Is it worth it to move to Washington from NYC?
July 18, 2011 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Moving to DC from NYC: Is it worth it?

I'm a New Yorker who is considering relocating to Washington, DC -- or at least subletting there to dip my toes in the water. Is the move worth it?

Salient details: I'm in my early thirties, male, single, make ~$60,000 annually. I primarily telecommute to work and a decent number of my clients are in the DC area -- I already make the trip south every month or so. I am not much of a homebody and go out frequently, something that NYC is great for. However, I am also a fan of outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking that are hard to do in NYC. On the other hand, people in DC seem to be much more conservative and buttoned down then I am used to in NYC.

I know there's a big cultural gulf between NYC & DC, but I am looking for a change of location and Washington is the only other place on the east coast where I could successfully work.

I'd be looking to live in the District itself - while MD & VA are nice, I want to make sure I can have a life after working hours without too much difficulty. Is considering DC a smart move? How is the cultural scene down there? Bookreadings, gallery openings, lectures, etc? Can good ethnic food be found? Are there good coffee shops or coworking spaces for telecommuters to work out of? Is the cost of living in DC really the same as New York?

Would like advice from either DC residents, former DC residents or people who have considered the move before.

(Asking anonymously because coworkers also use Metafilter)
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
DC has a pretty vibrant food scene, although perhaps on a smaller scale than NYC. Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Korean, tapas, pizza, fine French, greasy spoon....it's all pretty well represented.

Art wise, there are some great galleries besides the bigger museums, although I used to feel that the WaPo would rather cover a tiny gallery in NYC than a larger affair in DC, that's perhaps not the case anymore.

The vibe of each city is pretty different, but if I had been able to afford living in the city instead of in the burbs with a long commute, I might have stayed in the area. Some parts of the city are just so lovely.
posted by PussKillian at 1:25 PM on July 18, 2011


I live in DC, I grew up in the immediate vincinity, and I am a fan of the city for what it is. But, I do not understand why you want to live here. Its expensive, there isnt nearly as much to do as in NY if you are into the social scene, and its not an amazing quality of life unless you are particularly attuned to the quirks, also our weather sort of sucks to be honest.
posted by BobbyDigital at 1:33 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


people in DC seem to be much more conservative and buttoned down then I am used to in NYC.

This is true.

Bookreadings, gallery openings, lectures, etc?

There is plenty of this, and of generally quite a high quality due to institutions such as the Smithsonian museums, the Kennedy Center, high level Universities like Georgetown, embassies, cultural centers like the 6th & I synagogue, and there are a few good independent book stores like Politics and Prose that host author talks from notable authors almost every weekday. Plenty of good independent cinemas within the metro area too.

Is the cost of living in DC really the same as New York?

For housing within even somewhat desirable areas in the District it seems almost worse at this point compared to NYC. In some regards you can find more for your money (such as pools and gyms within your building if you go the condo route) but you will also likely need to give things such as convenient public transport links, having useful shops nearby and even safety. In other areas though, DC is cheaper, like beer, most concert tickets and if you are a big museum person, the big ones are free.

Other things to consider: the metro here is severely underfunded, awful on the weekends and basically only of reliable use as a tool for commuting. It's also more expensive than NYC. You will face waits of 20 minutes if you miss a train off peak hours. You will be MUCH more frustrated here with public transport in general, if that is of a concern. You may want to investigate Zipcar or similar options.

Outdoor activities are plentiful and nearby but often require transport outside the immediate area. getting to the beach is much more difficult here than in NYC, as regional train links are awful in comparison.

Music scene is pretty good and getting better all the time. A lot of nice venues and there's usually a decent band in town every night of the week, from major artists to obscure indie ones.

Restaurants are a weak spot in my opinion, in terms of quality, especially compared to NYC.

Socializing during the week tends to take place at happy hours, right after work. It also can have a networking type vibe to it.

There are a lot of beautiful areas in DC, plenty to do culturally and a lot of free events. Major sports, big festivals, a refreshing change of architecture and a lot of nice green spaces too. Plenty of recreational activities and you'll meet people from all over the US and world. You just have to make sure you're not expecting even a "mini-New York" because DC has nowhere near the population, amount of activities, bars and restaurants etc...the vast majority of people are here for one reason, and that is their career. You may want to read DCist and the WaPo Going out Guide for a few weeks which will give you an idea of what's on offer during a normal week.
posted by the foreground at 1:39 PM on July 18, 2011


Warning - many transplanted New Yorkers find DC unbearably parochial and boring at first. Yes, there are galleries, shows, and lectures, but they are much smaller in number than in New York. New York cannot be replaced in terms of sheer density and variety of cultural opportunities. Most noticeably, DC doesn't really have an arts scene, or even a young-people-doing-cool-things-scene, because people don't move here to do art or hang around doing cool things. They move here to Do Serious Work. At the same time, DC doesn't have a super rich and fashionable scene either, because people don't move hear to Be Beautiful and Make Money. They move here to Wear Khaki And Ill-Fitting Suits and Be Serious.

