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Dancing, shopping and living with the international communities of Seattle


When I was traveling Europe and people learned I was from Seattle I discovered the many things the city is known for. Usually people brought up Nirvana, Pearl Jam or some other grunge band, but often it was Starbucks, Microsoft or Boeing they knew. Actually, more often than not, it was Seattle’s rainy weather. As it often happens while traveling, I was expected to be an expert on these topics and on Seattle but I’ve never really been a tourist there besides the occasional day trip or stopover on our way somewhere else. Even though it’s less than 2 hour’s drive from my hometown, I didn’t really know much about Seattle, so I was looking forward to seeing what the Emerald City really should be known for.

I decided to go to Seattle because someone in CouchSurfing had posted in one of the website’s groups about a forró dance party and was looking for others to go with him. Forró is a Brazilian dance which I learned a little of during my five weeks in London. It’s traditionally danced to a trio of accordion, drum and triangle and is influenced by salsa and samba. A few hours after I arrived, we went to a small cultural center for the dancing in downtown Seattle. The party went on all night with Brazilians, Seattlites and Seattle ‘imports’ dancing forró together and it was wonderful. A perfectly unusual reason to go to Seattle, the city of grunge music, for the weekend.

The day I decided to spend in downtown Seattle was cold, rainy and windy. But what else can you expect from Seattle? My spirits were quite crushed and my clothes were soaking, but I had enough energy for one more stop I had my heart set on: Uwajimaya. The International District of Seattle wouldn’t be complete without Uwajimaya. Imagine a good sized American grocery store. Now pack it full of Asian foods. Double the meat and seafood section and fill it with crazy animals most American’s have never seen or thought of eating.  Stock the produce section with durian, mangos, passion fruit and whatever other exotic fruit or vegetable you can dream of. Uwajimaya is a dream come true to the Asian-food chef. While choosing sweet chili sauces for my parents, I had a choice of 7 very different kinds. Wasabi nuts for my brother: 4 different small packages or two types of large packages plus other similarly spiced nuts he’d never even heard of. Exotic fruit juice for me? No problem. A whole aisle to choose from. Anything your little Asian heart desires can be found at Uwajimaya. Even if you’re not part of the 11% of Seattle’s population that was born in Asia, you’re still welcome at Uwajimaya.

Seattle from the air

A bus across the bridge to Bellevue put me at my next atypically-Seattle experience and at my CouchSurfing home for the next few days. My next hosts were two Indian CouchSurfers I met forró dancing. They had generously offered to host me before I could even ask if I could stay with them. They had just moved to the States three months earlier to work at Microsoft and they had to work while I was visiting but they still extended their hospitality to me in every way they could. When I arrived, they had a great chicken curry dinner ready and we set off the fire alarm while cooking roti (Indian flatbread). Apparently the fire alarm is the common sign that the food is done! It was still delicious! Within the first few hours, I knew it would be an exciting stay and while they were generously welcoming me into their home, I was eagerly welcoming them into my home country. Their Indian hospitality echoed what I had experienced with other Indian hosts during my CouchSurfing experiences in Europe and it led to an unforgettable time.

Seattle is much more than what meets the eye. Yes, it’s the birthplace of grunge music, the homeland of the American coffee culture and it’s known as the Emerald City because it does rain a lot. But there is a huge international scene to Seattle, too. There is in most big cities, I guess, but these communities in Seattle really struck a chord with me. From dancing in a small cultural center to shopping a food store bigger than Godzilla to staying with foreign workers in the Silicon Valley of the north, there is a lot going on in the international communities of Seattle. I knew it existed, but being able to dance with it, shop with it and live with it for a few days made me realize just how amazing and cool the city is- even though grunge is dead.

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4 thoughts on “Dancing, shopping and living with the international communities of Seattle

  1. Seattle reminds me of my home town of Melbourne: both are known for their coffee, their music scene, and their thriving mix of different cultures and backgrounds. Sounds like you had a lot of fun in Seattle!

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  2. I had the same feeling in Seattle! I live only a couple hours from one of the most international cities in the United States, but I felt like I saw it so much more in Seattle than I ever have in San Francisco. That Asian shop sounds amazing BTW. My favorite spot, of course, was a little shop called Turkish Delight. I even got to use some almost forgotten Turkish words there 🙂

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    • Yeah- it’s strange how we are usually the least tourist in the cities nearest us. It’s easier for me to tell people what to do in Munich than Seattle! Uwajimaya is definitely a must-see for experiencing the international part of Seattle! 🙂 Never forget your Turkish, girl!!!! 🙂

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