Washington D.C. Local Life

How to Be a Good Neighbor in Washington D.C.

As a fairly new transplant to D.C., I’m reminded that every city has its own etiquette––the rules of the road in Chicago are very different from the rules in the DMV area. And while I have no illusions of being the next Mr. Rogers, I do want to do my best to be a considerate neighbor and District resident. So how can you be a good neighbor in Washington, D.C.? Here are a few of the unwritten rules I’ve picked up on in my time here.

Walk With a Purpose

Crossing in Downtown Washington D.C. photo by Shutterstock

The stereotype is true, and people in D.C. are busy. The last thing someone needs on the way to an important meeting is someone meandering, walking and texting, and taking up the whole sidewalk. Observe the same rules you would while driving––don’t walk too slow or you’ll hold up traffic, and if you’re lost, step to the side to consult your Google Maps. These rules are of even greater importance on the Metro––stand on the right, walk on the left of the escalators. And let riders off of the train before you try to hop on. People have places to go.

Speaking of the Metro…

D.C.'s Metro photo by Shutterstock

One of the first things I noticed about D.C.’s Metro, as a native Chicagoan, is how insanely clean it is. Some of the cars are even carpeted, which seems like a wild idea for most public transport. But that’s because unlike the trains and busses of other cities, D.C. residents actually take pretty good care of their public transit. While in Chicago and New York you might see a late-night bar patron eating a hot dog or pizza on the subway, the people of D.C. actually hold to the whole “no eating and drinking on the Metro” rule. And you should, too, unless you want to get a lot of weird looks.

Be Environmentally Conscious

Reuseable bags 

In other words, don’t forget your reusable bags. Like most major metropolitan areas in 2018, the District has a five cent tax on plastic bags. While five cents may not sound like much, people here are usually really good about going green and remembering their own bags. Additionally, pretty much all places of business here have a three-part system for throwing away your waste: garbage, recycling, and compost. So if you need a refresher on what’s compostable, hop on Google before you go out to eat in D.C.

Shop Local!

Historic Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill area photo by Shutterstock

D.C. is home to a ton of great locally owned businesses, farmers markets, and more. Help support your neighbors by buying local produce, patronizing your local workout studio, and choosing to grab dinner from your neighborhood deli as opposed to chains like Jimmy John’s. D.C.’s neighborhoods are also great at throwing a community event, like the Adams Morgan Day or H Street Festival.

Open Your Mind to New Ideas

Washington Monument during the Cherry Blossom Festival photo by Shutterstock

If you’re coming to D.C. from a tiny town, you’ll probably find the DMV to be a bit of a culture shock. The city is beloved for its diversity, meaning you will find neighbors from all walks of life, belief systems, and from all different corners of the world––it’s what makes D.C. so great. So before coming here, open your mind to trying new cuisines, learning about other cultures, and being kind and open to people who may not be just like you and your hometown neighbors.

D.C. may not be known for its small-town, “get to know your neighbors” vibes, but there are still plenty of ways to be a conscientious resident who the other folks in your condo building will enjoy being around. Just remember: stand right, walk left, and don’t forget your reusable bags.

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