Moving to Seattle is the best thing I’ve ever done. I love it here. I’m fairly sure I’ll never completely fit in, though. But then, I don’t suppose I did in Florida, either.
After being confused by mixed signals for a couple months, I finally learned about the Seattle Freeze. In one blog entry, before I knew what it was called, I referred to it as “nice, but not.” In another, I called it a “smiling, polite, unmovable wall of rejection.”
Basically, people are very helpful here. They’re very kind. But don’t get too close. Don’t be nosy or get personal. Nice to meet you, now go away. It’s a thing. It really is. I’ll never get used to it.
Many people theorize that it has to do with the fact that we have large Asian and Scandinavian populations here. Those are two cultural groups that tend to like to keep people at arm’s length. I can see that. Sort of. But then, I’m half Danish, and only second generation American, and I’m not like that at all. I’ve always felt that there had to be something more to it.
Recently I was discussing this with my friend Lynn over dinner. She posited a theory that makes much more sense to me. (Apologies to Lynn for not taking notes and using direct quotes. I was too focused on my Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and wasn’t expecting a conversation of such fascinating depth. But I think I got the gist of it.)
Lynn theorizes that the Seattle Freeze has more to do with the fact that many here are descendants of pioneers. When Seattle was founded in 1851, it wasn’t easy to get here. (I should put “founded” in quotes because of course the Native Americans were already here.) It was a rough, deprived, hardscrabble existence. To come here you really had to be motivated, and to stay, especially during the Puget Sound War, you had to be determined.
So, who came here at the time? People who were unsatisfied with their lives back east. People running away from something. People wanting to start over. Independent people who were compelled to make a go of it on their own. Misfits. Adventurers. Con artists. Entrepreneurs. Criminals. Rough characters. Nuts.
And then those people met and married and passed on those qualities, whether they be genetic or behavioral, to their offspring. The birth of the Seattle Freeze. This makes perfect sense to me. I may not relate to it, but at least these people have come by this quirk honestly. That makes it much easier to not take it personally.
I’d further expand on this theory by saying that it explains why the East and West Coasts are so completely different from a cultural point of view. The further west your ancestors went in this country, the more independent and determined they must have been. If it were me, I’d have gotten about 50 yards into the dense underbrush west of the Atlantic Ocean and would have said, “Yeah. I’m good. This is where I’ll be, if you’re looking for me.” Such is my paltry level of chutzpah. I am only here now thanks to the interstate freeway system.
There’s much debate about whether the Seattle Freeze even exists. I think it’s blatantly obvious. But now at least I get it, because Lynn gave me food for thought along with that Lobster Mac n’ Cheese.
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