Subverting the Seattle Stereotypes: One Man’s Story Of His Journey To The Emerald City


Andrew Hartstone (left) with his wife Beth Heritage (right)

Taylor Hartstone, Editor in Chief

Andrew Hartstone was excited to move over 2,000 miles away from his home in Providence, Rhode Island. While most people would be overwhelmed with nerves about the impending change, Andrew was comfortable. He’d visited before, especially since he had a friend living in the area, and he was attracted to the vibe. With a suitcase (plus some boxes), Andrew left Rhode Island and flew to Washington. 

“I moved north of Seattle when I moved out here. I rented an apartment in a town called Millcreek.  [The community] was a strip mall. That’s all it was. I didn’t know anybody up there other than my coworkers that I had met for the first time when I went to work in Everett,” Andrew said. Not exactly the start most people want when leaving home, but it was a start nonetheless. Andrew’s work allowed him to get acquainted with the people and the area. Once established there, he decided to move again. His original plan was to land in Seattle, and he continued to press for the Emerald City. 

With Everett in the rear view mirror, Andrew packed up and left. “That would’ve been in October of ‘95…about 6 months after I moved out here,” he said. In the midst of fleeing those East Coast winters, he inevitably ended up in one of the cloudiest cities in the country accompanied by dreary weather. However, the Seattle music scene in the 90s could cure anyone from that seasonal depression that is so common out here. Andrew recalls going to Bumbershoot almost every summer when he first moved. 

While the music scene is great, the biggest obstacle to tackle is the Seattle Freeze. When asked if he believed in it, Andrew said, “What is the Seattle Freeze?” Obviously, this epidemic of anti-socialness in the city wasn’t prominent in the 90s, and once it was described to him, he doubted its existence 30 years ago. 

“Not at all. No, not when I moved out here. From the East Coast? It was so easy to meet people,” Andrew said. This is an interesting contrast compared to the way most Seattlelites describe the current city. Even more significant is the fact that Andrew expresses himself as an introvert and still found it simple to meet new people. Andrew, whilst being a young adult, found a crew he wanted to stick with early on. Although not opposed to exploring new crowds, his vibe fit with a certain group of people and he wasn’t naturally inclined towards changing that. 

“It may exist now, though. Yeah, in ‘95 I had no problem meeting people. Now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you because I already have my own bubble. So I haven’t tried to meet new people,” he said. The ability to stick with a group that early on is quite lucky and fairly uncommon, especially when you are young. But Andrew’s connection with the city itself made him more open to meeting new people. He loved living in Seattle almost immediately, and when people see you have an instant, visible passion for something, you’re an attractive candidate for potential friends. 

Most people moving to a brand new city don’t even know where to start when it comes to finding solid friends, but Andrew had an advantage. He already knew someone in Seattle before moving and made connections through that person. This gave him a head-start, but he still needed to put in an effort so he could have good friends at work, not just acquaintances. 

In Rhode Island, Andrew was a tax collector for the IRS. He transferred to Seattle with the same job, and working government jobs doesn’t always lead to huge successes in the social scene but he knew what to do. As his wife, Beth Heritage, describes, he went to parties…of sorts. “I recall [Andrew] telling me that you specifically – to meet people – would go to all the retirement parties,” Beth told me. 

“That’s right, yeah. I did do that. So even though I didn’t know the person that was retiring I went to all the retirement parties to see who was there,” says Andrew in reaction. Smart idea, considering the amount of work friends he made from that. Parties, in general, are a great way to meet new people when you don’t know anybody. These retirement parties seemed to be a bit more of his style, though. 

The government job brought him out here and his stay wasn’t supposed to be long, but he quickly realized the benefits of living in a city like Seattle. “I like the area, yeah. It was close to the water. Honestly, I was only planning to come out for 3 or 4 years because it was easy to do. It was for my job,” he said. Stability is an important factor when moving. Andrew had a steady, well-paying job and made it his career, so finding the city he would eventually live in after transferring was an advantage. 

After settling down and finding his own steady rhythm over the past 28 years, Andrew no longer has a need to expand his friend group. “I don’t go out of my way to meet new people. Unless it’s through work. I mean, I go to concerts and I, you know, chat with the people next to me. But it’s not like ‘Hey, let’s meet up for a beer later on’. I don’t do that,” Andrew said. His personality is not of the ‘social butterfly’ type, but he’s not anti-social either. Concerts get him out of his shell for a couple of hours, but once that setlist ends, he’s perfectly content to go right back home and read a book, occasionally sending some sports-related content to one of the many friends he’s made over the past several decades. 

According to A ndrew, Seattle is more welcoming than Rhode Island. It should be said that the cultures of both coasts are unique, and Andrew knows which he prefers. “But if you’re talking about the people, they’re more intense back there and more direct. So if you’re looking for an answer to something they’ll tell you the answer. They won’t beat around the bush. Compared to here, where they’ll be on the fence,” he said. This is one aspect he views as better than Seattle, but overall, he prefers living here than on the cold East Coast. Andrew chases the sun, and although Seattle isn’t filled with that kind of weather, it’s the closest he’s willing to get at this moment. He’d love to visit the sun in Australia every year if he was able, but he’d still call his adopted, but now old community home.