Washington, DC, United States of America Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Washington, DC, United States of America

Washington, DC, United States of America 05/02/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Sao Paulo - 9 hours. Several direct flights or you can choose to have a connection anywhere in the US to be able to fly to the Reagan National Airport which is the closest to DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

5 Months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

EFM - Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live in Arlington, 3-minute walking distance from a metro station. It's a corporate apartment and is ok for a couple.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We go to Giant once a week... they have pretty much everything (meats, vegetables, household supplies, groceries...). We spend around US$100 a week for a couple.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing at all.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Cafe Asia - Asian Food
Chadwicks - Brunch in Alexandria
Fire Works - Pizza Place
Astor - Mediterranean
The Grill from Ipanema - Brazilian
Fuego -Mexican
Carlyle - Brunch in Stirlington
Mi Cuba Cafe - Cuban
Hard Times Cafe - Chilli sandwches
Julia's Empanadas - Argentinian Style Empanadas
Rosa Mexicano - Mexican
Cava Meze - Mediterranean

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Haven't noticed any...

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I sent a package to Brazil using the Post Office. US$10 for an envelope the size of a magazine.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Everywhere. We also have one in our building but I believe exercising at a gym is way nicer. There's a gym at Balston Mall (third floor) and it costs US$50 dollars a month (I checked 2 weeks ago).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Cards are accepted EVERYWHERE.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Everything you can think of. This is a free country.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need English. Period. People here do not know Spanish like in Miami.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not at all. I think this is a very good place for people with disabilities. They really get out and about pretty much everywhere by themselves. Incredible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes and Yes.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring anything you want, America is the best place in the world to drive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, and it is so fast that I am already concerned about how my life in other posts will be miserable. No idea of the cost...

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get and iPhone and be happy. Wifi is everywhere. But I do have a TMobile plan for US$60 a month no contract (pay as you go). Unlimited texting and calling.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

For sure. You have a really big chance of employment while in DC doing anything you want.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business atire for work and casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is the US... at first I was really scared of all the sirens or problems on the metro.. but now I just live.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I think it is good... The only problem I noticed is that during the peak bloom of the cherry trees my nose was running... I don't have any problems at all when it comes to sinuses... maybe that is the main reason.

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3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Been here for 5 months since December and the weather is nasty, gray, rainy, cold, icy, windy, snowy. Will it never be summer here?

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Expat Life:

1. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Bars, Restaurants, Movie Theaters, Museums, Malls, Theaters, Get Togethers on National Mall, anything you can think of.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think this is an incredible city for pretty much everyone.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I haven't noticed neither faced any problem at all.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Cultural Experiences. Many museums are free so if you are a nerd girl like me, you will be amazed by how much you can learn here. Every day is a new adventure.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

We like to go out for trails so we recommend Rock Creek Park. Also riding a motorcycle can be very fun here. Lots of beautiful places to see.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

OMG I dont' even know where to start from. First living here is great for people like me who love to take public transportation and not have to worry about parking. Metro, Uber and taxi are so easy around here that I just use the car on the weekends to get out of the city. When it comes to culture, DC has it all. I got the Lonely Planet guide and am doing exactly everything it is there and sometimes I feel like I won't have enough time to do and see everything I want to.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That it would take me a while to make friends here. Americans in DC are not as open as Latinos... so don't come thinking it will be that easy... but once you make them, things get easier :)
Be positive

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

In a heartbeat.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

All old electronics you have... get yourself brand new ones here before going somewhere else.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

House of Cards :D

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Lonely Planet Guide on Washington DC. A must have.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Since you are in the Capital that runs the country... use this in your favor and learn as much as you can about American History. It is fascinating.

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Washington, DC, United States of America 06/26/06

Background:

1. How long have you lived here?

3 1/2 years. I was also posted here from 1992-94.

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2. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Originally accompanied spouse on his Embassy posting. We've decided to remain here for a few more years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Don't know. I travel back to Australia (24hrs door to door!)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

All types depending on your budget. If you live near the metro your commute will be a quick one. If you don't then a 5 mile drive could take as much as 40 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

This is not a cheap city for groceries. However, farmers markets (held weekly in various areas around town) and the wonderful historic Eastern Market (best visited Saturday or Sunday) are the best places to buy seasonal fresh cheap food. Remember you will always pay a premium if you have to have fresh peaches in the middle of winter! Buy local, buy seasonal and fresh. My only complaint - without a working class Italian population there are no Italian delicatessans. But Philadelphia's Italian market is only a 2 hour drive away!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Not much - the U.S. is consumer paradise and shopping is a hobby(see the parking lots on rainy or snow days, or federal holidays).And there's always the internet if I need something not available in the US. The consumer world just gets more and more open....

