Is Seattle Freeze Real – a burden or a blessing

My dad was something of a public figure when I was growing up. I should preface this by saying that we lived in very small towns in Pennsylvania – he was alternately a college basketball coach and a high school principal. 

That just reminds me of a charming story . . . In one of these small towns, my brothers and sister and I were known as Russel Sprouts (my dad’s first name was Russel, very clever of those high school students, wasn’t it?!). Anyway, we were trained very early to be kind and friendly, to remember people’s names, to make eye contact and say hello as a matter of course. 

I was listening to a podcast a week or so ago. The woman being interviewed was a Seattleite, transplanted from the midwest. She was describing the Seattle Freeze phenomenon, comparing it to her native Ohio. She was lamenting that in Seattle people don’t even say hi to you when they pass you on the sidewalk, while in Ohio they actually will come up to you, comment on your outfit, touch you.

I always bristle at this categorization. I take this (as so many things, but that’s a story for another day) personally. Is it true? I wonder. Can we lump a whole city of individuals into one way of being. Are the cultural differences from one city to another in the United States that different? 

Let’s say we take this freeze classification on as truth. Why might it be the case? 

  • Is it weather related? I do notice that people tend to be more outgoing and friendly in warmer, sunnier weather. 
  • Cities are tough on our nervous systems for sure. I notice this most profoundly when I return from a silent meditation retreat. There is a lot of noise from a lot of different sources, a lot of traffic, a lot of vehicle exhaust a lot of cement – a lot that takes us away from things that are soothing to our nervous systems. 
  • Could it be related to the company culture of working so many hours per week? Perhaps after working 60+ hours a week people need to draw inward for self care. 
  • Maybe it is that people who are drawn to tech jobs tend to be more inward anyway.
    As far as I know the reputation precedes some of these developments though.

Years ago, I took a year leave of absence from my elementary school counseling job and spent the time traveling, mostly around the continental United States, but also Hawaii, Bali and Australia. 

I must confess, I did notice some differences, but I would not describe them as across the board down to every single person, more like an overall feel. To me it seemed that the places where locals seemed the most friendly, were where population density was lower. 

This prompted my thought that maybe this freeze circumstance is a personal boundary protector, this seeming unfriendliness. I have found that when I actually ask for help or engage with a stranger in Seattle they are as friendly and helpful as anywhere else I’ve been. 

Something else that I found reassuring when I first came to Seattle  . . . people seemed to have much more of a live and let live mentality. I felt much more judged living on the east coast. When I came here, I found that people were interested but not overly so. I felt so much more freedom to just be who I am and do what I want. I guess that could be interpreted as freeze but that’s not how it feels to me.

Another thought I have regards meditation retreats. When on a silent retreat, the instructions are NOT to talk with each other, in fact not to make eye contact. From my very first retreat, I found this instruction to be such a relief. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy connecting with and getting to know others. Indoctrinated as I was as a youngster though, to have the freedom to just settle into myself was so nourishing.

To me this carries over into Seattle life. I do feel that I have more freedom to choose, whether this is a function of maturity or Seattle culture, I like the fact that I don’t feel pressured to interact, to say hello. I appreciate the freedom to look about and engage when I am well nourished and have that kind of outgoing energy and also to be able to keep to myself and to be more inward when I need to be. 

What say you? I’d love to hear your take  . . . . Feel free email kim@ioystudio, cut and paste a response from below and/or elaborate if you wish. I’ll read and respond to every single one. 

  • Yes, it IS that different from city to city, region to region
  • I actually think the Seattle freeze is grossly exaggerated
  • I wear the Seattle freeze moniker with pride
  • I’m on the fence, people move around so much, it seems ll integrated to me

If you are feeling the freeze or could use some nervous system nourishment for any reason, join our Tuesday Tuck Ins. We meet Tuesday nights 8-8:20. I lead a breathing practice, guided meditation or relaxation. We meet via Zoom so you don’t even need to get dressed or drive anywhere. You are welcome to have your screen on or off. Reply here and I’ll include you in next week’s invitation. 

Kim Trimmer

No Comments

Leave a reply