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Rookie Year Observations About The Seattle Freeze

Is Silence Golden?

May 31, 2019

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This week’s Seattle Times survey about the Seattle Freeze has people talking about not talking.  The findings: 49% of people interviewed prefer to NOT talk with you.  Is the Northwest truly unfriendly? 

As a relative newcomer, I am curious.  What could possibly cause this disquieting quiet?  Is it a bad thing?  And is it only apparent to recent arrivals?

Many things are different here.  For starters, there’s distance and isolation.  We’re out here.  SF to Tacoma-Seattle-Everett is about 800 miles with Eugene/Salem/Portland between.  Chicago to NY is about 800 miles, and tens of millions of people live in continuous ribbon of cities and towns between.  Denver to Seattle is just over 1300 miles with SLC, Boise and Yakima between.  NY to Miami is under 1300 miles....and approaching 100 million people between.

The PNW is accustomed to being left alone.  Tranquility is a regional virtue.

Other regional distinctions:  The Northeast is all about the hustle.  Over there, someone is always selling you something.  Over here, discovery rules. 

The South is famous for storytelling.  If you’ve spent time there, you know that Southerners have refined the practice of telling tall tales.  (There’s another word for that, best left to another forum.)  It’s endearing, just not genuine.  We value authenticity.

The Midwest is where America grows stuff and makes stuff.  Its network of rivers, rails and roads is ideal for moving products to ports.  Its people are industrious flatlanders.  The PNW is home to imaginative mountaineers.

How about Left Coasters from Cali?   We regard them as fashionably pretentious.  We’re not big into fashion or pretense.  The PNW leans real.  

Working in radio has enabled me to crisscross the US and be exposed to all of those cultures.  The non-stop Northeast hustle.  The sweet and sassy South.  Midwest practicality.  California Dreamin’.  There’s good in all of it, but now that I’ve been able to soak up the Northwest for a year, I must admit that the most special place is right here.  Between the ocean and the mountains.  Where you can easily get away from social interference, breathe the air, and have a silent chat with nature.  Or with yourself.  

Instead of framing silence as rude, consider it respectful.  Here’s a cost-free experiment:  For the next 48 hours, save the small talk.  Be at peace with it.  When you have something valuable to say, let it fly.   Otherwise, shhhh...

Hopefully the silence will become a pressure release valve for you.   Quietly pleasing. 


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