All of that aside, DC grows on you. It is much more manageable and friendly than New York, and plenty of things to do outside (but you will need a car). Rents are similar (assuming you are living in Queens/Brooklyn), but you get more for your money in DC terms of space and proximity to things. And if you like smart, wonky girls, you'll find them here.
posted by yarly at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2011


DC is more conservative than NYC broadly speaking. But depending on what you're after in terms of "less conservative," there are significant sub-populations in the city who belie that reputation. There is a solid local arts scene, and book readings, gallery openings and lectures are all definitely available.

There are those who argue the good ethnic food is in the suburbs, but Tyler Cowen does hand out good reviews to city restaurants, too. I, for one, think that there's a critical gap in mid-priced but good Italian food, but yes, there is a variety of food available around here, both in terms of restaurants and groceries, though you might have to work a bit harder for it here than in NYC.

As far as coworking spaces go, Affinity Lab is highly regarded by several of my friends.

Quite a few of my friends go hiking/kayaking/biking within hours of the city (or even in Rock Creek Park). A car helps, and as the foreground notes, trains and Metro are not awesome (I spend a lot of time on buses, and prefer Capital Bikeshare whenever possible). I am not an "out every night" person, but many of my friends are, and manage to keep themselves quite busy.

It isn't cheap to live here, for sure, and the cost/benefit analysis vs what's available in New York might not make sense. But I moved to DC (from Baltimore) expecting to tolerate living here in favor of a better commute, and kind of fell in love with it. In terms of quality of life, most of my friends in my age & income bracket (similar to yours) are living in Queens/Brooklyn, further from the city center than I am, and with quite a bit less space.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:47 PM on July 18, 2011


Bookreadings, gallery openings, lectures, etc?

Tons. Everyone who makes a stop in NYC on their book tours or lecture tours stops in DC , as well. The music scene is good, too.

Can good ethnic food be found?

Ethiopian food and central american food abound in DC proper. Everything else is in the suburbs. The Korean and Chinese food is great in the VA suburbs. There's lots of good Indian food in Montgomery County, MD.

Are there good coffee shops or coworking spaces for telecommuters to work out of?

Here's the thing: DC exists on a much smaller scale than NYC. The answer to "are there good coffee shops?" is "there is a good coffee shop." You're going to encounter this a lot. They have things in DC that are comparable to NYC, but DC has one of them.

Socially, I think it's a good scene because of all the transient people who move down here for work and want to meet new people, but it's a time-limited adventure. Eventually, you meet everyone in DC. Plus, as someone in your early thirties, you're a bit old for DC. You're going to meet a lot of young single people who are younger than you are. And then they're going to leave after a few years.

I don't want to be down on DC. I think it's a good time and worth living in. But you'll go there, find the coffee shop (ok, plus this one) in the neighborhood with coffee shops and bars. I have a feeling you're going to get bored of it after a while if you're looking to live a "city lifestyle."

I've been here for almost 5 years, and what I've been doing lately is going up to NYC a lot to hang out with friends.

I think it's a good move if your goal is to expand your business opportunities-- that's why people come to DC: because they have a job opportunity here that can't be replicated elsewhere.
posted by deanc at 1:47 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


What yarly says is true of the restaurant and music scenes, too--lots of good stuff, but people don't move to DC to make their names in music or food. Good things happen in these arenas, sure--Jose Andres is world-famous for his innovation, and the ethnic dining is as good as anywhere. But it's a bit of a fluke if a local band makes good and stays in the area.

One big thing that might not be obvious is the general health-consciousness of DC. Compare to NYC. Even our hipsters are in good shape. Nobody smokes. Tons of green space--big parks, yes, but little pocket parks, and no tall buildings to block the sky. Lots of outdoor activities that are easy to get to if you have a car, and lots of like-minded folks who'd want to join you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:55 PM on July 18, 2011


I've been in DC for seven years now and it would take a lot to get me to move to NYC.

Things I love about DC: I live and work downtown and I walk everywhere. I go weeks without getting on Metro. My best friend lives across the street. When I want to go for a short run, my route includes either the U.S. Capitol or the White House. I play softball in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Ben's Chili Bowl (where Bill Cosby and Obama eat for free). DC9 (specifically Liberation Dance Party). Busboys and Poets. Commissary. Malcolm X Park. The National Zoo. The DC pride parade. Arguing about the minutiae of policy with fellow nerds over beers. People writing on my Facebook wall "what on earth is going on there?!" and knowing exactly what they're talking about. It's small enough that I run into friends without trying but big enough that if I want to get lost, I can. The wide-eyed excitement of occasionally seeing someone who makes me super excited ("OMG Al Franken!!!"), then telling a friend who says, oh yeah, he signed on as a co-sponsor of our bill last week.

