Three reasons Seattle is America’s most European city

Skyline by Tanya ZagumenovWhy are so many Europeans dying to visit Seattle? Maybe because we’re so much like them.

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:

1) Soccer…er…Football

The Emerald City Supporters. (Photo by Albumen via Flickr).

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.

2) Sustainability 

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

Looks a little like King Street station with the Seattle Great Wheel in the background. (Photo by Mackenzie Ciesa)
Looks a little like King Street station with the Seattle Great Wheel in the background. (Photo by Mackenzie Ciesa)

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.

19 Comments

  1. Don’t forget – great coffee, lots of beer and wine and similar weather to much of Northern Europe.

    I’d rank those three above the smoking.

  2. Whenever I tell Europeans that I’m from Seattle, they express interest but no desire to visit a place so similar to their own country. Most want to visit Hawaii, Thailand, Bali, Mexico, etc. Countries that have warm weather and beaches. If they want Seattle scenery, weather, etc. similar to their own, they’d stay home or go someplace closer. If they have to live in the USA, they would probably be more comfortable in Seattle, but not for a holiday visit.

  3. wow, sociology and journalism…..could there be two more blatantly Leftist majors? you make some good points. also, the Cascades may be similar to some Alps regions. i think Boston is the most European city though. Bostonians identify more obsessively with their city than any people from any place in America whom I’ve met. Chicago, Philly, and NY next.

  4. America is more than one country. Mexico City is more European than Seattle. Mexico city has 100 years of soccer, has won several international awards for being a green city, they smoke, very gay friendly, thousands of years of history. It even looks like Europe. The city has the only royal castle in the Americas. Paseo de la Reforma was modeled after the Champs-Elysees in Paris, on the orders of Maximilian I of Mexico. Entrances to the metro look like the ones in Paris.

  5. Seattle is like Europe for those reasons?
    wow … great journalism. You are on your way to becoming another useless reporter of ill-informed and uneducated opinions.

  6. Contrary to popular belief, Europeans don’t smoke anymore than Americans these days. Also, keep in mind that smoking is not a “culture” its a habit. Seattle is still very different from other European cities. The public transportation, for example, is good for the USA, but for European standards, its inefficient. Seattle, like many American cities are socially divided by class; an ironic feature for such a “liberal” city. The most European elements Seattle offers is its natural scenery, parks, and the ability to walk in the central portions of the city. The architecture is nothing to gasp in awe. Its very plain and simple, just like the people.

    1. Agreed. As a european I saw the title and I thought “is Seattle walkable with efficient public transportation?” needless to say I was disappointed…

      Of course I still think Seattle is probably a nice city but a typical american one.

  7. lol…no…just no. I see you are from California and then Seattle. Have you been to this place called the East Coast?
    Most European cities in NA are places like Boston, Montreal, Quebec City, etc….

    Seattle is one of the LEAST European cities…very very American.

  8. America is the name of the continent, not a country. The most European city in America is Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. It’s called “the Paris of the South”.

    1. um america is the name of the continent AND the country. it depends on the subtext of whichever place in the world you are in. don’t be so salty.

    2. I live in Europe and I’ve never heard of that. Also the Baroque captial of the Americas is Puebla. Much like Scicily is the Baroque capital of Europe

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