Are you considering moving to Seattle? It’s hard to blame you.
I currently live in Seattle and can confirm that life in this robust city feels like a privilege most days.
There’s no denying that the city has an inexplicable draw on folks looking to start afresh in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
But, as with anything in life, there’s also downsides.
Sure, living in Seattle is great for some — but is it the right decision for you?
If you’re considering moving to Seattle, I’d like to share my personal list of the honest pros and cons of living in Seattle to make your decision process easier.
While reading this list, please keep in mind that this is my personal list of the pros and cons of living in Seattle, not everyone will feel the same way.
With that said, let’s jump right in!
Pros & Cons of Living in Seattle Washington
Note: This post is part of the Local Living Series, wherein locals share honest insights of living in a specific city through comprehensive pros and cons lists. If you’d like to reach out to the author directly with questions, please do so in the comments below and our team will ensure it gets to the right person.
Pros of Living in Seattle
#1. Proximity to nature
Seattle’s nickname as the Emerald City is well deserved. The nickname is directly related to the nature and greenery surrounding the city year-round, even during the dreary winter months thanks to evergreen forests that enclose the city on all sides.
When considering moving to Seattle, the access to nature is possibly the biggest draw.
I think nature is a big reason so many people choose to live in the Pacific Northwest, in general.
Seattle is a mere two-hour drive from all three of Washington’s breathtaking national parks. Not to mention the plethora of hiking trails just a stone’s throw from the city’s limit.
All this to say, Seattleites take outdoor recreation seriously, and thankfully, there’s plenty of outdoor activities to choose from.
#2. Great career opportunities
Seattle has an astounding amount of career opportunities, especially in the tech industry.
In fact, Seattle consistently ranks as one of the top 10 best cities in the country for jobs, thanks to the strong job economy in this tech-centric city.
And since some of the biggest tech companies (in the entire world) are clustered into Seattle’s city limits, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that Seattle is considered one of the best cities in America for tech jobs.
Home to Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks, Nintendo and Microsoft. Over the past few years a handful of other notable companies moved to Seattle like Adobe, Google, Apple and Facebook.
But don’t let me fool you – competition is fierce. These renowned companies have a very large and talented pool of applicants to choose from, so folks that live in Seattle can’t help but take their careers seriously.
As such, Seattleites are sometimes considered workaholics.
#3. There’s no state income tax
Washington is one of only nine states in the country that doesn’t have a state income tax.
Which is actually a big deal when you think of it this way: The exact same salary in the neighboring state of Oregon would automatically bring in 10% less because of Oregon’s income tax.
Say you’re bringing in $50,000 per year, that’s a savings of $5,000. In fact, it’s not uncommon for life-long Oregonians to retire in Washington for this very reason.
But I’m all for transparency, what Washington lacks in state income tax it makes up for in sales tax (6.5%) and Seattle has an additional sales tax of 3.75%.
Essentially this means you will be paying a hefty 10.25% in sales taxes on anything you buy in Seattle. Which is one of the top 5 highest sales taxes in the country.
Hence, some Washingtonians head south to Oregon for large purchases like electronics and jewelry. Funny how that works!
#4. Seattle is a safe city
I’ve never felt unsafe living in Seattle. Like most folks my age (mid-30s), I wake up around 6am and drive to work. After parking my car, I walk 8 city blocks to my office.
Sometime I grab drinks with friends after work and wander downtown until 9pm. Other times I’m home by 7pm.
I’m definitely not living on the edge by any means, my life isn’t overly exciting but it works for me.
All this to say, I’ve never experienced anything eventful safety-wise, even while walking back to my car alone at 9pm.
I don’t want to paint a false picture though because Seattle is definitely experiencing a housing crises (like most overpopulated cities in America). As such, homelessness is rampant and very apparent.
Some people associate homelessness with crime, but that is not always the case.
Most of the homeless in Seattle don’t pose a threat and leave folks alone – I’ve yet to have a memorable interaction in that department, but wanted to mention it regardless.
#5. The incredible food scene
Seattle restaurants are all about quality ingredients and local produce and let me tell you — we are all better for it. Local reigns supreme and you can definitely taste the difference.
The seafood dishes in Seattle are some of the best you’ll find in the country but there’s also a great selection of Asian cuisines as well.
Seattle has the 5th highest concentration of restaurants in the country (per 10,000 households). Plus, both chefs and critics love partaking in the city’s diverse culinary scene here — for instance, Anthony Bourdain is quoted as saying:
“Seattle has one of the best and most interesting food scenes in America.”Anthony Bourdain
Anthony, you’re making us blush.
#6. Seattle is an intellectual city
Seattle is full of intellectuals, so much so, that is has earned the ranking of America’s smartest city in 2018.
