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What to know when moving to Seattle from California

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2/2/2021 By Kevin Wolff, SeattlePI
a truck is parked on the side of a road © Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

There have been a lot of articles written about Californians picking up and moving to Washington. The most often cited reason for packing bags and moving to the north is the cost of living. At the foundation of this are home prices. It’s hard to believe that even with our steadily increasing home prices, we still maintain a value compared to much of California. So, if you are a new transplant or are thinking of making the trek to Seattle, here are a few things you should know.

Driving is at the top of nearly every list. References to our highways are the first way someone can tell that you are from California. Please, no definite articles in front of highway numbers. The moment you reference Interstate 5 as “the five,” you have given away you came from California. For example, if you want to ski at Snoqualmie Pass, you travel east on Interstate 90, not “the 90.”

Speaking of driving, merging onto the highway here has an entirely different pattern. The California way has one jumping onto the freeway at 75 MPH, traffic permitting, where you are let it with just enough room to fit. Here, you will need to slow down to something below traffic speed and then jump in. Of course, after you jump in, you will need to speed up quickly before someone drives up on your rear bumper and flashes their brights or honks in disgust. While this sounds tough, you’ll get the hang of it within a couple of months.

Another challenge on the highways you may find are slow drivers and trucks traveling in the left lane. There is no fast lane—there are just lanes to the left or right. The fast lane is the one with a California transplant driving in it.

Food is one area where we share with California some of the nation’s best restaurants. There are a few exceptions to the rule, especially when explicitly comparing Los Angeles and Seattle. As is frequently stated in articles and blogs, you will not find great Mexican food in Seattle. However, you will gain some of the best seafood anywhere. Salmon, Penn Cove Mussels, Dungeness Crab, and Pacific Oysters are at the top. The rule here is, stay away from farmed Atlantic salmon with color added. In response to the claim about Mexican food availability. There are good Mexican restaurants in the area, minimizing any perceived loss an easy one to accept.

Pubs appear to remain more plentiful in Seattle versus California, but that gap seems to be shrinking. One area that remains a constant is earthquakes. California still seems to have a bit more action below your feet. Seattle did have a mountain blow its top, but that was in 1980. Thankfully, things have been a bit more “stable” here since then.

The last area that seems to be referenced whenever someone talks about Seattle, and the entire region, is the weather. Yes, it rains that much. In reality, it doesn’t rain so much as it drizzles. You will not need an umbrella; it rarely rains that hard. However, if you want to place a sign over your head that says, “Californian,” use one. Otherwise, forget you know what they are. From roughly October through May, expect a lot of grey weather. The payoff includes a few weeks between these months that are beautiful and the gorgeous summers. Just one request regarding summer, please do not invite friends from anywhere, including California, to visit during the summer. Their visit typically leads to a move. We don’t want our traffic to be as bad as Los Angeles or the Bay Area. It’s already bad enough.


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