Join 3,422 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Chicago or DC?
August 21, 2009 8:00 AM   Subscribe

I have lived in NYC for most of my life and I am exhausted, tired, and in need of a change. I've settled into two cities Chicago or DC...But would like to get the Hive's input, which one is better?

I know that NYC is a great and an amazing city and since I have lived here since the age of 12 (now I am 25)I know exactly all the ups and down of the big apple and frankly I am burned out, I am going through a period of my life where I am reinventing myself and keep on feeling like I am a new person that keeps on going to the same ol places........I've settled into moving to DC or Chicago, my lease is running out in January and I figure that I could start looking for jobs in early december/january and if i find one I am leaving. Here are the logistics of what I look for in a new city:

1) The ability to date and for people to be friendly and accepting of other cultures: I've visited DC plenty of times and I loved the Dating scene there I am just not sure of how it is in chicago. I am also bi-racial (or multi-racial) and looking for a city that has a lot of diversity and it is progressive, I more or less have an idea of how this would be in DC but not sure about Chicago.

2) The city should have plenty of employment and a good cost of living. I am currently a business analyst in Wall Street and while my salary is ok (about 70k), I would like to live in a city where I could do more with it. I like living in bigger places and NYC right now is costing me an arm and a leg in renting....I have heard that Chicago is probably better than DC in regards to this.

3) I would like to eventually have a car and drive to places.......I used to drive in Manhattan and it was the most harrowing experience ever, yet I love being behind the wheel. because of Financial reasons I wont be able to have a car right away so the city should have public transportation until I get a car 6 months to a year later....Not sure which or the two city would allow me to do this.......

4) Eventually i would like to go back to get an MBA in either of the new cities....once again not sure of which city will be best for this....

So I look to the Hive for some advice, please let me know your thoughts!!
posted by The1andonly to Travel & Transportation (52 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think Chicago would be a better fit for any young person. It just seems to have way more energy than DC (though certainly not as much as NYC). And your money would go much further there than any of the other top-tier US cities.

Plus, the summers are less awful.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:04 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding Chicago. During college we visited some friends who were in grad school and living in the Loop area. It looked awesome. DC might an interesting place to visit (we have family in the area and go there pretty regularly), but I'm not sure I'd like to live there full time.

Downside: the winters in Chicago can be brutal. I lived in the western 'burbs as a wee lad and can still remember the really and truly massive amounts of snow that fell.

Given the choice, and were I in your shoes (single), I'd take Chicago over DC in a second.
posted by jquinby at 8:16 AM on August 21, 2009


Your thoughts on the matter are pretty accurate, I think--DC is a great place to live, the dating scene is good, lots to do, and you can get around pretty well with no car, but the cost of living is pretty high; maybe not as high as NYC, but my impression is that it's easier to "get by" in Chicago (and maybe even NYC). Everyone here is smart and ambitious and politically oriented; your bartender is likely to have a master's in political science and your waitress interned in Senator Bigpocket's office last year. That can be fun and exciting, but it can also be a pain in the ass when you just want to hang out and have a beer. Lots of long hours and short stays make it somewhat difficult to make friends, since no one is ever around, or around for very long. We love it, but it's not for everyone.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:18 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd also vote for Chicago. It seems like a very livable city, reasonable rent (for a large city), easy public transportation so you don't have to have a car but it's easy enough to have one there. There are some great MBA programs in the city and others nearby (here's one list). Northwestern, U of Chicago, and DePaul top that list, but there's also UIC and Loyola right there. All are easily accessible by public transport. I like Chicago's distinct neighborhoods, and there is definitely lots of celebration and acceptance of people from all sorts of different backgrounds.

I would definitely consider starting your job search earlier than December, though. I had a friend get hired at a top finance company in Chicago and the process took months. So if you're serious about relocating there, I'd start the application process as soon as you can.

Good luck!
posted by BlooPen at 8:20 AM on August 21, 2009


Oh, and diversity--my wife is multi-ethnic, and I'm pure white, and we never get any flak for it. Many of my friends are in various multi-ethnic relationships, too; it's not a big deal at all here. One of the things that brought me to DC in the first place is how casually one can encounter different cultures here.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:21 AM on August 21, 2009


I left DC expressly because it compared very unfavorably to living in Chicago.

DC was hot, humid and even though the city itself is compact, the lifestyle is very sprawl-oriented. The Metro (while clean and comfortable) is inconvenient (who raises fares *during* rush hour? Oh, yes a system designed for *tourists* not commuters), but the buses are awful (stops are on roads with no safe place to stand, they don't run on any reliable schedule). You cannot live there without driving, constantly, which I hate (although I note you have no problem with that), and I found it a confusing and difficult place to get around.