NYC may have at least one of every type of weirdo on God's green earth but I would not say that DC is more conservative. Politically, most of the Republicans live in Virginia. DC people are largely nerds and wonks. I feel like people move to NY to make a name for themselves. A lot of people move here to make a difference which is kind of endearing in its own way. Yes, many of them get super disillusioned on the way but that's part of the experience.

If you want to hike, Rock Creek Park is your urban hiking and wandering around place. Great Falls is pretty close as is Shenandoah National Park. Day trips to Harpers Ferry, Annapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia are all entirely possible. Most people go to Dewey or Rehoboth for the beach.

The food scene here is thriving, especially the food truck scene. There are tons of book readings and lectures. The arts scene is a work in progress but it's definitely there - there are the Smithsonians but if you miss paying to go to a museum, there's the Corcoran. I think it's Dupont Circle that has First Fridays where every art gallery opens their doors and shows off what they've got the first Friday of every month. Artomatic is one of my favorite things ever.

One thing that I found about DC was that it took me a while to find the (excuse me) "real" DC. Everyone knows about the monuments and the Mall and such but the different neighborhoods make it more than a place where people go to work and abandon on the weekends.

And not to be too much of a booster, but in a lot of ways, DC keeps getting better. In the seven years that I've been here, neighborhoods that I was told to stay away from (U Street) have become warm and fuzzy or at least livable (Navy Yard). Some places are going to take longer to get there (Petworth) but it's happening. And neighborhoods that I didn't think were neighborhoods (H Street?!) are getting big.

If you were going to move here, I'd recommend thinking about a few hobbies or interests and looking for others who share your interests. A good friend of mine didn't know many people when she moved here but she was interested in ultimate frisbee and knitting and she found groups of people who do both. There are tons of running groups. The GLBT scene is enormous. If you're into music, the Black Cat and 930 Club are your friends. A lot of people use MeetUp.

I'd also encourage you to try to commit to DC for a year. Moving anywhere takes time. DC can be trickier than other places because people come and go so much. After living here for seven years, I've lived here longer than most people I know. And people who live here *hate* it when New Yorkers come and say, "X is so much better in NY." (You know it's a cliche when it's in the Post!) If that's how you feel, please do us all a favor and move back. You won't be missed.

If you have specific questions, feel free to memail. Best wishes!
posted by kat518 at 2:35 PM on July 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Something random that I would add - I don't know what field you work in but there are a lot of entrepreneurs, tech people, and startups in the area. It's something I didn't expect.
posted by kat518 at 2:45 PM on July 18, 2011


Slightly off topic here since I can't comment on DC, but if you're looking for New York hiking and kayaking, consider the Appalachian Mountain Club weekend hikes. The hikes are always reachable by public transportion, and there's plenty of carpooling out of NYC as well. The NY-New Jersey chapter runs many weekends of hikes and kayaking. I believe there are under-40 hikes and kayak outings as well. I've heard of people who leave kayaks in Westchester or Putnam Counties and kayak on the Hudson, a gorgeous experience. So if it's outdoor life you want, all other things being equal (except they're not since NYC cultural life, night life, and festivities trump DCs), try out accessible outdoor activities out of NYC before you give up on it.
posted by Elsie at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2011


It's not really clear to me why you're looking to leave NYC. Are you sick of living in New York? Are you looking for somewhere smaller? Would it really improve your career to have more frequent in-person meetings with your clients? If you just need a change of scene, maybe try moving to a different borough? If you're really looking to leave NYC, then sure, DC might be fun for awhile.

I've been in DC for about 1.5 years, and it's okay. I like it, but I don't love it. (Before NYC I lived in Boston for about a year and before that I lived in NYC for 6 years.) It is really, really hard to move from NYC to DC. DC has certain great things going on, and it's definitely interesting professionally, and there are a lot of smart, interesting people here. I love that the city is relatively low--it feels very human-scale and nice to walk around in. You can always see the sky. There are a ton of trees, and the architecture here is very interesting. It's really cool to go for a run and go by the White House, the people I meet at parties do super interesting things, I LOVE the free museums (now I hate going back to the museums in New York and paying fees!). People here are very friendly and I've made a bunch of new friends in the last year. There is a lot of nice hiking in the area, but you need a car to get to any of them.

There are some great restaurants, fun bars, etc, but there are not that many compared to what you're used to. I live in a great neighborhood for going out, but I still I get bored with the places around here because I'm used to more variety; also, you pay a lot more here. Good restaurants are expensive and there are far, far fewer of the tiny awesome places that are really cheap that you get in NYC. Other than Ethiopian, I find the ethnic food to be poorly represented (at least in the District proper; I hear there are better places in the suburbs, but I don't have a car). The small number of really good places also means they can be crazy hard to get into--you have to wait for an hour or make a reservation on Monday for Friday, and that gets annoying.

