Tell Me About Living In/Around Washington DC

Thanks for all the great answers. Much of it confirms what I suspected - don’t drive to work, don’t plan on buying a house, don’t have kids.

I am going to mull over applying for a couple more days, but I suspect that, as much as I would like the job I would probably need to regard it as a fairly short-term thing, a stepping stone to other places I would rather be, and I feel like I might be getting a little old for that.

In the meantime, a similar opportunity came up someplace I know and would much rather live but I do not have the immediate connections to make it a pretty sure thing. Time to have a glass of wine and consider the options. On teh bright side, looks like jobs in my field are opening up again.

Mrs. Cake writes:

> Thanks for all the great answers. Much of it confirms what I suspected - don’t
> drive to work, don’t plan on buying a house, don’t have kids.

Oh, come on. Let me consider each of those claims.

Don’t drive to work.

Well, if you work within a couple of blocks of the White House, that’s a good idea. I live right next to the Beltway and work about halfway to Baltimore. I have to have a car. I don’t have to drive into D.C. into the middle of a weekday most of the time. It’s really not a big deal.

Don’t plan on buying a house.

Look, I assume that you are talking about taking a pretty good white-collar job, since you’re working right in the middle of the city. I assume that your husband also will be able to get a pretty good white-collar job. You will be able to buy a house eventually. You may be commuting a little further than you’d like or you may have a slightly smaller house than you’d like, but you certainly will be able to buy a house.

Don’t have kids.

Don’t be ridiculous. The schools in the Washington metropolitan area are, on average, some of the best in the U.S. Just as in any other area, you might want to choose the neighborhood you live in depending on the schools your children will be attending. I have never heard anyone claim that they decided not to have children because they live in this area. In many ways it’s a great area for children.

If you are working downtown, you don’t want to drive to work because of parking, but depending on where your spouse works, he will drive to work. Don’t plan on buying a house at first, because you need to get to know the area, but there are a lot of great neighborhoods to live in that aren’t that expensive. The good thing about the area is that the jobs market is pretty stable. This is a great area for kid. The DC metro area is very family friendly. There are a lot of museums that are free, and just other activities. There are parks all over the region as well, and like Wendell Wagner said, the schools are very good.

Are you serious? I complain about the work commute and your solution is “stay off the roads during rush hour?” Gee, it must be my fault for “choosing” to live here, because hey, everyone’s free to live wherever they want! Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have gotten robbed if I just didn’t own anything!

And the primary definition of scenic is indeed “of or pertaining to natural scenery.” Scenic Definition & Meaning |

Stop being such a presumptuous blockhead.

[Moderator Note]Stop insulting posters outside of The BBQ Pit.[/Modeator Note]

I would point out the prior post all but called Reticulating a bumpkin, which was really unnecessary. I hate DC and I’m from NYC so “can’t hack the Big City” is definitely not the reason. It’s the other stuff – horrible traffic, disturbing economic disparities, hellish suburban wasteland, and streets that are empty at 9pm – that I don’t like. It has its good points too of course, but for me they by no means outweigh the sense that there isn’t much “there” there.

And I would again point out that you do not insult other posters outside of The BBQ Pit. If you feel that this rule have been broken by another poster, report it to a Moderator.

I’m totally on board with “don’t drive to work downtown”, but buying a house and having kids are both very do-able here. I’ve done both, and I’m a grad student! Now that it’s time to hit the job market, I’m very reluctant to leave DC. I love it here, especially the close-knit neighborhood we live in.

One thing I love about living on the East Coast (as opposed to the Midwest, where I grew up) is that there are so many great places to go on daytrips. You can go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, visit Monticello, tour wineries in Virginia, browse the cute shops in Annapolis, visit Gettysburg, hit the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, go to Rehoboth Beach, go rockclimbing at Sugarloaf Mountain, and so much more. Plus, there’s an awful lot to do in DC itself.

Good luck with your job search!

I found DC to have the rudest people I’ve ever met. I can’t think of a nice person I met there the whole year I lived there.

I agree traffic is a total nightmare both in the city and in the suburbs. It’s probably worse (if that’s possible) in Virginia. Virginia is definately a lot more conservative than Maryland, so you might want to look into that.

Rents can be astronomical, so you have to plan to spend a lot of time looking, though it’s certainly easier to get a decent flat in DC (and the 'burbs) than it is in NYC, Boston or San Francisco.

Localism is pretty non-existant. When you watch the local news you get a feeling of watching the “Evening Newtork News.” Washington can also get very hot and muggy.

On the flip side, there is always something to do. The clubs are fine and the museums and historical things are so numerous, you’d be hard pressed to visit them all. Then you have to realize, Baltimore is only 35 miles away. Philly and Norfolk/Richmond are within a few hours drive too, so there’s lots of day trips too.

An indication of just how good the Washington area schools are can be found in an article in Monday’s issue of The Washington Post. All the schools in the U.S. have been rated on how well the students do in taking A.P. and I.B. tests. As they point out, this isn’t the only way to rate schools, but it’s one good one. They picked a level which only 6% of the schools in the country were at or above. 77% of the schools in the Washington area were at or above this level. Many of the remaining ones were above the national average. Only a few schools in the area were less than average (and you can pretty easily pick out which ones those are if you’re a parent looking for a place to live).

