Ask, “Are you from DC, or like, the suburbs?”
Grab a chair, child, and sit yr ass down. Washington, DC is a tiny diamond of a city. It’s population hasn’t been much higher than 600,000 for about 100 years. But the culture of the city permeates its surrounding suburbs, which are still some of my favorite places in the world (and I’ve lived on three continents).
Silver Spring has absorbed the culture of its immigrants — groups of older Ethiopian men sip espresso outside the otherwise bland downtown Starbucks, entrepreneurial Salvadoran ladies sell pupusas with squash flowers, families check out classic films at the American Film Institute.
Say, “There’s no culture here.”
No, hunni. Back up. DC is oozing culture. It’s the kind of place where you can get the best empanadas in a church basement and the regional fast food favorite is Peruvian rotisserie chicken.
As a teenager, I got to go to all-ages shows and bump into punk icons like Ian Mackaye. My friend’s dad was in Bad Brains. The sheer fact that DC is the capital of government draws a huge number of folks from all over the world — when I was a little kid I thought all moms had accents, except for mine.
Yes, there are many, many blondes wearing pearls and sipping a drink at a downtown happy hour. There are also 30-year-old punks who work in anarchist dog-walking collectives and hang out a bit father north. Did you know that DC spawned its own musical genre? Check out Chuck Brown, and get down with some go-go. And can we not forget the entirely Guatemalan style La Union mall in PG County?
Move to DC for two years to work up in your career, and then leave.
So, I’m not exactly a DC lifer. The city and I broke up about a year ago, but I still have a lot of love and loyalty for the place. When people with disposable incomes come to a city for only a short amount of time, it’s my personal belief that it really hurts the place overall.
They don’t get a chance to become a fixture in their neighborhood, consistently show up at community meetings (which are a big deal in the District), or to become part of the permanent customer base for local businesses. Transience throws a real wrench in building communities.
Compare DC to New York.
Once I was taking a train home from Boston, and when I didn’t get off at one of the NYC stops, an older woman asked me why. “Because I live in DC,” I answered. “You don’t look like you live in DC,” she said. “You look like you live in Brooklyn.”
Ugh. Boring. Not all badass babes live in Williamsburg or Bushwick.
Here’s the thing, I was able to live fairly cheaply in DC, despite rising costs. I could never have done this in New York. I have friends who live there. Some of them don’t have windows in their rooms. Others have a rotating cast of 10 roommates at a time. And DC has a slow, Southern vibe I happen to really dig. It’s common practice to smile and say hello to folks on the street. People aren’t pitching fits over stupid shit all the time, and if they do, they’ll be sure to attract many sideways glares.
Obviously New York has way better food, culture, art, etc., but it’s 10x the size. Keep it moving.
Stand on the left side of the metro escalators.
People in DC are obsessed with work. It’s pretty dumb, but it’s the hard reality. And they’d like to gtfo of our underground, 1970s-era transportation system as quickly as possible. They probably woke up super early to face a miserable commute. Can you blame them? If you’re standing, like a blissful moron, on the left side of the escalator, you’re not only prolonging their insane commute, you’re also creating a veritable escalator traffic jam. Bad form.
Complain about the weather.
Actually, that’s fine. It was a really bad idea to build a city on a swamp.
After all this, still say, “I don’t really like DC, sorry.”
You’re sorry? So are we. It’s sad for you that you’re not looking at the city with some softer eyes. You’re missing out.