Bellingham is hitting people’s radars from all over the country as a place to relocate. Why? In my opinion, living in Bellingham is probably the best place to live in the United States. Now, I admit, I am pretty partial to Bellingham since I live here, but there are lots of reasons that people are finding to move to Bellingham. The temperate weather is a huge one, and the liberal politics are popular too, especially if you’re coming from a southern state. Escaping forest fires is another big reason people are choosing Bellingham. The bay, the mountains, the lakes, the trail system, the schools, the scenerary, the size of the city, the proximity to Canada and Seattle are just a few reasons people have chosen to make Bellingham their home. With all of these people moving from so many places there are a lot of “newbies” here.
I was a newbie to the Bellingham area about four and half years ago. I’ve learned a LOT since then. Also, I run a Facebook Group called Bellingham Living and the question was asked by Audreya Cole Brown,
“Everywhere I’ve lived, there’s been some dead giveaways that someone was new in town. A road name they mispronounced, a local custom they’d never heard of, etc. What are the “You’re not from around here, are you?” tells in the Bellingham area?” Lots of answers came in on that post and I am going to share the top answers here. Hopefully this list will help you fit in when you begin to live in Bellingham!
10 Ways to Better Fit in if you’re new to Bellingham WA
UMBRELLAS: Carrying an umbrella is the most important thing that you should never do. I know this is counter-intuitive because you know that it rains a lot here in Bellingham. What people that don’t live here don’t understand is the rain is rarely more than a drizzle. A rain jacket with a hood makes the most sense.
Pedestrians: People like to walk places in and around Bellingham, and if you aren’t always looking for pedestrians waiting to cross the street or walking along the side of the road, it’s obvious you aren’t from here. Also, if you suggest driving to an easily walkable destination you will be met with real confusion, even if its raining!
Weather Descriptions: People talk about the weather A LOT in the Bellingham area. Not knowing what a sucker hole is ( a small break in the clouds, blue sky, leading you to believe better weather is on the way ), sun breaks ( a sunbeam that breaks through the clouds) are, or Mountain’s Out (meaning you can see Mt Baker or other mountains) means is a sure way to tell if you’re new to the area.
The Ocean: Referring to Bellingham Bay, or the Salish Sea, as “the ocean” is a no no here. The ocean is what you see on the coast, not here in Bellingham where you are on the bay.
One way Streets: There are lots of them in Bellingham. Going the wrong way down one of them is a sure sign you’re not from here!
Surprises: Showing your surprise when you see one of our hand sized green slugs, or a black squirrel is a sure way to show you’re new in town.
Road Rage and your Vehicle: The speed limits inside the city are slow, maxing out at 35 mph. If you get cut off, are behind a biker or a slow vehicle, or someone annoys you, getting road rage is another way to show you’re not from here. I can only attribute this to the mass use of marijuana and the “let it be” hippie vibe that is so prevalent here. Haha…but really. Honking is not common here at all, so hands off your horn! Also, if you drive anything other than a Subaru or a Toyota Tacoma you might not be from here. Keeping your car spotless is also unusual, I mean why have a Subaru or Tacoma if you aren’t adventuring with it?
Mispronunciations: There are so many of these that I have to be careful that I won’t scare you off by listing them all! Here are just the most common ones in the Bellingham area. First of all I want to start of with Padilla. If you pronounce it correctly (pad-eeya) you’re not from here. Here people pronounce it (pad-ill-a). This one still drives me crazy. Other ones that might throw you for a loop are Whatcom, as in county, (pronounced Watt-come, emphasis on the first syllable) and Skagit (pronounced Ska-jit). Haggen grocery store is a tough one, (pronounced Hay-gen) and usually used with the apostrophe S after the word, Haggen’s It’s not like the ice cream! Semiahmoo (pronounced Semee-ah-moo) is often a tough one, and Lummi ( pronounced Lum-mee) is also one lots of people get wrong. Woburn street is (pronouced Whoa-burn) is one that I hear is pronounced differently in the east. These pronunciations should get you by in the Bellingham area!
Refering to our one freeway: It’s called I5. Not “the I5″ nor just “the 5”.
The way you dress: My husband is a homeless advocate in Whatcom county so I have spent large amounts of time looking for people without a home to provide them a hot meal or supplies they need. I mention this only because it is VERY hard to decipher the homeless population from the housed population. Living in Bellingham it is OK to dress however you want, but most of us are casual with flannels, jeans, boots, and a raincoat. I got rid of all of my high heeled shoes about 3 years after moving here. Remember it does rain often here so slippery mud is always a consideration.
Big Foot, Sasquatch, or Yeti: I am adding this last one all on my own. People FROM this area are really into Big Foot. They will tell you stories about how there’s proof they are real, and will mention them everytime you hike in the wilderness with them. Maybe there’s a reason for that…
Most importantly, when I shared this blog in Bellingham Living on Facebook, Noah Meltgaze Freeman said, “who wants to “fit in”? lmao carry your individuality with pride.” And that, my friends, is the real essence of Bellingham. Be yourself, be proud of it, and you will always fit in!
If you move here and mispronounce something or dress up more than others around you no one is going to vote you out! People here are kind and understanding and will enjoy helping you speak like the locals do and do like the locals do! If you’d like any help finding your new home here in the Bellingham area, Whatcom or Skagit counties, please feel free to reach out to me! I look forward to hearing from you!