I have four friends (two married couples) who live in Montgomery County. Each couple has a thirteen-year-old daughter who is in eighth grade. Both girls are smart and hard-working. Because of that, both of them are in advanced programs that push them very hard. I feel sorry for them for how much work they have to do during and after school. Yes, in the long run this will be good for them academically. They probably be able to get into any college they want to. In the meantime they are under a lot of stress. In comparison, the high school I went to in rural northwest Ohio was unstressful. That’s because you were discouraged from having any ambition. It was made clear that the best you could ever hope for, no matter how smart you were, was to go to a second-rate state university and come back and teach high school (and more likely you wouldn’t even do that well). If you wanted any more than that, you were considered a snob and a traitor. If you had asked people there if the high school offered A.P. or I.B. courses, they wouldn’t just have said that it didn’t. They would have refused to believe that such things existed and have accused you of being crazy for claiming that they did.

And that’s the basis of the only real problems with the Washington area. It’s a rather stressful place to live. Commuting can be stressful (although many people have chosen places to live close enough to their work that they don’t get stressed, while other people, like me, work late so as to avoid rush hours). The area is full of great things to do, and you can get stressed out trying to do them all. There are lots of more rural things to see within a few hours drive. If your idea of “scenic” is that you have to have a mountain always in sight though, find somewhere else to live.

It’s possible (and certainly easy for me) to learn to live with the situation here and get used to it. I didn’t move here until I was 29, but I’ve now spent all except three years of the past 28 years and 4 months here. I grew up on a farm in northwest Ohio. I spent several years each in Sarasota, Florida; Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; and Cheltenham/Gloucester, England. I spent less than a year each in Bowling Green, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Michigan. So, yes, I do know what it’s like to live in other places.

I’ve never found the people here particularly rude. As long as you understand that you’re not living in Mayberry and people you interact with in business situations can’t just sit around and chat for a spell, you’ll do fine. You do have to build a network of friends and work associates around you that you like being with.

Mrs. Cake, are you going to be doing an interview or some other visit in Washington to consider the job? If so, let us know. We can put on a Dopefest, maybe getting together at some restaurant near where you will be staying.

I too moved to D.C. from the Mid-West, and I love it here. I’ve lived here nearly 15 years, and I don’t ever see myself leaving. Housing is expensive, but if you’ve taken Econ 101 you should understand that this is because lots of people want to live here. And it’s a perfectly lovely place to have kids. There are, indubitably, economically depressed areas that I don’t spend a lot of time in (although they’re not generally as bad as everybody pretends), and you wouldn’t want your kids going to public schools there. But the public schools throughout the region, including many in the District itself, are very good. But it’s true. City life isn’t for everyone, and as I suggested upthread, city life in the West isn’t at all like life in the overwhelming majority of big cities in the world – those built before cars. So maybe it’s not for you. But if you’re going to plan your life on the basis of a couple grousers on a message board (and if they don’t like it, why are they still here?), I think you’re making a big mistake.


If you’ll be working near the White House, you might consider living in Arlington, a Virginia county right outside of DC. It’s technically a suburb, I suppose, but much of it is built up to urban levels, and I believe it actually has one of the highest population densities in the United States - you can easily get the city living experience here. Further, the closest metro station to the White House is McPherson Square, which is readily accessible from Arlington. For example, I live near the Ballston metro, and McPherson is a fifteen-minute metro ride for me. Even if you lived in DC proper, there are plenty of neighborhoods that would be hard-pressed to beat that commute.

Arlington has a decent mix of the same things you can get in DC - nightlife, bookstores, theater, and so on. It’s also marginally cheaper on average than DC, though there are glaring exceptions to this rule. (I pay $1,000/month for an excellent medium-sized one-bedroom in a garden-style building about ten minutes walk from the metro, which is slightly below average for my neighborhood.) I’ve lived here about six months, and lived in DC proper for three years before that, and I preferred DC - it’s hard to pin it down, but the District just feels less manufactured than Arlington’s “urban village” neighborhoods. But Arlington is a fine place to live, and extraordinarily safe.

(By way of comparison - DC had 140 murders last year. Arlington, I believe, had two. Even with only one-third DC’s population, that’s still dramatic.)

Steak and Egg, by the Tenleytown Metro, is excellent and open 24 hours a day. (A huge schlep from Arlington, though.) If you choose to live in North Arlington (Rosslyn/Courthouse/Clarendon/Virginia Square/Ballston metros), you’ll have easy access to a 24-hour IHOP at the Ballston metro.

Oh god, don’t get me started. I don’t care that it takes place in an alternate-universe future - the Farragut West Metro station does not belong on the Potomac, damnit.

I pay less than $1,150 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, counting all the utilities. It’s about fifteen minutes walk to the Metro, and there’s a bus stop almost right in front of the building. Because I have to drive to work to get to my job that’s halfway to Baltimore, I don’t know much about public transportation though. It’s not a very well-off neighborhood (although the high school that this neighborhood sends its kids to, Eleanor Roosevelt, is first-rate), but in some ways that’s actually better. For instance, I can drive to the neighborhood three miles south of me to go to a bunch of excellent, cheap Mexican restaurants run by recent immigrants.

And the corollary is that if you plan your life based on a couple of Pollyannas on a message board, that’s a big mistake too. Negative comments are all invalid? That’s exactly what makes this city so insufferable and slow to progress.

Sorry, hate to break it to you, but life’s not as simple as getting up and moving to Hawaii.

No. Southern Maryland is further south. None of the Maryland counties surrounding DC are Southern Maryland.

Still talking to people about it and considering the pros and cons. I’ve done plenty of big city living and driving, so that doesn’t really put me off, and I have relatives in the Richmond area who have passed along their thoughts as well. Husband is looking at job possibilities as well. Biggest issue at this point is considering if it is a step that will lead to something bigger and better in 3-5 years, which is really the only reason I am seriously thinking of it. Probably do a phone interview, and have been talking wiht people who are more familiar with the general working conditions & attitudes at the possible place of business. Hate to uproot everything only to find out too late the boss is a micromanaging idiot.

So, Mrs. Cake, have you made a decision?