Friday Question of the Day – When do you consider yourself a Washingtonian?

by Prince Of Petworth March 17, 2016 at 10:22 pm 131 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user John Sonderman

This question was brought up in a rant/revel but I wanted to give it a proper post. Obviously you can never be a native born Washingtonian unless you were born here but that doesn’t mean you can’t deeply identify with DC (am I tipping my hand here…?) So let’s talk years – how many years do you have to have lived in the District before you can reasonably consider yourself a Washingtonian? Or is it more a frame of mind rather than a passage of time? For those who are not native born but consider themselves Washingtonians was there a tipping point, a specific moment you remember when you made the switch?

  • CS

    The conversation has come up with a lot of people I know lately, how we were all on the “stay in DC 3-5 years” plan when we moved here. I’m now on 13 years (10 in DC plus 3 in Alexandria). I guess maybe the point at which moving back to the west coast was no longer plan A, and I realized there are a lot of great things about DC and decided I’d stick around unless life takes me in another direction was the point at which I considered myself a Washingtonian.

    • nancy

      Yeah, I was going to stay here 5-10 years. In 1990 I realized it had been 10 years, but I was in dream job and didn’t want to leave.

  • Kukki Bakemono

    When I first yelled at someone on a metro escalator, “Walk to the left!”, is when I first considered myself a Washingtonian.

    In all seriousness (not that my previous comment wasn’t serious), I’ve moved around a lot in my life including leaving DC for grad school and a short work stint in New England and when people asked me “Where’s home? Where are you from?”, I found the only place I would be comfortable saying was “home” was DC.

    So I’d say if you can, without hesitation or contemplation, say “DC” when someone asks you, “Where’s home? Where are you from?”, then you’re a Washingtonian.

    • saf

      I dunno. I had someone from Fredericksburg tell me that he was from DC last week. He’s never lived anywhere closer to DC than Fredericksburg.

      • madmonk28

        If someone says they are from DC or Washington, chances are they’re from the burbs. If they say the District, they are Washingtonians.

        • Anonymous

          “If someone says they are from DC or Washington, chances are they’re from the burbs. If they say the District, they are Washingtonians.”

          Not sure about this, I think it depends on your social circles

          Many people from the ‘burbs’ were born in DC, so “I’m from DC” is accurate if incomplete.
          People who say I’m from The District live in DC proper now but were not born / raised in DC.
          I always took Washingtonian to mean ‘born in’ (or at least raised in) *&* likely’ living in’ the District.

          I have never met anyone while wll outside of this area, who said, ‘I’m from the District’ upon initial introduction. As for me I am a New Yorker, I live in DC, 18 years now (but I usually say I live in Brookland.) My children are Washingtonians. I bet many people from other cities with strong identity (Boston, Philly, New Orleans, Chicago etc) feel this way.

          • v

            How old?? I’m not buying this… I say “I’m from DC” and I grew up in DC proper. Upper Northwest. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone under the age of 40 really truly use “the district”.. maybe older Washingtonians

          • zipdc

            As long as can all agree that anyone who says “I’m from the DMV” isn’t a Washingtonian.

        • BRP

          Yeah… I grew up here and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone say they’re from “the district.”

          And I say I’m from DC even though my childhood home was in Silver Spring. If you’re really going to nickle and dime me on the percentage of time I spent within city limits as opposed to time spent in MoCo, (a) you need to examine how to chose to expend your energy and (b) you’ll lose. It’s like the people who say upper NW isn’t the “real” DC. Who the hell are you to decide what is and is not the real DC?

          • eva

            Yeah this is going to be really dependent on context. If I’m in foreign country where there aren’t many Americans, I’m going to tell someone I live in Washington, DC. If I’m elsewhere in the US I probably say DC to avoid confusion with the other Washington. If I’m in the company of people who are generally from this area I’ll say the District. It is only in the past few years that I get anything but a blank stare when I tell locals who don’t live in DC proper that I live in Petworth. So I try to avoid naming a neighborhood unless someone asks (incidentally the progression seems to have gone from *blank stare* to kind grimacing “how do you like THAT?” to “what year did you buy your house” with a jealous response when I say 2007).

