I first heard about the Seattle Freeze when I was Googling “what is it like to live in Seattle” before I moved here from Chicago in 2018. If you don’t know the “Seattle Freeze” is not our chilly winters, it’s the city’s reputation for being a difficult place to make and keep friends. It’s intimidating to move to a new city that is known as unfriendly, especially because it’s hard enough to make friends as an adult. Fortunately, there are ways to warm the freeze.
How to make friends in Seattle:
1. Be open to new relationships.
The first step to accomplishing anything is attitude. Maintain a welcoming energy when you are out and about in the city. People want to be around people who have a willingness to engage and have a friendly posture. Ask yourself, what signals am I giving off?
Friendships don’t always magically come your way just because you are open to it. You will still have to put in effort and get out of your comfort zone, but by being open you will see more opportunities and be more likely to go for it.
2. Meet people the old-fashioned way.
The classic ways of meeting people have stuck around because they have a good track record of success. When moving to a new place, the most common way to meet people is at work. Say yes to those awkward happy hours or ask a coworker to show you a good lunch spot. Once you’re in, expand your social network by meeting friends of friends.
Don’t have a traditional in-person job or no job? Try interacting with your neighbors. This may not bear fruit right away, but eventually small talk could lead to borrowing a cup of sugar, which could lead to a party invite.
Another possibility is finding out if your existing friends know anyone in the Seattle area. It’s an easy way to build a bridge and people are usually less skeptical of people their friends have a relationship already established.
Other ways include: taking a class, joining a gym or yoga studio, becoming a part of a spiritual community, joining a book club, attending events at the library or a community center.
3. Meet people in modern ways.
There are many new ways to meet people online. Social media is perhaps the easiest. Join a local Facebook group of people with similar interests or strike up a conversation with someone on Instagram. Obviously, making sure you are careful about how and who you approach. You may want to spend a while getting to know them online before agreeing to meet in a public place.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a class or maybe classes are too pricey for you. Try the website Meet Up where people organize social gatherings based on common interest, usually for free.
4. Be spontaneous with flighty people.
I have learned that there is a culture in Seattle of making plans and cancelling them at the last minute. This was not something that happened frequently in the Midwest. I’ve also learned this same group of people tends to call me out of the blue and ask me to do something that day. Again, not something I was used to in Chicago or to be honest is very comfortable to me as a planner.
I’ve learned not to make plans with flighty people. Instead, if I’m going out one weekend I’ll invite them along. Turns our flighty people might just be more spontaneous. They get bored with planning or don’t have a system in place to make and keep plans like us Midwesterners have mastered.
5. Don’t cling to a bad fit.
When you meet new people, inevitably some will be compatible and some will not. It’s easy to cling to incompatible people when you are trying to build a community, but that is not fair to you. If you don’t enjoy spending time with someone don’t force it.
If it’s not a good fit the friendship will fizzle out eventually, so do yourself the favor and let it go sooner rather than later. It will allow you to be more open to new relationships coming into your life.
6. Know when to throw in the towel.
A big part of relationships is mutuality. Friendships, especially new ones, require work from both people. This doesn’t need to be exactly 50/50, but should be somewhere in that ballpark. If you’re noticing that you are always the one calling to make plans or that they back out multiple times in a row, then perhaps that's not the friend for you.
If it doesn’t bother you and the friendship can stay at the surface level, that’s great. Maybe it just helps to have a person to grab a drink with every once in a while.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t feel good to be in a one-sided friendship, even if it’s casual. As you grow your network you might tire of having to put in all the leg work, so be conscious of when enough is enough.
7. Identify what you are looking for.
You don’t know what you’re looking for, until you name it. The term “friend” is vague and broad. Are you looking for a hiking partner, someone to go to the dog park with, or a fellow craft beer lover to hit up the local breweries?
Getting more clear about the type of people you are looking for helps you narrow your search. Want to meet a beer lover? Hit up the brewery. Want a friend with a dog? Start going daily and you’ll eventually start seeing the same faces.
8. Take your Vitamin D.
I have an armchair theory that people with a lack of Vitamin D are not likely to be good at establishing and maintaining relationships. A lack of energy is not going to help the effort necessary to maintain a friendship. Perhaps this is why there is a freeze in the first place.
People in Seattle may need more Vitamin D than others places, so check with your doctor and start a regimen. Making friends as an adult is not for the tired and weary.
9. Change your definition of community.
The show Friends and other sitcoms have skewed our view of what a community looks like, especially in our 20s and 30s—randomly stopping by a coffee shop to find your five best friends laughing and having a cup of joe. Instead, community may look like a few different close friendships and people you see in yoga class or a small book club and an older neighbor you walk your dog with.
Also, it may not happen overnight, so think of “community” as ever growing and evolving. You may just wake up one day and realize you have one.
10. Don’t believe everything you read about Seattle.
After moving to Seattle there are things I read about it that turned out to be true and things that aren’t true. The weather for example, is much nicer than I expected, but I’m not supposed to tell anyone that. I’ve met people who are freezier than others, but overall I’ve found Seattle to be a very friendly place.
It’s not easy to move to a new place and it’s hard for adults to make friends anywhere. I don’t consider myself an extrovert and the real ways I’ve met people in Seattle are through work, through existing friends, through classes, on Instagram, and at an event. It is possible.
Don’t lose hope, keep active in the process, and you will create a community in Seattle.
"In Seattle we live among the trees and the waterways, and we feel we are rocked gently in the cradle of life. Our winters are not cold and our summers are not hot and we congratulate ourselves for choosing such a spectacular place to rest our heads." - Garth Stein
I'm Kerry (She/Her/Hers) and I am a licensed therapist, writer & speaker. This is a place to acknowledge and validate our trauma, while also learning how to turn toward aliveness and spaciousness when possible.