiles but says only, 'Come on, Prin.' Tate visits the off-leash area each week and knows many of the dogs by name, but none of the owners."
posted by mr_roboto at 9:33 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

My first couple winters in Seattle were so bad that in October before my third, I begged my doctor to give me something tor SAD because even the thought of another dark winter was killing me. It is DARK in the winter.

Google the Seattle Chill / Seattle Freeze. It is real.

I eventually moved to Portland because I wanted to buy a house and I couldn't afford Seattle's real estate prices. And I still miss it more than four years later, I'd move back in a heartbeat if I could.

All the neighborhoods just north of Lake Union / ship canal / Montlake Cut are great. Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, Phinney, Green Lake, Greenwood, etc.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:36 PM on January 10, 2012

There is nowhere in Seattle where you have to dress fancy. You CAN dress fancy if you like, but you can also rock up in a clean shirt and non-frayed jeans and be just as welcome as in a sequin cocktail dress. That being said there are plenty of ways people still judge you based on class.

Seconding the don't drive in the snow thing. Nobody here knows how and it results in actual casualties and sometimes deaths every year. Don't worry, the snow will be gone soon enough.

Yes, it really is that attractive, all of the time, even when it's gloomy.

Don't belittle the totem poles.

There's a little neighborhood for every different type of person in this city. You just have to look for it. It's totally worth it to go exploring. People seem to self-sort and shake out to where they feel most comfortable, so you get a lot of pockets of homogenous folks, but it's crammed into a fairly small space so you don't notice it as much. Though, there's definitely a lot of left over segregation to the point where I said to my roommate that I "missed brown people!" last year. It was easily rectified with some trips southward, although I eagerly await a future where this is not necessary.

If you don't like coffee you'll end up drinking it anyway because it's actually that good here. But you'll also be able to find quality tea shops.

The year is sort of chunked up into two modes: when it's "nice" and everybody is outside as much as possible at all times, and when it's "normal" and people who aren't outdoorsy speed around those who are to their indoor destinations asap. It doesn't actually get that cold here. There's this amazing thing called the Puget Sound Convergence Zone where the water and islands of the Sound, the various mountains and air currents all combine to make a magical pocket of space around the city where the weather is way nicer than outside of the zone. It's kind of shocking how often I've been going out of or into the zone and the rain has abruptly stopped or started, or the temperature has shifted ten degrees in niceness. Like within a fifteen yard distance. Of course, the cost of living is substantially higher within the zone.

Sometimes people will get really weird on you with no warning. I love it and it's pretty much the reason I decided to move here. The very normal slacks-and-jacket manager of my apartment building, after giving me the tour to help me decide if I wanted to rent there, informed me with a completely straight, serious face that the troll up the road from us that I was about to go check out in the spirit of being a tourist had been turned to stone by a wizard, and that if I looked him in his glass eye that he would come back to life and eat me. I laughed. She said "no, seriously, don't look him in the eye." Then she went back to filing paperwork like nothing had happened. Admittedly I live in Fremont and it's purposefully weird at all times, but I've found that this quirk is not unique to my neighborhood.
posted by Mizu at 9:44 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I moves here from London. I miss home, but I've never regretted moving to Seattle which is a fantastic town, and it sounds like you'll fit right in.

Greenlake has a blog

You should see if anyone wants to do a meet up once you get here - a great way to meet people. We're overdue one in nearby Greenwood IMHO.
posted by Artw at 10:07 PM on January 10, 2012

layout: Greenlake is all sorts of walkable. It is, in fact, where people go to walk for their New Year's resolutions. Depending on what side of the lake you're on, there's a PCC (local hippie grocery co-op), or Whole Foods, Safeway, and QFC (Kroger). There are some clusters of restaurants and cafes scattered around the lake (try the 12-egg omelet at Beth's; it feeds a whole grunge band), some retail (mostly sporting goods, that I can think of), and of course there's the lake itself, which has a nice ~3 mile trail. It's a short bus/bike ride from the UW, and the Woodland Park Zoo is right up the hill. The Zoo is great, and worth getting a membership to if you think you're going to go more than a few times a year, which I totally would if I lived closer. People who think of the downtown core and Capitol Hill as "Seattle" tend to think of anything north of the Ship Canal as the hinterlands.

demographics: Most parts of the city are pretty white, yeah. West Seattle/White Center, the Central District, and to some extent Capitol Hill are a bit more mixed.

financially: Cheaper than NYC, more expensive than Peoria?

