- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Seattle Guide (PDF)
Seattle is one of the most picturesque cities in America, where majestic mountains and verdant forests are always in the frame. Locals understandably love the pristine natural beauty on their doorstep. They’re known for their calm, patient outlook on life, and most of them would rather chat over drinks than have wild nights on the town. The culture embraces everyday courtesies such as letting other drivers merge on the freeway.
It’s best to read the fine print before moving to the Emerald City as it has its complications. Here’s a list of Seattle’s pros and cons.
Cost of living in Seattle
+ PRO: High spending power
Seattle’s booming economy means professionals can earn more than the average American salary, allowing them greater spending power than people in other cities. Their situation is helped even more by the fact that healthcare and utilities are cheaper by 20 percent and 30 percent respectively. Groceries cost about the same as they would around the country.
- CON: Rent costs are high
Housing doesn’t come cheap in Seattle. The cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment is almost twice the national average. The factors behind the high prices are a boom in the construction of expensive, luxury apartment buildings and an influx of young, affluent tech workers who can afford them.
Working in Seattle
+ PRO: Job opportunities are broad
Thanks to its strong economy, Seattle’s unemployment rate remains low at 3.1 percent (compared to the national average of 3.9 percent) and the number of jobs is constantly growing. Top industries include technical, business and scientific services, though manufacturing, healthcare, education, hospitality, retail and food services are very popular as well.
- CON: The job market is competitive
While Seattle offers opportunities to skilled newcomers, its job market is exceedingly competitive. Many top employers are looking for the best of the best. Job seekers who want to succeed in the city should commit to upskilling through frequent courses to stay ahead of the competition.
Nature in Seattle
+ PRO: Spectacular nature scenes
Seattle is breathtakingly beautiful, with massive Douglas fir trees dotting the landscape and Discovery Park lying along the shores of the Puget Sound. At 535 acres, the park is the city’s largest green space. It features miles of rugged trails, beaches and views of the Sound. The 14 000-feet-tall Mount Rainier tends to captivate newcomers more than any other natural wonder in the Seattle area.
+ PRO: Outdoor activities are plentiful
There are vast acres of parkland in and around Seattle, meaning active newcomers can easily find superb hiking and biking trails. Climbers can visit Mount Rainier and the National Park, while Lake Washington is a must for bass, trout and salmon fishing. Camping, skiing, backpacking, kite surfing and visits to the ocean, volcanoes and different islands are on the menu too.
Lifestyle and culture in Seattle
+ PRO: Great food scene
The city’s food scene offers everything from expensive high-end fare to delicious fast food. Seattle’s seafood options are particularly appetising. Seattle shares the Northwest’s tradition of providing magnificent breakfasts of eggs, bacon and waffles. It also has a big reputation in the craft-brewing industry and is home to artisans who micro-brew beer, wine, tea and coffee – among other things.
+ PRO: Music
Seattle has real pedigree as a music town, with renowned artists such as Ray Charles and Quincy Jones starting their careers there. The grunge genre of music traces its origins to the city through bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. Newcomers can enjoy thriving rock and hip-hop scenes, as well as classical music.
+ PRO: Cultural things to do
The cultural scene is another drawcard. Classical music can be enjoyed at centres such as the Seattle Symphony, the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Opera. Theatre productions take place every weekend and many museums are located around the city.
- CON: The Seattle Freeze
Many people who move to the city talk about the “Seattle Freeze”, which refers to the locals’ attitude of not wanting to talk to people they don’t already know. The claim is that while Seattleites are polite, they can be cliquey and standoffish around newcomers.
Weather in Seattle
+ PRO: Comfortable climate
Though Seattle is rainy, the city enjoys comfortable conditions all year round. Temperatures rarely go to extremes, and snowfall totals less than seven inches every winter – versus a national average of 28 inches.
- CON: Gloomy weather
For all its virtues, Seattle only has 152 days of sunshine per year versus a national average of 205. It’s one of the rainiest big cities in America.
► To get a feel of living in the Emerald City, check our Moving to Seattle overview.
"The locals are friendly. It’s easier to connect if the family has kids as there are a lot of extra-curricular activities to be involved in. But Seattle is known for ‘Seattle freeze’. Locals are comfortable with their established friendship and do not willingly welcome new social contacts immediately." Get some tips on Seattle life, accommodation and getting around in Padmaja's interview.
Are you an expat living in Seattle?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seattle. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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