October 9, 2012
The 'Seattle freeze': change, adapt or surrender?
While "going viral" may be an overstatement -- especially in an age where a goofy Korean music video has now been watched more than 360 million times on YouTube -- I was nonetheless blown away by the number of comments stirred up by my recent post on Seattle's chilly networking reputation.
In that post, I talked about the "Seattle freeze" and the commonly shared belief that this is a difficult city in which to build meaningful relationships and make lasting friends. I really didn't think there was much more to add on the subject -- or that there would even be much disagreement with this contention, given that most of the people I bump into around town seem to agree wholeheartedly. Boy, was I wrong!
There were several thoughtful comments on the subject. Here are a few that I felt really stood out:
"I think that one of the major influencers has been the nature of a number of the people that are now concentrated in the region -- techies. ... We are talking about an entire community of individuals that are very left-brain oriented, very technical, and tend to be socially awkward, etc. Could these be factors that have contributed to the Seattle Freeze phenomenon?"
"I am a Seattle native who lived in several parts of the country before moving back to Seattle, and after being acclimated to how the rest of the country works, I had to move away again. For whatever reason -- weather, cultural influences, the high number of transplants -- Seattleites are anti-social and socially awkward. I found myself doing all of the work when it came to networking, forging friendships, etc. while living there -- and it was exhausting."
"Seattle is the provincial capital of the American NW, settled by Scandinavian settlers. Behavior described as 'Seattle-ish' is also applicable to Scandinavia. People there are independent, practical and mind their own business. They are also described as 'cold' by their neighbors. Same with the provincial influence ... feeling uncomfortable with outsiders. That is in common with provincial towns all over the world."
"Seattleites are mean spirited, insecure and generally just grumpy and irritable. ALL of us. This region is beautiful and it's horrible, all in the same stroke. Don't move here unless you like rain for 9 months a year, horrible traffic and mean-spirited people. ... I've lived here 42 years. If I did not have grade-school children, I'd be gone before this sentence was finished."
"I think the biggest problem is that there are too many newbies to Seattle and everyone feels like they're outsiders. There's a reason grunge music started here. We're all outsiders."
"Seattleites are PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE ... be careful the malady doesn't creep up on you too! If you are lucky enough to meet a few real human beings here in Seattle that can communicate with trust, openness and are able to share actual feelings, it's a sure bet the majority did not grow up in this state."
"Like so many people in Seattle, I am a transplant. I have lived here for about 12 years and I absolutely love it. ... Like a lot of people who work all of the time, I have rather little patience for social commitments -- and that's part of why I love this city. Where else can you be completely asocial without anyone taking notice? In other cities I constantly had to think of polite ways to back out of invitations. In Seattle, that's one less thing to worry about."
"I'm questioning whether the core of the culture described in this article is actually a problem to be solved. I'm an introvert and it seems to me that I actually fit pretty well with major parts of this culture. It takes energy for me to be around people in social situations, and my social connections have to be carefully chosen or I will get drained."
"I would rather CHANGE the culture and the phenomenon rather than adapt to it. If it's not healthy, then it should go."
I'd like to focus on that last comment, since I think it represents a logical next step in terms of exploring the topic further. If we stipulate that the majority of the people who wrote in are correct, and Seattle truly does present some special challenges in terms of networking and building relationships, how should people (especially those new to town) handle this reality?
Should they tackle the "freeze" head-on and seek to change it in whatever small way they can, through their own actions? Should they just embrace these realities and adapt to them, learning to go with the flow? Or should those uncomfortable with the Seattle social scene wave the white flag and relocate to another part of the country that's more aligned to their cultural preferences? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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