Moving to a new city or state is always a major undertaking. Whether you’ve moved a dozen times before or it’s your first big jump, starting in a new area comes with a learning curve about the culture, traditions, traffic, and more.
If you’re moving to a major city, like Washington DC, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to adjust to your new life. So we put together some of our top tips to help you get the most out of life in the DC Metro area.
1. Learn the lingo
First up, one of the biggest giveaways that you’re not from the area is using the wrong shorthand for the region. DC sits between Virginia and Maryland, so when people refer to being from the “DC area” they could be from DC, Arlington, Bethesda, etc.
This larger area is referred to as the DMV - so if you see articles about trends or events in the DMV, know that they aren’t talking about where you get your license! And as for the city of DC proper, that’s known as “The District.”
2. Northerners beware: it gets toasty in the summer
Word of warning for those not used to southern summer temperatures - summers in DC can be brutal! The city is known for high temps and even higher humidity as early as April and as late as October. So if you’re coming from a colder climate, brace yourself from a major adjustment.
3. Learn the neighborhoods BEFORE moving
Here’s the thing about looking for a job or apartment in the DC Metro region...A LOT of neighborhoods and areas will come up as being in the “DC area.” The reality, however, is often more complicated. Reston, Virginia comes up as being in “DC,” as does Silver Spring, Maryland. But if you worked in one and lived in the other, your commute would take upwards of 90 minutes each way.
When you’re considering a new job or a new place to live, be sure to seriously look at your commute options as well as learning about the overall vibe of the neighborhood. You can check out our tips for finding the right neighborhood here for the key things to look for.
4. Dress for success
DC at its core is a government town. There are tons of other industries, of course, but the region centers largely on work tied to the government. This means that people dress fairly conservatively for the office - i.e. business dress is the norm. If you have an interview or meeting with a new client, show up in your business best because they likely will be as well.
5. Learn to love public and alternative transit
One of the first things everyone notes about DC is the traffic. And yes, it really can be that bad. The good news? There are TONS of other options to get around. The DC Metro is known for being a highly walkable city. Public transit options like the metro and city busses are often much faster (and cheaper) than driving. There are also countless bikeshare and scooter sharing options to choose from.
6. Seriously, don’t stand to the left
Every single article you’ll see about DC will warn you that on escalators you stand right, walk left. There’s a reason for this - it’s not a joke. People in DC are on a mission. They don’t have time to waste, so many opt to walk on escalators to speed things up a little. If the thought of walking down some of the (admittedly) steep escalators into the metro makes you nervous, just keep to the right so that other people can pass you.
7. Take time to be a tourist
DC has A LOT to offer. Yes, you should learn about the cool popups and local haunts in your neighborhood or by your new office. But it’s also worth taking some time to do the big, touristy things like the museums, national mall, monuments, etc. After all...most of it’s free, so why wouldn’t you?
8. Remember: almost everyone is (or was) new here
Finally, one of the best things about the DC region is that very few people are originally from here. It’s a highly transient city, with people coming to the region for work across countless industries. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the newness of everything, just remember - you’re not alone! There’s probably someone else on the same train with you praying that they read the metro schedule right too.
Another way to make the leap to the DC area easier? Work with a realtor who knows the area to help you find the perfect new home. Our team knows the DC Metro better than any other group, and many of our agents were transplants to the area at one point too. We’ll help you find the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood. Contact us today to learn more!