The crime rate is high and you need to be a lot more careful here than in NYC. Rents here are quite high, but you do get more space for the money and I don't know any 30-somethings who have a roommate because they have to. It's very transient, and that's partly because as people want to settle down/buy a place/have kids, they have to leave--it's tough to afford a place in a decent neighborhood and the schools here are bad, so people tend to leave as they get into their 30s. I do know people who own, but they all either live in the burbs or in a not-great neighborhood. DC city politicians are a disgusting mess of corruption and scandal. Also, it is really, really frustrating not to have a vote in Congress. Public transit is okay, during the week, anyway. Definitely learn the bus system if you move here, I don't know how people get around the city without it.

DC is definitely more conservative in that fashion here is way boring, far fewer people have tattoos (mine attract a lot more attention here), I know more Republicans than I ever did in New York, and people are just not quite as unusual here. But DC residents are overwhelmingly Democrats, so politically I never feel like I'm living in a red state or anything. I'm a straight women, but the city seems very, very gay-friendly (at least for men).

DC people do hate it when you say, oh, X in NYC is so much better than Y. The problem is, for a lot of things, it's true, and it's hard to compare the cities and not get bored with DC (sorry, Kat518). However, DC IS getting better; there are fun new places opening up all the time and the city is really redeveloping a lot of neighborhoods. If you move expecting a mini-New York, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you move for a new scene, you might enjoy it.

I've rambled on enough...feel free to memail me if you have questions.
posted by min at 4:21 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is the cost of living in DC really the same as New York?

No. Comparable housing is much more expensive in NYC. Sums of money that will condemn you to a pit or a suburb in NYC will get you a nice place in DC, complete with a real kitchen rather than a wall with some appliances on it. That said, since you like going out a lot, you may not care about getting a nicer place, so you can spend less in DC for a place comparable to what you have in NYC.

No, your access to public transportation won't be as good as it is in NYC, but probably about half of the nation's transit riders are in NYC. Nowhere in the country has transit that is remotely comparable to NYC.
posted by massysett at 4:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The answer to your question really depends on what type of New Yorker you are - the Washington Post had an article recently about New Yorkers who hate DC so much that they started a club. I find people like this stupid and pretentious and I wish they would leave us alone and go back to New York.

But if you're not that type of person who is so utterly in love with New York that you won't give DC a chance, then let me answer some of your questions:

Outdoor activities: There are tons of outdoorsy things that you can do that are really close by. We have great parks, bike trails, and a river that people love to Kayak in.

people in DC seem to be much more conservative and buttoned down then I am used to in NYC.

This really depends on who you meet and where you are. Sure there are lots of lawyers and Capitol Hill types, but I work in something government related and even then I don't meet tons of buttoned up conservative types. We have several artsy, fun neighborhoods where you will meet artsy, fun people. We have a great music scene, a lot of great little theatres (try the Woolley Mammoth, they rock!), an art scene that I don't know much about.

How is the cultural scene down there? Bookreadings, gallery openings, lectures, etc?

Yes of course there is a cultural scene here, much of it centered around the HUGE international community that calls DC its home - you can't go to embassy parties in New York, but you can here! And yes of course there are book readings (try Politics and Prose), gallery openings (they are popping up all over the city), lectures (National Press Club, for example), etc...

Can good ethnic food be found?

See above re: huge international community. Ethiopian food, huge Korean and Vietnamese communities, great middle eastern and Indian food, etc...

Are there good coffee shops or coworking spaces for telecommuters to work out of?

Don't they have these everywhere? Try Tryst, Kramerbooks, Politics & Prose, and Open City for a start.

Is the cost of living in DC really the same as New York?

DC is a really diverse place, we may be a small city, but we are full of neighborhoods and you can find an apartment for super cheap in a not-as-nice part of town or one for $3000/month in a fancy part of town. It all depends on where you are looking and what you are looking for.

Can I also address something that Min said? There is no way that the crime rate here is so much higher than in NY that you'll need to be MUCH more careful. That's ridiculous. Also in regards to this "DC people do hate it when you say, oh, X in NYC is so much better than Y. The problem is, for a lot of things, it's true" - I would counter that by saying there are also SO many things in DC that are better than in NY, it just depends on what you like. Personally, I prefer wide open space and shorter buildings to huge claustrophobic high rises. And I like that you can get out of the city so quickly, when it's so difficult to get out of New York. And oh my gosh, our grocery stores are so much better, food is so much cheaper. Anyway...sorry for the LONG reply.
posted by echo0720 at 5:22 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


p.s. I should have read what kat518 said and just seconded that instead of my big long rant...
posted by echo0720 at 5:26 PM on July 18, 2011


I lived in DC for about a year and, while it had some benefits, it has a strange temporality to it that I couldn't get used to. The thing that I hated about DC is exactly what I thought I would hate about DC - I felt that there was no character aside from day-time policy wonks.

