Friday, July 4, 2008

Goodbye Seattle: an East Coaster's Reflection on the Emerald City

As you have probably guessed from the title, I'm leaving Seattle. I'm moving to Prince Edward Island - remote Canada. I've been here two years now and, while I've enjoyed most of my time here, I'm really ready to move.

If you a native Seattleite about their city they'll tell you that Seattle is the best city in the world. It really seems that Seattleites are unable to say anything bad about their city. Well, Seattle isn't a perfect city and it's definitely not suited for everyone.

As I'm leaving in two weeks, I thought I'd write what I hope will be a helpful guide to Seattle (and the Pacific Northwest in general). I aim to provide you with pros and cons about living in the Seattle area. My main goal is to present an accurate and fair guide to the Emerald City.

I'm originally from the Washington, DC area. I've discovered I'm still an East Coaster at heart.

Please remember that this is my opinion and is based on my personal experiences. This is in no way intended to insult Seattle or the people who live here. It's just not for me.

Alright, on with the pros and cons.

  1. Extremely vegan-friendly

    • I consider Seattle to be the most vegan-friendly city in the world. People in Portland, OR will fight to the death over this. It gets annoying. They're both very vegan-friendly.

  2. Extremely liberal/leftist

    • It's nice to be surrounded by people who all understand and agree our President is a moron. Seattle has the be the most liberal city in the United States.

  3. Great coffee

    • I wasn't much of a coffee drinker until I moved here, but Seattle really does have the best coffee. I recommend Caffe Ladro and Wayward Coffeehouse. You'll be amazed at how many places serve organic, fair trade coffee.

  4. Free wifi everywhere

    • As an Internet junkie, I really appreciate the fact that each and every cafe in Seattle has free wifi (except for Starbucks...but why the hell would you go there anyway?). If you happen to find the one cafe that doesn't have free wifi, leave and walk to the next cafe...probably only one block away in Seattle.

  5. Natural beauty

    • The area surrounding Seattle is extremely beautiful...when it's not overcast and misty/rainy. You can see snow-covered mountains in every direction. The city is very hilly and the downtown skyline is beautiful.

  6. The people

    • You'll notice a change in Seattle if you're used to the East Coast. People are much nicer and actually want to talk to you. However, they aren't perfect. See below.

  7. Outdoor sports

    • Great hiking, cycling, skiing, etc. However, like many other Seattleites I hibernate during the crappy weather. Grey skies and rain does not make me want to get on my bike.

  8. Job market

    • Seattle's job market is great. You won't have a problem finding a job here if you decide to move here. However, because the job market is so good the housing is extremely overpriced. See below.

  1. The weather

    • Seattle may be the most vegan-friendly but it's the worst place to live in regards to weather. Nine months of the year you don't see much of the sun at all. It's overcast and rainy. I can't stand the weather here. I never realized how much my mood is tied to the weather, but I need to see the sun. I can't stress how awful the weather is here. If you're someone who needs sunny days throughout the whole year and not just summer don't move to Seattle.

  2. The drivers

    • Don't get me wrong, the drivers here are courteous and cautious. However, they take it to the extreme. Many people drive extremely slowly here. It's not uncommon for me to be behind someone going 20 mph on the street I live in (the speed limit is 30 mph). Trust me, you'll want to take the bus. It's so much less stressful.

  3. The people

    • While the people here are nice, they also prefer an indirect method of communication. I'm used to direct communication. In my experience, people in the Washington, DC area are direct and rude and people in the Pacific Northwest are indirect but nice. That indirectness sometimes turns into passive aggressiveness. Also, Seattleites are extremely flaky. If someone makes plans with you don't assume they're set in stone.

  4. Cost of living

    • This city is outrageously overpriced and continues to rise. I have no desire to continue to pay far too much to live in a city where the sun don't shine. I pay over $1,000 for a studio apartment.


For me, Seattle is a great place to visit but not somewhere I want to live. I've enjoyed my time here and have met some great people, but I'm ready to move on. I need to live somewhere with better weather (I can't think of anywhere with worse weather) and that's less expensive.

I'm also ready to live in a more rural area for a while. I'm finding cities to be a little much right now. I need some space and some peace and quiet.

Let me know if you'll be out on or near Prince Edward Island, Canada. I'll probably be making trips to Halifax, NS once in a while, as it's the closest city.


Happy Herbivore! said...

we considered moving to Seattle & you're right, every native sang its praises but we just weren't impressed... not that anything is per se wrong with seattle, we just didnt see why everyone was obsessive... but yes, excellent coffee and vegan grub but horrible weather! and commutes!

VeggieGirl said...

You should seriously market your guide to Seattle - it'd be a wonderful resource, filled with great information!!

Best of luck with your move!!

Rural Vegan said...

I appreciate the honest review and wish you the best of luck in moving! That's quite a difference in locations!

Katy said...

As a native Seattlite, I don't think we are biased at all. Seattle actually is the best place to live! ;)
No, you're totally right that we all think it's the best. Maybe growing up with the rain makes us immune to it...? I'm not sure.
Everything else you said was right on! Especially the cost of living. I'm already worried about how we are going to afford it when we move back.
Good luck with your move!

Billy said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. I leave in two weeks. My wife and I have a lot to do to get ready but we're very excited.

I'm thrilled to finally be able to get a house.

A Seattleite in Paris said...

As a native Seattleite, I agree with most of this, but I take issue with the flakiness comment. I haven't experienced people in Seattle changing/not keeping plans. But perhaps this is because I've had to deal with a lot of people from other countries where plans/time are considered flexible. I'm also curious about the people you claim say Seattle is so great. Are they natives or "immigrants" - yes I make a distinction :)?

Katy said...

