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Cultural Touchstones

Last updated Jun 20, 2023 Edit Source

*An insider’s view of the Emerald City.

# Our Favorite Tourist Stereotypes

“Umbrellas are Silly”

With our intermittent (and often misty) rains and the unpredictable wind, umbrellas have limited utility here. Thus when we see an umbrella, it’s like seeing someone walk around in snow pants in the desert.


Note: There are times when umbrellas are not silly. And no one is going to hassle you. We just think it’s funny.

Relevant Link: Seattle Man Sells Out to Big Umbrella

Saying “Pike’s Place” when referring to Pike Place Market

There’s no possessive. Pike is a street. Say it correctly (Pike Place) and you’ll have instant credibility.

You’re doing WHAT on vacation?

Starbucks is a big national chain store. That’s why we find it a bit weird when tourists are delighted to visit a Starbucks here. The “First Starbucks” isn’t even the first Starbucks because the first one was torn down years ago. You’re welcome to wait in line for an hour and buy an overpriced mug there, but yes… it’s a bit of a head scratcher.

# Local Lingo

“The mountain is out” = Mt. Rainier is visible. Always cause for happiness! Someday it will explode and take out half the region, but until then: ain’t she pretty?

“Eat a bag of Dick’s” = Dick’s burgers is a delicious, inexpensive, and beloved burger joint. Sometimes, you’re hungry and on a budget and you will crave a bag of Dick’s.

“Sunbreak” = During our long dark (5-8 months of gray skies) the sun will occasionally shine down. This is a sunbreak and it’s an immediate excuse to slack off at work and go outside.

“The Seattle Freeze” = The idea that it’s difficult to make friends here. It’s both true and untrue. Meetups, group hikes, and volunteering are all good ways to make friends in the area.

# Personal Space

We like our personal space! Much like the British, Seattleites tend to queue up in line while waiting. We avoid crowding when we can, and many of us avoid extemporaneous conversation with people we don’t know, especially on the streets. Certainly ask people for directions if you need them; it’s fine to be friendly! It’s just that chatting a stranger’s ear off may earn you some strange looks.

As in many cities, wearing earbuds is the universal symbol for “don’t talk to me unless you really need to.”

We’re more like cats than we are like dogs. Cats have friends, but they tend to circle each other warily for a little while before making up their minds.

# Stand on the Right; Pass on the Left

When riding up an escalator in busy areas, stand single file to allow fast walkers to pass you on the side. Try to avoid clotting up stairways, escalators, and sidewalks. On average we’re fast walkers.

# JCMSUP (The Downtown Grid)

Elliott Bay runs along the west side of downtown. That’s the waterfront. From there, facing east toward the landmass, you can count the numbered avenues up. (Western, 1st Ave, 2nd Ave, 3rd Ave) The cross-streets, from South to North, follow a pattern that you can remember with one silly phrase:

Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Pressure

(South end of Downtown)

Jackson & James

Columbia & Cherry

Marion & Madison

Spring & Seneca

Union & University

Pike & Pine

(North end of Downtown)

# Casual Clothing is the Norm

Jeans and hoodies = the local uniform.

REI outerwear = it’s normal to dress like you’re headed for a hike, year-round

Business casual = Usually it’s more casual than other cities unless you’re going for an interview or working in real estate or finance.

# Common Local Opinions on Seattle Things