Before moving from Southern California to Seattle, I started many an undecided morning with a Google search. As soon as I typed “Should I move”, Google knew Seattle was my potential destination. (Google’s other guesses were that I was thinking of moving to Canada or moving in with a girlfriend or boyfriend). Google could never make my decision for me, but it could and did provide its daily reminder of the Seattle Freeze – the idea that Seattleites are superficially nice to transplants from other cities, but will never forge real friendships with newcomers. Online comments ranged from “everyone is polite, but nobody will invite you to dinner,” to “after five depressing lonely years, I am finally throwing in the towel and returning to California!” to my personal off topic favorite: “When Seattle gets an NHL team, the Seattle Freeze would be the perfect name.” Considering my sole purpose in moving to Seattle was to jumpstart my social life, I wondered if the Freeze would render my move futile. Eight months later, I am glad to report that it did not. I have more friends in Seattle than I had when I lived in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, or Orange County.
This is how I see it: Maybe Seattleites are truly set in their social ways, but that’s how humans everywhere are; it’s hard to make friends in any city post-college. That’s why the internet advises us working professionals to treat friend-making like dating or networking: Put yourself out there. Invite people to your own home. Follow up. Email everyone you know and ask them if they could connect you with people in New City. With these guidelines in mind, I set out to conquer Seattle’s social scene and make friends. Here are the strategies that worked for me.
I figured it would be easier to befriend other newbies than established natives, so I joined Meetup.com. I had previously tried Meetup in Los Angeles and Orange County with little success. But Seattle Meetup groups delivered a plethora of like-minded women seeking friends as well. I avoided the shared interests groups. I bet you and I both enjoy knitting, but I’m not looking for someone to knit with, I’m looking for someone to make me less lonely. So “girls looking for girlfriends” was my theme, and I met amazing girlfriends almost immediately. I had some false starts and hangouts with women who soon faded from my life, but like dating, it was a matter of trial and error. Pretty soon, I had some pretty amazing girlfriends, mostly new transplants like myself.
To meet people offline, I talked to everyone. Wherever I went, I struck up conversations. And followed up. I made a friend on the bus after she asked me for directions from Downtown to Queen Anne. At a Capitol Hill bar, I made friends by asking patrons if my bus friend and I could join their table. I started many conversations – at coffee shops, restaurants, and bus stops – that didn’t kickstart friendships. But like sales, it’s a numbers game. Converse with enough people, eventually you’ll have some real friends.
And then I followed up and invited them out. I remembered the online commenters who lamented that Seattleites wouldn’t invite them over or include them in plans. I circumvented that obstacle by doing the inviting myself. I texted everyone who had given me to their number to invite them to happy hours, brunches, and Mariners games at Safeco Field. Since Seattle is so full of new transplants with few social ties, many textees joined me. Eventually, they began reciprocating, and my weekends started filling up by Wednesday. I had a pretty solid range of transplant friends.
But in my quest to crack the Seattleite friendship code and befriend Seattle natives, I turned to my workplace. I asked my colleagues for input on everything – neighborhoods, housing, doctors, dentists, hairstylists, restaurants, and bars. I found this to be a foolproof strategy. Once someone invested in me slightly, they wanted me to succeed. After they suggested my neighborhood, it was easy for me to invite them to check out my apartment. And my local bars. And parks. It snowballed from there.
Friends introduced me to more friends who introduced me to more friends. Transplants introduced me to natives who introduced me to more natives and more transplants. The more comfortable I get with my Seattle social life, the harder it is to keep following up and reaching out. But operation socialize is ongoing, so I’ll keep trying. And when I hit a friend-making plateau, I plan to join the Seattle Anti-Freeze group via http://www.seattleantifreeze.com/.
Have you encountered the Seattle Freeze? Found ways to make friends in Seattle? Tell us in the comments!