I’ve lived in the Seattle area for a few years now and, even before I moved, I visited the city quite frequently.
I went back home for my high school reunion recently in the small town where I grew up and almost every single time I spoke to someone, as soon as I mentioned that I was living “in the big city,” two things happened.
They started by telling me their opinions about Seattle (a topic I’ll get into another time) and then followed up by asking me how much I liked it. The answer was usually a quick “Oh, I hate it there. It’s a garbage town.”
The usual response was confusion, followed by laughter, then after a slight pause, they’d ask me to explain. I told them that the city does have its advantages and good points but there’s also a lot to hate. Here are the top ten things I told them.
1. The Weather
It rains a lot in Seattle, about 152 days a year. That means, on a given day, you have about a 41% chance of getting soaked on your walk back from the light rail station. A little higher if you discount the couple of days a year that it snows.
Seattle also experiences high winds because of its location. Not only is it terrible to walk in but once the wind hits about 15 miles per hour, you can hear it at night while you’re trying to sleep.
It’s so cold here during the winter and I hate it. I’m not saying I’d prefer to live in the Sonoran Desert down in Arizona, but a more moderate climate would be nice.
2. The Crime
I understand that crimes happen everywhere from big cities to small towns and even unincorporated hamlets. There’s nowhere on Earth that’s free of crime.
That being said, there have been at least three occasions in the past two years where my plans changed at the last minute and, if I had gone to my original destination, I would have been there at the exact time a shooting took place.
I didn’t look into all of them but I do know at least one of them was an innocent bystander who was struck by a ricocheting bullet.
Again, I understand this can happen anywhere. I just consider myself lucky that my plans change so frequently and I’ve managed to avoid it thus far.
3. High Rent Prices
The average apartment rental is over $2,300 a month if you live in the city (that’s for 690 square feet). The lowest I’ve ever seen was $1,500 to rent a basement apartment. The only way that most people are able to live in Seattle is because they use their higher-than-average minimum wage to make payments on their government-subsidized housing.
The cost of housing in Seattle is 114% of the national average which brings the overall cost of living to just over 54% higher than the national average.
The suburbs are slightly cheaper, of course, but still incredibly expensive, especially if you live alone. They also have their own problems, which I’ll get into shortly.
That’s just for the apartment, mind you, not internet service or other “luxuries” not covered in the rental agreement.
Most costs of living indices put the city at a base of about $90,000. That’s how much you’d need to earn per year to live comfortably here.
4. Getting Around
Traffic in Seattle is always a nightmare, so I avoid driving when possible by taking public transportation, which is thankfully pretty good, all things considered.
It’s also not very fast, though. I was housesitting for a friend last year who lived near Federal Way, somewhere down about South 280th Street or so. My friends wanted to go see the Kraken game over at the Climate Pledge Arena.
I don’t remember where exactly he used to live or the exact distance, but it was about 20 miles away from the arena.
I took the RapidRide F for about 45 minutes to the Tukwila Transit Center, I walked up the stairs and took a light rail for about another hour. In all, it was about two hours to go 20 miles. And that wasn’t even during rush hour.
5. Everything is Political
Seattle has a well-earned reputation for being one of the most progressive cities in America, for better or for worse.
Have you ever ended up on the wrong side of Twitter and seen two people arguing about whether or not disliking a fictional character is a racist, ableist, or any other number of things?
If you end up in the wrong bar on a wrong night, you can have those conversations in real life!
I grew up in a time when you didn’t discuss politics in front of strangers and it’s increasingly difficult to avoid conversations that require me to explain my position on Israel and Palestine or whether CRT should be taught in schools.
I’m a quiet guy who just wants to be left alone. My opinions on national or international politics aren’t going to change anything and I just want to have a drink without having to discuss my thoughts on Chechnya.
6. Low Air Quality
This is more of a seasonal thing, but Seattle consistently ranks pretty highly on the list of international cities with the worst air quality.
Non-Seattle residents who watch either the Mariners or the Seahawks probably remember seeing a home game at some point where it looked like there was smoke all through the stadium.
