Traveling through Europe last summer, I expected to spend half my time explaining that I was from Seattle, Washington… “No, not THAT Washington! The ‘other’ Washington. The one on the other side of the country.”
So this past August, sipping my first Carlsberg in a dark pub in central London, I braced myself.
I’m originally from LA, and I figured these Brits would want to hear all about California. To my surprise, the Londoners I met that night were full of questions about the Emerald City.
And it kept happening all over the continent. The drinks and the company would change, but it seemed every European I met was dying to visit my hometown.
But why Seattle? I mean, I love this city that I have grown to call my home. But I have always thought that other places, like New York or Texas might hold more appeal for foreign visitors.
Seattle might lack in history and architectural splendor, but we are tragically hip, progressive, and all about going green.
Here are the top three reasons Seattle might be the country’s most European city:
Although our Seattle Sounders aren’t quite as good as FC Barcelona or Manchester United–and despite the fact that us Yanks still refuse to shake the habit of calling the sport soccer–Seattle has the most-spirited, European-like team in the MLS. With an average attendance of more than 43,000 fans per game during the 2012 MLS season, we look more like the UEFA than the MLS.
The Sounders even have their own supporters’ section–the Emerald City Supporters (ECS). The ECS is a more moderate version of the often-violent European clubs, complete with a capo (“boss” in Italian – the leader of the whole supporters’ section) and songs that members are required to sing throughout the game.
Every Seattlelite knows about our environmentally-friendly reputation. From last year’s citywide ban of plastic bags in retail stores to the wide use of compostable containers and bins throughout the city, it’s no surprise that Seattle is one of the greenest cities in the nation.
Europe has long been a leader in green development. A 2012 proposal by the European Commission entitled “Living well, within the means of our planet” aims to transform the EU’s environmental policy by 2020. Six European countries make Travel + Escape’s “Top 10 Eco-Friendly Countries” of 2012 list. Seattle also made the list for the top ten eco-friendly cities in the United States, coming in at number seven.
3) A Culture of Smoking
It’s well-known that Europeans are heavy smokers, especially compared to Americans. According to the CDC, Washington is the seventh smokiest state in the nation–despite the fact that we also have the fifth highest tobacco tax.
It’s kind of just like Europe, where 29% of people smoked in 2010 despite average cigarette prices ranging from 5 to 9 Euros ($6-12).
And of course, we just passed I-502, legalizing marijuana for recreational use–bringing us up to speed with the Netherlands, Czech Republic and other European countries where it’s decriminalized.
What Seattle might lack in history and gothic architecture, Seattleites make up for in their attitudes and lifestyles. We are eco-friendly, but we also love our cigarettes. We pride ourselves on being hipsters, on our environmentalism, our liberalism, on being forward-thinkers. And it may be that attitude that’s truly what makes us the most European city in the country.