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Think You Know Seattle? Think Again

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Seattle in sun and rain

It's easy to get a bad rep -- and we don't mean just in high school. Entire cities and whole swaths of the country can be misrepresented by people elsewhere, and those misconceptions often end up being accepted as fact. If you're facing job relocation or just thinking about getting out of your overpriced current city, don't write off a potential new hometown based on rumors. Learn what it's really about.

This realtor.com series seeks to debunk a few of these location-based myths, starting with the Pacific Northwest's Emerald City, Seattle. Homes there are flying off the market, so let's take a look at what it's really about.

Myth: It's always rainy

Truth: What better place to start than with the most Seattle-y clich of them all? The city is basically a waterlogged terrarium where raincoats have been known to bond directly with the skin of its residents, right?

A quick check of a list of cities with the most rainy days, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, finds Seattle coming in at … No. 6??!! OK, that's still a decent amount of precipitation. But with 149 rainy days, Seattle is well behind Pittsburgh and Cleveland, with two upstate New York cities ( Rochester and Buffalo) taking the top spots. Also, Seattleites are quick to point out that heavy downpours are not common and umbrellas are rarely used -- Seattle is more prone to misty conditions than full-on storms.

Myth: The locals are chilly, too

Truth: Although the term " Seattle freeze" was coined in 2005, the idea that Seattleites are distant, introverted, and unfriendly has been recorded in print as early as 1946 (a Seattle Daily Times article from that year discusses how locals "sometimes are neglectful of the stranger in our midst").

So is Seattle really such a harsh and unfriendly place? It's a subjective question, of course. However, residents are aware of their reputation and some, at least, are willing to address it. The site MeetUp.com has a "Seattle Anti-Freeze" group dedicated to helping transplants find friends. It currently boasts nearly 8,000 "Anti-Freezers," which by our calculations is a larger population of friendly people than most boroughs of New York City.

Myth: Hipsters, hipsters everywhere

Truth: Seattle paved the way for today's hipsters. After all, it gave us the gourmet coffee movement -- remember life before Starbucks? And Nirvana. And how about " Singles"? The city's urban-bohemian image was reinforced when Washington state joined Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana.

But … Washington took a more measured approach to weed than Colorado -- it started out merely decriminalizing possession and only slowly worked up to legalizing retail operations.

In another blow to the city's leftist rep, a recent Seattle Times article discovered that in a ranking of liberal-leaning ZIP codes, Seattle wasn't even in the top 300 in the U.S., falling behind ZIPs in Alabama and Oklahoma.

Myth: At least the commute is easier

Truth: East Coasters looking to break away from the life-draining train-to-train-to-subway-to-work slog often look west for relief. Everyone knows L.A. is a bumper-to-bumper nightmare, but people in Seattle float into work on flying bicycles like the climactic scene of " E.T.," don't they? Sorry, Elliott, but the truth is that commuting in Seattle is often tougher than New York City. Manhattan has a complex network of bridges and tunnels to help commuters get in and out, but Seattle relies on a limited number of roadways and bridges to get people into its downtown.

A single incident on one of the main roadways -- like, say, a toppled salmon truck -- can cripple the entire city. Funding shortages have hurt the Kings County Metro roadway (despite record ridership in recent years) and any kind of usable train system is still a decade away from completion. So maybe your delayed train or Beltway traffic isn't so bad….