A lot of the time, forest fires from across the state will bring smoke or smog over to Seattle, which makes the situation even worse.
There are over four million people who live in the Seattle Metropolitan area, according to the latest Census Bureau data.
It’s simply too many. I can’t walk down the street without passing 100 people a minute. Maybe if some of them moved to Tacoma or Portland, it might improve things.
I went to the McDonald’s downtown by the light rail station the other day because I really wanted a Big Mac and it was the most convenient location.
It took me half an hour to get my meal and I spent most of that time watching the security guard by the front door kicking out angry customers, the homeless, and other people who tried to ruin the deeply personal experience of eating a burger in peace.
Lines are long, streets are crowded, and public transportation can be a nightmare during peak times, especially if you have bad knees like I do and want to sit down.
8. Not a Friendly City
There are exceptions, of course, as I consider myself a rather friendly guy, but overall, Seattle isn’t a very welcoming place.
Most longtime Seattleites will go on long rants about how tech workers from California or Oregon have infiltrated the city and the Seattle they knew was gone. I’ve heard this particular rant from various people multiple times a day for years.
A lot of people here believe this and it affects the way they treat new people. If they see a new person in the neighborhood, they immediately assume you’re an Amazon, Microsoft, or another tech employee here to ruin this “once-great city.”
To an extent, I’m actually fine with this. I’ve got like five or six friends already and I’m not sure I’m looking for any new ones at this point. I’m full.
That said, strangers aren’t always the politest to me, despite my best efforts. I think of myself as a good-natured fellow and I try to be nice in all situations.
Anyone who does talk to me in public is usually homeless. Wait, I’m sorry, “person experiencing homelessness” is the phrase you have to use in Seattle to avoid getting dirty looks or into an argument.
Anyway, most people who talk to me are homeless, selling something, or grifters trying to take the last $10 out of my pocket.
9. Coffee, Beer, and Fast Food
This is a pretty weak point but it’s still one I feel strongly about. I don’t drink Starbucks and I don’t drink craft beer, which are the two most popular beverages here.
I don’t really drink coffee, but sometimes I’ll have a Coors Light or something and some guy with a footlong beard and a flannel shirt will show up to tell me I need to drink some vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free IPA brewed down the street.
I’ll also get people giving me dirty looks while I’m eating fast food on my way to the light rail. I overheard a guy telling his friends how unhealthy my Big Mac was while he was smoking his third cigarette that hour.
10. The Space Needle is Boring
Okay, it’s not that the Space Needle is boring, it’s just that I don’t enjoy it anymore. For as populated as Seattle is there are really a limited number of things to do in the immediate area.
This means that every time someone visits they want to do the exact same things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken family members up the Space Needle or to see fish throwing at Pike Place Market.
I guess this isn’t really a dig at Seattle, just an observation that, like most cities, Seattle is boring after a couple of years.
11. The Homelessness and Drug Problems
I saved what is probably the most serious issue for last on the list. One of the biggest factors that has people avoiding downtown Seattle like the plague these days are the tent cities.
While there are lots of reasons for this, it boils down to the fact that it’s Seattle’s own fault. The vibe of the city coupled with its progressive social policies has invited every displaced person within a thousand miles to start a pilgrimage to the city.
With increased homelessness has come a corresponding increase in petty crime and drug use.
And I’m not talking about the marijuana smoke that you smell every 10 feet while walking around, I’m talking about a hard drug epidemic that is killing people in large numbers.
So, if there’s a real reason that I hate Seattle, it’s because of its inability to help people in a meaningful way.
I could probably write more on the subject but I think I’ve made my point. The weather is probably the biggest one for me since I don’t enjoy the cold very much.
There are some good things about the city, of course. For example, my girlfriend lives here, has a great job, and doesn’t want to move yet. Those might be the three most important factors for my continued residency.
All kidding aside, Seattle is actually a beautiful and wonderful city under the right circumstances, especially if you’re just visiting and don’t have to pay rent here.
If you visit in the summer months, you’ll avoid almost everything on this list, with the possible exception of some impolite people on the street and maybe witnessing some sort of crime.