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Like everywhere else in the US fast food is prolific (but I've seen more in the poorer areas of the city and the suburbs than I have downtown).However, DC also has the famous Ben's Chili Bowl for that late night fast chili craving. And the Adams Morgan diner (Where everything on the menu is less than $15) is open 24/7. Many local restaurants home deliver. You can find almost every cuisine catered for here and at every price level. DC has world class chefs, hole in the wall gems, and places you'd rather were closed immediately. The weekly City Paper (free) is the best source of what's hot and what's new.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Legal and illegal domestic help is readily available. I had a legal (permanent resident) housekeeper who cleaned my 3 BRM house and did the ironing each week for US$75. Other friends pay US$150 for the same services. Ask people for their recommendations.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMS are everywhere. Take care if using an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank. Like everywhere else in the developed world you will be stung a couple of dollars for using another bank's ATM.Be careful with your cards. Like elsewhere in the US identity theft is a problem. Buy a shredder and shred all your ATM receipts and anything else which has your details on it (like credit card offers in the mail).Some banks offer debit/credit cards wiht you photo on them. A better protection for your account.

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. All.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

You can buy or order most English language newspapers - often delivered to your doorstep or apartment door. Watch out for promotions. The Post often offers a 6 week free subscription. And don't forget the free City Paper. TV can be a challenge - you'll need satellite or cable to pick up the basic channels in most areas. Again look out for deals. You can get cable for as little as US$25 per month upwards. Many singles and couples are cancelling their cable and signing up to Netflix (or similar).

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

While English is the language of use it helps to know some Spanish to speak with tradesmen.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

By law buildings have to have handicapped facilities. The metro can be a challenge - not all elevators at all stations work all the time. Best to go to www.wmata.com and check.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right side.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transport is ok. The metro (subway) system is great - most of the time. But it's underfunded and oversubscribed. And you can wait up to 15 minutes on weekends or late at night for a train. That said, it's the preferred commuting option for most DC residents. However, the metro does not run 24hrs a day. Buses are pretty good, very safe, and bus drivers generally quite helpful if you don't know where you're going. Again check the schedules. I think fares are cheap compared with travel in other cities. Taxis - the pricing system is obscure. Get yourself a map of taxi zones and work out the most cost efficient way to get there. Generally they'll only try and rip you off if they think you're a tourist (like all taxi drivers around the globe!)Getting a taxi during a rainstorm or snow can be a challenge. But, unlike the metro, taxis are available after midnight on weekdays.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can bring any left hand drive vehicle. Parking is awful (just like any other big city) but you can apply for a permit to park longterm in your area. The DMV is a challenge but go there early in the week, get there around 8am, take along a heap of documents and a great deal of patience and you should be out in a couple of hours. Once you've completing the initial registration, change of license etc renewing is MUCH easier (online!). Be careful of the roads -potholes on some of the roads can swallow and buckle wheels, and those metal plates they put over roadworks are slippery after rain and icy in winter. One particular driving custom of note is that it appears you can do almost anything with impunity here as long as you are behind the wheel.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High speed, reliable internet is one of the joys of living in this information obsessed town. My 10Mps cable internet (with RCN) costs me only US$40 per month. And Starbucks, many cafes, restaurants and even parks are wifi. This makes meeting friends for coffee a challenge as you can't get a seat (all those folks on laptops).However, if you want to sit in the sun surfing free internet on a sunny spring day just go to Dupont Circle park. Now tell me that's not great?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Yes. Everyone has a cell. If you can't be contacted at all times, via call or increasingly text message, you simply don't exist. They're essential for business and becoming increasingly essential for social occasions too (

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Depends where you are calling. Many people have signed up to internet based services like Skype and Vonage. I have a great deal with Allcom - as cheap as Vonage. Best to shop around. If you want to use a calling card go to the areas where DC's immigrants live - or to areas in Arlington and Alexandria, VA where the existence of a large immigrant working class population will ensure you get even better rates for your calling card.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good and readily available. Many people have pets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. However, make sure you have a visa which allows you to work and the requisite work permit. Most companies will not even consider you for interview if you don't have a work permit. Pay is good. Work can be challenging and rewarding - or not. But there are thousands of jobs available in most sectors (lawyers, doctors, and nurses with foreign qualifactions have significant problems getting them recognised).

