Where is this Seattle Freeze blowing in from?

How weather plays a factor in Seattle’s reputation for being unfriendly

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seattle freeze

Christmas is approaching, but “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” might be referring to something else this season.

The term Seattle Freeze is not new. The Seattle Times first mentioned it in 2005, but people have reportedly been hearing it as far back as the mid-20th century. This term is used to describe Seattle’s reputation for being a city where it is difficult to make friends and the general population is cold and standoffish.

I first heard the term Seattle Freeze when I was thinking about applying to the UW. Although I am originally from the San Francisco area and my parents are from Los Angeles, they lived in Seattle for 10 years and I was even born here. But after living here for so long, there is just one family that we stayed in touch with and continued to visit after we moved. 

The first thing they said when I decided to come to the UW was “Congratulations!” But then came their careful warning. 

They advised me to put myself out there as much as possible in order to meet people. “Don’t want to get caught up in that Seattle Freeze,” they said. “It’s difficult to make friends there,” they said. 

I came to the UW anyway and have been navigating my way through an unfriendly Seattle since. 

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it here, but the rumors are correct. While it may not be a complete freeze, there is definitely a chill here. The question is, where did it come from? 

A recent Seattle Times article revealed that a majority of the residents of Seattle today are not actually native to Seattle. So, if it’s not something that people grow up with and continue as they live here for their whole lives, how has this reputation persisted over the years?

Visiting lecturer Kristian Naesby noted in his Scandinavian studies class that his transition from his native country of Denmark to the city of Seattle wasn’t easy. 

While he attributed some of the freeze to the Scandinavian influence that the PNW has, he still had a difficult time meeting people even though he is from a Scandinavian country himself. 

But, if I had to put my money on the biggest contributing factor to this reputation, I would have to go with the weather. 

When it’s cold and rainy outside, the general desire is to crawl into bed and sleep the day away alone. I have been fighting that urge ever since I moved up here, but that is a battle that is truly difficult to win. 

Not only do the gray skies encourage people to stay in bed forever, but the constant darkness truly does worsen issues such as seasonal affective disorder. Especially during a winter in the PNW, where it gets dark around 4 p.m., people here struggle to remain cheerful and kind.

So, we can’t really blame Seattleites for being a little standoffish. They are working to take care of themselves.

This issue can be even more prominent in people who are not native to Seattle. While those born and raised here grow up with the gloominess and extremely dark winters and are therefore used to that, newbies have to struggle to make that transition. 

In a city where much of the population has moved in from another state, many people are not accustomed to the rain, the darkness, or the cold. This causes people to isolate themselves indoors and to hurry from one place to another without even attempting to talk to strangers because all they want to do is get to their destination and a warm, dry place.

Freshman Jenna Dionne has also noticed that there is a bit of a freeze here in Seattle. While she struggled to pinpoint exactly why she thinks this could be happening, she did explain some ways that we can battle this reputation and work to make Seattle a friendlier place. 

Dionne encourages everyone to smile or wave at at least one stranger a day. These kinds of actions are contagious and will help spread cheer throughout the wintry Seattle season. 

Even though us Seattle residents can’t do anything to change the weather, we can combat the effect it has on us. Instead of allowing the rain and cold to pressure us inside and alone, invite someone new to share your spot by the fire and have a warm cup of hot chocolate to bond over. 

Reach contributing writer Ali Heitmann at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @aliheitmann

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