DC has a number of really good restaurants (Tenh Penh, for instance), but most shops and restaurants are "national chain quality"--nothing terrible, but nothing interesting, surprising, or special. The Smithsonian is world class, but the rest of the arts--for the most part (the Shakespeare Theatre being one exception)--are not DC institutions, but world class institutions passing through the Kennedy Center. You miss out on a lot of small shows and less mainstream productions and stagings that way. Despite the huge international population, and the constant influx (and outflux) of new people, I found DC conservative and provincial. I found people shallow and friendly only until they had assessed your utility to them and their goals.

I am one of Chicago's biggest fans, but right now it is hard to get a job around here. DC's unemployment rate is about half what Chicago's is right now. However, on less than 70k (with enormous law school loans), I was able to buy a condo and keep up my eating out, opera-subscribing, fancy-shoe buying ways in Chicago without any difficulty at all. We have several large national employers and at least two nationally-ranked graduate schools and at least two regionally-ranked graduate schools and a number of locally-known schools with solid reputations.

The Art Institute and MCA get big touring shows which complement their permanent collections. There's Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and the Jazz Festival. Lots of bands come through when there's no festival, too.

We have extensive farmers markets May to October with products from Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana. We have the Lake and our rivers for recreation and scenery. We've got four distinct seasons.

I find Chicago to be a lovely mix of big city snobbery and sophistication and Midwestern sensibility and kindness. In my experience here, people just don't care what you believe or what you look like. But then, I live in "the gay neighborhood"--I know that sort of tolerance is not prevalent in all parts of the city.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:23 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Do you care at all about weather? Chicago winters are basically hell on earth.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:24 AM on August 21, 2009


DC is great for meeting people and great for your early-to-mid-20s. Few of the young professionals you meet will be "from there," so a lot of the environment revolves around how to meet new people, making DC a great place to move to. Also, all the cool kids are moving to DC, these days, so if you come here, you can say you spent some time in DC when it was the cool thing to do. Georgetown's MBA program seems to be pretty well regarded, as well.

However, the cost of living is still pretty stressful -- more expensive than Boston, but less expensive than SF or NYC -- and it has much less of a big city feel than you would find in Chicago, or even a place like Boston. DC's cost of living is priced with the salaries of lawyers, lobbyists, and people willing to slum it in mind. granted, I suppose it's better than competing with I-Bankers for real estate, but it's not easy unless you fall into those groups.

DC has been fun, and I'm going to be staying here for the foreseeable future, but if I had the choice of the two places, I'd choose Chicago.
posted by deanc at 8:24 AM on August 21, 2009


Nthing Chicago. For reference I grew up in New York.

To a few of your points:

(2): Chicago has a large financial industry (second only to New York in this country) and 70K would go a lot further. Cost of living is much lower.

(3): Public transportation is certainly sufficient. Many people in close-in neighborhoods have no cars and there is zipcar style rental by the hour all over the place.

(4): I am writing this from the downtown campus of University of Chicago where I'm getting my MBA. I'm in class right now. Chicago has two of the top MBA programs in the country (Chicago and Northwestern), as well as many other good programs such as DePaul and Loyola.

As previous posters state, it will be very unpleasant when you show up in January. It may be hard to meet new people until it warms up a bit, but if you give it through your first summer you should be fine.
posted by true at 8:25 AM on August 21, 2009


This article might be of use for you, in terms of a job search:
DC is #1
Chicago is #45 (out of 50)

So DC is definitely better for finding a job at the moment, according to this study, at least.
posted by Grither at 8:25 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I moved from NYC (though was only there two years and a native of the midwest) to Chicago. I can't speak to DC, but, here's my observations:
1) It's a mixed bag. Definitely a lot of cultures represented but I'd read up on the neighborhoods to see which one fits you best. There is a good amount of bars dominated by Big 10 schools, but there's other options out there.
2) Rent in Chicago is a lot better than NYC (Hoboken vs Lakeview). Lakeview and Wicker Park are two popular higher-rent areas for people just moving to Chicago if you want to search craigslist. Lincoln Square provides a little more space but it takes more time to get downtown.
3) Public transit is workable, though I'd check out the grocery options nearby when you're renting. Peapod is an option if you aren't close to a market. (There's at least one previous thread on this.) Getting into the suburbs is difficult, but if you're just going downtown, going out, and hanging around your neighborhood you'll be fine. There's also a lot of Zipcars in the more popular neighborhoods.
4) I know several people in Chicago going back for their MBA. There's Northwestern, Univ of Chicago, DePaul, off the top of my head.
*If you move in winter, you may wonder what's so great about Chicago. Summer will make you like Chicago a lot more.
posted by ejaned8 at 8:27 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, Chicago's winters get a really bad rap. We suffer occasional extremes (this February struck me as brutal, whereas the last several seemed pretty mild), but for the most part I don't think we're any worse than NYC. A little more snow on average, but it looks to me like the average monthly temperatures are in a similar range.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:35 AM on August 21, 2009


I went through the same thing you are describing, and I relocated to Boston. I know it's not on your list, and I won't take up (much) space in your thread with an explanation, but 1) it's cheaper and MUCH less stressful than NY; there are a LOT of financial jobs around; 3) muticultural, with a great international presence from the student population; many places to get an MBA; and the driving really isn't that bad (it's the confusing streets, but we're an old city).