I moved away a couple of months ago and haven't missed it since.
posted by brynna at 5:36 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lived in DC for seven years. I lived in New York as well -- and for a while I lived sort of half time in both cities.

I *hated* DC. I thought it was awful, seriously. I preferred NYC by a large amount. However, that preference had a lot to do with my personal taste in stuff -- people, vibe, etc. Mainly I had a lot of trouble connecting with people in DC and it took me years to make friends I liked, whereas within a couple of weeks of arriving in NYC, I connected with people I'm still friends with today, years later. I'm generalizing here by necessity, but basically I found the majority of people I interacted with were extremely career-oriented to the point of exclusion of everything else in life, very conservative, pretty boring, and unfriendly. Also even though I was into what creative scene there was, it was hard to find people doing cool appealing-to-me artistic/creative stuff. Finally, the temporality issue brynna mentioned is a big problem. Most people in DC aren't from there and aren't planning on staying. (The exceptions to this tend to be some of the coolest people there, though.) In fact, the majority of people in DC at any given time don't even live in the city limits.

Since you are going down there a lot, I think you're the best judge of whether the weirdness of DC sits well with you. It seems to have a lot of fans now. You may end up being one of them!!
posted by pupstocks at 6:18 PM on July 18, 2011


As a young, intelligent, cool guy without a career, DC blows. If you have a career you are excited about, it's probably pretty nice.
posted by 3FLryan at 6:43 PM on July 18, 2011


Really, Echo? DC's no St. Louis, but the violent crime rate is more than twice NYC's. I think the difference is that the crime rate is high in neighborhoods where young professionals like the OP (and myself) tend to hang out/live in DC, whereas it tends to be lower in that type of neighborhood in NYC. NYC is a lot more gentrified than DC, for better or worse. When I say "much more careful" I mean, for example, walking around DC talking on your smart phone is a lot riskier than it is in NYC. Not only are you at higher risk for someone stealing your phone, you have to watch out for the MD drivers. Fwiw, I know three people (personally, not my friend's cousin or something) that have been mugged in the last year, two of them at gunpoint, in neighborhoods like U St and Columbia Heights. I don't know a single person who's been mugged in NYC in the last ten years. Anecdata, sure, but it's backed up by the stats.
posted by min at 7:01 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a possibly crazy idea that may be worth considering based on inferences from your question that may or may not be true: consider Baltimore. It is significantly cheaper than DC, especially for housing, there is a vibrant homegrown music and arts scene, and is less than an hour drive or train ride to DC to see your clients. You'll still have a real city with character (it actually reminds me a bit of Brooklyn) and your 60k will go much further there than living in DC. Of course Bmore has its own issues, but just an idea...
posted by the foreground at 7:03 PM on July 18, 2011


Here's more anecdata: I've lived in DC for almost ten years now, and have had a smartphone for the majority of those years. I talk on it while walking down the street often. I've never been mugged. Does that mean it hasn't happened to someone else? Of course not, that's why anecdotes are next to useless.

For what its worth, most of the violent crime in DC is unfortunately of the gang on gang sort. People who aren't related to that pastime are unlikely to get involved, unless in an accidental bystander sense. Otherwise, sure, cars get broken into, bikes get stolen, etc. I just consider that the cost of living in a city, and it never occurred to me that NYC would be better or worse on that front than DC is.

Others have addressed the bulk of your question already, so I'll just say that while I LOVE New York and have lived there for brief periods from time to time, DC is home for me now, and it makes me happy. Sure we're not as fashionable as NY, and we're policy wonks that are passionate about our work in a fundamentally uncool way, but DC is smaller and more intimate in a way that I never felt in New York.
posted by Inkoate at 7:12 PM on July 18, 2011


I'm with Min. What a lot of people don't seem to acknowledge about DC is that only about 25% of it can be adequately compared to the majority NYC. Sure, you can find reasonably priced rentals in NE, SW or SE DC, but you will then be sacrificing at least a few of the following: easy walking distance to the metro, personal safety walking home at night, access to almost any nearby commercial activity or the quality of the apartment itself. Everyone wants to live in the same 3 or 4 neighborhoods in DC and as a result the price of those rentals reflect that, some not too far off those of Manhattan. And the prices are only going up here as DC is much more insulated from the national economic slump than almost anywhere else.
posted by the foreground at 7:13 PM on July 18, 2011


I've grown up close enough to DC that I've gone to the city at least a few times a year every year since I can remember, and I have a ton of friends in the area. I've been in NYC for three years.

