What Is It Like To Live In Bellevue, Wa?

Bellevue is one of the top three or four cities to live in, in America if you’re in the upper middle class.  Which is a decidedly unambiguous ‘if’.

The first thing to get out of the way is the weather.  First, if you watch movies filmed in Seattle or Vancouver Canada, notice how little yellow is in the light. It’s grey here. Aways.  Second, we have wind storms in the fall that take down our pine trees like a locust harvest, and they in turn take down power lines for days or weeks at a time. Third, Seattle never experienced the small farm phase of the eighteenth and nineteenth century so there aren’t side roads, villages, and ‘other ways’ of getting anywhere. Traffic can be brutal.  Lastly, and most importantly, Bellevue’s most popular drugs are anti depressants and hemorrhoid prescriptions. Why? The rain is absolutely devastating for anyone who is not acclimated to it, or predisposed to perpetual cheerfulness. If it rains for one hundred days and it’s grey it will absolutely demoralize most people to the point where they sit around all day without motivation.  This can only be countered with physical exercise. If the correlation between weather and outdoor recreation here isn’t obvous then hopefully this makes it clear to you. If you are not predisposed toward outdoor activity this is not a good place to live unless you love a life bound by pharmaceuticals.

The next thing is the geography.  It is absolutely beautiful. It is also really, really, really far from the rest of the country.  Other than driving to Portland, which is four hours away, it literally takes DAYS, not hours, DAYS of driving to get out of the northwest.  I’ve lived in Boston and seen a Museum show in the morning and been at party in new york city that night. That doesn’t happen out here. If you don’t like mountains and trails then this is a very bad place to live – because that’s all there is.

Dating.  There are more males in the northwest than females, and while it’s single digits, it’s pretty obvious single digits. If you are a woman, men here are more nerdy or casual than they are masculine.  Women are, shall we say, outside of Bellevue anyway, more likely to be wearing sandals and a t shirt and no makeup than any other form of dress.  People do not ‘dress up’ at night eitehr.  I pretty much live in jeans and a sport jacket and I’m usually one of the bettter dressed people. Like every city in america there is one woman who does exclusive matchmaking. And this statement from her is telling: “in twenty years I have never matched a Seattle man to a Seattle woman’.  The meaning of that statement is profound – women have to be imported now, just like they were for Seattle’s lumberjacks – albiet less crassly.  The concept of ‘cultured’ in Seattle is definitely west coast, meaning ‘unassuming and inoffensive’ it does not mean ‘possessed of knowelge about the arts and letters”.  As someone who is traditionally ‘cultured’ I had a very hard time adapting to the northwest culture.

The northwest was irrelevant during the period of industrial migration, so it never experienced the immigration of diversity that has led to such conflict,  crime and decay in the industrial centers from Minneapolis to Boston, nor did it experience the historical problems from Chicago to the south.  Because of this, Seattle is still the second or third whitest city in america. And whether it is politic to say or not, that means that it’s a pretty calm and perhaps boring place to live, that is absent endemic class, race and cultural warfare.

The one obvious thing that is disappearing is the remainder of the ‘hippie’ movement of the sixties and seventies.  This group, and their culture, and the goth type cultures that followed them, are pretty evident here.

Boeing imported a culture of engineers, and Microsoft imported a culture of technologists. Bellevue/Redmond/Seattle is sort of like living in Cambridge without the incessant poverty, malcontents, tourists and students. Until recently, Seattle had the highest per capita consumption of non fiction books in the country. Nerds need something to do in the rain.

Moreover, Microsoft gave more of its profits to employees than any company in history, and quite possibly more than all companies in history combined. This combination of upper middle class engineers, immigrant engineers from India and Asia, and a cost of housing that prohibits the entry of ‘undesirables’ has created an interesting artificial economy – a sort of ‘green zone’ that really exists nowhere else other than perhaps, a little more radically in Austin Texas.

The lakes and bridges separate Seattle culture (more urban) from Bellevue culture (more upper middle class).  This means one has access to downtown Seattle (which is decreasing in importance as bellevue restaurants are now as good or better) but keeps the rabble at a distance.

Microsoft is a company in decline and while it is an unspoken truth, everyone carries on with the pretense that it isn’t Steve Ballmer’s fault (it is).    But service in stores is fantastic because the guy with messy hair and jeans might be worth ten million.  And everyone including the incompetent politicians in Redmond who have doomed their town with planning and debt, carry on as if the emperor had clothes.

A town can be judged by its car dealerships and Bellevue has one of the largest and most popular exotic car dealerships in America (They sold my Ferrari for me).  Seattle has a Ferrari/Maserati dealer, and Bellevue has everything including a Porsche dealer that has to keep a lot full of back-stock to keep up with demand, as well as lotus, Bentley and Aston Martin Dealerships, as well as Jaguar Land Rover and the commong german brands of Mercedes, BMW and Audi.  You have to leave town to find an American car dealership.  

The mall is a family run enterprise, and a good one,  and the downtown core is owned by a local. Cops are unnecessarily strict and are not above giving tickets just to raise department revenue.  The city has grown a lot and I’m not sure it’s been for the good.  The parks in Bellevue  and the rapid access to every outdoor activity you can imagine means that you can actually take your kids out of the house in relative safety an get them exhausted enough to let you sleep at night.

And that is the reason to live there.


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