20 Signs You Live in Washington, D.C., or Need to Move There

We asked three Redfin real estate agents in Washington, D.C., to tell us what’s like to live in the nation’s capital. Is it really the “Hollywood for Ugly People,” or more like the “Capital of the World?” Here are signs you’re a Washingtonian at heart from Redfin agents Tom Lewis, Rebecca Love and Katie Scire.

1. You go to a sports bar for happy hour and argue about politics, not sports.

Washington D.C. Sports

Photo: Mr.schultz, Wikimedia Commons

“It’s tough being a sports fan in Washington,” Love said. “First, the local teams have been disappointing in recent years. Second, many residents from D.C. hail from other cities and root for different teams. But since everyone is so connected to government, you can always talk politics. The State of the Union and political debates are like sporting events here, when people go to bars to watch CNN instead of ESPN.”

2. Within five minutes of meeting someone, you know their profession and political leanings.

Living in Washington DC. President Obama shaking hands.

Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Wikimedia Commons

“The first questions you’re asked when meeting someone new is, ‘What do you do? Who do you work for?’” Lewis said. “DC is a career-driven place with a lot of lawyers, consultants, congressional staffers and, yes, lobbyists. While it’s not true of everyone, many people in this city seem to determine a person’s worth by where they work.”

3. You can drop it like it’s hot … a name that is.

Name dropping in Washington D.C.

Photo: MC1 Chad J. McNeeley, Wikimedia Commons

“People in D.C. have an obnoxious habit of name dropping, especially with politicians,” Lewis said. “When you’re talking to people, that’s how you show how important you are. D.C. has many wealthy residents, but people don’t like conspicuous shows of wealth. You don’t see a lot of overly fancy cars. Sure, there are Audis and BMWs, but not Bentleys and Ferraris. Name dropping is your status symbol.”

4. It’s 3 a.m. and you’re at Ben’s Chili Bowl debating whether the food is good at Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington D.C.

Photo: dbking, Wikimedia Commons

“Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C. institution,” Love said. “While a lot of tourists visit during the day, locals know it as a late-night dining place after bar hopping on U Street. How much you like it seems to correlate with how many drinks you’ve had.”

5. You know the best way to prevent a hangover is a jumbo slice of pizza.

Jumbo slice of pizza in Washington D.C.

Photo: Peter Fitzgerald, Wikimedia Commons

“Adams Morgan is a hot spot for the young, rowdy crowd — interns, college students and recent graduates,” Lewis said. “They serve these oversized slices of pizza, and if you walk down 18th Street at 2 a.m. you’ll see a lot of people eating ‘jumbo slices.’ It is quite a scene.”

6. You’ve eaten at the restaurants of at least three “Top Chef” contestants.

Graffiato in Washington D.C.

“Top Chef” contestant Mike Isabella founded Graffiato following the show. Photo: A.R. P., Yelp

“It’s not all Ben’s Chili Bowl and giant pizza,” Lewis said. “There are many well-established restaurants and chefs here. It seems like at a lot of places you go to, the chef has been on a reality show or the Food Network before. If you live in D.C., you most certainly know who José Andrés is and have been to at least one of his restaurants.”

7. You go to happy hour in your business casual attire.

Drinking in Washington D.C.

Photo: Pete Souza, Wikimedia Commons

“Fashion here is pretty conservative,” Love said. “A lot of people wear suits every day. As a result, people go out to happy hour in suits and ties. People might take off their tie or jacket, but they’re still wearing what they went to work in. It might actually be strange to go out in a T-shirt and jeans after work.”

8. You know someone who knows someone who knows the president.


Photo: LZorn, Wikimedia Commons

“A huge percentage of the local economy is related to the government or politics, so it’s likely that you have some kind of connection to the White House,” Lewis said. “People are actually relieved to hear I’m a real estate agent. I used to work for a policy institute, and it got boring always meeting other industry people. Now I work for a cool real estate company based in Seattle, and it strikes up a conversation. People ask me about the market and are interested in my job.”

9. You could take out a second mortgage with all the cash you pay to D.C. Parking Enforcement.

Parking in Washington DC

Photo: Dada1960, Wikimedia Commons

“Parking is a disaster in the city; you can drive around for 20 minutes before you find a spot,” Scire said. “I get tickets all the time! One thing many people from out of state don’t realize is that if you buy a townhouse or rowhouse, it doesn’t necessarily come with the driveway; that’s sold separately! People will pay $25,000 for a spot and then rent it out to other people. If you park in D.C., you need to know the street sweeping schedule. If your car is within the zone when the street sweepers come through, it will be towed away.There are signs advertising the schedule, but they are easy to miss.”