The kind of gentrification DC is going through now is very white yuppie, which has (or is) driving out the comparably small amount of ethnic and artistic diversity the city had in the first place. Sure, certain music scenes may be getting better, but overall, the population is increasingly homogeneous in appearance and one-note in profession (government or politics, or a consulting firm that mostly deals with government contracts). The Howard University, U-Street area is a perfect example. On top of that, because of the sparse and early closing metro, DC doesn't benefit from the cultural and ethnic diversity Manhattan does with the other boroughs (and Jersey).

I think the other thing that I continually miss from DC is a strong independent art/music/restaurant/theater scene. You have world-class museums with the Smithsonian and expensive restaurants by the Capital, but anything less corporate (for lack of better words) is incredibly difficult to find compared to NYC. Plus, the vibe and the creative passion always seem to be missing.

A lot of people I know in DC are very happy, but most of them have never lived anywhere bigger, some of them got stuck there for work and had to make the best of it, and rest of them were just burnt out of biggest places. If you are the last, then I'm sure a few months in DC wouldn't hurt, but if you are moving just to try something new, then I would guess DC is not your best bet. I am definitely the kind of person who enjoys a city for its own authenticity, but every time I go to DC, I can't help but think it just can't compare to NYC for quintessential "city" experiences, and it doesn't offer anything so radically different (like great outdoor escapes or a super cheap cost of living) that can really set it apart from NYC.
posted by msk1985 at 8:18 PM on July 18, 2011


DC vs NYC: Previously on AskMe. I liked this comment in that thread:
if you're the kind of New Yorker who can develop a certain semi-ironic appreciation for the ways in which DC is so much more of a small town than NYC, if you can chuckle ruefully at the fact that you'll be choosing from a far smaller number of good restaurants/clubs/whatever (though they are still good), and relish the occasional trip back to NY, you'll be absolutely fine and have lots of fun.
posted by deanc at 9:03 PM on July 18, 2011


I just realized that I asked this same question about a year ago.

I didn't listen to the hivemind and chose DC. Don't make my mistake!
posted by brynna at 9:45 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


DC exists on a much smaller scale than NYC. The answer to "are there good coffee shops?" is "there is a good coffee shop." You're going to encounter this a lot. They have things in DC that are comparable to NYC, but DC has one of them.
This is so true, I even knew the coffee shop before checking the link, and I'm pretty hugely out of touch with DC in most things. I've actually had conversations about this:

"Hey, let's go to this amazing coffee shop [that you, being clueless and out of it, will find mind blowing]!"
"OK, remember there's no wifi on weekends."
"Oh damn, that's right, I forgot... Wait, how did you know which coffee shop I was talking about?"
posted by anaelith at 3:50 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Re: crime - like I've said, I've lived here for seven years and I've never had a problem. My husband has never had a problem. My best friend has never had a problem. I run at night listening to music or walk home late talking on my smartphone. Most people I know have never had a problem. Violent crime in DC is pretty localized to SE DC. Unlike Baltimore where the situation completely varies block to block, there are a handful of neighborhoods in DC that are dicey and you just don't go there. Fortunately, there is next to nothing to do there anyway so you're not missing out.

Re: people who say that DC exists on a smaller scale than NYC - this doesn't really make sense to me. I'm originally from Buffalo. I wouldn't say that Buffalo is like NYC but smaller. I wouldn't say that it's like Toronto or Rochester. It's Buffalo. Even based on proximity, I don't think of Philadelphia as NYC Jr. or Baltimore as Little DC. They're just different places.

Without getting into specific prices on apartments, I can tell you that one of my close friends pays what I would consider a lot for an apartment here but it's big, in a great neighborhood in downtown DC, close to public transportation, totally safe, and she pays less than my sister in law pays for a similar place in Park Slope. The same amount of money could get you a two bedroom on my street. And my landlord is a crazy person but he hasn't raised rent on us since we moved in five years ago.
posted by kat518 at 6:33 AM on July 19, 2011


I guess one of the things that I've concluded about living in DC is that getting comfortable here takes work. It can be challenging to find bars like The Passenger, restaurants like Burma, coffee shops like Chinatown Coffee and Peregrine Espresso, delivery places like Red Toque Cafe. And it's even more difficult to establish friendships with the kinds of people who know about these places. For me, however, that makes it that much more rewarding.

People who complain about not being able to find whatever it is they were looking for here (arts scene, music, good reasonably priced food) strike me as people who didn't want to put that kind of time and energy into DC. That's why I said that if you want to move here, you should commit to DC and really give it a chance. If you do, there's a good chance this place will grow on you.
posted by kat518 at 7:03 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I lived in DC for about a year and, while it had some benefits, it has a strange temporality to it that I couldn't get used to. The thing that I hated about DC is exactly what I thought I would hate about DC - I felt that there was no character aside from day-time policy wonks.

See, this is what drives me nuts. It's like people that move to Manhattan and then claim that New York is full of transplants from other states. If you don't make an effort to get involved locally and in local community, and if you come for a nationa level job and hang out with all people of your same professional class and age level, then yes, you will feel like everyone is passing through and is like you.

