Welcome to Olympia!

Tips from a local to make living in Olympia easier for us all


So, you’ve decided to move to Olympia and attend The Evergreen State College. As an Olympian, born and raised, I’d like to welcome you to our wonderful community. I offer you a gift basket filled with craft beer, the best coffees, a K Records compilation CD, a bag of nutritional yeast, and all the other things Olympia has to offer you. Olympia is a weird, quirky, and endearing place. We’re known for a lot of things: being the state capital, the riot grrl scene, the birthplace of K and Kill Rock Star records, brewing amazing beer, and of course, home to that “weird hippie college with no grades.” There are a lot of people who love Olympia and a lot of people who hate it. It can sometimes be a hard place to live. Its quirks are sometimes wonderful and other times entirely aggravating. In college towns, there’s always a dynamic that develops between local residents and college students. There are places where this dynamic is vile and tense and other places where it’s peaceful and cooperative. I’ve put together a list of tips and advice to make things easier for you, as a welcome college student, and us, the wacky local residents.

It’s dark, wet, and dreary: The Pacific Northwest (or Cascadia) is well known as a rainy and depressing place. Movies usually overemphasize these features, but they are true. Until spring, there will be a lot of rain and many dreary nights. Seasonal depression hits us hard. So, invest in waterproof shoes, whatever works for you. Rain pants and a rain jacket aren’t totally ridiculous here. Take vitamin D supplements, talk with friends, or visit the counseling center if you start feeling depressed.

Don’t complain about the weather: We get it—it’s wet. It’s really, really wet, it’s depressing, and we don’t know how to deal with snow. But it all becomes less annoying for all of us when we stop complaining about it and just deal with it. It’s not going to stop. Try to discover the beauty of rain while listening to Elliott Smith, but don’t let it eat you up.

It’s OK to use an umbrella: There’s this “rule” that folks in the Pacific Northwest don’t use umbrellas—it’s weak. As someone who has lived here my entire life, that is complete bullshit. Yes, you might want to find other ways of keeping dry, but don’t be ashamed to use an umbrella, and don’t assume people with umbrellas are not from here.  But, if you plan to use one, have some etiquette. I don’t want to be poked in the eye with your rainbow bubble umbrella.

Drink good coffee: Olympia is home to some of the best coffee roasters and coffee shops. So, forget your Folgers, Starbucks blend, and even the disgraceful obliteration of decent beans by campus brewers—learn to appreciate the true art of coffee. Whether it’s a properly crafted cappuccino or a delicate pour over, Olympia coffee will always satisfy. Check out: Olympia Coffee Roasters, Batdorf and Bronson, Café Vita, Burial Grounds, or Café Love.
Don’t act like a local: We are really very happy to have you here and to share our community with you. We invite you to involve yourself deeply and make this your home. But don’t pretend you’re from here, because we know you’re not. Don’t try to take what’s ours away from us.

Don’t act a certain way because you think that’s what Olympia is: You don’t have to be a certain way just because you think you’ll fit in more. Be yourself. Olympia isn’t ever what you think it is, so more often than not, you’re just making a fool out of yourself. Being yourself is the most Olympia thing you can do.

Drink Olympia or Rainier beer: No, Oly isn’t brewed here anymore and today’s recipe is nothing as it was (it’s no longer “the water”), but we still hold a lot of pride for producing one of the best cheap beers of all time. PBR is OK too, as far as cheap beers go, but it doesn’t have the same Pacific Northwest nostalgia as Oly or Rainier.

Join the Co-op: We are very lucky to have access to the Olympia Food Co-op. The Co-op is a great way to get connected with the local community, support sustainability, and have access to some of the finest organic produce. You can become a member in-store at either location or online at http://olympiafood.coop/

Bring your bags! Thurston County began its ban on single-use plastic bags this summer. There’s a fee for choosing a store’s paper bags, too. Ultimately, using any store’s bags is bad for the environment, so make sure to invest in some durable, reusable grocery bags.

Nutritional yeast goes on everything: Nutritional yeast is a gift to us from the gods. Learn it, love it, put it on everything. It will 9/10 times make whatever you’re eating twice as good.

It’s the water: Seriously—it’s all about the water. We are blessed with artesian well water, some of the most amazing fresh and natural water in the world. Some say if you drink the water, you’ll never leave. True or not, you still have to drink the water. You can access the downtown artesian well at 4th Avenue and Jefferson Street, whether for a quick sip or to fill up some jugs.

Don’t sleep with all your friends, or your friends’ friends: Olympia has this problem that isn’t just unique to college students: everyone you sleep with has probably slept with someone else you know. Olympia is small. In high school, friend groups dated amongst themselves. In college, the issue is compounded. Totally explore your sexuality and have fun. But things start to get weird, awkward, and uncomfortable when you have to drive to Seattle to date someone you don’t know. Same goes for your roommates.

Don’t act poor: I don’t know if it’s a problem unique to Evergreen or what, but there seems to be a large cohort of people who enjoy taking on the aesthetics and struggles of being poor, when in reality they have a lot of support. Olympia has a lot of low income folks, locals and students, who struggle very hard to afford basic necessities. Don’t make a mockery of their struggle by thinking it’s cool to not have electricity or whatever.

Don’t abuse local resources: There are great resources in Olympia for folks who are struggling. The Thurston County Food Bank distributes three days a week and has satellite locations, including on campus. If you don’t need the food bank or food stamps, please don’t use them. I don’t want to discourage anyone from applying, even if sometimes you can afford to buy food, because we all need help. But don’t be one of those rich kids who think it’s cool to spend their money on weed and beer and hoard food resources. Also, it’s not edgy, hip, or grunge to wear Goodwill clothes—for a lot of us, it’s a necessity.

Forget about your utopia: I’m sure you have wonderful ideas about what Olympia is or could be, or what your ideal world is like. But if you come to Olympia with ideas of what it should be, you’re going to be disappointed. We aren’t interested in having people move here with ideas about a perfect free-loving utopia and thoughts about how we can change.

This land is not ours: This land is that of the Squaxin, Nisqually, and Skokomish. This area is rich with indigenous history. Many have fought hard to ensure the survival of cultures and communities indigenous to the Pacific Northwest area. Please be aware and acknowledge these facts. If you venture onto reservation land, you are entering another people’s sovereign land. There are copious resources around the area to educate yourself, such as the Squaxin Island Tribe Museum Library and Research Center, just 11 miles from Evergreen’s campus.

Learn Olympia history: You’re here, whether it’s temporary or not—act like you care. Invest a little bit of your time into learning about who this land was stolen from, how Olympia was founded, the timeline of Olympia Beer, and so on. As locals, we’re forced to learn Washington state history to graduate middle school.

Listen to your community radio station: Olympia is also home to one of the best independent community radio stations in the country. KAOS is also a student organization. You can listen online at kaosradio.org or through your smartphone radio app!

Weed is legal, but don’t be an idiot: Yes, Washington state legalized the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and older. But that doesn’t mean you can just smoke weed wherever, whenever you want. The college campus also still doesn’t allow it, as they are federally funded. So, don’t be an idiot about it. Get yourself a good weed man.