In fact, 47% of Seattleites hold bachelor’s degrees — the highest percentage of degree holders in the country (and double the US average of 24%).
But we all know how it goes – for every true intellect there’s always two know-it-alls.
So take this pro with a grain of salt, because if you’re moving to Seattle you’ll be surrounded by folks who think they know best.
I will add that I enjoy living in Seattle because there’s never a shortage of interesting conversations to be had. You know how it goes, there’s pros and cons to everything.
#7. There’s no need for air conditioning
Seriously, apart from maybe two weeks a year, there’s no need for AC when living in Seattle.
#8. Seattle is downright beautiful
Seattle is genuinely a beautiful city.
Between the city’s famous skyline (looking at you, Space Needle), the jaw-dropping Olympic mountains looming in the background, swaths of healthy evergreen forests and the scenic Puget Sound – it’s hard to find another American city that compares to this level of beauty.
Living in Seattle feels like a treat because the city is a joy to look at. From the hilly city streets to the charming homes and quaint cafes. Seattle is a treat for the eyes.
Plus, the infamous rain keeps things green and fairly clean – always a perk!
#9. Seattle has phenomenal summers
Seattle has some of the best summers in the country. Humidity is nonexistent, temperatures are mild (seldom exceeding 75-80 degrees) and sunshine is reliable.
For many people, the nature is the biggest draw of moving to Seattle and the spectacular summers make it possible to take advantage of outdoor recreation without constant fear of oppressive heat.
I mean, just take a day trip to Mt. Rainier National Park in July and you’ll be hooked in no time.
What’s more, we don’t really have massive bug problems here, so you can easily spend time outside late into the evening — a perk of living in Seattle that is not to be underestimated.
And evening temperatures dip to comfortable lows, which make early mornings and late evenings rather enjoyable because you get a break from the summer heat.
Further Reading: 10 Jaw-Dropping Things to Do at Mt. Rainier National Park
#10. Seattle is a dog friendly city
When you live in Seattle you’ll notice that a handful of your neighbors, coworkers and friends will have a dog. It’s no surprise that the home of the beloved puppuccino caters to dog lovers in every way imaginable.
You’ll see dogs at restaurants, cafes, parks and even a handful of workplaces.
If you plan on moving to Seattle with a dog, you have a clear advantage of making friends because you’ll be meeting other people at dog parks or during your walks.
#11. Seattle is the best coffee city in America
Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks Coffee, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping out on the incredible local coffee shops while living in Seattle.
It’s no coincidence that Seattle is often ranked as the best coffee city in America. With one cafe for ever 2,300 residents, there’s no excuse to drink bad coffee while living here.
If you consider yourself a coffee-aficionado, pay homage to the company that put coffee on the map by visiting the original Starbucks store at Pike Place Market — or better yet, swing by the Seattle Roastery for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Cons of Living in Seattle
#1. High cost of living
As mentioned earlier, the cost of living in Seattle is a major con. We’re not even in the same timezone as affordable.
In fact, in 2019, Seattle was ranked the 5th most expensive city in the country – trailing behind Manhattan, San Francisco, Honolulu and Brooklyn. Ouch.
On average, a one-bedroom apartment in the downtown core area will set you back $2,200. It’s not uncommon for folks with well paying jobs to have roommates.
Sure, Seattle jobs pay more than the national average, but rent typically far exceeds 40-50% of take-home pay.
All this to say, if you’re moving to Seattle, expect housing to take a big bite out of your budget.
#2. The weather
As you may know, Seattle is known as a rainy city. And yes, it does rain in Seattle but not as often as some people think.
For instance, Seattle gets less rain than New York City and Washington D.C. In fact, Seattle isn’t even in the top 10 rainiest cities in America.
Based on firsthand experience, one of the biggest cons of living in Seattle isn’t the rain, it’s the forever-looming gray clouds taking residence above the city.
The sky is gray and gray most months of the year, which makes winter feel so long. It also doesn’t help that the sun rises later and sets earlier from November to February
Knowing this, it’s no wonder Seattleites are desperate to take advantage of the quickly-fleeting blissful summer months.
Hiking trails are packed during summer because everyone wants to take advantage of the sunshine.
The best way to combat Seattle’s dreary winter weather? This handy device. I honestly couldn’t live in Seattle without it during the winter months.
Also worth mention, Seattle locals take great pride in shunning umbrellas (similar to Portlanders). Oftentimes the joke is that an umbrella is a clear sign of a tourist. Heads up!
#3. The Seattle Freeze
If you find yourself having a hard time making friends after moving to Seattle, don’t worry, you are not alone.