traffic: Kind of a mess. Not, like, LA bad, but it can be unpleasant until you've got the patterns figured out. There are a number of chokepoints that you'll learn to avoid. The bus system is ok, but in financial trouble, so they've been cutting routes. In many cases the best way to get from point A to B, for any values of A and B, is to go through C (downtown) and transfer. You'll want the "One Bus Away" app for your smartphone if you're going to be relying on the bus system. Don't drive in the snow on either of the two days a year it snows enough to be a problem. We don't have the infrastructure to deal with snow, and as a result the people who aren't from here are used to driving on a different kind of snowy road, and the people who are from here don't have enough practice to be any good either. Work from home or take the bus, which will be running on a randomized schedule and route.

attitude: The "seattle chill" is real to some extent, but that's because we're a boom/bust town, with lots of people who pass through without putting down roots. Those of us who are rooted here can take a while to warm up to recent arrivals because there's a pretty good chance you're going to be moving away again soon anyway. But since there's so many non-natives here I have to wonder who, exactly, everyone who complains about the chill is complaining _about_. I mean, we aren't _all_ from here, so why is it that the complainers can't identify each other somehow (tans? suits? drinking Starbucks?) and complain _together_ as a group? Voila: instant friends! Also, what others have said about fancy clothes. When I see someone looking super-sharp on the street, I can safely guess that they're either passing through or hate it here and are looking to get the hell out. And I point them out to my wife, because wow! Who dresses like that?

pace of life: *shrug* Wherever you go, there you are. I'd be me in LA or Chicago or NYC, but I wouldn't be happy being me there. I'd do ok in Portland or Ann Arbor, probably. Your mileage may vary.


It doesn't rain as much as you might have heard, but it _is_ overcast all the time for months on end. You might well not see the sun between October and March, especially if you work 9-5 in a windowless office. If that's the case, get a sun lamp. If it's raining and you think you'll wait until it stops to go run an errand, that errand will never get done. The weather turns on a dime, which is why layered clothing is so popular here. Wool is your friend.

Go on the Seattle Underground tour at least once.

The First Thursdays art walks in Pioneer Square are worth going to.

Bumbershoot is ok, I guess, but it used to be affordable. Folklife is still free. Go to Folklife.

Check out the Rat City Rollergirls flat-track roller derby bouts; they're awesome. I'll be in the Throttle Rockets fan section.

The Moisture Festival is a world-class variety show festival, not to be missed.

If you don't understand why people make a big deal about coffee, go to one of the daily cuppings at Stumptown. They will happily explain it to you, with samples. Mondays are when they bring out the special coffees.

Go on the Theo Chocolate factory tour. They say you can just show up and sometimes there will be spaces available, but that's rare. Make reservations in advance. It's cheap, and well worth it.

An REI membership is also cheap, and pays for itself in the form of a member rebate at the end of the year. Costco membership is also probably worth it, but Cash&Carry doesn't require membership and is worth checking out as well.

There's a year-round farmers' market in the University District on Saturdays. Go there. If the Rolling Fire pizza stand is there, tell Mike that Josh told you to try the Socca.
posted by hades at 10:30 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

It doesn't rain that much, but you can never tell when it will or not, because it's always overcast. You'll want a good raincoat, not umbrella, because it's generally windy enough that an umbrella will only keep your head dry (and will frequently turn inside out). (I never understood the point of umbrellas until I traveled to Paris and discovered brief downpours -- it was amazing.)

It is getting light around 8 and dark around 4, with this sort of sunset on the horizon all day. In the summer it will get light at 4am and won't be dark until 10pm. If you're from somewhere further south it can be difficult to get used to. If you're from somewhere like London, it will be no problem.

Don't drive if it snows. Even if you are in fact, a great driver in snow. This is the second hilliest city in the US and if it snows, the temperature is hovering around freezing (it doesn't snow if it's substantially below,) so any little bit of snow or slush on the roads has turned to black ice by the next day. Stay home and relish the snow day -- it happens about every three years, and doesn't usually last more than two or three days.

If you're looking for daycare style preschool, I used to work at the Cooperative Children's Center in the U. District, pretty close to Greenlake, and I highly recommend it. If you want more of a preschool experience while mainly being home still, the community colleges are affiliated with a group of cooperative preschools and they are pretty neat. (We go to one in West Seattle, but North also has some.)

Seattle has water in nearly every direction, parks with a lot of interesting hikes in most neighborhoods, lots of steep hills. Don't drive downtown in a stick shift unless you're really confident of your ability to start again (and don't stop too close to the person in front of you). We're pretty laid back and casual here. Expect to see blue jeans and sneakers, even in church, no matter the age. We wear a lot of gray and brown -- sort of lichen and seawater look. It often doesn't feel like summer until August, and can get back into overcast and mid-60's in September.

