7 Things You Must Know Before Moving To Seattle (From California!)

Having spent my youth in a suburb just 45 minutes away and then moving to Los Angeles California for 4 years in my early 20’s, I’ve gathered a few insights that I wish I’d known before moving back to the Emerald City.

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Monica Church is a Seattle based real estate agent selling on average 20 homes a year. She specializes in helping out of state buyers understand which neighborhoods will be best for them.

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1. The Seattle Freeze is Real… but Meltable

One common concern about relocating to Seattle is the so-called “Seattle Freeze,” referring to the city’s reputation for a chilly social scene. However, I’ve found this to be more of a seasonal occurrence. By the way- it does snow here! It’s not uncommon for us to get snow for a week sometime in January or February. The city totally shuts down due to our lack of infrastructure to handle the snow. In the winter, it’s easy to cancel plans last minute due to the short, rainy days. But come spring and summer, the city awakens with zest, and the social scene becomes vibrant.

Seattle’s days are notably shorter in winter than in California, with darkness often setting in by 4:00 p.m. But once the rain subsides and the sun reappears, so does the city’s enthusiasm for social gatherings. I believe the Seattle Freeze used to be worse, but with so many newcomers to the city, there are many people open to forming new connections. With the evolution of online dating to online friendship making, there are many different hobbyist groups to join as well to make friends. I currently belong to 2: Seattle Girl’s Group and a Sheltie Meet Up group. I have personally made friends through these.

2. Seattle’s Cost of Living Might Surprise You

Or at least it surprised me. I thought coming from Los Angeles, I would be saving money on food and rent by moving back. I was taken aback by the high living costs upon returning. A comfortable two-bedroom apartment can easily set you back $5,000 a month, and even the more modest one-bedroom apartments hover around $3,000. Owning a single-family home generally requires crossing the million-dollar threshold. Eating out doesn’t offer much financial respite either. A basic sandwich can cost as much as $15, and the drink prices are on par with New York’s – an $8 latte is no rarity here. The cocktails pictured above, while delicious, probably weren’t worth $18 each.

3. Seattle Doesn’t Have A Signature Style

This might just be a personal gripe of mine, but I wish we had an iconic type of home. Seattle, despite its natural beauty characterized by water and trees, lacks a definitive architectural style. Unlike San Francisco’s Victorian houses or New York’s brownstones, Seattle doesn’t possess that unique built environment feature that sets it apart. Not even the famous floating homes, as featured in Sleepless in Seattle, originated here! While we do have many beautiful homes such as bungalows, craftsman, and tudor’s… I feel the city lacks it’s own distinct style. If you’re looking for a European or East Coast feel, be sure to check out the Montlake neighborhood. 

4. Bellevue: Seattle’s Little Sister City All Grown Up

Growing up, Seattle always seemed ahead of the curve compared to Bellevue, yet upon my return, I encountered a different story. Bellevue has developed its distinct identity, with cleaner streets, better schools, and a reputation for being safer. The cost of living has ascended alongside its status, and the city now attracts a wealthier demographic. More and more often my buyers are requesting that they’d prefer to “stay on the eastside” referring to Bellevue, and its surrounding cities. 

5. Driving in Seattle: Unique Challenges Await

While driving in Seattle might seem like a breeze compared to the congestion of Los Angeles or San Francisco, the city’s drivers have their quirks. The most common frustration? Slow left-lane drivers who seem oblivious to the universal rule of road speed hierarchy. I enjoy the low-stress environment of less aggressive drivers than in California, but sometimes people here are completely unaware! 

6. Healthy Eating in Seattle Is Hard

The gray Seattle weather can trigger cravings for comfort food, making it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. While the city has its share of health-conscious eateries like Homegrown and Evergreens, it lacks the variety found in bigger cities. I found myself missing the broader range of options that I was used to in a larger city like Los Angeles. However this is starting to change as we got a Mendocino Farms in 2023, and Sweetgreen opens in a few weeks! 

7. We Have The Worst Fashion

Seattle embraces a very relaxed dress code. It’s common to dine next to someone in formal attire while you’re in your comfiest sweatpants – and it’s completely acceptable. This laid-back approach extends to the streets and shopping scenes. In fact, trendier fashion choices might make you feel out of place. I am guilty of showing up to the bars in sweatpants on more than one occasion. 

However, if you cross over to Bellevue, you’ll notice a stark contrast. The presence of luxury shopping and a more polished vibe signals that appearances take a higher priority in Seattle’s sister city.

That wraps up the 7 things you must know before moving to Seattle. Hopefully these feel more like pro’s than con’s!

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Monica Church is a Seattle based real estate agent selling on average 20 homes a year. She specializes in helping out of state buyers understand which neighborhoods will be best for them.

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