But I digress. Feel free to email me if you would like more of my truly fascinating, fascinating perspectives.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:36 AM on August 21, 2009


I've lived in all three cities and I like DC the best. After I moved to NYC, I missed DC and moved back. It's been quite awhile since I lived in Chicago so I won't comment on that. In all, I'm a little biased but based on your list, I think DC is the best place for you:

1) To me, DC is very diverse and much more easy-going on race relations. I see mixed race couples all the time, including the rare white guy/black girl couple. I didn't see that much in NYC though I expected it. Also, as far as just being friends with people of all backgrounds, I think it is much easier here. I worked on Fulton Mall for two years and racial tension was high. I couldn't even go to Burger King without being hassled (I'm white). The tension was much higher in NYC overall than DC and it really disappointed me. There are just more ignorant people in NYC (I'm including the outer boroughs) and folks are way, way more educated in DC and the suburbs.

2) You are going to get more space for your money in Chicago but DC has better jobs and stability. Given that, when you compare the housing market in DC to that of NYC, it will make you giddy. Your pay might go down a tad but still your money will go much further than it does now. Yes, you can have a dishwasher, extra bedroom, nicer amenities and be much closer to the Metro for what you currently pay (or maybe less than what you pay) for rent in NYC.

3) The Metro or buses will get you pretty much anywhere. I wouldn't worry about that.

4) DC is good for MBA's. UMD has an extension program right in downtown where you get can it part-time and at night. There's also 2 or 3 other schools that offer an MBA.

Other: Chicago it cold. Really, frickin' cold. It's the wind and the wind tunnels the buildings make. Winter is usually mild in DC and spring comes to DC about 2 months earlier than it does in NYC.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 8:43 AM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've lived in both places and I pretty much agree with everyone. Chicago winters were too much for me, I wanted to live closer to the ocean, and the public transportation depends on exactly where you live (I lived both with and without a car in both cities and without was more annoying in Chicago because of the size of the city, my location, and the weather), but I think Chicago is a better city and cheaper.

That said, DC has a freaking lot going for it, too.
posted by Pax at 8:45 AM on August 21, 2009


If you're a business analyst and you want to continue to earn a decent salary, Chicago would seem to be a better choice. It has more head offices.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:47 AM on August 21, 2009


Speaking as someone who's lived in and around DC, but only visited Chicago, I'd go with Chicago. It's a great city. Obviously if you're interested in politics or governement, DC is the place to be, but Chicago beats it hands down in any other respect.

Baltimore, on the other hand, is awesome.
posted by electroboy at 8:57 AM on August 21, 2009


In defense of DC...

1) As you seem to be aware, DC is a very multi-culti town, and diversity is pretty much the norm in the social scene here.

2) Because of the federal govt (and the contracts that support it), DC hasn't been hit nearly as hard as other parts of the country by the economic downturn. We definitely have jobs for people with business degrees and/or business experience. The cost of living is not low, but the salaries usually account for that somewhat (I make more here than I would in Atlanta, for example). You could definitely get more real estate for your dollar here than in NYC. Not sure how we compare to Chicago.

3) Despite what previous posters have said, the DC Metro will take you pretty much anywhere you might want to go in DC or the inner suburbs. You could live here for years without a car, but when you do get a car, it will be infinitely easier driving than Manhattan. I think we're an easier driving town than Chicago, but that might just be because I know my town better.

4) We have University of Maryland, Georgetown, GW, Howard, American, and George Mason all within spitting distance -- tons of reputable MBA programs.

In addition, a few rebuttals:

most shops and restaurants are "national chain quality"--nothing terrible, but nothing interesting, surprising, or special.

To each his own, but honestly, if you think there's nothing interesting, surprising or special in DC eats, you aren't looking hard enough. One of the benefits of the diversity in DC is the AMAZING food, but you do have to know where to look for it, and a lot of time it's in a hole-in-the-wall or family run place or even a secret menu, rather than a trendy place in the hottest neighborhood. Read reviews, ask the locals, and you will be rewarded.

The Smithsonian is world class, but the rest of the arts--for the most part (the Shakespeare Theatre being one exception)--are not DC institutions, but world class institutions passing through the Kennedy Center. You miss out on a lot of small shows and less mainstream productions and stagings that way.

