Monday, January 28, 2008

Documented proof of anti-sociality in Seattle, one of the worst places

Probably one of the strongest examples of anti-sociality in America is in the Seattle, Washington area. As one who was stuck in that area for years (not by choice) I can personally attest that it is one of the worst and most anti-social areas in the country. People in general there are like hermits who detest social interaction, hate meeting new people, and seem very comfortable around others, merely humoring passerbys with a fake polite smile. It felt like the Twilight Zone there, where I was the only one that was normal. It got so bad in fact that I wrote this article at www.happierabroad.com/Bellingham_Curse.htm.

In fact, the frigidity of the social atmosphere in the Seattle area is so apparent that it came to the attention of the city’s own major print media. The Seattle Times did a story on it, coining the term “The Seattle Freeze”, which you can read at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2005/0213/cover.html

The report describes a common social pattern where people are very polite to others, stopping to let you cross the street, letting you cut in on the freeway, waving a fake hello to you, etc. but are extremely non-inclusive in that they don’t invite you anywhere, don’t wish to spend time with you, and don’t like meeting new people or socializing other than waving politely to strangers that pass by, never seeing them again. Here are some key excerpts from the story:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2005/0213/cover.html

“Those who move to Seattle also have another kind of story. But you don't broadcast this one. You keep it to yourself or whisper it to other transplants. It goes something like this:

You're talking to a co-worker/someone at a party/fill in the blank. In any other town, this person looks like someone with whom you might be friends. Potential friend asks, "So what are you up to this weekend?"

"Oh, I don't have any plans yet. I just moved to Seattle and don't really know anybody . . ."

You try not to look desperate.

Friend-to-be smiles and, for a brief, shining moment you think to yourself: Finally, someone is going to ask me to do something. Invite me to a party. Happy hour. Brunch with the girls. It'll be just like "Sex and the City." She'll be Charlotte; you'll be Carrie!

You feel a chill coming on. Still smiling, Friend-Not-On-Your-Life politely excuses herself, "Well, have a nice weekend then."

Ouch.

……. the dichotomy most fundamental to our collective civic character is this: Polite but distant. Have a nice day. Somewhere else.

Seattle is like that popular girl in high school. The one who gets your vote for homecoming queen because she always smiles and says hello. But she doesn't know your name and doesn't care to. She doesn't want to be your friend. She's just being nice.

……… But in Seattle, it was cold shoulder after cold shoulder. She was working as a waitress with dozens of people her age, but it took six months before one of them invited her along when they went out after work.

"It seems nobody really wants to let you in," she says. "They'll say, 'Oh yeah, yeah, I'll get your number' — but you know that's going nowhere."

"Here, it's so weird, people are so nice in these passing situations, but beyond that there's a wall," she says.

Sociology professor Jodi O'Brien has a name for it: "the phenomenon of the plastic smile."

Seattle's "social script," she says, can ultimately lead to "alienation" and "isolation." "Politeness is a poor substitute for intimacy and genuine friendship."

"At the university, where people are hired from all over, this is a pretty standard conversation," O'Brien says. "Seattleites are often seen as having this veneer of pleasantness but being hard to come to know."

…….. WHILE RESERVE may come in handy when you've got on white gloves, it can make for a rather stultifying social scene, as Gabriel Tevrizian found when he moved here 15 years ago from Buenos Aires.

Now 40, Tevrizian recalls that for the first time in his life, he knew what it meant to be lonely.

"There's no such thing as that in Argentina," he says. "There are people around you constantly. They come over and hang out and then they hang out some more.

"People here don't ever just hang out — there's no time for that — but those are the times you really get to know people."

Any attempt to socialize begins to feel like too much effort, he says. "You have to try to get together 10 times before someone doesn't cancel."

Trying to develop a friendship in Seattle, you can feel a bit like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." Like with each encounter you have to start from scratch, back to the surface niceties.

Take the dog park. Pam Tate and her Pomeranian-Schipperke mix Jett see the same people each week at the Magnuson Park off-leash area. As the dogs sniff each other, their owners chitchat and trade compliments on each other's sniff-worthy dogs. But each time, at the end of the conversation, "I know the dog's name, but not the owners'. How sad is that?"

And as Tate, 36, quickly learned, when you actually make an effort, you risk coming off as pushy. When she arrived from Orange County, potential-friend types would say, "Hey, let's do something sometime." And she thought they meant it. She'd try to actually set something up. "People would seem shocked; I was seen as aggressive for asking people to do a specific thing at a specific time."

After a series of squirmy rebuffs, she realized that when Seattleites say, "Let's do something sometime," what they really mean is: "Let's never do anything ever."

"A lot of what people call socializing is really just public isolation," O'Brien says.

