How do you know when you’re a true Seattleite?

The responses to a story last week about what it takes to be considered local to Seattle or the PNW tended to depend on the length of time people giving the answers have been living here.

Are you local when feel you are, or do you need an actual birth certificate saying you were born here, as one lifelong resident suggested? Or is it when you’ve found peace kayaking or hiking in the rain?

But residents, both old and new, agreed on which characteristics are quintessentially Northwestern: our love of casual, outdoorsy clothing in every setting, our acceptance of the rain and our fondness for getting outside — whatever the weather.

In the comment section of last week’s story, user “youcannotbedogstar” said authentic PNW status is based on values: “A Seattleite never honks his horn in anger, always crosses the street at the corner, and is unfailingly polite. This business of the ‘freeze’ is a misunderstanding: Seattleites will not bestow fake friendliness upon you. They won’t say ‘let’s get lunch sometime’ but rather say ‘see you at Dick’s on 45th for lunch on Tuesday at noon,” then actually show up.”

Meanwhile, “user158775420314” commented that “The freeze and the blank, almost hostile stare with no smile or greeting is just the PNW form of hazing to newcomers. The best part is that after about five minutes of face-to-face interaction even the most socially inept PNWers can’t maintain it and start getting chatty. It’s bizarre, but rather endearing, once you get used to it, after say, 30 years or so.”

A person with the username “Baranof” took to the comments to ask, “Without googling it, can you name 5 volcanos, 5 native tribes, five species of salmon, five ferry routes, five native plants? How about 5 major companies (non-tech) that are based here? That would be a start.”


Many readers also voiced their thoughts in the comments on the Facebook post sharing the article.

“I’ve only been here a few years, but instantly felt more at home and happier than anywhere else I’ve lived,” said Kim Kirchstein.

“Riding a bicycle before the Fremont Solstice Parade makes you a true Seattleite,” said Mackenzie McAninch.

And Price Hall commented that “Being local in seattle is living here long enough to get priced out.”


B. Neil Larsen, a registered investment advisor, was among the many readers who shared his thoughts in an email after our original story on what it means to be a Seattleite. Larsen was raised in Burien and now lives in Kent. He says there’s a hard but simple answer: “To be a native – your birth certificate says you were born in Seattle… if you don’t have that you’re a transplant at best.”


And he’s cranky about it, he said, because standards need to be upheld. Just look at how things are falling apart in Seattle, he said.

“A native Seattleite right now is goddamn grumpy about Seattle. What happened to Seattle? It went right down the toilet.”

Larsen believes that while transplants cannot become natives, they can become locals.

The criteria, for him, is 10 years of residency and the correct pronunciations of Puyallup (pyou-allop), Sequim (skwim), and Des Moines (duh-moyns).

“And they have to know where the San Juan Islands are, too.”

Think you can pronounce the names of Washington towns and historical attractions? Test your local knowledge with our quiz.

Larsen doesn’t blame newcomers for Seattle’s woes, but plenty of vocal old-timers do:

“Raised here, transplants changed the culture of Seattle and it will never be the same,” Joe Steezlow wrote in a Facebook comment. The old Seattle was where I never wanted to leave and raise a family. The new Seattle is where true Seattle natives want to flee. Thanks to all the tech companies and gentrification. Should’ve kept big tech on the east side where it belongs.”

Lauren Marshall, a native Oregonian who has lived in Seattle for 35 years, urges recent transplants not to take any of it personally. It’s been like this for a long time, she says.

In the musical Waiter, There’s a Slug in My Latté — an annual summer fixture at Seattle’s Cabaret de Paris between 1990 and 1995 — Marshall and co-creator Todd Moeller poked fun at Seattleites’ tolerance for drizzle, the preference for Gore-Tex over umbrellas, and the freeze.

“Who is from Seattle?” she wrote in the 32-year-old song “True Native Test.”


“We have our ways of knowing if you do not come from here/We’ve gotten very good at it since moving here last year,” the song goes.

Other songs in the musical gently poke fun at Seattleites’ smugness over being socially and environmentally conscious, the stress a couch potato feels under relentless pressure to hike and ski, and our close-the-door-behind-me mindset.

“It comes from a feeling of love and pride about Seattle,” she said in an interview this week. “It feels like we found Eden, heaven on earth. It’s beautiful and we don’t want anyone else coming in and ruining it.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously left the “s” off the end of the correct local pronunciation of Des Moines.