Especially if you live in the same ten trendy, young professional neighborhoods in NW DC, Arlington, and Capitol Hill. I spent a lot of time here, most of my family was born and raised here, but I found my take on the DC area felt a lot more grounded after I moved out of those areas to people that were interested in making a place their home, rather than 'residential tourism; (which i thought really afflicts places like Logan Circle or Columbia Heights)
posted by waylaid at 7:46 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


but basically I found the majority of people I interacted with were extremely career-oriented to the point of exclusion of everything else in life, very conservative, pretty boring, and unfriendly. Also even though I was into what creative scene there was, it was hard to find people doing cool appealing-to-me artistic/creative stuff. Finally, the temporality issue brynna mentioned is a big problem. Most people in DC aren't from there and aren't planning on staying. (The exceptions to this tend to be some of the coolest people there, though.) In fact, the majority of people in DC at any given time don't even live in the city limits.

There's a couple of issues with this statement, being that 'most peple in DC aren't from there and aren't planning on staying' - that statement would apply to a significant subset of upper middle class, white professionals (most likely in their twenties and maybe early thirties), but you cannot - absolutely - cannot apply this to the city as a whole. There are so many people that have been here for decades or longer.

Also, the career oriented thing - this tends to happen more in DC because a lot of upwardly bound people come to this area for work first and foremost (so they move to DC for their job, rather than for the city itself). That being said, for these upwardly bound people - the primary form of self-identification (bceause people's work and their passion overlaps) tends to be work.

Staying out of the neighborhoods or the activities these people frequent can make a world of difference.
posted by waylaid at 7:57 AM on July 19, 2011


if you come for a nationa level job and hang out with all people of your same professional class and age level, then yes, you will feel like everyone is passing through and is like you.

I feel like I need to defend myself a bit here - I lived in SE, worked in Shaw in a low-income charter school. I hardly felt like I was hanging out with people of the same "professional class and age level." I had a vested interest in the community and PLANNED on staying for much longer. But I didn't like it.

The fact remains that the turnover rate in DC is very high. Most people don't want to commit to it.
posted by brynna at 8:40 AM on July 19, 2011


It's unfortunate that you didn't like it here - especially Shaw, which I love love love - but not everyone has to like everything, different strokes for different folks, etc.

I've found that people who come to DC in their upper 20's or early 30's are open to "settling down." Several of my friends have bought places and for that reason alone, they're going anywhere anytime soon. My peers in DC are buying places. I'm not close with many friends in NYC but they're not buying their places anytime soon.

The nature of the work done by a lot of people in DC, particularly politics, foreign affairs, or defense type work, means that some people are very transient. People in their mid-20's are very transient in particular and a lot of them come to DC planning to stay for a few years before going to grad school or something but some of them (*cough*) learn to love it here.

I've definitely seen good friends come and go but on the plus side, now I have people to visit in other cities. And if you don't want to commit, there are plenty of other people who are willing to take the plunge. People are constantly moving in as well as moving out. I miss my friends who have moved out but I'm closer to the friends who have stayed and there are always plenty of people who just moved here to make it interesting. You can view it as a positive or a negative, like anything in life.
posted by kat518 at 10:16 AM on July 19, 2011


I feel like I need to defend myself a bit here - I lived in SE, worked in Shaw in a low-income charter school. I hardly felt like I was hanging out with people of the same "professional class and age level." I had a vested interest in the community and PLANNED on staying for much longer. But I didn't like it.
The fact remains that the turnover rate in DC is very high. Most people don't want to commit to it.


Brynna,

I guess. YMMV. I've spent about 5 years living in NW DC, and i now live and own in an lefty Maryland streetcar suburb in PG County.

I took a peek at your profile and it looks like you're in your early 20s and really interested in trying different places. Pretty much everyone with professional mobility in your age bracket moves around and tries different places (i did New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, DC and New York in that time period in my life!).

As kat518 notes, it changes a LOT when you get older. Most people around my age (I just turned 30) are a lot more attuned to staying in one place, and the frenzy of wanting to experieince a lot of neighborhoods and places gives way to wanting to live and grow in a single place and a single neighborhood with a steady community.

Most of the transplants in their 20s here tend to just want to stay here for a few years and have a similar degree of noncomitalness where they live. The 20-somethings that grew up here tend to be far more rooted, but you tend to not be working with them - most teachers I know that were born in the area wouldn't teach in DC when the pay is worse and the job is harder.

I guess my ultimate point here is that you're making a lot of assertions based on your own experience (which is completely valid!), but i think your experience is also more limited to the inner, core trendy neighborhoods of DC and your age bracket. You will not find that sort of transience in a variety of DC neighborhoods like Takoma, the Palisades, Hillcrest, or Congress Heights, nor will you find it in less trendy but nice neighborhoods in MD or VA.
posted by waylaid at 10:53 AM on July 19, 2011


Violent crime in DC is pretty localized to SE DC.

