Weekly Tangent – Seattle’s Waving Culture


Hello ‘Tangenter,

Seattle drivers are wavers.


Observe the open-handed-fingers-apart wave as it appears in the wild.

Let us merge and we wave.

Let us turn in front of you and we wave.

If you have the same car as us, we’ll wave… sometimes. Mini Cooper owners are especially prone to this.

I’ve seen police officers, firefighters, and army convoys get waves.

Pedestrians wave at cars and vice versa.

(We also won’t honk unless the situation really calls for it.)

Among Seattleites, there are wave styles.

Yes… there’s an art and philosophy to car waving.

Some people swear by the hand spread wave and some people do the fingers-together wave.

There’s also the big arm-swinging wave that is an obvious movement to ensure maximum visibility and there’s the small wrist salute-type wave for efficiency.

Some will point their fingers directly at you and wiggle them.

young woman in car

She’s almost doing the pointing-at-you wave.

How you wave is a personal thing and says a lot about a driver.

Big wavers have often had their waves misinterpreted as a rude gesture before and want you to know that they’re not telling you off, really.

Wavers who stick their fingers out at you aren’t subtle and want you to know that, “Hey, you! THANKS FOR LETTING ME IN. YEAH YOU.” It’s aggressively polite.

A non-waver is, generally, either having a really bad day or from out-of-town.

So, if you come to Seattle and the only driving hand gestures you’re used to are offensive ones… just be prepared. All of the waving may be unsettling at first, but we’ll assimilate you win you over eventually.



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