Seattle transplants, you've been right all along. It's not you, it's us. The so-called "Seattle freeze" really is a thing and it's bad for your health. According to a recent survey conducted by Pemco Insurance, over forty percent of Seattle residents say making friends isn't important to them, and just under forty percent say making new friends in the area is "somewhat" or "very" difficult. Which means for those trying to break into any Seattle social scene, you're not imagining it: Seattle can be cold in more ways than one. For new parents, for whom isolation and loneliness are already challenges, the struggle is especially real.
I know this first hand. Our family relocated to Seattle from Southern California seven years ago, two weeks after I'd given birth to our third daughter. I found it painfully difficult to connect with other families at our church, our kids' preschool and even in our own neighborhood. It took over a year for our next door neighbor to even acknowledge our daily "hellos" from the front yard each day (we're now good friends).
Once, a group of moms at my daughters' preschool was discussing a child's upcoming birthday party. As I walked by, they shushed each other. We were the only new-to-the-area family in the class, and my kid was the only kid not invited to the party. It stung.
As someone who has always been fairly social, I was confused and discouraged by how hard it was to connect with other people in our community. I'd never found it nearly as difficult to make friends in the other places we'd lived. Then, a friend who'd relocated from the South told me about the infamous "Seattle Freeze." She gave me the sage advice that with Seattlelites, being invited into people's lives (let alone their homes!) would likely take twice as long as I was used to. She was right. It was a long and lonely first year here; and one of the hardest of my life.
For local natives, it may be hard to take it all seriously. Maybe we're just a city full of introverts. What's so wrong with that? But, experts warn that loneliness has become a leading health concern in the U.S. over the past two decades. Recent studies suggest that the health impact of loneliness is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A recent Cigna study links increased rates of loneliness among youth to increased rates of suicide and opioid addiction. In other words, community matters.
So, what can we do? Well, a good place to start — whether you're new to town or someone who's well established — is to consider organizing a neighborhood play street or a National Night Out event to get to know your neighbors. Or if you're a new parent to the area, consider joining an organization that supports community building among families such as PEPS or FOCS as a way to meet other families. If you just need to get out of the house (with the possibility of meeting new people along the way) check out our family fun calendar, with tons of local events listed every day of the week.
Who knows? Perhaps we can make Seattle a warmer, more welcoming place yet.