© Fernando Revilla on Creative Commons
11. Don’t take I-66 during rush hour. I blogged about this awhile ago, but it’s worth repeating. Before coming to DC, I had no idea that roads existed that were HOV-only during certain parts of the day. Until I got a ticket on 66 the very first time I’d ever driven on it. (I’m still bitter.)
10. Do invest in a winter coat. I moved to DC from California and couldn’t justify spending a couple hundred dollars on a coat, so the first winter that I lived here I just wore the heaviest jacket I owned. A random woman on the Metro actually admonished me for not having a warmer coat. And, turns out, DC winters are a lot easier to handle when you’re not freezing your ass off.
9. Don’t get too attached. Okay, this is terribly pessimistic of me, I realize, but it’s true. I had a really difficult time when a few friends I had become super close with left the area. DC is a transient city, and friends you meet will usually move eventually. It takes time to find people who aren’t just passing through.
8. Don’t live at an AvalonBay “community.” Avalon owns a bunch of apartment buildings in the DC area, and I was mid-lease when they bought the building I lived in. They have horrible management and don’t care about their residents. I quickly moved out.
7. Don’t shop at Tysons Corner during the holidays. Okay, you can shop at Tysons during the holidays, but be prepared for some anxiety-inducing mayhem. I basically had a nervous breakdown from the crowds a couple years ago, so now I steer clear come November.
6. Do look at the Metro website on the weekend. I was used to taking the Metro on the weekdays, but it took a few mistakes before I realized that weekends are a different story. One time I had to wait over a half an hour for a train because of track maintenance. Now I check the website for delays and either leave earlier or drive.
5. Don’t tempt thieves. I was hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I came back to my car and my window was broken—I had left my purse on the seat. My old roommate had the same thing happen when she parked at West Falls Church Metro and left a coin purse on the console. It’s a fine line between cautious and paranoid, but now I have no problem being the latter.
4. Don’t let angry residents rub off on you. It’s easy to get snippy, cut people off, give tourists dirty looks—a lot of people in DC do it, and I am certainly not casting the first stone (I won’t mention the fist fight I almost got into with a guy at the Library of Congress—not one of my finer moments). But the other day I was crossing a street with a man who went ab-so-lute-ly ballistic when a bus was blocking the crosswalk, and it made me realize there’s no reason to get so upset over minor annoyances. There’s something very satisfying about letting things go.
3. Don’t ask who the House Majority Leader is. When I moved here I knew very little about politics, and when I mentioned in front of coworkers that I didn’t know who Nancy Pelosi was, it was as if I had suddenly grown a third eye. “No Toto, we’re in California anymore.” Now I know a lot more about government and when I don’t, I fake it.
2. Don’t be too impressed. DC probably has the highest percentage of overachievers of any city in the country. People here are impressive. They speak Chinese and they have multiple degrees and they save children from burning buildings for fun on the weekends. But don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to others. (I’m still trying to take my own advice on this one.)
1. Don’t take DC for granted. When you call the DC area home, it’s easy to procrastinate about going to museums and monuments and the Kennedy Center and Rock Creek Park and Jazz in the Sculpture Garden, etc. But you probably won’t live here forever, so now’s the time to take advantage of all that DC has to offer.