Traveling The Backroads

Moving to Seattle: Coffee, Community and Creativity

November 17, 2016

This is a series about moving to and living in Seattle for the first time. Read this to discover what you need to know about moving to Seattle and finding resources once you arrive.

If you Google anything related to moving to Seattle, and then search how to live in the city the first few years, you may be horrified by what you find on the web as a soon to be resident. Most of what is written about Seattle is negative or moving-to-seattle-4satirical. It doesn’t seem anyone really would enjoy living here. According to what is written:

  1. The dating scene sucks.
  2. Amazon is ruining the city.
  3. Native Seattleites hate transplants and technology.
  4. Housing is hard to find.
  5. The music is almost dead.
  6. The Seattle freeze is real.
  7. It rains all the time.
  8. There are only tech jobs.
  9. Starbucks isn’t considered coffee.
  10. Transportation sucks.

I wanted to take a different approach in learning how to navigate the city. While I am still finding my way, I have learned most of what is written is not all that true. From housing to coffee to jobs, I am going to share my insights as my first year – and those after – in the city as they evolve. I will start with the smaller topics, such as coffee and then move into the larger ones such as economic growth, housing, and job markets. In this post, we are going to cover three very important subjects  – starting with finding coffee, community, and creativity. These things are key for new residents to settle in without a complete culture shock. There are some other things you need to know in here too!

Seattle’s Coffee Culture

Seattle is the home of Starbucks: At Starbuck’s roastery on Capitol Hill, you will find small batch, limited edition, single origin roasts that are not img_0164found in its mainstream commercial locations (which make up 90% of their stores globally). Like any other coffee shop, they have the artisan pour over available at a cost $4-$7 depending on what you order. In the city, people either love Starbucks or hate it. Starbucks is worth a revisit as a new resident, as your perspective may shift in the experiential stores that are found here. Insider tip: While the first coffee shop at Pike’s Place is a great visit, wait until after tourist season as it is packed.

Seattle is home of Vivace –– and many more: If you have decided to become a member of the “Starbucks is crap/commercial/burnt” camp, then you have plenty of other choices as Seattle is home to as many coffee shops as it is bars. Vivace is cult classic as the founder is considered the father of the modern coffee culture in the U.S. The espresso found here is similar to the best found in the smallest of northern Italy towns. The only drawback to Vivace is that staff is usually quite rude. That being the case, I have found plenty of other shops that welcome the craft bean connoisseur with a friendly smile. There’s nothing better than a morning espresso or black cup of joe at Hermiker in Lower Queen Anne, Slate Coffee in Pioneer Square, Zoka in the U District or Caffe Ladro in Ballard. You can enjoy the shot at Ghost Alley at Pike Place where you can learn about the children abandoned in the early 1900s who now haunt the market.

Coffee at Home is a Must

No matter what shops you like to visit, you will learn that an espresso or coffee habit is going to make you strapped for cash pretty quickly. From $2.50-moving-to-seattle-3$3.00 per shot or $2-3 per cup, the morning pick me up bill racks up! In order to maximize my budget, I do the majority of my brew at home. I had invested in an Aeropress, a CLEVER pour over and a Nespresso machine many years ago and brought them with me to Seattle once I had moved here. I decided to revive them after three months of over-caffeinating and overspending on my artisan dark roast obsession.

For the manual methods, I would buy a half pound of whatever I really enjoyed at the shops and bring it home and use it throughout the month. For the Nespresso machine, while I order their limited editions as they come out (and use their free recycling bags to send the used pods back), for my day-to-day pods I use Gourmesso. The majority of their coffees are Fairtrade certified but cost 30% less and I recycle their pods through TerraCycle for free (a big thing for environmentally conscious Seattleites). Creating a morning routine in Seattle will always include coffee and sometimes tea.

Seattle’s Creative and Corporate Communities

The community scene in Seattle is a bit complex to navigate. Given the strong tech roots, many people take part in the programs created by the companies they work for. This is common in the tech industry everywhere. While the larger companies offer great programs with lots of perks, in the past five years, many outside groups have begun to create community events as well. Co-working spaces, progressive non-denominational churches, and nonprofit groups are doing a great job of bringing hyperlocal events to area residents. While Allen at Hello My Name Is Zen has done an amazing job outlining all the resources, here are few of my favorite resources:

Co-working Spaces: I have several favorite co-working locations in the city. The first is The Makerspace in Belltown for its ambiance and img_0094smaller environment, WeWork because it allows a digital nomad or serial traveler access to convenient facilities across the U.S. and Office Nomads because of their community roots in Capitol Hill that aim to balance the old and new of the city.

TEDxSeattle: Seattle is also home to a yearly TEDx series organized by local creatives and corporate company employees. The lineups are extremely unique to what is happening within a <25 mile radius of the city. It is advisable that anyone who wants to understand the quirks of Seattle (as there are quite a few I will address later) will gain a lot of insights here.

Local Nonprofits: Whether you love animals or attend an all-inclusive church, there is something for you when you join a local group. I personally attend EastLake church in Bothell and have made amazing connections by being a  part of small groups and activities. I have been able to work with horses though S.A.F.E Rescue without having to fully commit to full-time farm life. Community is big in Seattle, by leveraging it you will  not find the Seattle freeze phenomena to be an issue.

The key takeaway about community in Seattle is to simply participate. On the creative side, there are still big gaps as the creative culture here is that you do not find in New York or Los Angeles. To me, that represents opportunities for new residents with strong backgrounds in photography, writing, video production, and graphic design.

Companies like Amazon and Microsoft (whom I both love) often get stuck on the technical and data aspects of their businesses and the creativity found in campaigns can be diluted for the sake of analytics. Any creative knows that ‘the story’ is something the end consumer needs in order to develop brand awareness, test a company and then convert. More creatives with less technical backgrounds will thrive in this city in the next 10 years –– it is the main reason I moved here. The opportunities are endless. If you move here and cannot find what you need, build it. Someone else probably needs it too.

Finding What You Need Immediately

Depending on your lifestyle, you are going to need to find things pretty quickly. Depending on what market you are moving from, you may find things
in Seattle cost more than they did in your previous city –– and that includes New York and Los Angeles.

Pet Services: if you are a pet owner, skip doggie daycares and dog walking services, get over to and sign-up ASAP. Rover is based in Seattle and I was able to find dog walking and sitting services that were not going to cost half of my rent. These amazing people are more than capable of taking care of your furry friends. Both my dog walkers even babysit the horses that I may be rehabilitating.moving-to-seattle-5

Wellness: In Seattle, hot yoga and CrossFit are major things. Trying to find a Yoga studio that does not start with a 90+ degree room is challenging. Depending on where you live, there is usually a studio that offers regular classes. Try 8 Limbs that offers multiple styles of practices in multiple areas.

Groceries: If you choose to go carless in the city as parking can cost as much as your car payment, then you may want to invest in an Instacart membership. You may also want to test out food subscription services like Hello Fresh or Bean Box during the seasons when the farmer’s markets are closed. Living within a reasonable walking distance from a grocery store can sometimes be challenging so make sure you take advantage of cost effective services. If you are close to Pike Place Market, you can get fresh produce year round and the vendors, once they get to know you, will even order things you need from farms across the U.S. You can also rent a ZipCar or use Lyft ($50 in first ride credits in Seattle) for a few hours so negates not being able to access the food you want.

This post contains Amazon, Lyft, Rover, ZipCar, and Instacart affiliate links. All proceeds from links are donated to animal charities in Washington and California.