“ If you have the heart for it, keep smiling at strangers, yes, even in Seattle. ”

New to Seattle? How to Combat the Loneliness
of "Seattle Freeze"
Peggy Shafer, M.A., LMHC

Are you new to Seattle?

Social Seattle is a notoriously tough nut to crack. Theories abound. 1) It's the Scandinavian/Asian influence. 2) It's the weather. We stay home on dark, rainy nights, ie, nine months of the year. 3) It's a city of bridges plus tall, densely packed bushes and trees that obscure our houses. We like the illusion that we are living in cabins in the woods. 4) Successive migrations westward and northward favor restless introverts who were uncomfortable everywhere else.

If you've been here a few months you've probably been on the baffled end of this exchange:
Seattleite: "We ought to get together sometime."
You: (opening the schedule app on your smartphone) "I'd love to. When?"
Seattleite: (flustered) "Oh, uh, I'll email you."

Or this one: Seattleite: "I'm going to a party on Friday night. What are you doing this weekend?"
You: "I don't have any plans yet."
Seattleite: "Well, have a good time whatever you end up doing."

The vote is still out on whether Seattleites are lazy, snobbish, shy, frightened, passive-aggressive, independent or just plain weird, but you can be quite confident that if you stay long enough and make a sustained effort, you will become part of a circle of friends.

What have others done in your situation? Many have found that meet-ups are the way to go. Skiing or gaming or knitting-side-by-side is a good way to--if not break the ice, at least chisel through it. Some newcomers have ultimately established their new friendships with other transplants from elsewhere in the country or the world through newcomer meet-ups. Another option: Space City Mixer, started by a woman who moved here from elsewhere and found the social scene daunting, now has 8,000 members, most of whom are transplants. If you're athletically inclined, you have a leg up, not just literally but figuratively. The Cascade Bicycle Club has group rides going every day of the week. If you're a hiker, note that even in the month of October The Mountaineers offer 37 group hikes.

If you are an introvert and not a joiner under any circumstances, you may well find it a challenge to keep up your friend-finding spirits. It will be important as you meet people and work at developing deeper connections to stay in close touch with your friends in other cities.

Whether introvert or extravert, if you find that isolation or the slow process of making new social connections is not only discouraging you but stirring up symptoms of depression or challenging your self esteem, a therapist can help you develop improved coping skills and support you through the transition to a satisfying life in Seattle.

If you have the heart for it, keep smiling at strangers, yes, even in Seattle. Though you'll not the get the same reassuring smile feedback you'd get in Chicago or L.A., you might be surprised at how many people smile back at you, shyly, quickly, because you've just made their day.

The above article expresses the opinions of the author and doesn't necessarily reflect the views of other members of the Women's Therapy Referral Service.

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