It is well worth the time and energy to educate yourself about local customs to avoid looking like a tourist a Seattle. Overall, inadvertently broadcasting your non-resident status may hinder your authentic experience of the city.
Following some basic principles held by Seattle residents is an excellent way to enhance your vacation. A few tips:
Seattleites are notoriously casual, practical dressers. You’ll want to pack a flannel shirt, rain jacket and wear numerous layers, as the weather is wildly unpredictable. Refrain from overdressing (unless an event calls for it) and leave your shorts at home to avoid unnecessarily identify yourself as an outsider. A man in a suit and expensive shoes will raise suspicions and make residents nervous in most areas.
Bring comfortable walking shoes. Seattle has many pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, steep hills and an abundance of nearby hiking. Under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to carry an umbrella. Instead, follow the local trend and opt for waterproof outer layers and a hood.
When conversing with residents, small talk about the weather is perfectly acceptable. The climate is actually interesting to discuss. The Puget Sound region can go from sunny and warm to grey and hailing in the span of 20 minutes. In conversation, don’t talk too highly of Portland as there is somewhat of a rivalry between the Northwest’s two largest cities. There have been many “defectors” to the hip, young city in the last 20 years, especially in the local music scene. Seattleites maintain a sense of pride in their eclectic municipality, and some harbor a sense of resentment toward the smaller nearby town garnering so much attention.
San Francisco—another beautiful West Coast port city with picturesque views, tech companies and a thriving coffee culture—is also potential point of contention, especially when discussing football. There’s a heated rivalry between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
It’s also important to recognize that politically Seattle leans more than a little to the left. More than 80 percent of the city voted for Barack Obama in 2008. If the issue of politics come up in conversation, be sure to keep in mind that the area is predominately liberal.
A common mistake for visitors is referring to the city’s famous public market as “Pike’s Place.” The market is named after the street where it’s located and is actually called “Pike Place Market.” The exuberant salesman joyously tossing seafood in the air, the collection of subterranean, bizarre novelty shops, and assortment of fresh produce and flowers make a compelling case for spending at least an hour there. However, the sheer density of people can feel overwhelming, and the farmer’s markets in the Ballard, Capitol Hill or Fremont neighborhoods offer a more local feel.
The Emerald City is renowned for its incredible coffee and is the birthplace of Starbucks. For some of the best coffee in town, skip the corporate giant and try Caffe Vita or Cafe Racer. Do a little research, so when you order your double americano with soy milk, you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
The Seattle Center in the heart of the Queen Anne neighborhood is a destination for most travelers visiting the city for the first time. Seattle’s most famous landmark the Space Needle is here and usually tops visitor’s lists of sightseeing destinations. While the views from 605 feet up are great, it’s also expensive, usually crowded and offers similar vistas to nearby Kerry Park, located on Queen Anne hill. Instead, visit the educational, interactive Pacific Science Center or the EMP rock n’ roll museum, both located mere steps from the Space Needle.
If you’re looking for a night out on the town, avoid the more trendy, expensive clubs and bars found in Pioneer Square and Belltown. There’s a certain level of pretension coupled with a space serving $12 well drinks and enforcing dress codes. Seek out places like the University District’s Blue Moon, a destination for counterculture icons for generations, or the last-dive-standing Comet Tavern in the quickly developing Capitol Hill neighborhood. There’s sure to be a cast of colorful local characters, along with deflated drink prices and some quality live music.