Seattle’s cold shoulder is so infamous, there’s an actual term for it — The Seattle Freeze.
Life-long Seattle residents take great pride in their city and sometime dislike newcomers.
If you’re feeling the sting, I suggest befriending other newcomers but getting involved in your local community and putting yourself out there.
Attend work events, compliment someone at a cafe, join a book club or find a workout group.
I don’t want to sound naively optimistic, but I feel like the Seattle Freeze is slowly starting to soften because of all the recent transplants.
Seattle was considered the third fastest growing city in America by population in 2018 and I think we’re all better for it.
With so many new folks moving to Seattle, it’s easier to make friends than it was in the past.
The Seattle Freeze is real, just know it’s not personal and you’ll be able to find ways around it.
#4. The constant traffic
Time and time again, Seattle clocks in as one of the worst cities for traffic in the country. Rush hour lasts about 5 hours a day (yes, really) and the city is in complete gridlock during that hour.
It’s safe to say that when you live in Seattle, traffic is all but guaranteed in your daily life.
As Seattle grows, the aging infrastructure can’t keep up with demand. As such, plan to spend a lot of time sitting in a car practicing zen mantras over and over because you’ll need it.
Most locals prefer driving to taking public transportation… which probably tells you everything you need to know about public transportation in Seattle, but we’ll cover that shortly.
#5. The housing market
Seattle is considered one of the most expensive cities in the country to buy a home — which is definitely something to consider if you plan on moving to Seattle to settle down long-term.
If you’d like to live close to downtown, starter homes (requiring some work) start around $765,000 and increase annually.
The housing market in Seattle is nowhere near affordable. If I finally save enough for a down payment, my only option is to move out of Seattle proper to buy a home.
It’s unfortunate because I enjoy living in Seattle’s vibrant downtown core, but a long-term stay is just not realistic.
And yes, I understand that exorbitant housing costs are not unique to Seattle – but it’s still very unfortunate.
#6. Seattle lacks diversity
One thing I learned quickly after moving to Seattle is that the city is overwhelmingly white. Aside from a healthy Asian community, it’s hard to find diversity in the Emerald City.
I moved to Seattle from Brooklyn, so the lack of diversity was a brutal wake up call, to be sure.
However, based on what I hear from coworkers and friends, it seems like the the Pacific Northwest lacks diversity in general.
Here’s some data to back this up: The racial composition of the Seattle in 2016 was 65.7% white, 14.1% Asian, 7.0% Black, 0.4% Native American, 0.9% Pacific Islander, 2.3% from other races, and 5.6% from two or more races.
#7. High rate of homelessness
Seattle has the third highest homeless population of any US city and I would be remiss to exclude this fact because it impacts my perception of living in Seattle.
Tent cities are quite common and drug use is rampant. It seems like homelessness gets worse by the day.
Homelessness is a tough humanitarian issue to solve and the city is working on it, but I personally have no idea what the solution is and doubt it will get addressed anytime soon.
#8. There’s a rise in wildfires
As of lately, the biggest con of living in Seattle is the constant threat of wildfires.
If 2020 and 2021 has taught me anything about living in Seattle, it’s that wildfires are becoming a part of my daily life.
It’s heartbreaking to see record-setting wildfires fill the city with dense black smoke during the summer months and the occurrences are definitely on the rise.
The wildfire smoke is so bad you can’t leave your house some days because of the poor air quality.
This is one of the biggest factors in my decision to potentially move out of Seattle.
#9. Public transportation is lacking
Public transportation in any city depends on where you live and where you work and play. Living in Seattle is no different.
Seattle has public transportation, but based on my personal experience it’s not effective enough to rely on. Service shortages, heavy traffic and delayed buses and trains are not uncommon.
People often ask me if they should get rid of their car before moving to Seattle and I say no, not until they’ve lived here for 3+ months and get a feel for the public transportation.
I know that most folks complain about public transportation and don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful that Seattle has options, it’s just that living in Seattle without a car isn’t a no-brainer.
Moving to Seattle (Post Conclusion)
In short, here are the honest pros and cons of living in Seattle, Washington:
- Proximity to nature
- Career opportunities
- No state income tax
- Seattle is a safe city
- The foodie scene
- Home to the best coffee in America
- Seattle is an intellectual city
- No need for A/C
- Seattle is a beautiful city
- Seattle is dog-friendly
- Great summers
- High cost of living
- The weather
- The Seattle Freeze
- Nightmare traffic
- The housing market
- Lack of diversity
- Rise in wildfires
- Public transportation is lacking
Washington’s beauty is hard describe using pictures and words, if you’d like to see some of the beauty surrounding Seattle, the video below may prove helpful.
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Until next time,
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