Edit: I found this in my drafts folder after six years (!) I did some minor edits, but it’s otherwise a snapshot of our lives in mid-March, 2017, and it made me laugh as well as brought up a bunch of nostalgia.
Yes, I can’t believe it’s been six months already!
There’s a lot to process when you move countries. Even simple things, like going to the supermarket (“grocery store”) and getting some takeaway food (“takeout”) can be a challenge, because you have no point of reference on what’s good or bad, or even the correct terms to communicate (“they use the word entree for the main meal?!”)
If you’re Australian, and you’ve thought about moving to Seattle for Amazon, you’ve probably run into Diary of a Pampered Housewife. If not, she’s written an awesome guide to Aussies relocating to Seattle and if you’re thinking about moving here, you should go read it.
There’s no getting around it: Seattle is pretty grey. It doesn’t rain all the time, but the clouds have been here since October. Also, they (whoever “they” are) told us it doesn’t rain very heavily, so you can get away with not needing an umbrella. They were lying.
People tend to walk around with waterproof shells – think North Face, Marmot, Columbia, etc – to keep the water out. This works to a point, but if you’re trying to protect a laptop on your back, you need an umbrella or rain cover for your bag, too.
Waterproof shoes are also a key to success. Somehow, you can tackle anything when your feet are dry. We became friends with REI.
I own an ultra light down coat from Uniqlo that squashes down to nothing. I love it, it’s vaguely water resistant, and it keeps me warm through anything from -5 to 15 degrees (that’s 22 to 59 in foreign-speak) using additional layers when it’s below 5. I supplement it with a Columbia rain jacket or an umbrella when it’s really heavy.
When it’s raining solidly for a whole month, like what happened in October 2016, even an umbrella and wellingtons won’t save you.
The outdoors and the rain make Seattle a very casual place, which suits me and my capsule-like wardrobe just fine. I have ditched all shoes that have heels on them. I have four “active” pairs of shoes, a far cry from the 50+ pairs I used to own ten years ago.
Trail shoes are pretty normal around the office. A lot of restaurants and bars are super casual. I don’t feel weird carrying my backpack around. I’ve refactored my handbag (“purse”) into pockets on my jacket, plus my phone with credit cards. I no longer have that annoying problem when you switch handbags to suit an outfit and forget to transfer everything over.
US dollars aren’t very accessible, in the making-it-easy-to-use-for-everyone sense. Every note is the same size, and the same colour. I get confused carrying a wad of monotonous green notes around, so I solve the problem by not using any at all. Everything goes on my card.
On the one hand, I love it because I don’t have to carry any physical money around. On the other hand, America is so far backward that I can’t believe I’m even going to type this out. We pay for our rent by cheque. Yes, you read that correctly. Cheques, in 2017. But at least I don’t have to write it out every month, because our “internet banking” service automatically writes the physical cheque for you and physically mails it to the person you want to pay.
…I know, right?
Also, unlike most modern economies, you can’t transfer random amounts of money to other people’s bank accounts, so people start using third party services. I guess you win some, lose some.
If you like the outdoors, Seattle is a great place to be. It’s surrounded by mountains, which are nice to hike on in summer, and all that rain gets converted into a lovely dusting of snow for winter.
We can drive to several snow fields that are 1-2 hours away, and have done so multiple times since December. Since we’re so close to snow, it opens up a lot more possibilities for snow activities besides just downhill sports. We’ve been snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and just plain hiking on snow. It’s all beautiful.
In Autumn, the trees start changing colour, the air is crisp, and it’s fresh. I like that I can get to this less than an hour from my house. In Sydney, after an hour of driving, I’m probably still somewhere on Parramatta Road.
The latitude of Seattle means that it gets more sunlight than London does, so standing in the sunlight in February actually feels warm. And it’s further west in its time zone, so in February it’s still light at 6pm. There’s a lot you can do with that.
We’ve been told the summer here is amazing – reliable dry, clear weather. Can’t wait 🙂
When we moved here, I had very firm visions of continuing to catch public transport. I’d embraced the habit in London, and we lived near a train line in Sydney. I hate driving, and I hate traffic, so public transport is a win-win. Seattle is also a liberal city as US cities go, so I figured the transport would be reasonable.
However, Seattle doesn’t have a lot of different types of public transport. Most of the city relies on buses. There is one rail line, but it doesn’t go near to work. Unfortunately, buses get affected by road traffic, so timetables are a bit fictional. The buses are also crowded. It’s not uncommon to watch a bus or two pass your stop in the evening. Anytime between 4:45pm and 6:30pm is a royal pain to get home.
After one month of constant rain (the wettest October on record), followed by the coldest December on record, we capitulated. We started driving our car to work.
The pacific northwest has a reputation for some good local produce. It’s around, but compared to the quality of food you can get in Sydney, it’s just not the same. You will, in fact, be disappointed if you randomly stop in somewhere. We’ve found food to be very salty and very “blunt”, for lack of a better word. There’s usually one overwhelming flavour profile – e.g. sweet or smoky – and a lack of any other dimension.
I miss being able to stop into a random cafe in Sydney and trust I’d get a decent meal. We’ve spent a lot more time cooking food ourselves, and researching any restaurants before we drop in.
It’s a small-big city, which means you get all the amenities of a city, but the perks of less crowds. Parking is easy. Getting tickets or going to restaurants is generally easy. There’s space to breathe.
If you’re a nerdy introvert, Seattle is pretty awesome. There’s a big board game culture, including game cafes which let you play games for free. Since I’ve passed the stage of getting trashed on a Saturday night, the games are fun. And cheaper than alcohol, and open until 11pm on a Saturday night. I love it!
The city has a reputation for the Seattle Freeze. I am unsure if it’s an American thing in comparison (i.e. Americans are overwhelmingly open and chatty people by default, so the relative introvert-ness of Seattle is confronting) but we haven’t found it particularly freeze-like, but we hang around with a lot of foreigners, since Amazon is full of them. We do, however, notice the distinct lack of swearing at work. Also, people don’t really do drinks or much after-work socialising. Drinks are over in an hour (only an hour?!). We’re also not sure if this is an American thing, or an Amazon thing. More research to come.
The amount of junk mail here is ridiculous. There’s some kind of weird scenario where the US postal service is an enabler of junk mail, because it’s one of their main sources of income. It’s incredibly screwed up.
Americans are also big subscribers of things. People are always asking if you’ve joined their club, so they can send you a 0.1% discount and a message on your birthday every year, in exchange for mining your purchasing history and selling your data to broker. Thanks, but I’m good.
Donating money to an organisation means you’re suddenly on their email and physical junk mail lists, with no way to opt out (yes, I am looking at you Planned Parenthood – way to say thanks). It’s made me think twice about who to give my money/data to in future.