Mwangi’s note: Why on Earth they would confuse the world by having a place called Washington D.C. and then an entirely separate State called “Washington” I don’t know, but anyway enjoy this guest post from an old friend of mine, Wambui.
Mwangi asked me:
“What advice would you give someone that is coming to Seattle, WA.?”
Well carry an umbrella and a jacket. It rains often. You’ll need it. The weather here changes in a minute and most of the time it changes to rain. I’ve been here 3 years now and I am still not accustomed to how much it rains.
Get your geography right:
Seattle is in Washington State. Not to be confused with Washington DC. DC is in the East. Washington State is the Northwest. Seattle, WA = Northwest.
Get your documentation right
It is important to make sure you visit the necessary government offices as soon as you possible can to get yourself not started on the right path. Get an id card. Get a bank account. Get a social security card if you are allowed to get one. It really is much easier to get a head if you do things legally. Don’t over stay your visa and use your visa for the right purpose i.e don’t come on a visitor visa and then attempt to become a student or worker without getting a permit to do so.
Seattle is somewhat tolerant. But once people know you are not originally from here they ask questions. These questions are usually to find out your intention of being in Seattle and the US. Seattleites know their basic immigration stuff – they know about visas and how they work – they are not afraid to ask how long your visa is for and what you plan on doing next(using the word next is their polite way of saying when it expires) . They are also big on following the law… No easy shortcuts or hookups.
Get your money right:
Understand the value of money. Seattle is not considered a super expensive city, but it is definitely not on the cheap list. It’s very easy to get caught up in the Seattle’s art and culinary scenes. Its easy to spend in small doses here, However those small doses add up when you look at your balance and realize that the ten dollars (plus tip because it is expected and customary here) you spent eating out every week adds up to 100 bucks. Please live within your means. It’s a common problem with African immigrants here in Seattle attempting to show people that they aren’t “poor”. It really isn’t cool because most people can see through the façade. If you can’t afford it, don’ t do it.
Get yourself right:
You need to get in the mind frame of “me, myself and I”. Family isn’t always there to help and even if they are they may not be willing to help you. Friends come and go. So know who you are and where you are going.
You also need to have your emotions in check. Its gets lonely, it gets depressing, it gets hard, people question you and who you are. This is where self confidence comes in. You need to be confident in who you are. You’ll meet people out there who aren’t cool with who you are and the way you look or the way you dress.
Also you need to be happy with what you have at the moment. Always work for better things. But don’t ever let anyone get you down. One has to learn to feel good about themselves and the current position they are in while still working for something better.
Seattle is a huge melting pot when it comes to culture. People are from all over. However one needs to be aware that as much as it is a huge pot. People may not be open to understanding your culture or who you are. As friendly as the Seattle is it is a little cold c. Everyone says “hi” and they are excited to see you the first time around. Don’t be surprised if they meet you on the street next week don’t acknowledge you. Don’t worry though its not you. It’s just how they are. It is known as the “Seattle freeze”
Please don’t be shocked if you find people talking to you like you are inferior. A lot of people here while calling themselves tolerant are not. They will be opening to getting to meet you and having fun with you but its all superficial. They are not interested in what you are about or where you are from. As I said … don’t focus too much on this. It’s not you its just them.
Get to know the city:
You’ve got to learn how to get around. Remember, it’s just you. People can only help you for so long. Fortunately one doesn’t really need to buy a car if you live in proper Seattle. This is because Seattle has one of the best bus systems in the USA. The buses run on a regular schedule and they take you to pretty much any suburb in what is known as King County.
The faster you get to know the city, the faster it will be to get around and get things accomplished. It is especially crucial because people will always be willing to give you directions but they only know directions of places that concern them.
If you opt to get a car. Please do your research!!
My experience in Seattle that you need to know a few main streets ( Pike, Pine , Westlake, Madison, 3rd Ave, and Bell) Navigating through downtown is is a breeze once you know these.
Get your accent right:
Did you say you were from Africa? Great!
Well half of what you say will not be understood, the first few times. They’ll always tell you that they love your accent but it doesn’t mean they are understanding what you are saying. To this day, I’ve been here 3 years, I can’t really order a Hamburger at most restaurants, I have to get a friend to do it for me. Why, you ask? Well apparently the way I say it would be spelt out as “Hambagga”. Same applies for most words that end with “er”. Personally most people delight in the way I say “whatever” and they repeat it endlessly to whoever will listen. Oh and they love the way Kenyans pronounce the letters of the alphabet. Apparently we say “h” differently!
Get comp savvy:
Seattle is after all home to Microsoft and Amazon! Google and Adobe also have huge offices here. So please… don’t walk around seattle and not know how to use a computer. Or what a CPU is? It would be good too if u knew that C+ and Java are programs too because a good number of people you meet will be in IT professions.