May 3, 2024 - News

What it means to be "Smugged" in Seattle

Illustration of a seagull wearing a top hat and monocle.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In a city that's got a chilly reputation for being a place where it's hard to make friends, add the Seattle "Smug" to the list of things newcomers and old-timers alike must navigate.

Why it matters: We knew we weren't the only ones feeling the sting, and we're glad so many of you validated our experiences when we asked you to share them.

Zoom in: Clients who are new to the area and other counseling professionals have told Seattle-based psychologist Sheppard Salusky that Seattle and Portland are the "epicenter of judgmentalism."

  • "There are so many rules about what you can and cannot say and a correct and incorrect way to do everything," he told Axios.
  • You're supposed to compost, recycle, drive a Prius and be a vegan, or you may be treated like you're "killing the Earth," he said.

Cases in point: Some of you admitted to being part of the problem. Thank you for your honesty!

  • "I know I've been a culprit of it," said reader Claire Herting. "When I lived in Michigan and people would talk about going on a hike, I'd usually respond with: 'It's too flat to call this hiking. We're walking in the woods.'"
  • "Whenever I see someone using an umbrella when it's not raining or barely raining (common in San Francisco), I'm tempted to ask: 'How long have you lived in Seattle?'" wrote Xavier Barrera González.
  • "The problem is NOT that people are judging you for putting cow milk in your coffee or not separating your recycling," wrote Andy Forrest. "The problem is that you are practicing anti-social and anti-environmental behavior."

The other side: One reader born and raised in Seattle, who asked not to be named, said she faced significant Seattle smug after moving to Shoreline.

  • "I am quick to tell them that it's not as if Shoreline is out in the sticks," she said. "We have running water, electricity and cars, folks. Even high-speed internet and coffee and Trader Joe's!"
  • Carla Hanafee wrote she feels obligated to justify her choice to have gotten her 6-month-old mini golden retriever from a breeder.
  • Brynn Biddle had just moved to Seattle in 2021 and was walking outside, drinking coffee with a friend sans mask, when someone went out of their way to cross the street and give them "a dirty look."

"It was not a great welcome to my new home," Biddle wrote.

Yes, but: Some of you just really like separating your compost from your recyclables, and graciously keep it to yourselves.

  • As reader Bin Jin put it: "I must admit that I'm one of those that recycle-as-properly-as-I-can type. … I wouldn't go as far as judging people though."

What's next: The Seattle smug is spreading, and no Puget Sound locale is immune, said Ron Judd, executive editor of the Cascadia Daily News in Bellingham.

  • "I remember the exact day I saw two Teslas in town and said to myself, 'They're here.'"
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