Here in Seattle we do a lot of things alone. We live alone: Two out of five households have a single occupant — one of the highest rates in the nation. More than three-quarters of people participate in an individual sport but only 13 percent play on a team. We ride bikes alone; go on walks alone; troll bookstores alone, then go home and read alone.

"People find their set of activities to do and they are fairly content," O'Brien says.

In fact, Seattle's seeming split personality might come from this very complacency. We don't have anything against you, but simply don't feel the need to take the risk of inviting you into the fold.

"On the one hand, it's nice to bop in and out of situations knowing people will smile and treat you well. Nice is like bubble gum — it's sugary and pleasant." But if all you ever get is nice, never flirty or risky, she says, that gum loses its flavor pretty quick, and the human experience becomes ultimately less rewarding. Even depressing.

She cites a famous sociological study of flight attendants, which found being nice all the time is an especially draining kind of work. It can cause the emotional equivalent of repetitive stress injury. At the end of the day, some flight attendants would have trouble turning the nice off. And stuck in nice gear, they became disassociated from their true emotions and had trouble expressing them.

First, it's an enabling cultural climate for socially inept people. So if you come here and you have any germ of antisociality, it will, like moss, take hold and flourish.

And if you arrive here open and ebullient, you're bound to lose your confidence and spark after enough cold shoulders. After all, why even bother going to that party when you know it will just be more nonchalant chitchat that will never go anywhere?

"If a dog gets smacked every time he sticks his nose out of the cage, guess what happens?" Pam Tate says. "After a while of putting yourself out there and being rebuffed, you just say forget it."

Newcomers seem to acclimate to the social habits along with the weather. We soon learn to lay off our horns and grow less effusive with invitations.”

Now isn’t that all so sad? It should never be that way. I wonder why the story never even bothered mentioning actually LEAVING Seattle as a possible solution, since there are so many places in the world where socializing is completely NATURAL and FREE-FLOWING (which is the whole basis of my ebook in fact). Instead, it reports on the remedy of going to singles clubs and social mixers composed of other Seattle transplants, a very mono-national solution. Apparently it’s taboo to mention that somewhere else is better than where you’re at.

Frankly though, I’ve been to organized social mixers in Seattle and even though this is gonna sound rude, I’m going to tell it like it is: They are mostly composed of overweight unattractive people! (sorry if that’s rude and offensive, but it’s true) Yeah they were very nice people, but WHY SETTLE for that when you can go to Europe or the Philippines and hang out in social groups of skinny attractive people EASILY?! And date attractive people naturally as well (as long as you’re a nice decent guy)? It makes no sense, doesn’t show the big picture, and shows the news writer’s highly mono-national views.

If that isn’t limited enough, get this one. These folks in a Seattle Meetup.org chat are claiming that it usually takes 2 years to make new friends when you move to a new place!

http://newintown.meetup.com/38/messages/boards/view/viewthread?thread=2043864

Are they talking about Seattle, the USA, or the whole world when they say “new place”? I don’t think it takes that long even in the States to make friends when you move somewhere new! What are these folks smoking?! Who has two years of their life to waste with no social life?! In most places in the world, if I talk to people, I can make new friends within 30 minutes of arriving in a new place! I’ve never had a problem at all, look! www.happierabroad.com/ebook/Collage.htm

If only these folks knew……… They are like the cavemen in Plato’s Cave Analogy, watching the shadows on the wall while the enlightened have already found the daylight on the surface.

3 comments:

  1. It's true, not just in Seattle but all across America. People in the US are not socialble and they are uncomfortable talking to strangers. People live like hermits in America, most people don't know who there neighbors are and are paranoid of strangers! This is especially true of women in America, as they are afraid of men talking to them in public. No wonder why there are so many lonely people in America!

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  2. Seattle is one of the few cities, which I have never visited. My uncle lives there. I have heard some really strange things about the place ... Everything from people having dogs instead of kids, to women trying to make hairy legs a fashion statement. It sounds like a really weird place. I must see it sometime! LOL! That Seattle social script sounds quite ironic. I also heard that the Seattle area has more millionaires/billionaires than any other city in the country.

    I agree that it is ridiculous if it takes 2 years to make new friends when moving to a new place. Especially for young single people. People have communication needs, and can actually get very sick (mentally, emotionally and physically) when those needs are not met. Two years of social isolation ... It should be no surprise that Seattle ranks high in suicide (from last i read).

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  3. You've raised a good point with that post which I've been wanting to talk with you about.

    Note:"You try not to look desperate"

    If you don't already have friends and a circle of friends, then you are automatically a loser. So here, in the US, you have to put on a false and fake persona that you're busy with all your friends--otherwise you can easily create the impression that you are a loser. It's sick! But this false image you have to present is what is called 'social skills.'

    In germany, I've been told that that cultural behavior doesn't exist. There is no stigma for being by yourself and or earnestly trying to connect with people. You can go to bars by yourself freely and no one will judge you as being a friendless loser.

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