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Mr. FAF and I bought our first home in the DC metro area in 2016, but I have lived in the city for almost four years.
While I love Washington DC for all the unique perks it offers, the city is not perfect.
If you are thinking of living, working or studying in DC or are just curious about what it’s like living in the capital city of the United States, then this post is for you.
Below are the pros and cons of living in the DC metro area.
1. Free tourist attractions
In DC, you have free access to world-famous tourist attractions. Life is never boring in the city. Examples include:
— Museums: National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
— Monuments: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, National World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorials.
— Politics powerhouse: the White House, U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and National Archives.
— Sightseeing: the Tidal Basin, Cherry Blossom Festival, and Virginia beach.
If you want to see what DC has to offer, check out these 100 free & almost free things to do in DC.
2. The best public transit system in America
DC has the nation’s best public transit system, and many DC residents ride it every day. If you want to avoid the headache of traffic, car payments, car insurance, gas, and accidents, then the sprawling DC metro system can definitely help you with that.
I have lived in DC for almost four years without relying on a car. Mr. FAF and I own one car, and he used to be the only one driving it in another city.
3. Abundant internship/job opportunity
DC is the city for young professionals. If you’re passionate about a career in politics and/or policy or want to change the world, DC is an amazing place for you to pursue your lifelong passion.
The city houses various international non-governmental organizations such as the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund. You can see a more comprehensive list here.
I was once told by the career services at my graduate school that employers in DC generally prefer local hires. Believe it or not, when people move to DC from other places, they face a culture shock and can get disoriented. That can definitely affect their job performance.
Where can you find the White House where the US President lives and works? In DC. Where do most of the major decisions affecting the United States and the whole world take place? In DC.
Have you ever experienced that feeling when you know the presidential inauguration is taking place right in the city where you live? That’s exactly what I’m talking about: a vibrant city that also serves as an economic and political stage for the whole world.
4. Plenty of networking opportunity
If you ever feel bored, want to meet like-minded people, or want to network for job opportunity, you can join various meetup, LinkedIn, and Facebook groups to do so. Unless you want some down time, there’s always an event or a group of people you can join to enrich your life.
5. Healthy eating options
If you’re in DC, you don’t have to worry about how you can eat healthy. You will find Whole Foods and restaurants with health-conscious menus everywhere. Wegman’s, Panera Bread, Sweet Green, and Power Supply are just some of the places where you can get organic food and a special diet for your lifestyle.
6. The dating scene
Given the high number of young, ambitious, and successful professionals in DC, the probability of you finding a compatible partner is higher. You can go to a meetup group or a networking event and find a lot of like-minded people.
Some people may argue that it is more difficult to find a partner in DC since everyone is so focused on pursuing their careers. How many potential dates you might have also depends on your work environment and how often you go out of your way to meet new people.
The beautiful White House
1. Heavy traffic
The traffic in DC is a nightmare for a lot of commuters and residents given the large workforce in the city. A 15-minute drive can easily turn into 45 minutes, an hour, or even longer. I know some people drive into the city at 5 AM and leave at 2 PM to avoid the traffic.
2. Expensive and limited parking
Early bird parking can easily cost you $16/day. It’s really difficult to find a parking spot on weekdays. Parking is free on Sunday, but the competition is fierce.
3. Expensive public transit
Riding the Metro rail one way during rush hour can cost you up to $5.90. If you live far from work and have to ride the Metro, you will pay $11.8/day or $259.6/month (22 work days).
You can get a discount if you’re a senior citizen, work for the government, or are disabled. There’s no discount for students. American University (AU) and Metro have worked out a deal for AU students. Other than that, you’re left to your own devices.
Metro is currently experimenting with Metro SelectPass where Metro customers can get a discount based on their commute distance, but it’s limited and is being tested on a small scale.
Many people drive to the metro station and have to pay at least $5 to park and then take the train. It’s $5 on top of the train fare. It can add easily add up to $350/month for commuting.
4. Long delays at the Metro
The Metro system is usually on time. Trains arrive at the platform every 6 minutes on weekdays and 15 minutes on the weekends. However, when there’s a mechanical or technical problem, the delay can be excruciating. A 20-minute train ride can easily turn into an hour or longer.
DC recently implemented an accelerated track work plan called Safetrack from June 2016 to April 2017 that severely prolonged the commute time for DC residents. During this period, my commute time increased from 1.5 hours to more than 3 hours a day.
5. Expensive real estate
DC is one of the 26 most expensive cities in the world. It comes as no surprise that the real estate market in the DC metro area is also pricey. In May 2017, the median housing price in the area was $558,500 – more than double the national median home value of $232,200.
If you’re a young professional and want to buy a home in DC, you may find yourself priced out of the real estate market. It took Mr. FAF and me a long time to navigate the housing market in the DC metro area and to find an affordable area. The long search was partly because our first realtor wasn’t a perfect fit for us.
6. Expensive rent
The median rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in DC is $2,000. A 2017 study conducted by London-based real estate firm Nested finds that DC boasts one of the world’s most expensive rental markets.
If you’re a student and need to find housing near campus in the DC area, it is not rare to find two or three people sharing a studio or one bedroom apartment to cut costs.
Despite all the cons, I’ve been really enjoying living in Washington DC. The city has so much to offer, especially in terms of career opportunity and entertainment.
I’m confident to say that I wouldn’t be who I am today without living in this beautiful, vibrant, and powerful city.
How about you? Do you also live in an expensive city? What do you think are the pros and cons of living in a metropolitan area?
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