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative at work. Washington residents'fashion sense is pretty average. This is not the town where you'll need the latest Fendi bag or pair of Manolos. A well cut (or not) black or pinstripe suit is more likely to serve you well. Conservative middle of the road clothing is the norm. It's also difficult to find places to buy cutting edge or original fashion. But NYC and Philadelhia are close and there are a few local up and coming designers worth looking at.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate to bad - pretty much like any other big city. Summer is the worst - but again nothing as bad as many other big cities around the world.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

DC is like other big U.S. cities - you take care, especially at night. But generally it's fine. The city is gentrifying very quickly and problem areas are changing. Believe me I lived here in the 90s when things were much much worse.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

It's a bad town for asthma and allergies. DC is built on a swamp after all. Other than that, the long recycled a/c work days ensure you'll probably pick up whatever someone's child has had. DC workers are not known to stay at home when they're sick so everyone ends up sick. Health care is as good as your health insurance. There are brilliant doctors and medical care in this city and there is the other end of the spectrum too. Get yourself a good general practitioner (through word of mouth) and s/he should steer you in the right direction).

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter is cold and damp. We get a lot more snow now than in the early 1990s. And DC doesn't know how to handle it. So watch those drivers slip and slide; watch the metro stop running; and see everyone stay at home on their

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No personal experience. However a number of friends have moved their children from private schools to the Key Elementary School and are very happy. This school is on par with the best of the DC private schools thanks to direct parental involvement.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. With the Embassy and World Bank population alone it's big. But they're blended into the city.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. As another poster said you either love it or you hate it. But isn't that true of people everywhere? The main problem non-American English speaking expats have is they come here thinking it will be the same or similar to their home country. And, put simply it's not. But I believe the differences are what make a country special. After all, why would you want to come here if it was just like home?

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Where do I start? There is so much to do here. Dinners with friends, sporting events, theater, movies, music, dance venues, it's all here. We mix it up with a bit of everything. Social life is what you make of it. We have been fortunate to have made very many good friends in the local community. This is a place to tap into the cultural and ethnic diversity - makes your stay here all the richer.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This city is as good as you make it. There is something here for everyone. You just have to go out and find it. Our life as an expat couple is a fine one. Single female friends have told me it can be difficult. There is something like four single women for every single man. And it seems many here have an agenda that had more to do with career enhancement than with meeting the perfect match. Internet dating is huge! That said a number of single friends have met their perfect match in DC and are happily married.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Things are changing here but many gay and lesbian Washingtonians do not yet feel comfortable enough to come out, especially those working in Congress. Public gay affection is uncommon. This is a conservative city - particularly so under this Administration.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, there is racism here. But it is often subtle and usually socio-economically based. I've also witnessed and experienced a bit of xenophobia here in the past year - but I've found that elsewhere in the US too. My big smile and Aussie accent usually helps smooth things over.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

You could keep busy here for years visiting the Smithsonians, galleries and historic properties. And the surrounding areas are full of historic significane - especially for Civil War buffs. There is great nightlife and excellent restaurants too. If you're an avid hiker or biker there are great trails. And don't forget waterbased activites on the Potomac.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are some excellent local artists and artisans here in DC.Check out local galleries, local markets (especially Eastern Market on Sundays).And of course there's all that political Americana if that's what you like.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. If both of you work and if you don't go anywhere. But there's so much to do here and so many temptations that it's easy to spend it all - and then some!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, yes and yes. This is the third time I've been here (lived here twice, visited once). But make sure you have a well paying job!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Preconceived ideas. DC is diverse - it's not only about government and politics (you just have to dig a little deeper to find it).

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3. But don't forget your:

Hiking boots and good suitcase. DC is different from the rest of the US (whose capital city isn't?) so get out and see this big country. And while you're at it the US has some of the best hiking trails in the world. I can now understand why so few Aaericans have a passport. The entire world's geography is here!Get a National Parks pass and go see the wonders!Most Americans don't.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Movies, novels, etc usually give you the stereotypical view fo Washington. Watch them, read them, but also read the writings of great American leaders to understand the power that drove this city to be what it has become.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Movies, novels, etc usually give you the stereotypical view fo Washington. Watch them, read them, but also read the writings of great American leaders to understand the power that drove this city to be what it has become.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I've lived and worked in 23 countries. This is by far the easiest (and at times frustrating) place to live. But like everywhere else it takes effort - an open heart and a genuine interest. Go out and enjoy!I

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