We're planning on moving back in May - so less than a year! We only moved to Virginia for grad school, so it was never intended to be a permanent move.
Since I've never lived in Seattle as a vegan or vegetarian, I'm excited to discover nad try all the places I've heard so much about.

Erin said...

Good luck with your move! I'm about to do the opposite, move from FL to CA.

Katy said...

Wow! It sounds like I should live there! With the exception of the high cost of living and the indirect people, it sounds right up my alley; I love rain and hate bold drivers. What are your thoughts on the public transportation system?

Billy said...

Hi Erin,

I see you're living in Gainesville right now. I've been there a few times. My wife is actually from Florida. Anyway, Gainesville is a pretty cool town. I like Leonardo's for their vegan pizza slices and huge vegan cookies. Good luck with your move! Whereabouts in California are you moving?

Billy said...

Hi Katy,

The public transportation system here in Seattle is pretty bad. It's awful when I compare it to DC (where I'm from). There's no train. There are only buses and you almost always need to take at least two buses to get somewhere.

Seattle is working on bringing a light rail from downtown to the airport in 2009. However, that won't really help commuters.

Erin said...

Thanks Billy! Gainesville IS a cool town, it's very easy to be vegan here if you know where to go. I've lived here for ten years and I just feel like it's time to move on to bigger better things. We're moving to somewhere in the bay area, I'm definitely looking forward to exploring San Francisco.

Veggie said...

I hope you're ready for winter, you'll be getting one heck of one in PEI!

Lisa said...

Oh my gosh, you're so right on! I love those who visit us here during the summer and wonder what we complain about... Then they move here and can't stand the fallwinterspringhalfofsummer season.
And you're exactly right when it comes to the job market vs. housing tradeoff. I make decent money, but since I'm no Microsoft millionaire, I can't afford a house here.
Anyway, good luck with the move! Seattle will miss you :)

VeganLinda said...

While I'm in the Midwest right now and grew up here, I've always felt most at home in the DC area. I tend to find friends (even here in the middle of nowhere) from the east coast. There is just something about the DC area and people from the east coast. :-) People have been pushing (pulling really) for us to move to the PNW so I appreciate your unbiased opinion. For now, we are making the best of where we live...not vegan-friendly or amazingly beautiful, but we have a tight community of great people and we can afford to live and raise our children here.

Good luck in Canada and keep blogging!

Veggie said...

Isn't Charlottetown, PEI your closest city? Halifax is in Nova Scotia.

Renai said...

I moved to Seattle from Juneau, Alaska (a temperate rain forest) and so the rain argument always makes me laugh! I LOVE Seattle weather!

Harry Tran said...

Hey I found your site through Google, and just wanted to drop a comment in regards to your comments of Seattle.

While I am not a Vegan, I have been living in Seattle on my own for the past year, November 2007 until Present.

And while I am still here, I don't have plans or aspirations to remain in Seattle for much longer, could be months or a year but when the situation arises I am leaving, and am not trying to extend my stay much longer.

While I do not know about the Vegan scene in Seattle, I do want to comment about the other pros and cons.

I think Seattle does have a great nature feel, with lush greens and reds, and the farther away from the main city you are the fresher the air and environment it feels like, really gives you that nice air to breath.

Well actually I don't have much to say about Seattle that is good, I mean there is a lot of space available, and unless you live in Seattle itself, the other smaller cities around Seattle don't feel too cramped. And the ability to find anything to do if you actually feel like going out helps the time go by.

The people here are great people, they are nice and friendly, being from San Francisco the people there are the same, so it wasn't a big adjustment at all. There are a few bad apples here and there (those you mentioned that can never be mean, so they'll hold it behind you, but that is everywhere) but as an overall community the Seattle citizens are stand up people.

You mentioned the drivers in Seattle being too slow, but I noticed the opposite, even while I am going 65mph on the freeway (if the commute ever let up enough to do so, which is another con I rather not mention, but morning commutes are absolutely horrendous here with limited freeway options) there will be someone driving and swerving along going 75mph or greater. There are terrible drivers in Seattle coupled in with overly careful drivers, mixing the bag for disaster. Either you're going too fast to be safe, or too slow to be safe, and the horn laws here make no sense to me.

Thing is, I too am not fond of the weather, so within the 9 months when the sun doesn't shine, I found myself hibernating and choosing indoor activities such as movies and videogames, or picking up on cooking. There really isn't a chance or possibility that I will be enjoying the lushness of nature when its cold, foggy, and raining outside. So its a null activity for 9 months indeed.

The Asian cuisine here is terrible. I am an Asian American who grew up in San Francisco, and for an apples to apples comparison of only Asian Cuisine, the food here lacks the skill and execution of many places found in San Francisco, albeit there are more establishments to choose from in San Francisco, the ones here in Seattle do not match up on a best of the best list.

I am not much of a coffee drinker neither so I have no idea how good the coffee really is like here, but here and everywhere else I noticed a lot of coffee addicted coworkers in the office brewing up coffee at all possible hours of the workday, even at 4PM. Do people sleep at all?

Another thing about the cost of living here, it is pretty high, but no higher than a major city like LA, SF, NY or Miami. I would say though that if you were to dissect it further, living with a high cost of living expense in Seattle is not worth it for what you are paying for. In terms of the weather conditions, you are paying way more than the other cities. A high cost of living coupled with terrible weather really makes the investment seem like a bad deal. But this would only apply to those who like me, have mood swings when the weather turns out to be bad.

I don't know much about the flakiness issue either, but I can totally tell that during the 9 months of time while I was here, that I never felt inclined to make plans or preparations to go out with anyone when the weather forecast was dim. So while I'm never a plan maker than flaking, I just don't make the plans at all until the last minute which doesn't leave much chance of successfully hooking up with people.