A lot of neighborhoods are really walkable, but go in person -- what looks walkable on the map may, in fact, be way too steep or busy-streety to want to walk with a preschooler. (From Greenwood Avenue to Greenlake, for example.)

Get an Orca card even if you only take the bus sometime, just don't get the monthly pass. I have mine set to auto-refill, so every time I take the bus, I can just wave it and I've magically paid the right amount.

It sounds like some of what you want to know might be answered by extensive reading of say, Wikipedia and neighborhood blogs. If you have more specific questions after doing that, feel free to memail me. (I grew up in Seattle and have lived in Central, North, and West Seattle. Worked in South Seattle. So more or less covered it.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:36 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Random greenlake-proximate recommendations:

Beth's Cafe - They have a 12 egg omelet, but there could be more eggs in there if they need more to cover all the fillings. The hash browns are actually pretty good. And now that there's a smoking ban, you can eat there without taking up smoking.

Uber Tavern - Seats about six, and has more beers than you knew existed.

Gregg's Greenlake Cycles - There are a ton of really good bike shops in the city, many better, but this is probably the closest. Good selection, and surprisingly good prices on some accessories. If you're a bike commuter, you'll want some Ortlieb panniers, and this is a good place to get them.

The Bathhouse Theater - Right by one of the swimming areas at the lake, this small theater has hosted a bunch of great independent productions. Tickets are usually pretty cheap, and a lot of kid-friendly/kid-focused shows happen there.

Duke's Chowder House - Om nom.

Tacos Guaymas (warning: flash site auto-plays music) - Not quite as good as their West Seattle or White Center locations, but delicious anyway.

Seattle Public Library - We have a great library system. Take advantage of it.

Archie McPhee - Ok, this is in Wallingford, but it's worth the hike. The whole Wallingford shopping district along 45th from Stone to, say, Sunnyside is worth checking out while you're in the neighborhood.

Pies & Pints - Also not exactly in Greenlake, but close. Delicious pot pies and other pub food in a kid-friendly pub. They have live folk music on Sundays and other live music on Wednesdays. If you can, try to catch God's Favorite Beefcake playing there some time.

Wayward Coffeehouse - Closer to Greenlake, but still technically in Roosevelt, this is a coffeehouse with a Firefly (Joss Whedon) theme. They have delicious bagel melts. Try the Wash bagel.
posted by hades at 11:07 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also - do you like soccer? Good. Because nearly everyone here does.

We're home to the Seattle Sounders FC, a MLS league soccer team that plays in Century Link stadium. Even if you don't care for soccer, it's worth catching a match or two; tickets aren't that expensive, there's family friendly sections of the stadium, and the matches themselves are a lot of fun. (However, if it looks like it's going to be rainy, bring a raincoat; the Clink doesn't have a roof, and soccer doesn't stop for rain. Yes, we'll willingly sit through nearly two hours of torrential downpours, because we love our Sounders THAT MUCH.)
posted by spinifex23 at 11:24 PM on January 10, 2012

Oh, you also must come visit me and we will go to Pie, which is so freaking delicious that my long distance nerd friends travel from San Fransisco all the way up here specifically to gorge themselves.
posted by Mizu at 11:26 PM on January 10, 2012

You will be happy here. You may need a sun lamp in winter to do it, but that is OK and not to be considered a weakness. I think you will fit right in.
posted by librarina at 12:34 AM on January 11, 2012

I'm a native and agree with pretty much everything that's been said above. On a recent trip to LA I was seriously shocked at the lack of seafood, coffee, beer and affordable craft foods. The Tillamook cheese down there was nearly 20 bucks a brick FFS! If you're at all into food the PNW is an awesome place to be, one of the best in North America.
The 'Seattle Freeze' is a real thing in my experience, though YMMV. I've lived here all my life and even in elementary school half the kids were from out of town. Conversely, I feel like a lot of us locals take the area for granted and move out. I'm back after spending time away and I feel like I appreciate Seattle more than I used to.
If you're on a budget and looking to buy a house I HIGHLY recommend finding someplace within half a mile of one of the new (or under construction) Link light rail stops. I'm currently looking at the Othello and Columbia City areas which have really blossomed since the line's opening in 2009.
Transit-wise you're lucky to be in Green Lake. If you want to have the same easy transit access definitely avoid most of the East Side except for Overlake and Microsoft, most of West Seattle, and areas north of Northgate Mall and south of Beacon Hill / Tukwila - otherwise you're looking at two or three transfers and at least an hour of ride time.
posted by azuresunday at 1:08 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look into the Evergreen School for Gifted Children, if you haven't already. A nice, very crunchy, option for pre-pre-k - 8.

