D.C.: A Guide For Twentysomethings Who Want To Live On Capitol Hill


There are guides and handbooks on making it in NYC, the city that never sleeps – but what about DC, the city that always sleeps? There are documentaries chronicling the rise and fall of stars out in LA, the city of dreams, but not much has been said of those of us living in DC, the city of nightmares. So being the selfless girl that I am, a trait you will need to acquire if you want to make it big in this city, I’ve decided to write a guide for all you 20-something movers and shakers heading for the hill.


1. The cardinal rule: don’t eat where you shit

Never work, live and play in the same neighborhood. Ever. If you work on the Hill, you can’t live there, and you certainly shouldn’t be playing around there. Just ask Bill Clinton, he’ll tell you the same thing. It’s just a bad idea and it violates every other rule to come.

2. Live in an “up and coming” area

DC is about constantly being one step ahead of the curve. But with a phrase that’s so commonly used, it really is hard to say what makes an area up and coming. In general, the safest bet is to follow the gays.

The gays landed in Dupont Circle long before it became DC’s hotspot. Similarly, the gays settled Logan Circle and U street long ago, while most of us were still convinced that it was the land of undesirables and incurables. In contrast, let’s take a look at H street, this alleged “up and coming” area. You see any gays around there? Didn’t think so. Enter at your own risk.

Okay… I should buy a home in an up and coming area? WRONG. I said LIVE in an up and coming area. By no means should you ever buy real estate in these areas (you can’t afford it anyway).

3. Settle in the suburbs

This is very important, especially for 20-something recent college grads. By owning a home in the suburbs, you’ve given yourself a leg up in the dating department. After all, who wants to raise their children in the big city of failed dreams? No one.

First stop: Arlington. Arlington is what hipster dreams are made of. Everyone in Arlington will complain about how much they hate the neighboring Georgetown inhabitants, yet on any given Friday or Saturday night, you’ll find them in Georgetown. By purchasing a home in the suburbs, you’ve also given yourself the opportunity to complain about your super long commute, which brings us to…

4. Have a ridiculously long commute

Even if you live and work in DC, you should have a ridiculously long, complicated commute. It is not acceptable to hop on the red line, take it three stops and arrive at your office. Even if you live four miles from work, it should take you no less than 45 minutes to actually get there. This means taking the metro bus to the metro, switching metro lines, getting off the metro three stops before you actually need to (probably because of a metro service outage or a jumper) and taking a cab to work from there.

You should always complain about the inconvenience that is your morning commute. During inclement weather, it may even be necessary to stay in a hotel nearby the office just because the commute is so horrendous that it might be impossible to get to work the next day.

But keep in mind you should never live further than five miles from any point in DC.


1. It’s all about where you work

One word: Deloitte. Another: Accenture. In DC, it’s all about working at a one-word, well-known company where no one is really sure what exactly it is you do. If that’s not possible, PR, non-profit, politics or a two-word company (i.e. Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo) are your next best bets. If all else fails, just give a location when someone asks where you work. For example, “18 and K” or “The Hill.”

2. Work really strange hours, but NEVER be tired

In DC, it’s not acceptable to just work 9-5. You should be juggling an extreme exercise regimen, a 15-hour workday, a graduate school program, supporting a charitable cause, keeping up with social outings, and still be sleeping a solid eight hours every night. Even if you’re not, be sure to tell people you are.

3. It’s not just about where you work, it’s also about what you wear to work

If you have a job that you can wear to jeans to, you are doing something wrong.

4. Get it in writing, but never give it in writing

Anything work related should be done via e-mail – never on the phone. For example, if a client calls asking for something, reply “Would you mind shooting me an e-mail instead?” Hang up immediately.

However, you should avoid leaving an e-trail at all costs. Clear your browsing history at the end of each business day, and if possible, bring your own laptop to work instead of using the office computer.

5. Use your time at work to get as much of your personal business done as possible

Run your errands on your lunch. Gchat. Shop Online. Pay your bills. But be sure to always complain about how hard you work. Look miserable at all times.


1. If you can’t get a deal, it’s not worth doing

Scour Living Social, Groupon, Bloomspot, Home Run, and any other websites offering deals on activities, restaurants, and adventures in the DC area. If you can’t get a Living Social instant deal on a restaurant, it can’t be worth trying.

2. Take up a cause, even if it’s not real

On any given day you can spot DC residents on the street giving out fliers, collecting signatures, picketing, or protesting. It’s all for a cause. This is necessary if you want to make it in DC. Believe me, I understand how tough it is to try to fit in feeding the homeless when you have hot yoga three times a week and Pilates Reformer every other night, but giving back is easier than you think. For example, tell people you started an organization called “Feeding Friends.”  Sure, it might just be a dinner party you’re throwing for your friends, but it’s still a cause.

3. Join Vida

Vida is not just a health club in DC. It is a way of life. It’s not about the equipment, the class schedule or even the instructors. It’s about the scene and being seen at Vida. Everybody who’s anybody “works out” at Vida. Sure it’s costly – about $120/month to use every club (an additional $50/month for a membership to Vida’s U street rooftop pool, bar and restaurant) – but just consider it an investment in yourself.

4. Be a Wonk… of any kind

You need to be an expert on something. It makes absolutely no difference what that is.

5. If you can’t do it online, don’t do it at all

Limit all face-to-face interactions and make use of online communication whenever possible. If you cant make an appointment/ reservation, date, or shop online, go somewhere else where you can. Even sex doesn’t happen in person in DC – it’s all about sexting (Anthony Weiner anyone?). After all, with so much going on (grad school, working out, charitable donations, social events) you really can’t waste your time speaking to strangers.

6. Diversity

Diversity is what DC is all about. And I know what you’re thinking, “I already have a gay, black and Asian friend…” But in DC, actually ‘being’ diverse is of greater importance than having a diverse group of friends.

Pick up an accent. Chain smoke. Wear a burka. Do anything that makes you seem as culturally diverse as possible.

When people ask where you’re from, be sure to mention your ancestry in your response. For example, “I’m from Lebanon, by way of New Jersey.” You must be the diversity you hope to see in this city.

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