I'm not sure I even understand this. We have the NSO and the Washington Opera (Placido Domingo, Artistic Director), both resident at the Kennedy Center. Whether they are DC institutions or world class institutions is largely irrelevant -- they are there for the taking. There are a metric @ss-ton of other arts groups active all over the DC area, and again, they are there for the taking. You do have to pick up the City Paper or the Washington Post or read the bulletin board at your local coffee shop to find out what shows are coming up, sure, but there is SO MUCH MORE arts activity here than just the Shakespeare Theatre and whatever tour happens to be coming through the Kennedy Center. If you want it, you have it. If you don't, then yes, you miss out on it. But DC even has a whole festival in the late Spring/early Summer devoted to non-mainstream arts. (Plus, we have the 9:30 Club, Wolf Trap, and a kajillion other venues for your enjoyment of the popular-type music.)

I don't mean to seem argumentative or defensive at all. Really. But DC is actually a pretty awesome place to live.
posted by somanyamys at 9:01 AM on August 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've lived in both Chicago and DC, and, all thing considered, I preferred Chicago for a number of reasons.

As far as your concerns go:
1) I've heard it said that Chicago is the most racially segregated of America's major cities, and I'd believe it. There's a pretty big gulf between the North Side and the South Side in a lot of ways. That said, these things are changing, even if slowly.

2) DC seems much more expensive to live in to me (nearly double the rent, etc), but I was living in a cheap neighborhood in Chicago and eating Ramen noodles and all that, so take that with a grain of salt.

3) I'm pretty sure everyone complains about public transportation everywhere. The CTA was threatening to cut half of its bus lines and constantly raising fares when I left in 2008, but I've heard that was a particularly low point. The DC Metro has its own problems right now. Overall, I'd say they're roughly equivalent. Both will get you around to most places you'd want to go without too much hassle.

4) Chicago universities trump DC's in most every way.

Also, lots of people are complaining here about Chicago winters (rightly) and DC summers (also rightly), but I was at a White Sox game a couple years ago where the temperature on the field was 105 or something. Chicago's also built on a swamp, and it gets plenty hot there, too.
posted by Copronymus at 9:11 AM on August 21, 2009


In response to "Crush on a Stick", I have lived in DC for 2 years now without a car. It's worked out great.
posted by OuttaHere at 9:16 AM on August 21, 2009


I live in Chicago. I can't tell you anything about the job market in business, but I can tell you it is an incredibly diverse place, though everyone does not always get along. Dating other cultures though is pretty common. I think more than half of the people I know here are dating someone from another ethnic background.

Chicago winters are long and depressing but the summers are glorious. Living near the lake is wonderful and you can get most anywhere without needing a car. A lot of people have them anyway, though, and I don't quite understand why as having one seems a pretty spendy proposition. Lots of neighborhoods to choose from and you can get a pretty nice apartment for your money compared to New York, especially. There's never any shortage of entertainment or things to do here.

However, I also think DC is prettier, in general, than Chicago. Also, I find the people friendlier in DC. There are moments I love Chicago, and moments I can't stand all the filth and rudeness.
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:17 AM on August 21, 2009


People tend to exaggerate how cold Chicago is in the winter. I’m currently in Minneapolis (where winters ARE really hell on Earth and last from late October to early March), and Minnesotans seem to think that the winters in Chicago are comparable. They aren’t. It’ll occasionally get in the single digits, but most of the winter (from late November to early February) it’s somewhere between 20-40 degrees and wet. . . in other words, not too different from NYC.

As for snowfall-you’re likely to have one or two huge snowfalls a year, and the rest of the time flurries (lake effect snow) that never sticks.

Parts of Chicago still are incredibly segregated, but chances are, you won’t want to move to those places anyway.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:23 AM on August 21, 2009


Well "outtahere"--I found DC unliveable without a car. I couldn't get home from the 9:30 or the Black Cat without one. I couldn't get to Pollo Rico, or Deli Dhaba, or class on time, reliably, without one. I couldn't visit my family in Arlington or my friends in Baltimore without one. In Chicago, I'm able to get to my grandmother's in the suburbs without one; to my parents' in the next county without one; to two airports without having to rely on airport shuttle services without one. In my experience in DC, someone *always* drove whenever more than two people did anything together. It means that it was so much easier to arrange a group outing with a car involved that it became necessary to have a car. To my mind, that means it's not a no-car city, but the OP doesn't care too much about that.

Everyone likes different things and what some people like, others don't. Having chosen to live in DC and chosen to live in Chicago, I think one was a bad decision and the other wasn't.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:25 AM on August 21, 2009


I recall a sociologist once called Chicago "hypersegregated."

I live in DC now and I'm not super happy here. It's a lonely city and everyone is always moving away. Plus, I'm tired of politics.
posted by anniecat at 9:35 AM on August 21, 2009


Native Chicagoan here, I’ve lived on both coasts and very familiar with all three cities in question. I'd vote Chicago hands-down on almost every aspect. But the primary downside, imo, is that Chicago winters can indeed be brutal as hell, and the worst of them may well leave you wondering what the hell you signed up for. It’s true that our winters vary wildly in length and intensity, but before you move to Chicago be sure that your sanity can handle a really bad one--Can you manage to go from early December through March--or even April--amidst sub-freezing temps and bone-chilling winds, day after day after day? Are you ready to trash all of your shoes trudging through slush and knee-high snow? Are you ready to slather on moisturizing lotion half the year so as not to resemble a wind-burned lizard (although you will anyway)? Are you ready to break your frozen toes apart like a Kit-Kat bar? If yes, welcome to "the livable New York"--America’s most underrated city! Chicago's a fascinating, colorful, and surprisingly friendly place. Good luck!
posted by applemeat at 9:38 AM on August 21, 2009


There are moments I love Chicago, and moments I can't stand all the filth...