Can't agree with this. It was only a couple of years ago that Trinidad in NE DC was completely barricaded by police because of all the shootings there. Think about that. Barricaded, like a war zone. Police use similar tactics in portions of SW DC by the Nationals stadium where the planned gentrification of that whole quadrant of the city has failed to take off save for a single Safeway and a couple other small shops. Large swaths of NE DC continue to resemble a former war zone, despite the handful of hipster bars that have sprung up on H Street. Muggings in the "rapidly gentrifying" neighborhoods of Petworth, Pleasant Plains, and Shaw are still way more common than what I would think someone used to living in Manhattan, Queens or near Brooklyn would be used to. Even supposedly yuppified U Street had a drive by shooting in broad daylight a few months back. There are many resources to view crime statistics by neighborhood in DC but to pretend that violent crime and muggings are mostly confined to SE is a tad misleading. A lot of DC feels about 10-15 years behind NYC in terms of actual gentrification, despite all the media hype that it gets.

You will not find that sort of transience in a variety of DC neighborhoods like Takoma, the Palisades, Hillcrest, or Congress Heights,

Sure, but the OP will also not find anything like the quality of life or convenience in these neighborhoods that he is used to in NYC either. I'm sure those neighborhoods are nice in their own way, but when you type in "bar" for Congress Heights on Google maps, you get a grand total of 1 result in walking distance.
posted by the foreground at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2011


Where to begin?

DC is not NYC, so please don't come down here and complain when it isn't. $60K/year will not buy you a lot of real estate or a terribly extravagant lifestyle. There's lots to do, but no, not as much as in NYC. You've been warned!

I can't agree with some of the comments.

the foreground: Nationals Park is in SE, not SW and the Safeway that was just renovated had been there for decades, from the last attempt at urban renewal in the 60's. If you are trying to make a point about SE DC and the gentrification of the ballpark area, i think you should wait until the 5000 new residents have finished moving in and the construction on the new housing, offices, and parks is finished. If you are referring to the SW Waterfront, then that isn't directly related to Nationals Park. That 20 year process is just starting, not finishing (and the folks at Arena Stage might take issue with your point as well).

deanc: while kat518 has mentioned a couple of other coffee shops, there is also this and this and this and even this and that's without mentioning a chain (or any of the bad coffee shops).

And i would have to say that this neighborhood and this neighborhood have long supplanted Adams Morgan (which long supplanted Georgetown) as the neighborhood for bars and clubs.

I've lived here (actually in DC) for 40 years and have never been mugged. YMMV
posted by jindc at 11:51 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, as far as food goes, i think you'll be pleased and if not, you can spend every night of the week eating at another one of the damn NYC transplants

Shake Shack
Hill Country BBQ
Eric Ripert's West End Bistro
Charlie Palmer Steak
BLT Steak
Rosa Mexicana
Bobby Van's
Casa Nonna
Serendipity
PJ Clarke's

I'm sure there are more...
posted by jindc at 12:03 PM on July 19, 2011


Way to split hairs, jindc. SW DC is literally across the street from the stadium, and if you read carefully is aid the area by the Nats stadium...and I think most people in the area associate the stadium with the SW Waterfront moreso than they do SE DC.

You've done a great job talking about why you like DC and how well you know it, but not really offered much in the way of the DC vs. NYC comparison that the poster was asking for. And why would he want to move from NYC to patronized medicore NYC chain restaurants in DC? "Is it worth it?"
posted by the foreground at 9:57 AM on July 20, 2011


Can't agree with this. It was only a couple of years ago that Trinidad in NE DC was completely barricaded by police because of all the shootings there. Think about that. Barricaded, like a war zone.

And the Supreme Court told them to fuck off because that was extremely unconstitutional. Eventually, they caught the gang responsible, broke it up, and Trinidad's been pretty safe since. Still a far cry from being the safest area of the city, but I've never felt unsafe because I live nearish to that neighborhood. I went on a jog through there today. I was not shot.

Capitol Hill (both the NE and SE sides) is an extraordinarily safe neighborhood, and a wonderful place to live. A great mix of families, young professionals, and longtime residents. Definitely not the most "edgy" place to live in the city, but I like it for what it is.

And, speaking of "what it is," I live in a rowhouse that is 10 minutes from work. In a few years time, I'll hopefully be able to afford to purchase my own house in a great location. You can't do that in NYC. Everything in DC is human-scaled; it's easy to get around, I feel like I "know" the city extraordinarily well, and can drive through almost every neighborhood, and point to a house where a friend lives. NYC doesn't work like that. I never approached that level of familiarity, despite living just outside the city for many years, and working there a while.

Basically. It's small enough to not be appre
posted by schmod at 3:12 PM on July 23, 2011


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