First Impressions: The 6 Biggest Shockers of Seattle Living (so far)

It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve crossed the Canada & U.S. border, and the adjustment has been much more than I had anticipated. Today, I am going to share a few of my first impressions and biggest changes or shockers so far… Let’s just say it’s been a very interesting experience πŸ˜…

Please note that I am sharing all of this from the perspective of a Calgarian. In Calgary, I am used to:

  • Living in the cleanest and sunniest city in Canada; population of ~1.6M
  • 5% sales tax (thanks to our O&G industry)
  • A more affordable (compared to other major Canadian cities) but hot and rising house market

The expensive prices πŸ€‘

Once upon a time, everyone told me how cheap everything was in the U.S. Let’s just say that ship has long sailed, and I am destined to desensitize myself to the dual damage of USD pricing and USD conversion.

We’ve found that retail prices are around 10% higher (not including taxes and USD conversion). Here’s a few examples:

ItemCADUSDCAD Conversion
Bowl of Pho (reg) 🍜 $10-11$13-14$16-17
Teriyaki Chicken (fast food)$11-12$14-15$17-18
Canned Food$0.79-2$2-4$3-5
Asian Groceries 20-30% more

The interesting driving scene πŸš—

I’ve been told that drivers should “go with the flow of traffic” here, and I’ve observed that to be around 10-20mph above the posted speed limit. On some highways (called freeways over here), there are carpool lanes for 2+ passengers in the car which seem to go faster. Apparently, there is someone who actually monitors the cameras to hand out tickets ($124). Also, it was interesting to find that there’s no official merge boundaries when merging onto freeways or main roads. As you continue driving, your lane will just suddenly combine with the main lane… so you just need to be aware of this or else it could easily lead to a collision. Aside from that, I like that you can make U-Turns just about anywhere. The other day, I was 1 of 5 cars that simultaneously made a U-turn at an intersection πŸ˜‚

The lack of city lights πŸ’‘

One of the things that I noticed while driving at night was the lack of city lights wherever I went. Even the street lights on main roads and freeways seemed to be few and far between. There were even less lights in the communities and neighbourhoods, which made everything look and feel eerie at night… so I would definitely avoid walking around after the sun sets (not that I did much of that anyways).

The prevalence of disparity πŸ“Š

For those who aren’t as familiar with the area, there’s the more suburban “East-side” which is known to be safer and cleaner than the “West-side” known as “Seattle Proper”. When I crossed the bridge over to the West-side, I was definitely startled by the homelessness that seemed to exist around every corner. As I started house/apartment hunting, there were many times when I saw a homeless community of tarps and tents sitting right across a set of nearly million-dollar condos or townhomes. From the little bit of the city that I’ve observed so far, Seattle seems to be a mix-mash of new-and-old and poor-and-rich.

The housing market 🏚️

Having recently purchased a home back in Calgary, let’s just say that I am completely flabbergasted by the housing market in the Greater Seattle Area 🀯 From creeping the web and talking to peers and peeps, I have learned that:

  • It is typical for a house to get dozens of offers within hours of being listed
  • Houses are getting insanely inflated offers for hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond their listing prices
  • People are making ALL CASH offers to beat out the competition
  • There’s essentially no room for negotiation on the buyer sideβ€”you need to take the house in its as-is condition even if it means you need to do major renovation work upon taking possession
  • You’ll most likely not get your dream home or first pick in the gruelling house hunting process

The old-school payment methods πŸ’³

I think this is more of an American (not strictly Seattle) thing when dining, but I’ve found that you need to physically hand your card over and then manually write down your tip on the receipt so that the waiter can process it after you leave the restaurant. In Canada, we simply input our tip into the machine, tap our card, and voila ✨ it’s all done!

When it comes to shopping or quick transactions, the tap feature only seems to work half of the time. Most of the time, I need to insert my card and then make some selections on the pin-pad or touch screen (which I don’t like as much because of COVID).

Note to self: It’s not bad, just different!

Ironically, I’ve always complained about living in Calgary, but I’ve come to realize that I definitely took some parts of it for granted! I am aware that this blog post seems to shed a more critical perspective on Seattle, but that is not my intention. Honestly, I think I am just not used to living in such a big city yet, which comes with a different set of circumstances. Ultimately, I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this kind of big transition in my life and see how I can adapt to it over time. I am hopeful that I will get more comfortable as I continue exploring the city and embracing the great aspects of living here!

Stay tuned for my next blog post which will talk about my more pleasant surprises and appreciations with living in Seattle 😊

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