A new career opportunity requires you to move to Washington DC, and now you’re wondering what it’s like to live here. Since it’s a major political stage, our nation’s capital attracts people from all corners of the world. Some are only visiting, but some, just like you, are making this city their new home. In fact, estimates suggest the population will increase by almost half by 2050.
We all know that relocating can be a stressful experience. It’s a nerve-wracking mix of anxiety and excitement. And that’s especially valid when you’re relocating to a big city like Washington DC.
You start asking yourself what neighborhood you should live in? Where should your kids go to school? What’s the commute like here? You basically want to get a clear idea of what your life will be like in DC.
And you’ll hear all sorts of things. For example, perhaps you’ve heard that DC was built on a swamp. That’s just something people made up. It’s not true. It’s actually situated alongside two rivers – the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.
You also don’t need a political agenda to move here. Sure, the city is home to accomplished and aspiring politicians trying to change the world. But we also have doctors, nurses, engineers, cooks, and cashiers—all sorts of jobs for all sorts of people.
But Washington DC, much like any other large city, has a set of unwritten rules that newcomers such as yourself have to learn. It’s a fantastic place to live, one of the best cities in the country. However, it does have its quirks so, unless you want to jump in blindly, here are a few things you should know.
DC Has An Unspoken Dress Code
We already mentioned that DC isn’t just about working for the government. There’s a whole knowledge economy drawing in young, educated, and ambitious people from all around the country. Having said that, you can clearly see that the government orbit has an influence on how everyone dresses. The city doesn’t have a dress code per se, but it looks like most people buy their work clothes from similar places.
Unless you’re working for a tech start-up, you may need to step up your professional attire, especially when going to job interviews. Many of the upscale bars and restaurants also have dress codes, so you have to look into what sort of attire is acceptable before going out with your new friends.
You’ll Learn To Love The Metro
Although the city is relatively small, it usually takes more than one hour to get from one side to the other, so if you have places to go and you’d prefer to get there on time, you’ll need to leave home earlier than you might be used to.
Some people find that it’s easier to move around using the public transportation system and keep their cars just for when they have to travel outside the District or weekend getaways.
Maybe you’re coming from an area where using public transportation is less common. However, in DC, it’s seen as a very convenient way to get to where you need to be, and it’s also very safe and clean. Alternatively, you can use taxis and Uber, or similar services.
If you really prefer to drive, get ready for some serious traffic, especially if you live in the suburbs and commute. We haven’t even mentioned the problems with parking yet. Most public parking places in DC are on the street, and the streets are quite narrow. Furthermore, there aren’t enough parking spaces. At this moment, there are around 19,000 on-street metered spots for a population of almost 700,000 residents. You also have to keep in mind that the city’s population swells up by almost 80% during the workweek because of all the commuters coming from the suburbs. This might also explain why drivers in DC paid around $61.5 million in parking tickets in 2018.
But it’s not all bad. There there’s a will there’s a way. Luckily, you have a range of monthly parking DC options that allow you to search according to your preferred location, compare different rates, and book your parking spot.
High Cost Of Living
It probably comes as no surprise that the cost of living in DC is quite high. This city is ranked as the eighth most expensive in the country. On the other hand, the income level is high as well, and if you’re coming from a city like New York, it won’t really shock you. It all depends on what you’re used to.
Housing might be more expensive, so you might need to downsize. You need a pretty good income just to live in a two-bedroom apartment without straining your budget. Some newcomers discover that they no longer have enough room for all the belongings they brought with them, so they rely on self-storage units. Fortunately, these units are well-maintained with excellent security features.
We also have to mention the taxes. The sales tax is 6%, but some purchases will have higher taxes. Alcohol, restaurant meals, and takeout are taxed at 10%. Hotels are taxed at 14.95%, and parking your car in a garage is taxed 18%. However, medicines, groceries, and utilities are exempt from sales tax.
Part of the reason housing is so expensive in DC is that unlike other major cities, developers have to respect height limits as per the 1910 Height of Buildings Act, which states that buildings can’t surpass the width of the street in front of them by more than 20 feet. This means that residential buildings can be maximum of 90 feet tall while commercial buildings are less than 160 feet tall. Again, it depends on what street they’re on.
There have been discussions about changing the law to make housing more affordable, but so far, it remains. The airy landscape in DC’s low-rise center might look lovely, but you can only fit so many apartments in a five-story building, so this will affect how much you pay when you rent or buy a home. You can, of course, live in the suburbs and work in the city like many other people but then you have to deal with the commute.