The 7 Phases of Living in Seattle

For many people, Seattle is a perfect refuge; a vibrant city full of transplants from across the world. There’s simply something about this part of the country that beckons to people. Whatever combination of things that makes a weary traveler plant roots here, there’s still a complex process for becoming a true Seattleite. We don’t just let anyone claim the Emerald City as their home without earning it. Want to truly join us? Here’s what it takes…

comet tavern
capitol hill | Flickr/quite peculiar

Phase 1: The Frasier phase

Where you’re living: On your friend’s couch in a trendy neighborhood like Fremont or Ballard.
Where you’re going out: Capitol Hill...duh. That’s where everyone says to go, and by “everyone” we mean that one guy from college you know who works at Amazon now.
Your mantra: “Pass me my flannel.”
Go-to activity: Visiting every Starbucks you see.

Just like Dr. Frasier Crane moved to Seattle to start a new life, you too have traveled here dreaming of coffee waterfalls and mountains of, well, literal mountains. The Pacific Northwest just seems so cozy, you think to yourself as you board a plane from whatever fly-over part of the country you hail from. Your Instagram profile is poised to tag anything and everything with #PNW, just to make sure your friends know that you now live in the most beautiful state. Will you hike to the top of Mount Rainier? Will you swim with majestic whales? Will you grow out your beard? At least one of these things will assuredly happen.

golden gardens park
golden gardens park | Sydney Beier/Shutterstock

Phase 2: The exploration phase

Where you’re living: In a 100sqft micro-studio because that’s all you can afford.  
Where you’re going out: Everywhere. You’ll go anywhere you’ve read about on Thrillist, or had recommended from a co-worker, or got yelled at through a megaphone by a random person on the street.
Your mantra: “Have you been to [insert neighborhood]? I have! It’s cool.”
Go-to activity: Instagramming your bonfire at Golden Gardens.

Seattle is your oyster, and you’re slurping up all of the salty goodness from every corner of the city you can discover. Although your living situation is less than ideal (I mean, come’re basically surviving inside of a shoe box), it actually gives you an excuse to go outside and explore. Have you been on that hiking trail or tried that delicious new restaurant opening up in Madrona? The answer is yes. Always yes. If there was a crown for Mister or Miss PNW, there’s no question you’d win it. It’s only been a month or so, but you’re feeling like a local. Maybe this Seattle thing isn’t so hard after all?

guy in city
Skrynnik Mariia/Shutterstock

Phase 3: The Seattle Freeze phase

Where you’re living: The same micro-studio, but now you have a hot plate!
Where you’re going out: Nowhere. People are kind of being dicks.
Your mantra: “I really should get on Tinder.”
Go-to activity: Smoking weed.

Well… you’re definitely not a local yet. How do you know? Because all of the locals seem to despise your very presence. Your co-workers talk about happy hours and don’t invite you. Your neighbors hardly say a word in the hallway when you pass them, and your yoga teacher still doesn’t know your name. Apparently you’re experiencing a thing called the “Seattle Freeze,” which, translated for normal folks, essentially means “don’t talk to me, I don’t know you.” Hopefully, people will start warming up to you soon. Damn, this city sure can feel lonely.

flickr/lindley ashline

Phase 4: The “WTF is up with all this rain?” phase

Where you’re living: With your new roommate in some still semi-reasonably priced neighborhood like Beacon Hill or Columbia City. The building is definitely not up to earthquake code.
Where you’re going out: This perfect dive bar that no one knows about except for the locals. Can you call yourself that now?
Your mantra: “I think I need some vitamin D.”
Go-to activity: Smoking even more weed.

OK, the Seattle Freeze finally wore off. You’re established enough to have a dope group of friends that enjoy your company. Whew! But now you have another foe: the weather. Sure, you knew Seattle was going to be cold and rainy for most of the year, but this is starting to get ridiculous. You can’t even remember the last time you saw the sun, and your rain jacket is becoming a permanent fixture on your body. It gets dark here at 5pm now, so now you’re sleepy all the time. Wait, what year is it even?

seattle summer
Flickr/Donald Clark

Phase 5: The “WTF is up with all this sun and heat?” phase

Where you’re living: Back on your original friend’s couch. Your crummy roommate has kicked you out because they’re starting a hydroponics grow operation.
Where you’re going out: Nowhere at the moment. Gentrification claimed your perfect dive bar.
Your mantra: “Is this what being grunge feels like?”
Go-to activity: Sweating. Profusely.

No one will tell you this, but Seattle summers are actually amazing. A few months of bright sun and clear skies, coupled with the fact that it stays light outside much later, make for a lot of patio-sittin’. What they also won’t tell you is that most buildings don’t have A/C, so you’ll be kind of miserable. It’s give and take, you tell yourself. By the end of it, you’ll be praying for rain and clouds. However, complaining about the weather is a total “Seattle thing,” and you’re definitely getting the hang of it.

seattle portland signs
Flickr/Tony Webster (edited)

Phase 6: The considering-moving-to-Portland phase

Where you’re living: That couch still. You have a really great friend.
Where you’re going out: Lady Luck’s Cowgirl Up in Tacoma. You’re making a lot of bad decisions right now.
Your mantra: “Portland is just like a tiny Seattle, only better… I think.”
Go-to activity: Driving to Portland on the weekends to drink in Pearl District or Concordia or whatever new hipster neighborhood you can find.

You’ve had it up to here (*the height of Smith Tower*) with Seattle. The moody people, moody weather, and constant neighborhood changes have worn you down. But there’s a shining city on a hill just a few hours south of here. It’s called Portland, and it’s calling your name. Hell, the move would be worth it for the doughnuts every day. You need a change of pace and scenery, so why not randomly move to a large city you’ve visited only a few times. That certainly worked out last time.

seattle couple

Phase 7: Reconciling

Where you’re living: In an adorable little house with a garden and yard. It’s cheap and close to work and even has plenty of parking. You live in the unicorn of Seattle houses.
Where you’re going out: Your favorite bar where you always feel at home.
Your mantra: “Did I just own Seattle like Richard Sherman owns the offense? Yes, yes I did.”
Go-to activity: Stripping down for the annual naked bike ride.

Congratulations, partner! You’ve gotten over your Portland fascination, and are officially a Seattle local. If this were a choose-your-own-adventure book, you would have made it to the happy ending after going through a lot of unfortunate shit. But you made it, and that’s the important thing. You now realize that the “Seattle Freeze,” unpredictable weather, and other challenges (like climbing actual mountains) have made you into a stronger person. You can navigate the city with ease, no Google Maps necessary. You know all of the good restaurants and bars. You’re connected with your community, and even help plan events that make Seattle the unique place it is.

This is your official welcome to Seattle. Now don’t tell anyone else about this place. Rent prices are ridiculously high as it is.

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Cody Permenter is a freelance writer for Thrillist who is currently living in Phase 5. Follow him on Twitter