Filth? Granted D.C.'s a relatively clean city, but no one familiar with NY is gonna find Mayor Daley's Chicago filthy.
posted by applemeat at 9:45 AM on August 21, 2009


I've lived near both DC and Chicago, and I'd say overall Chicago is a better, bigger, more interesting city with more things going on, comparable to NYC, but considering your criteria, maybe DC is better.

I think DC is more diverse. DC is super-international and lots of people came from elsewhere. To me, Chicago seemed more midwestern and not as progressive (e.g., people came from nearby colleges like Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison). Chicago people struck me as more friendly, but as my Chicago-resident sister once noted, it's kinda a phony Midwestern friendliness that may or may not be indicative of whether they actually like you. DC people may be colder but hey, it's probably genuine coldness. :) Chicago winters last forever if you're used to East Coast winters, but the Chicago summers are more bearable. DC people are super-educated, which is sometimes kinda annoying. A friend of mine who worked in both DC and Chicago said the same thing; she said in Chicago, she missed the intellectual conversations she had in DC. I think Chicago is probably a little more affordable than DC. DC's Metro system is probably better than Chicago's, but I didn't use Chicago's as much.

I used to hate D.C. as a boring, personality-less town (compared to other more colorful, stylish cities like NYC, Phila, Baltimore), but lately I've started to enjoy it again. I don't know if it's because DC has actually gotten better and more personality and style (which I've heard some people say is true) or if I just finally found the right non-mainstream bars and places to go out to.
posted by That takes balls. at 9:49 AM on August 21, 2009


Filth? Granted D.C.'s a relatively clean city, but no one familiar with NY is gonna find Mayor Daley's Chicago filthy.

Chicago was the cleanest big U.S. city I've ever seen. At least, the downtown Chicago area. They need to get some squalor in there.
posted by That takes balls. at 9:51 AM on August 21, 2009


I live in Chicago, I'm your age, and I have a car. For the most part, I hate it here- but I've been here for, oh god, 6 years now. I've had a car and not had a car here- both are do-able, but I have a car because I have a dog and it's easier to get her around.

Things I don't like about Chicago:

Winter really does suck. I've lived in the Midwest my whole life, but here it just seems worse. Dark and cold and snowy and cold.

Neighborhoods. If you want hipsters, you go to Wicker Park. Frat boys in Wrigleyville. Yuppies in Lincoln Park. Couples with kids in Roscoe Village. Etc. etc. To me there's very little middle ground- it's always one extreme or the other. But this is probably true of all large cities, so I probably just don't like large cities.

Things I do like about Chicago:

Food. We've got a ton of good places to eat. I think half the reason I'm still here is Kuma's Corner.

I don't know anything about D.C.
posted by IWoudDie4U at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2009


Another carless DC resident here. We get around quite well without one with some Zipcar use on the weekends. Taxis, metro, and bikes otherwise.

Now that the metro stays open late, I'd argue its the best system in the US.
posted by destro at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2009


I would choose Chicago over DC. I am a lifelong New Yorker and went to college in DC. My observations:

DC is a very insular and political city, and most people who work there are more familiar with the place from which they came rather than the city in which they live. This is so because they either work on Capitol Hill or else for a lobbying firm and so it is in their interest to be familiar with that which interests their boss. That thing would either be their boss' Congressional District, or state in the case of Senators, or else the lobbying firm's large clients' interests.
posted by dfriedman at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2009


DC's winters do not see the low temps and wind that Chicago's do.

But, and this is a big but, DC's winters are miserably DAMP, and that makes for a different kind of bitter cold. I grew up in Upstate New York, routine single digits and on windy hill, and I find it colder here. I've been here for 33 years.

We have Peapod and car sharing. Peapod is the best thing ever for me.

- I found people shallow and friendly only until they had assessed your utility to them and their goals.

Yes, and very well put, too. You need to find an oasis of people to relieve this. All the better if they are in your neighborhood.

- One of the benefits of the diversity in DC is the AMAZING food ... We have the NSO and the Washington Opera ... other arts groups active all over the DC area ... DC even has a whole festival in the late Spring/early Summer devoted to non-mainstream arts. (Plus, we have the 9:30 Club, Wolf Trap, and a kajillion other venues for your enjoyment of the popular-type music.)

