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Pros and Cons of Living in Seattle, Washington

Louise D.

Seattle, located in Washington State, is a stunning port city situated in the northwestern region of the United States on the Puget Sound. Not only is it the biggest city in Washington, but it also holds the title for being the largest in the entire Pacific Northwest. With a plethora of natural resources, Seattle boasts a diverse and picturesque terrain, featuring forests, mountains, meadows, hills, and various salt and freshwater destinations.

The fantastic surrounding natural views and attractions around Seattle earned it the nickname of the Emerald City. It also earned a second nickname of the City of Flowers through its campaign to increase its beauty with natural seasonal flowers.

The Seattle area is also known as the Getaway to Alaska due to the many cruise ships leaving Seattle’s port for Alaska.

Cons of Living in Seattle

Public Transportation could be better

Seattle does have public transportation, but it is not as effective as can be found in other major cities. Delays are common with trains and buses, traffic is heavy, and service shortages come along often.

It is best that new Seattle residents hang on to their cars for a while before they make the decision to sell. Seattle streetcars are common in the city itself, but further out you might really struggle to get hold of reliable public transportation.

Wildfires are a real threat

This is a relatively new con, but wildfires have become a real threat in the Seattle Metropolitan Area. Summer months see a notable increase in the instances of wildfires in and around the city. Even if you are in direct threat from the fire itself, the thick black smoke that settles over the big city can hinder your everyday life and it results in poor air quality.


Seattle has one of the top three highest rates of homelessness among major cities in the US. This means that tent cities and drug addiction are above the national average and noticeably so. The Seattle City Council is actively addressing the issue but it is difficult to say when and how this will improve.

A diverse population is lacking

Seattle might have a substantial Asian population, but other than that, diversity is extremely low. This seems to be a general problem in the Pacific Northwest with a 65.7% white population measured in 2016.

Housing Market

Property in Seattle is extremely expensive compared to some other parts of the country and often impacts people’s decision to settle in the city long-term. The only way that many people living in Seattle can afford homes is by moving outside of the city. For the majority is just not feasible to remain in here long-term, no matter how much they might enjoy living in Seattle.

Constant Traffic

Seattle consistently finds itself at the top of the list when it comes to worst cities for traffic in the USA. The city’s “rush hour” lasts around 5 hours every day and completely locks the city down. This unfortunately means that anyone living in Seattle is definitely guaranteed to encounter heavy traffic on the regular.

The city keeps growing and the dated infrastructure struggles to keep up. Locals also prefer to use their own cars instead of having to rely on public transport – because as we have discussed, the local public transport is not exactly reliable at the best of times.

Seattle Freeze

Contrary to what you might initially believe, this phrase has nothing to do with the weather. In fact, it refers to the cold shoulder that locals have to offer to newcomers. Long-time Seattle residents do not particularly like newcomers and tourists as they take great pride in their city. The best way to combat this is by becoming involved with the local community and making yourself available.

Find a workout group, complement a cafe, and attend work events. Keep working on your interpersonal relations and keep things light and personable in order to increase your chances of breaking through the Seattle Freeze.

That being said, Seattle is the first fastest-expanding city in the US, and the many new people in the area can make it difficult for locals to remain exclusive and makes it easier for newcomers to find and befriend each other.

Seattle’s Weather

Seattle is known as an extremely rainy city, but it really does not rain as much as most people expect it to. It might then shock you to see that Seattle is not on the list of top 10 rainiest cities in the US, and charts well below Washington D.C. and New York City.

Perhaps something that is harder to cope with than the rain, is the heavy grey cloud cover that crowns Seattle most days in the winter, and continues even during fall and sometimes in the spring as well. Days are also shorter from November to February. This results in most locals taking full advantage of Seattle summers.

High Cost of Living

Affordable is just not a word that applies to life in Seattle. It is the 5th most expensive city in the US, with only Brooklyn, Honolulu, San Francisco, and Manhattan standing above it.

People with high-paying jobs often have roommates despite Seattle jobs paying more than the national average.

Pros of Living in Seattle

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Starbucks Coffee was born in Seattle, but this should not dissuade you from enjoying the local coffee shops in Seattle.

Seattle is without a doubt the best place in the US for coffee. You can visit the original Starbucks Coffee shop in Pike Place Market or you can go straight to the source at the Seattle Roastery.

Dog-Friendly City

Many people who live in Seattle have at least one dog and the city is very welcoming to dogs in general – it’s the home of the Puppuccino after all.

Dogs are welcome at some workplaces, and generally allowed in many parks, cafes, and restaurants.

