N.Y.C. Vs. D.C.: An Urban Culture Breakdown


WASHINGTON D.C. – Every year, during the hot, humid, heat waves of summer, my father and I plan a historical trip of some sort to escape the hustle and bustle of New York for a few days and surround ourselves with nothing but some good ol’ Founding Father lovin’.

Last June, we traveled to Gettysburg and Antietam to check up on the once bloody Civil War sites. After endless amounts of shirts that said “Don’t Tread on Me,” faux Confederate flags and that fine line between insanity and historical re-enactment, we left the small towns full of antebellum nostalgia and headed back to Yankee Town.

This time around, we headed down to Washington D.C. for three days vacationing in our nation’s capital. As homegrown New Yorkers, it was only natural that we stressed the fact to people where we’re from, whether it was in a hotel lobby or in the back of a cab. While we explored the federal metropolis, our city instincts began to notice inherent differences between D.C. and N.Y.C. Streets, museums and general infrastructure aide, the urban cultures of both have striking characteristics that defines what it means to be from New York… and from D.C., we guess.
And there’s more than enough to scrap them all together into this blog post. Here’s a few snippets from this tale of two cities:

D.C.’s bike share program is on point. One of the first things I noticed about D.C. was this row of red bikes right outside of Union Station – D.C.’s equivalent of Grand Central. Back in 2008, Capital Bike Share was the first city-wide attempt in America to place bikes across the city for free public use. And, with over 1,500 cycles on the streets of D.C., the red bikes are seen all over town, being rode by businessmen and partygoers alike. This makes us look bad, especially after the news that our bike share program’s start will be delayed another month. And that’s just a guesstimate.

Jaywalking here isn’t a crime – it just doesn’t exist. Giuliani would be in paradise; the street-walking ethics of Washingtonians is proper, controlled and obedient to the red light. Pedestrians there are assigned these white “walkways” where they have the right of way no matter what. Drivers were amazed when my father and I would dash across the middle of the street, willingly against traffic. Because we’re New Yorkers – that is our right of way.

D.C. folk spot politicians, not celebrities. The minute I stepped out of Union Station, Frank Luntz came flying past me with an enormous piece of luggage. For those of you who don’t know, Luntz is that pollster on Fox News who has an affinity for focus groups made up of red state senior citizens. Soon after, during my tour of the Capitol, I sat in on an empty Senate. All of a sudden, John McCain, Harry Reid and Joe Lieberman – collectively known together as the Tripod – stormed into the halls and faced off on the Syrian conflict. So, if you’re in D.C. and you happen to be a political nerd, you’ll love every minute of it. But don’t expect to see Lena Dunham on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Nobody in Washington curses. In New York, you hear the F bomb dropped five times before reaching the corner. Here, you’re lucky if someone standing next to you decides to go with “hell” instead of “heck.”

New Yorkers really are the most aggressive drivers. I found myself fuming over the fact that my more-defensive-than-my-grandma cab driver didn’t cut off the guy in front of us, who decided it was a brilliant idea to parallel park on a crowded one-way. I offered back-seat alternatives and I don’t even drive when I’m in New York.

A Washingtonian always met my claim to New York residence with an extended “Ahhhh!” To them, we are the classic urbanites, coming to a foreign city to take in, take home and brag to our friends about how D.C. is no Big Apple. Although Georgetown is not SoHo or the Village, and the streets there are as clean as a whistle, D.C. was a well-needed break from Manhattan. But they need to learn how to walk across the street.

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