Agree!
posted by jgirl at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2009


DC is alright for some, but awfully conservative. Not politically conservative in terms of how people actually vote, just.. careerist and networky. People come and go a lot, many of them, lots of young professionals who spend a few years in DC and then move away, but on the other hand there are many lifelong DC residents as well, and effectively a lot of the city is still divided along those lines, racially, economically.

There's lots of good food and nice bars. The traffic is atrocious. Cost of living is not NYC level but, high.

I live in DC now and I'm not super happy here. It's a lonely city and everyone is always moving away. Plus, I'm tired of politics.

This pretty much sums up how I feel about this place. Starting to feel like friends who stay in DC too long, start turning into their parents while they're still in their late 20's, frankly.
posted by citron at 10:27 AM on August 21, 2009


I lived in Chicago for about five years and in NYC for a bit over a year, and you know, maybe it's just that I had a paper route in small-town Wisconsin when I was a kid, but... honestly, the winters just weren't that bad. They're a little milder in NYC, on the average, but the second time I went to NYC, the entire city was shut down by a blizzard in the middle of March. Stay off the lakefront in the winter and/or get a nice pea coat or parka and/or a nice scarf and shoes with decent traction and you'll be fine, and then you, too will be able to terrify thin-blooded types from warmer climes with your stories of the howling frozen hell that is Lake Michigan.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:54 AM on August 21, 2009


DC's winters are miserably DAMP, and that makes for a different kind of bitter cold.

QFT. This is absolutely, 100% true. I grew up in the DC area, and it was not uncommon at all for it to be ~35°F and raining. While the highs during the day in the winter will usually be in the forties and the lows at night in the twenties, having it be wet makes a huge difference as far as how cold it feels. I have felt much less cold in the blowing winter snow of the Appalachians during college than I have in the Mid-Atlantic's winter rain.

It seems like, in general, Chicago may be more suited to your particular needs and desires than DC, especially as a business analyst.
posted by malthas at 11:16 AM on August 21, 2009


I've lived in NYC and Chicago, and know a bit about DC.

The thing about DC is that it really isn't a 590,000 person city. It's more like 59,000. It's one of the most segregated cities in America, and that applies not just geographically but culturally and socially. There's a commuter culture as well in that you have people who work there but live in Virginia or Maryland, as well as the short-timer syndrome with all the interns and (directly or indirectly) term-limited folks. When was the last time half your friends moved away after an election?

I don't want to be mean, but DC is for certain people only. You don't have to work in politics or live and breathe it 24/7, but you'll constantly be dealing with people who do. And there isn't much else -- it's a real cultural cliff.

Chicago has its own diversity issues -- just stand on a Loop platform and watch who gets on what train to see that -- but on the whole it's so much larger and open. Unless you know that you're a DC person, you almost have to choose Chicago.

And weather wise? Well, I grew up around here, but give me a Chicago winter over a DC summer any year. (Now, a NYC fall ... those I miss.)
posted by dhartung at 11:16 AM on August 21, 2009


Now that the metro stays open late, I'd argue its the best system in the US.

I'm a fan of Metro, but I don't see how DC's public transit system is better than New York's. I don't know how it compares to Chicago, but I've lived in DC quite happily without a car for nearly a year now. It does involve some taxi rides when going out, but a lot of my friends opt to get around that by biking.

most people who work there are more familiar with the place from which they came rather than the city in which they live.

I find this is a key distinction. There are a lot of commuters who don't bother to get to know DC itself all that well. As a rather frequent visitor to DC (from Baltimore), I thought DC sucked until a friend moved here and fell in with a crowd of people who really live here - as in, invest in the city and their neighborhoods and make the effort to find out what's going on off the beaten track - there's lots going on here, and I've actually enjoyed living here a lot. And while there is a lot of population shift here, it's not quite as transient a city as it's made out to be.

friends who stay in DC too long, start turning into their parents while they're still in their late 20's, frankly.

I run with a crowd of late 20s to late 30s folks who put in stupidly late nights out, however, so there are other options available. It seems the key is to seek out the non-profit/activist/artsy crowd. They can be hard to see through all the blue suits, but they are around. There is an awful lot of politics, though, even in that bunch, and more than a bit of overinvestment in work. People in this town (me included) work some ridiculous hours.

Baltimore, on the other hand, is awesome.

Hell, yeah. If only it wasn't really, really, really difficult to live there without a car. I managed, and I loved Baltimore, but it took a whole lot of patience and planning. And when I got a job in DC, my options after a few months of commuting were 1) move or 2) lose my mind.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:21 AM on August 21, 2009


I'm a fan of Metro, but I don't see how DC's public transit system is better than New York's.