10. You think at least one of your friends is in the CIA.

CIA Seal

Photo: Duffman, Wikimedia Commons

“With so many people working in government, when you hear what your friends do, you start to wonder if that’s true or if they’re doing something else,” Lewis said. “Like if their job sounds a little too generic, or they go on ‘vacations’ to weird places, or they disappear when some international event happens.”

11. You always have a friend who just went back to law school.

Georgetown University Law School

Georgetown University Law Center. Photo: Karatershel, Wikimedia Commons

“If you’re not in government, you’re a lawyer,” Love said. “Or there’s a lawyer in your family, or you’re dating a lawyer, or you know someone in law school. The number of lawyers here is insane.”

12. You’re constantly reminded that D.C. is a melting pot … of bad drivers.

I66 traffic

Photo: MPD01605, Wikimedia Commons

“There are so many people who visit or move to D.C. from around the world and they all drive in different ways,” Scire said. “There are overly polite Southern drivers, people from foreign countries who don’t know the rules, novice drivers, aggressive East Coast drivers, people who think it’s OK to do a U turn across all lanes of traffic … and don’t even get me started on the cab drivers. It’s especially true in all of the traffic circles; people will miss their exit and cut each other off. I’m surprised there’s not an accident every other minute in these circles.”

13. You know that DMV means D.C., Maryland and Virginia, not the Department of Motor Vehicles.

DC Maryland Boundry sign

Photo: Farragutful, Wikimedia Commons

“On the radio they use the phrase DMV; it’s a very common way to refer to D.C., Maryland and Virginia,” Lewis said. “It’s the first thing you think of when you hear DMV. Residents also know that that it’s ‘D.C.’ or ‘the District’ not ‘Washington.’”

14. You panic, raid the grocery store and expect to be off work when snow or rain is in the forecast.

Skiing in Washington DC

A D.C. resident skis down the streets of Dupont Circle. Photo: APK, Wikimedia Commons

“When a snowstorm is predicted, we panic,” Love said. “Home Depot sells out of generators and snowblowers, and at Costco all the milk and water is off the shelf. The joke is that there’s only one snowplow in D.C. We only get a few storms a year, so people don’t know how to drive in it and the city shuts down.”

15. You know there’s only one correct way to ride an escalator.

Dupont Circle Escalator

Photo: Dada1960, Wikimedia Commons

“You stand on the right and walk on the left,” Scire said. “If you come here during rush hour and don’t stand on the right, people will yell at you. It’s a system that works. Everyone who is in a rush goes on the left side, everyone on the right stands. You also know that it’s called the Metro, not the subway.”

16. The thought has never occurred to you to get Chinese food in Chinatown.

Chinatown DC

Photo: Daniel Barcelona, Wikimedia Commons

“Chinatown in D.C. is little more than a name and a nice archway,” Scire said. “There are some Chinese restaurants, but this stretch of D.C. is primarily home to retail stores and chain restaurants. There is not really a sense of Chinese culture or community here; most people go to the area to see a game or concert at the Verizon Center.”

17. You don’t get excited when you see a motorcade; you get annoyed.

Presidential motorcade

Photo: dbking, Wikimedia Commons

“D.C. has a ton of traffic, and if there’s a motorcade, it can back up for blocks,” Love said. “With all of the White House staff and diplomats, they’re pretty common to see.”

18. You actually own a BlackBerry. And it’s the only phone you don’t worry about getting stolen.

BlackBerry phone

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns, Wikimedia Commons

“A lot of people are assigned BlackBerry phones for work, but they have an iPhone as their personal phone,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately cellphone thefts are really common in D.C., especially on the Metro. It’s more common for iPhones to be stolen because they’re in higher demand.”

19. You can spot an intern from blocks away.

Congressional Interns

Photo: Congressional Budget Office, Wikimedia Commons

“When you’re on the Metro, you know who is a congressional intern and who’s not, because the interns are wearing their badges with pride,” Lewis said. “They’ll go out to happy hour and still wear their badges. Most people who work there full time tuck it away.”

20. You notice when names and locations are different in shows like “House of Cards,” “Homeland” and “Scandal.”

Washington DC Skyline

Photo: Aude, Wikimedia Commons

“You get a little sense of pride when you can spot the inconsistencies in shows and movies that are supposed to be set here,” Love said. “They’ll often change Metro station names, use old footage of monuments or say they’re one place when it doesn’t look like that at all. A lot of the shows that are set in D.C are actually filmed in Baltimore or Annapolis, Maryland.”

For all the Washingtonians out there, which “signs” did you like the best, and what did we miss? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, G+ or in the comments below. And if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Washington D.C., be sure to get in touch with our local Redfin real estate agents, or check out what’s on the market on Redfin.com.