Seattle Freeze vs. Hai Phong Happy
I had only heard about the Seattle Freeze a year before moving to Hai Phong. I get it, I believe it and I am one of the people responsible. A summary of the Seattle Freeze is people in Seattle are outwardly very friendly, but when it comes to actually making a plan, especially with someone who is new to the area, we are very reluctant to do so. Even though I love meeting new people and talking with them, it is difficult for me to actually make a plan or invite someone to my home that I am not really comfortable with. To make matters worse my husband is the same way. If I do decide to break out of that cycle then I have to convince him to give up an evening of our favorite TV or gin rummy. We can easily talk each other out of expanding our circle.
The wonderful people of Hai Phong wouldn’t stand for that in a minute. I know that we stand out in Hai Phong and that our non-nativeness is obvious. In Seattle it would be hard to tell who is a recent immigrant or transplant. I guess it is easy for the locals to know we aren’t from Hai Phong. I don’t thing that is the reason that the people here have been so wonderful to us. They often invite John and I to dinners out or to their homes, to talk and to share their culture. Even with all the friendly gestures it was difficult for us to step outside our comfort zone and accept, but we have been so glad for those experiences.
It isn’t just people we know either. Last weekend on our walk there were two lovely ladies sitting on a park bench. When they saw me they smiled and held out their hands to say hello. We held hands as we talked and for once I wasn’t uncomfortable with that. We couldn’t understand each other at all but it was such a warm, welcoming moment. The thing is that here that isn’t unusual. Kids will shyly smile and say hello; adults will sometimes shout and wave as we ride by, and everywhere we go people offer to help and to share their culture with us.
Becky Henchmen of Sammamish writes a great blog about this called Eat, Play, Thaw, de-icing the Seattle Freeze, one invite at a time. An enjoyable weekly read with practical and easy ways to build meaningful relationships. I enjoy reading it so much and it even motivates me all the way here in Vietnam to try to be more welcoming.
One thing John and I really feel is our immortality, for some reason here even more than back home. We are on the backside of 50 and have seen friends and family leave us all too early. I don’t want to have regrets and at age 80 wish I had gone out more, made more friends and had more life experiences. One thing I know is that it is the people you meet along the way that make life enjoyable and worth sticking around for.
If you suffer like I do from the Seattle Freeze, perhaps you can add “reaching out” to your New Year’s resolutions. I can guarantee that you won’t regret it.