I live in New York City. If I'm at a bar in Brooklyn at 2am, I can take the subway home to Manhattan. I don't have to get in a cab for $40.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:43 AM on August 21, 2009


Oops, misread that. LOL. Nevermind that comment.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:44 AM on August 21, 2009


One of the benefits of the diversity in DC is the AMAZING food ... We have the NSO and the Washington Opera ... other arts groups active all over the DC area ... DC even has a whole festival in the late Spring/early Summer devoted to non-mainstream arts. (Plus, we have the 9:30 Club, Wolf Trap, and a kajillion other venues for your enjoyment of the popular-type music.)

You know what you call a place with lots of restaurants, live music venues and a vibrant arts and culture scene? A city. Boston has that. Chicago has that. I can't think of a "major" city that doesn't have a ton of good opportunities to see live music or participate in the arts (yes, even Baltimore, bless its heart). One has to consider the relative advantages of Chicago and DC if you had to make a choice between the two. I'd say DC compares very favorably to, say, rust-best cities like Pittsburgh or Baltimore. But once we're talking about cities not grappling with a meltdown in the post-industrial era, you have to consider the people, job opportunities, and the cost of living, which in DC and Chicago are quite different.

The advice I'd give to someone who ends up in DC and is trying to figure out how to enjoy himself and the advice I'd give to someone who's split between DC and another city would be quite different. The other thing is that the place you live in changes you. I have friends that are lawyers and lobbyists and we talk about how we can coordinate on some projects I work on as a research engineer. Would I be able to do that in another city? Probably not. On the other hand, in another city I'd be doing different things and working with different kinds of people. I'd say another question to ask yourself is whether you see yourself integrating into the DC "scene", professionally speaking, or if you see yourself integrating more into Chicago's business/finance environment in 5 years.
posted by deanc at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2009


The thing about DC is that it really isn't a 590,000 person city. It's more like 59,000. It's one of the most segregated cities in America, and that applies not just geographically but culturally and socially. There's a commuter culture as well in that you have people who work there but live in Virginia or Maryland, as well as the short-timer syndrome with all the interns and (directly or indirectly) term-limited folks. When was the last time half your friends moved away after an election?

Excellent points. And they don't just live in Maryland or Virginia, but very often in West Virginia or sometimes Pennsylvania. Yes, Pennsylvania.

DC is very segregated by class, even more so than race.

You need to find a community, preferably, as I said above, within your 'hood. It can be tough to find and tough to break in. Mine is/was close-in, urban-village, small-town Capitol Hill (both living and working). It's changed a lot, and I'm feeling a lot like the OP: tired.

We all need to find a community in any place we live in or move to, but in DC you'll need it more, I think, and it's harder to find and sustain.
posted by jgirl at 12:09 PM on August 21, 2009


Have you considered NYC? It beats both Chicago and DC, IMHO on pretty much every front.

Kidding (not so much) aside, I'd vote for Chicago over DC. The music scene is better, especially jazz. It's a better looking city. Better job market for what you do. Car: personally I found driving in Chicago hateful (haven't driven in DC). The Chicago drivers are incredibly rude, and the toll system obnoxious - so if you like driving, this is not going to be enjoyable in Chicago, IMHO.
posted by VikingSword at 12:20 PM on August 21, 2009


If you do decide on DC, live in the actual city. The suburbs, like Silver Spring and Bethesda are ok, but kinda boring and tending towards chain restaurants and the like. Downtown DC, especially around U Street and Capitol Hill have some really interesting vibrant neighborhoods.
posted by electroboy at 12:26 PM on August 21, 2009


If you do decide on [ANY MAJOR U.S. CITY], live in the actual city. The suburbs [are] kinda boring and tending towards chain restaurants and the like.
posted by applemeat at 12:36 PM on August 21, 2009


I grew up in NY. Moved to Chicago when I was 23. Lived there 13 years. Greatest decision I ever made. Met my wife there. Made life long friends. Would move back there in a New York minute. Stuck here in NY for work.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:53 PM on August 21, 2009


crush-onastick has never actually been to DC.

(I love DC and Chicago and would be perfectly happy living in either one, although i choose to live in DC)
posted by jindc at 1:20 PM on August 21, 2009


I've lived in both, for longer than a year each. I'm 25 and worked in public radio. I liked both cities. I live in Philadelphia now, which I prefer to either one...but that's not on your short list.

DC is close to other cities on the East Coast. Chicago is not. If you get bored, it's easy to Amtrak to somewhere else on the East Coast without planning a multiple-hour adventure and/or flying.

Both had a lot of free stuff to do; both had interesting people. Both had great food and good nightlife. Chicago is ungodly cold in the winter. DC is ungodly humid in the summer -- Chicago has the lake.

DC is more walkable (Chicago is big.) I could walk everywhere I needed to go in DC, including work. In Chicago, a block length equaled 2-3 in DC. It was not walkable in winter.