Having a dog when you move to Seattle is likely to help you combat the Seattle Freeze as well, as people with dogs are sure to attract a friendly face from locals and passersby.

Phenomenal Summers

Seattle summers are legendary. There is no humidity and the weather is decidedly mild with quite a lot of sunshine compared to other times of the year.

The surrounding nature is a major draw for many people coming to the city. It provides outdoor activities without the risk of oppressive temperatures. Mount Rainier National Park and Lake Washington attract a lot of attention throughout the year.

Due to the mild temperatures Seattle is relatively free from bugs which is a serious advantage for outdoor lovers.

Seattle is Beautiful

Seattle really is beautiful in more ways than one. The skyline is world-famous and features the Space Needle. In addition, the Olympic Mountains make for a breathtaking background to the city. The scenic Puget Sound and lush evergreen forests surround the city from all sides, making this a truly unique American city.

Air Conditioning is Superfluous

Generally speaking, there is no need for air conditioning due to the mild weather. Seattle is great for people with allergies and has the lowest percentage of air conditioners in the country.

Intellectual City

In 2018, Seattle was dubbed America’s smartest city. Around 47% of the population have bachelor’s degrees which is double the national average and much higher than in other cities.

Of course, this ensures interesting conversations with locals, but also creates an expectation that conversation will be intelligent.

Seattle’s Fantastic Food Services

Restaurants in Seattle stand head and shoulders above the rest. They are dedicated to local produce and quality ingredients. Seafood is especially spectacular and Asian cuisines have a strong local presence.

Seattle has more restaurants than most other cities in the country and although the population is not diverse, the cuisine is very diverse, which is a fact that many chefs take advantage of.

Seattle is Safe

Seattle is one of the safer cities in the US. Residents are not afraid to walk around the city early in the morning or late at night. The housing crisis has seen an increase in the number of homeless people, which may come with an increase in petty crimes and property crime, but the city has a comparatively low violent crime rate.

No Personal Income Tax

Washington has no state income taxes. This means that if you earned the exact same salary in Oregon (right next to Seattle), then you take 10% less home than you do in Seattle. That being said, due to the lack of state taxes, sales tax is quite high. The general sales tax in Washington is 6.5% and Seattle has an additional sales tax of 3.75%, bringing the total sales tax in Seattle to 10.25%.

This is one of the five highest sales tax rates in the USA. This results in many Washington natives driving to Oregon to make large purchases, and Oregon natives are retiring in Washington due to the lack of income tax.

Great Career Opportunities

The tech industry is only one of the booming industries in the Emerald City. Seattle is a great place to find a job as the job market and local economy are both strong. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world have made a home for themselves in Seattle.

Microsoft, Nintendo, Starbucks, Boeing, and Amazon can be found in Seattle, as can Facebook, Apple, Google, and Adobe.

Competition within the Seattle job market is fierce as the talent pool is large and diverse. For this reason, careers in Seattle are taken very seriously. It is not uncommon for Seattle locals to be workaholics.

Close to Nature

Its proximity to nature is what earned Seattle the moniker of the “Emerald City” which refers to the greenery that can be found everywhere within and around the city.

Many people are drawn to Seattle for this very reason. The city is within two hours of all three of the national parks in Washington state. There are also a number of hiking trails close to the city.

Seattle Attractions to Consider when Deciding to move

  • Seattle is home to Capitol Hill.
  • The Infectious Disease Research Institute and the Melinda Gates Foundation are in Seattle.
  • It is an artist’s paradise:
    • Seattle Opera
    • Seattle Symphony
    • Pacific Northwest Ballet
    • Seattle Art Museum
  • Sport is a big deal:
    • Seattle Seahawks
    • Seattle Sounders
    • Seattle Storm
    • Seattle Mariners
  • There are a number of private schools in the city with high education standards.
  • If you do want to use public transport you can try the King County Metro Transit or the Link Light Rail.
  • Downtown Seattle sees some of the highest median home prices and even a one-bedroom apartment is difficult to afford, even for people who have high-earning jobs.

Bonus information about Living in Seattle

Health metrics in Seattle are pretty good. Washington ranks 8th among the top healthcare states in the US. Providence Health is the largest healthcare provider in the state and it adheres to global health standards.

Moving to Seattle is a big decision. And many people want to know more about it than the fact that it is the home of Pearl Jam and South Park. We have attempted to list all the advantages of moving to Seattle and have included some of the disadvantages as well.

Ultimately, there are many cities in the US to choose from, and Seattle has a rich history as the largest city in Washington. It sits next to the Pacific Ocean and is nestled among some truly fantastic nature scenes. When moving to Seattle you will need to be prepared for the high costs and might need to save money in order to get started in the city.