My flight was on time, perfect. I stepped out of the airport with excitement. It was my first day in Seattle.
As an international student, I was excited for whatever: new place, new people, and a new culture. I couldn’t be more thrilled to verify if American culture matches what the Hollywood movies depicted: throwing parties with alcohol and friends.
As I stepped out of the Sea-Tac Airport, the dark, hazy clouds were all over the sky. As if the depressive color suggested how hard it could be to make new friends in the Emerald City. What’s the Seattle Freeze?
“The term Seattle Freeze refers to a widely held belief that it is especially difficult to make new friends in Seattle, Washington, particularly for transplants from other cities” – Wikipedia.
Years ago, I found this term online while I was procrastinating due to extreme boredom. “Hmm… Am I a victim of it?” I quickly checked how many friends I had made since I moved to Seattle. Soon I realized: “Yeah, making friends in Seattle… not so easy”. All the people I hung out with after school were either people with similar backgrounds or out-of-state transplants.
I have also heard countless complaints about how cold and shy Seattleites can be. My English teacher from Connecticut once told me: “people here don’t hang out after meetups. They go straight to their homes,” followed with a sarcastic smile right after he finished the sentence.
To date, none of my close friends here are Seattle natives. Most of the friends I have in the city were out-of-state, and many of them complain about the friend-making situation here as well, as if making friends in Seattle is a hard code to crack.
It turned out talking about Seattle Freeze is quite a standard ice breaker when I make new friends who are out-of-state. We shared our experiences about it, joked about it a bit. And sometimes, we become friends because we have that shared experience.
Several people have told me Seattleites are just introverted, and socializing can be quite taxing for them. Knowing this somehow justifies my experiences and frustration. As a foreigner, I understand culture does play a massive role in forming friendships. Instead of complaining, I accept it, yet I haven’t given up building genuine connections.
“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit”– Aristotle
Friendship takes time to grow, and from my experience, this seems to be especially true in Seattle. Like romantic relationships, friendships start with mutual, organic connections that cannot be forced, and they shouldn’t be. If people aren’t interested, it’s alright, let’s move on.
In the end, it doesn’t bother me that I don’t have friends from the local area. As long as I have genuine friends who I can trust, have fun, or even tease, their origins don’t matter that much. What matters is that there are people out there I can connect with.
About the author – Ko Huai-Che, MA, LMHCA is a therapist with Pacific Mental Health. As a bi-lingual therapist, he is able to use both Mandarin Chinese and English to treat patients. Ko helps people explore ways to resolve their issues through insights into their life experiences with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychodynamic approach. He believes strength will emerge when people overcome crisis in their lives. Schedule an appointment with Ko.