If you explore neighborhoods in each one, they're decent. There are interesting people in every city -- I wouldn't describe one as being that much better than the other.
posted by melodykramer at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2009


deanc: you're quoting an abridged version of my original comment, which was a rebuttal of some very specific (and, to my mind, misguided) remarks about DC. maybe if you read my original comment it would make a little more sense. Apologies for the derail.
posted by somanyamys at 2:49 PM on August 21, 2009


The thing about DC is that it really isn't a 590,000 person city. It's more like 59,000. It's one of the most segregated cities in America, and that applies not just geographically but culturally and socially. There's a commuter culture as well in that you have people who work there but live in Virginia or Maryland, as well as the short-timer syndrome with all the interns and (directly or indirectly) term-limited folks. When was the last time half your friends moved away after an election?

I don't want to be mean, but DC is for certain people only. You don't have to work in politics or live and breathe it 24/7, but you'll constantly be dealing with people who do. And there isn't much else -- it's a real cultural cliff.


Quoted for truth, and said more nicely and more fairly than I would have. I don't hate DC, but this was a big turnoff for me.
posted by desuetude at 4:58 PM on August 21, 2009


I've lived in Arlington, a close suburb of D.C. my whole life. I love it. I tried to move away once and had to come back. I've found that people here can be cold upon first glance, but if you give them a smile and some conversation, they'll open right up and it honestly feels like southern hospitality. I'm talking about people I encounter in my daily life, business dealings, socially, and strangers on the street.

Also, yes people are very educated and politically/business oriented here but one thing I haven't seen anyone mention yet is how strong networking is here. Yes you will try to meet people who will use you as a connection, but the road goes both ways my friend. I have found that many people here are ULTRA willing to help out their fellow man with a hook up in some way, not even necessarily business related. It comes in great handy once you are already established here and are looking for a new job. Or apartment. Or car.

I don't use the metro much, so I can't speak to that. I have many friends however who rely solely on public transportation and do just fine. I also know a number of people who get around the city on scooters. They love it. Cheaper than taking a cab and easier to get around during rush hour.

It seems like you're into the idea of driving eventually. D.C. itself is no big deal driving-wise. The city is easy to navigate, and aside from rush hour, it doesn't take too long to get around. The traffic is nothing to sniff at during rush hour, but it's always only horrible going in one direction. I've always managed to score jobs where my commute goes in the opposite direction of traffic for that particular time of day. The aggressive driving and amount of cabs comes nowhere close to NYC. It's really not that harrowing of an experience, and I imagine you'd do fine. I personally love to drive around, for the sole purpose of driving around, and the areas surrounding D.C. can't be beat. In an hour you can be in West Virginia and see some pretty mountain/river scenery, or drive an hour in the other direction and see the Chesapeake Bay. Some of the houses are pretty spectacular in the burbs, and it's fun to take a day and just look around at some of the different neighborhoods in MD and VA.

As far as cost of living, my boyfriend lives in a pretty large apartment literally 2 minutes outside of Georgetown in Arlington, and gets by well making 40k a year. Many of my (recent college graduate) friends making between 30-50k a year live in good areas of the city, or right across the river in Arlington in nice places. What I've found is that salaries in this area for those with a college degree in a decently lucrative profession correspond well with the cost of living. You can live quite comfortably on 70k a year here. I have no idea if you'd make more doing what you do in Chicago or NYC, but keep in mind that there is a lot of money flowing in this area as well.

And please. The summers here really aren't that bad. The temps rarely get above mid 90s, and this summer has been particularly mild with most days averaging low 80s and lots of showers to balance out the heat. The humidity can occasionally be oppressive (I really don't think it's as bad as some are letting on), but would really only affect you if you were working outside or didn't have A/C in your home. Summer nights here are awesome and balmy, between 70-80.

D.C. is cool. Move here.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 8:36 PM on August 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes you will try to meet people who will use you as a connection...

And also, you will easily make friends here. There are all sorts and types of people, enough for everybody with even the weirdest quirks to get along with. Seriously. Anyone who says differently has not looked beyond the surface of the city. There are many who work and live in D.C. who do not wear suits to work.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 8:45 PM on August 21, 2009


i've only ever lived in south texas or the bay area. total warm-weather girl. i've been in chicago for two years now. i'd never seen snow fall from the sky until my first winter in chicago. i don't think the cold is that bad.

granted i don't have a car so i've never had to dig one out of the snow or worry about driving in the snow but so long as you have a warm enough coat (get one of those puffy sleeping bag coats), a thick scarf, and appropriate shoes, the cold isn't that much of a problem. i found i don't even wear the heavy sweaters i bought before moving here because once you get inside, you take the big ass coat right off and wherever you are is heated. it's a lot like south texas in that way, only everything there is air-conditioned and you find you may need a cardigan inside when it's 150 degrees outside. but i digress.

i live right on the lake so sometimes the wind is formidable but most likely, you won't live where i live. unless your heart completely beats for the sunshine, i don't think the chicago winters are that big of a deal. but remember my car-less caveat.
posted by anthropomorphic at 9:15 PM on August 26, 2009


« Older What's the best broadband ISP ...   |  What is the origin of this quo... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.