Green Lake and its environs are a great place to be a kid-- the park, the library, the proximity to museums, etc.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:28 AM on January 11, 2012

I can't believe we got so far into the thread before someone suggested the light rail neighborhoods. It always makes me kind of irritated when people suggest only neighborhoods north of the Ship Canal. Screw that -- on Beacon Hill we have a train that is far more comfortable than buses. :) We also have great Mexican (El Quetzal), Indian (Travelers), Filipino (Inay's, Kusina Filipina), and Italian (Bar del Corso) food. (Two stops away on the light rail is Columbia City, where there are a lot more restaurants to choose from.) We are close to everywhere. Commuting from Beacon Hill is easy. And it is a friendly, walkable place (if you are in North Beacon near the station -- parts of mid- and south Beacon are more suburban and less walkable). I walk to the grocery store, the doctor, the dentist, restaurants, etc. (What we don't have on the hill is good retail, but on the train downtown is 15 minutes away, so I don't care.)

People who have never been to South Seattle neighborhoods have this idea it's a ghetto. That is far from true. Parts of South Seattle are pretty ritzy, even. (Mount Baker over by the lake.) Other parts are just normal middle-class neighborhoods, but much more diverse than North Seattle anyway. So check out Beacon Hill, Columbia City, etc.

Anyway, please don't fall into that trap of thinking that only the north-of-the-canal neighborhoods are worth looking at. They are nice but you will get more bang for your buck in the Southeast (and I particularly favor Beacon Hill for obvious reasons -- this is my blog).

I should also mention there is a meetup planned for this Sunday in the Rainier Valley, below Beacon Hill. That part is one of the more run-down areas of town but not really "bad."
posted by litlnemo at 2:00 AM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Everything other have said, especially hades, and: there is no good pizza. The seafood is completely incredible. The local beer is excellent. The coffee is good but overrated. Don't commute across Lake Washington. No one drives like an asshole. Recycling and composting are Serious Business. Street layout, due to terrain and highways, makes it difficult and counter-intuitive to travel by car east or west in a straightforward way in many parts of the city.
posted by Kwine at 2:11 AM on January 11, 2012

No one has given you the big tip! We do not jay-walk in seattle. Even when the streets are quiet, we wait for the light.
posted by jennstra at 3:56 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yep, I actually got a jay walking ticket years ago.
posted by sammyo at 4:42 AM on January 11, 2012

I lived in Seattle for 8 years (and grew up in the Pacific Northwest). People have given you some pretty good info so far. Since we don't know where you'd be moving from, it's hard to give specific comparisons, but there's a few things to keep in mind:

- Cost of living. For some [midwest especially], Seattle is a shockingly expensive place to live. For others [Bay area, NYC], it doesn't seem expensive at all.

- Weather. Are you prepared for the gray skies 4-6 months of the year? The winters of rain? I love the weather in Seattle, but I'm in the minority. Most people find the weather very difficult to cope with as new residents.

- Climate. Related, but separate: if you have leaks in your home, you should expect the moisture to seep in too, which means you need to watch out for mold and mildew. If you're renting, be sure to ask if the building has had any mold problems.

- Socializing. Everyone talks about the "Seattle freeze." Seatteites aren't typically gregarious and socially overt. Your neighbor might smile at you as they walk by to get their mail, but generally they don't want you to stop them to have a chat. People are mellow and nice, but not super "friendly." You have to make an effort to meet people and make friends.

- Food. Lots of great places to eat in Seattle. Depending on your tastes in pizza, you might like Pagliacci. Seafood is plentiful, as are various Asian cuisines (Vietnamese and Japanese especially). Starbucks is ubiquitous, of course, but try out Tully's or one of the more indie/smaller cafes, too.

- Traffic. I think there's some good info in this old thread. Also, about parking downton, here. Above comments are correct: do not jaywalk. Also, this may be a surprise for some, but bicycle traffic is taken rather seriously in Seattle, so you'll need to learn to get along with cyclists on the road (frequently in bike lanes) if you're not comfortable already. On top of that, people are generally very polite about giving pedestrians the right of way. And since I'm talking about transport, you may want to start considering your public transport options. People will like to tell you how Seattle's public transit system "sucks," and yeah I guess if you're coming from NYC or Boston or something, you will probably not be quite as happy. On the other hand, people coming from small towns will be amazed by Seattle's transit offerings. It's all a matter of perspective!

