Washington DC, District of Columbia

Where Urban Edginess Meets Southern Charm

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What's it like to live in Washington DC?

Do you love living in Washington, D.C., or do you hate it? Why?

There are pros and cons.

I had little choice but to live in the area while I was working. My career was focused on the development of computer and communications systems, and the federal government offers opportunities for global work unlike anyplace else. So that’s what brought me there, and I stayed in a suburb for nearly 40 years. But when the opportunity came, I left for Florida.

What’s to like?

At least in my case, it was VERY important to be near the seat of power. Many of the things I did had national or even global effect. It was quite satisfying to know that I had such impact. (It would have been even more satisfying if I always got my way! haha)

It’s a well maintained compared to many cities. Lots of parks, flowers along the highways, monuments big and small dot the landscape making it attractive to look at.

Many attractions. Many are “free” because we pay for them in taxes, but you pay the same amount whether to live in DC or Alaska. Whatever…the city is filled with things to do that have no admission charge. And then there all of the ones that DO charge admission. You’d better like history and museums, however.

Good travel opportunities. With its central location on the East Coast, NYC could be a day trip, as could the Appalachian Mountains or Williamsburg. Trains and buses head in all directions. Three large commercial airports make long distance travel pretty easy. And the fact that the cost of living is high means that salaries are high and most places seem pretty cheap by comparison.

International perspective. So I grew up outside NYC, and am used to the idea that people come from all over the world, with a mix of cultures and an interest in world affairs. What’s more, most are intelligent and educated professionals. It’s appalling to listen to people who live perhaps only 100 miles away who have no interest and no idea what’s really going on. We get things like Trump as a result.

What’s not to like?

The weather. Hot and humid in the Summer with several dangerous days each year. Cold with occasional blizzards in Winter. And unpredictable, which means unprepared. I was literally trapped in my house for a week one year after 4ft of snow blanketed the area. It took that long before a plow came by to cut a path on the road - in part because the government didn’t want people on the roads.

Traffic. DC never expected to grow so large and is a traffic nightmare. But because the jurisdictions of DC, MD and VA must cooperate on a solution, there usually isn’t one. Highway projects finally get started 20+ years after they were planned. And they are poorly coordinated. On one occasion, the mayor was on TV celebrating completion of a project to resurface a major roadway, but in the background an excavator was digging a trench across it.

Do you love living in Washington, D.C., or do you hate it? Why?
Profile photo for Kani Clay
Kani Clay
, lives in Washington, DC (1973-present)
Answered Sep 20, 2018 · Upvoted by
John Foster
, lives in Washington, DC (2001-present) and
Brian Paul Jenny
, lived in Washington, DC
This will be lengthy…

I am a NATIVE Washingtonian — born and raised in DC… I have lived in a “suburb” of Charlottesville, VA as a child/teen twice and as an adult lived a brief time in Atlanta and Tampa. I relished coming HOME to DC each time.

When my mom (and I) moved to Maryland in my 10th grade year of high school, I HATED it because I was too far from the city even though my backyard is what is now the parking lot for FedEx Field.

It bothers me greatly to hear people say that folks in DC are pretentious, snobs, etc. Those are people NOT from DC but transplants from other cities and countries. People actually from DC and the close-in suburbs are actually very friendly and down-to-earth.

Traffic… Yeah, its a bit much. But don’t forget that DC is a very HIGH tourist destination from April-October which means there are people renting cars her that don’t know where the hell they are going (pet peeve of mine, esp with the advancement of Uber, Lyft and the like). Also, DC is in a grid and everything is in alphabetical and numerical order but people still don’t know how to navigate it and won’t learn thanks to GPS. Most people only know one way home, etc so they will stay where they are and make traffic worse. Further, if you look at most of the cars causing the traffic, they’re from VA and MD. SMH.

Living away from DC, I missed having the access to free and plentiful museums/cultural attractions, a multitude of ethnic foods/restaurants, variety of foods in the grocery stores, corner stores (we DO NOT call them bodegas, that a NY thing), public spaces/parks with plenty of vegetation, street sweepers, and the METRO system.

What do you like about living in DC?

Financially, my favorite part about DC is how easy it is to live car free. Is my rent a little higher? Sure, but I come out wayyyy ahead with no car payments, insurance payments, maintenance costs, etc. I have a bike and metro and that’s all I’ve ever needed. I can’t even remember the last time I Ubered.

In terms of quality of life, I love the diversity of DC, but I love the diversity that’s within walking distance for me. I can walk to just about any type of bar/restaurant/cuisine I could imagine.

Are there things I’d change? Definitely, but I can’t imagine living in another US city and being as happy as I am here.

What do you like about living in DC?

I’m originally from California, but I lived in Philly for 7 years before moving to DC. I’ve been in DC for 2.5 years now and just bought a condo, so planning on staying for the long haul.

I love all the culture that DC has to offer. There are so many museums, theaters, and other points of interest here. It’s awesome to walk to the National Mall in the evening, grab some food from a food truck, and just sit and enjoy all the scenery. Not to say Philly doesn’t have any of this, because of course it does, but not on the same scale as DC.

The job market here is profoundly better. I struggled to find good jobs in Philly. My salary in Philly topped out at $52k. I’ve more than doubled my salary since moving, and yes, the COL is higher here, but not 2x as expensive. For comparison, rent in Philly was $2,000 vs $2,400 here for very similar apartment buildings. My husband also got a huge pay bump when we moved here (though not quite as drastic as mine), so overall we are in a much more comfortable place financially even though it’s a little more expensive. Also, the pure number of job opportunities here is staggering compared to Philly, at least in my field.

I also prefer the diversity of DC. There are people here from all over the country and world. I like that I meet tons of other people from California, for example. I feel like less of an outsider here because so few of the people I work with and have become friends with are from here. Philly has a really intense local culture that I never grew to enjoy.

In Philly’s favor, the restaurant scene there is a lot better. DC has decent restaurants, but Philly was a foodie heaven. One of my favorite things about going back to Philly is going to as many restaurants as possible.

Do I ever miss Philly? Oh, yeah! I miss walking around University City when all the students return and it’s buzzing with excitement. I miss the cobblestone streets of Old City and walking through Elfreth’s Alley to get home. I miss the friends I made there, Reading Terminal Market, the German Christmas Village in December, Penn’s Landing in the summer, and the proximity to NYC. I miss how well I knew my way around by the end of 7 years. But it’s just a short train ride away, and I go back and visit often enough (well, I did pre-pandemic) to get my fix.

TBH, I think both are great places to live and which to live in just depends on what you value most

What To Know BEFORE Moving To Washington DC