Q: I moved to Seattle last fall from the Midwest and I’m having a hard time meeting new people. My co-workers are nice, but they don’t exactly share my tastes. The one friend I do hang out with sometimes is someone I knew back in Michigan.
I’m single and would like to date, but I’ve noticed what I can only describe as a lack of motivation from the people I try to make plans with. People are nice, and I’ve had a few positive interactions with people I’ve met at bars, but no one is really willing to go too deep or even make plans too far in the future. Where I’m from, everyone is very social and knows their neighbors. But here, I can barely get the woman who lives across the hall from me to make eye contact.
Is it me, or is there something very standoffish about Seattle?
A: Ha! Sorry, I don't mean to laugh at your misfortune, but you just described a very well known, albeit mysterious phenomenon known as the Seattle Freeze.
The Seattle Freeze is what makes people smile and say, “Let’s get together sometime!” and then act like you’re from another planet when you actually try to follow up on the offer. Seattleites are notoriously hard to get to know. Many reasons have been given—the weather, the geography the influence of the tech industry—but we honestly think that the main reason it happens is that many people in Seattle are either unusually introverted, or devoted to their work or creative projects, or both. Whatever the reason, Seattleites definitely appreciate our alone time, and sometimes socializing seems secondary.
The good news is that friendships and relationships here are possible, you just have to be strategic and have a little patience.
Here are some hot tips on how to melt the Freeze:
1. Explore your hobbies
One thing you’ll quickly notice about Seattleites is that most of our socializing tends to center around a shared activity, whether it’s art, music, sports, or camping. Find something you love to do, and go to a place where people do that activity socially. If you love music, get involved in Seattle’s music scene by going to shows or DJ nights, or by starting a band yourself. The more time you devote to your obsession, whatever it is, the more you’ll have in common with other people, and the greater the likelihood you’ll meet someone who shares your passion.
Another way to become quickly integrated into a community is to spend some time volunteering about something you find personally meaningful. Many homeless shelters, social justice organizations and local arts non-profits can always use an extra hand. If you have a special skill, you could volunteer to teach it, or join an organization that allows you to mentor others. Not only does volunteer work help others and make you feel great about yourself, it puts you in touch with people who care about the same things you do, and those kinds of connections are an excellent basis for meaningful friendships.
3. Take the initiative
Don’t fall into the trap of making vague plans or telling someone you’d be interested in “hanging out sometime.” The best way to break the inertia of the indefinite someday is to find something specific you’d like to do and invite someone to do it with you. (Our #GoOffline resource is one place to find things to do.)
Make sure you follow up the day of the event (since this is Seattle, after all) and try this trick:
Instead of saying, "Are we still on for the lecture?" try saying "I'm really looking forward to this lecture tonight!" The first message gives them an easy way out, while the second affirms the original plan.
If they still manage to find a way to flake, go alone. You might even meet someone there who has better follow-through!
4. Don't underestimate the internet
People often lament the superficiality of online interactions and the loss of quality, face-to-face time, but the truth is that many of us do a great deal of socializing and community building online, you just need to find your way in. Connecting with new friends on social media and joining local online conversations is a quick way to establish your voice in the community and find others who share your interests.
And, oh yeah, have you tried Siren? We're a social discovery app that lets you meet people through conversation, just like you would in real life.
Welcome to Seattle, and good luck out there!