Actually, there's a ton of great info about Seattle here on AskMeFi. Browse through seattle+moving especially, but also the other Seattle-tagged threads. :)
posted by asciident at 5:04 AM on January 11, 2012

The bus system is pretty good, but the thing you need to watch out for (besides the buses always being at least 10 min. late) is that maybe 1 in 100 bus stops has any sort of map showing you the routes. You can figure out the few lines you will use often, but the second you're somewhere unfamiliar and the bus stop just says 34 (obscure neighborhood-obscure neighborhood), and you have no idea what that means, you will be screwed. Then again, I don't have a smartphone.

Also, the neighborhoods. They are really into neighborhoods. A lot of them are charming. Some of them, I think, are fictional. I lived in Greenlake, although I may have lived in Phinney Ridge, Greenwood, or Woodland Park depending on who you asked. Greenlake is wonderful though! It's a nice walk even in the winter.

I5 (southbound) is a mess and inches along. Take the Aurora bridge if you can. Unless you really like traffic, don't try the West Seattle Bridge during the week. Drivers generally drive the speed limit or under. I'm a big fan of their public radio and if you listen to KUOW for any length of time you will get a good sense of the attitude in the city.
posted by ke rose ne at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2012

There actually is good New York style pizza on the Ave. in the U-District. Pizza Brava. You're welcome.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:55 AM on January 11, 2012

Big Marios on Capitol Hill has *fantastic* east coast style pizza. I used to be one of those who complained about the lack of good pizza here, until I discovered that place.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:56 AM on January 11, 2012

Another important lifestyle note, if you are outdoorsy (or plan to become outdoorsy): DO NOT let the weather where you are, or the weather forecast, change your plans (with a few notable exceptions for extreme winter weather). Weather here changes mightily as the day goes on, and there are microclimates, so the weather where you plan to be might be just what you want even if it's raining where you are. Have proper clothes with you and you will be fine doing what you planned to do (unless it is solar car racing). sitting at home on a rainy seeming may day will just frustrate you...go outside and do!

because...summer starts July 5th, and lasts til October 1st.

nthing the jaywalking rule...wait for the light.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: If you are talking about pizza, please direct answers towards the OP and not ranting at each other, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:18 PM on January 11, 2012

Well, enough folks have given you some cheery positives, so I won't feel too bad about my advice. A caveat--I an now an ex-Seattlite.

Pretty much people act and react like the people described in Stuff White People Like.

You may or not be ready for the gray skies and seasonal depression. Just remember that many people there are not prepared and moodiness abounds during those times.

People are fairly clique-y. Don't feel bad if a group doesn't invite you into their inner circle--it's just how things are there. Or, it also might be that they're socially anxious; the big tech market attracts many introverts. Then, there's the famous Seattle passive-agressiveness /freeze/chill that others have mentioned. Don't worry, the local newspaper will have an article explaining it soon (again).

Real estate is still doing poorly. Our old house that I sold 3 years ago in a month just recently pulled out from the market for the second time even after now being 100k lower in price. Don't rush into buying a place there just yet, renting is a better deal right now.

Driving is terrible. You've already been warned about snow days. Traffic is heavy, and due to the influx of people from all over, there is no driving rhythm. Some people will slow down their lane try to let you in, others will speed up and cut you off. That awkward side shuffle you do when people walk in opposite directions on the sidewalk and are trying to pass each other? Driving there is kinda like that.

Umbrellas are sniffed down upon. You need raingear, otherwise people will treat you as an outsider.

You've already heard about tickets for jaywalking. Certain areas of Seattle will have open drug use, but the cops there will ticket jaywalkers in the same area instead--they are that serious about it. There are various small things you can get tickets for, like honking your horn. Don't get the cops mad, they'll shoot you.

Be wary of people who come up to you to talk in a parking lot. They either are running a scam ("I need $5 for gas money"), are agressively asking for money (the Seattle culture lends well to begging), or want you to sign yet another petition (the Seattle culture lends well to people signing random papers to avoid confrontation).

Get your flowers at the Pike Place Market. Amazingly affordable.

Parking is free after 6. (Double check on this as it may have changed, but I've stopped many people trying to feed the meters after 6).
posted by jsmith77 at 10:23 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Razdrez, parking isn't necessarily free after 6 anymore. They've changed it so in some neighborhoods the fees run later. But the pay stations have little signs to tell you what the hours are.

The bit about the umbrellas is very true. Native Seattleites don't usually bother.

"Pretty much people act and react like the people described in Stuff White People Like."

Maybe if you're in North Seattle. Come on down to Southeast Seattle for a different world.
posted by litlnemo at 7:29 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

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