How to fit in if you are new here

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

According to a recent study by HireAHelper, the population of the state of Washington, from 2015-2020, grew by a bit over 526,300, bringing our state population to a little more than 7,693,000.

That’s an increase of about half of the population of Pierce County – in one five year span.

And no, they didn’t all move into your neighborhood.

But if you are, ahem, one of those people, here are a few tips so you don’t make it so obvious that you just got here.


First, in spite of our near mythic relationship to rain, do not carry or use an umbrella.

Umbrellas are great for rain that falls straight down – which ours almost never does.

Our rain is usually accompanied by wind, which makes umbrellas worthless – if not a hazard.

Get a good rain jacket with a hood, and blend in with the rest of us.

If you have experienced real rain, by the way, like in the Midwest or Gulf states, you know that we almost never get actual rain here. We get drizzle.

For us, half an inch of rain in 24 hours is a lot.

If you are new here, you will notice than many people wear sweatshirts or other water absorbing clothing no matter what the weather.

One downpour would make that attire a movable sponge. We don’t care.

A few drops won’t make much difference.

Oddly enough, my wife insists on keeping an umbrella (or two, or five) in the car “in case we need it”.

Whenever we do “need” one, they somehow disappear until the next sunny day.


Yes, it’s true that no one here knows how to drive in the snow.

And even if you moved here from the Midwest, you don’t either.

The snow here is far wetter than most places.

And we have hills.

And narrow streets.

And cars parked along most streets.

And yes, if we get half an inch of snow we close our schools. And freeways. And almost everything else.

On those rare occasions when we get measurable snow (about every other year) it generally lasts a few days and then melts away.

You know those places where it snows and doesn’t melt for months? That’s not us.

And you know those all-wheel drive trucks designed for snow? You see those in the ditches on our few snow days.


You know that north/south freeway that goes the whole span of the state?

We call it I-5.

In California they call it “The 5”. Don’t.

Most drivers go just a shade over the speed limit. No more than five.

And not definitely not lower.

And when it comes to vehicles, parked or in motion, almost anywhere in the state, but especially on the western side of the Cascades, an average of eight out of ten cars will be Asian car brands. Especially Toyota or Subaru.


Many of our place names are of Native origin and may be a bit tricky to pronounce.

I recommend watching local weather reports to see how local names are pronounced.

You might want to find someone to help practice pronouncing place names like Puyallup, Yakima, or Nespelem. Or Elbe.

Some place names are easy, if not obvious, to pronounce, but still might feel a bit awkward at first.

And yes, I mean places like Humptulips, Ilwaco and Nooksack. Or Semiahmoo.

And many of our counties have unexpected and/or challenging names.

Just a few of these are Asotin, Clallam, Klickitat, Skamania and Skagit. And Pend Oreille.

And it’s not “The Puget Sound”.

It’s just Puget Sound.

And “The Mountain”…..

It’s a long story.

On maps it’s Mt. Rainier, but most of us just call it “The Mountain”.

Some day we will find a name worthy of it.


The vast majority of people here, most of the time, dress for comfort.

Fashion statements are great.

Most of them just don’t last very long in our unpredictable, often blustery weather.

Layers are the sure sign of a local.

Wind, rain, sun; we can run through the four seasons in a few minutes.

If you are going to be out all day, it’s best to dress for almost every kind of weather.

You are likely to run into it.

There’s a reason flannel shirts are (still) associated with the Pacific Northwest.

The reigning principle is, keep it simple, and prepare for anything.


It might seem that Tacoma takes something like an inverted sense of civic pride as being gritty, if not dangerous.

We have many contributing factors, but statistically speaking we are far from number one in the crime category.

You can see the details on Washington state crime here:

Tacoma is in the top ten, actually the top five.


Beer and coffee.

Yes, Starbucks started here. But so did a bunch of other great (many would argue, far better) coffee places.

And when it comes to beer, there are more than 170 craft breweries currently in operation throughout the state, and a whole host of beer-centered events from Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest to local beer gatherings in Tacoma, Redmond, Bremerton and many more.

And FYI, over 75% of the hops grown in the USA come from here – mostly the Yakima Valley.


If someone suggests a weekend in Vancouver, be sure to specify which one.

One was established first. The other involves crossing an international border.