          • Chris

            Likewise, I was born and raised in dc proper and live here in Petworth currently. When someone asks where I am from, I say DC. I don’t think someone saying “the district” is very telling about anything.

      • nancy

        I ran into that on a plane once coming back here. Someone said they were from DC when they had lived in Potomac the whole time. I told them I didn’t think that meant DC and he got very very annoyed.

  • anon

    10 years now, and I may be here forever, but I still don’t feel like it is my home. I think it takes longer when you move when you are older than when younger. Or maybe I still miss NYC and the different general attitudes of people there about life, and always will. Didn’t grow up there, but it definitely came to feel like home. Didn’t’ take 10 years, either.

    • LittleBluePenguin

      Agreed. I lived in NYC for grad school, and after a little while (maybe 6 months or so?) it became really easy to think of myself as a “non-native New Yorker” – like you somehow get adopted by the city, or something! I enjoy living in DC. I guess I think of it as home. But I don’t get the same thrill and rush of heady love when I return and see the DC skyline, in the same way I do as when I return to NYC or Philadelphia, my birthplace. I like coming in from Alexandria on the metro and seeing the river and trees and monuments, and it makes me sit up a little taller, feel a little prouder, but it’s not the same rush I get when i spot Liberty Place and the Comcast Building and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boathouse Row and the like; or when you turn the corner and there’s lower Manhattan reaching ever higher. I hope someday I get that same feeling about DC. I hope to stay here for a long while, if only because I’m so tired of moving. But I don’t know what a Washingtonian is supposed to feel like, so I remain yet another transplant trying to find my niche here.

      • DaBurgh

        DC is easy to like, but hard to really love.

  • skj84

    As of June I will have lived in the DC area longer than anywhere else, which is 11 years. While I’ve only lived in DC proper for less than a year, I think I would consider the shift about 6-7 years ago. I worked in DC, spent most of my time in DC, but lived in Chevy Chase, MD. I know my long term MoCo residency is fightin’ words to native DC residents, but honesty I felt more of a connection with DC. The first 5 years I lived here I spent more time in MoCo, now I can’t remember the last time I went past the Bethesda Metro. I will do Silver Spring, it’s easily accessible from where I live currently. And Takoma. But that’s my limit.

  • saf

    I moved here to go to school at 17. Before I turned 18, I had acquired a DC license and knew I was staying.

    But I didn’t consider myself a Washingtonian until I moved off campus, and that was 3 years later.

    33 years now.

  • Blithe

    I was born in DC. I attended public schools in DC. My first paycheck jobs were in DC. My parents were born in DC. My parents both worked in DC. My grandparents moved here in the early 1900’s — and all of them lived and worked in DC. I consider DC to be my home — and it’s part of my identity as “where I’m from”. I now live one block over the line in MD — and I’ve been told more than once by someone who’s lived in DC for about 15 minutes that while they are a Real Washingtonian, I am not. I get tired of shaking my head on that one. – I will say that to me it’s more a frame of mind then time. People who are committed to the city, who are concerned about local issues, who talk to their neighbors, who have a sense that DC is bigger then the circles where they live and work and party — and who consider DC to be their home — rather than a stepping stone — are Washingtonians. Of course being a Washingtonian and being “from DC” are arguably not quite the same, but that’s another question.

    • Hill Denizen

      Totally agree on the frame of mind thing. I’ve lived here eight years and don’t consider myself a Washingtonian, even though I do feel invested in the city, but I could see someone who’s been here for 5 claiming the title without hesitation. Same with those who live in the suburbs. If you spend a lot of time in DC and care about and follow the issues of the city, you can call yourself a Washingtonian (just don’t say you live/are from DC to anyone from around here. That’s only allowed with people who have no sense of the area). I think I’ll start feeling like a Washingtonian when I no longer want to leave (I came to the city thinking I’d be here forever, but I’m getting the itch to move somewhere else). Until then, my home city is home, even though I have no desire to live there again and have never spent more than four visits a year there my entire adult life.

    • T

      Definitely agree on the “frame of mind” idea and the Washingtonian/”from DC” difference. I grew up in Bethesda so I’m not from DC proper and when people ask me where I’m from, I say Maryland. But at the same time, I’d count myself as a Washingtonian since the city casts large spheres of influence over the region, whether that’s politics, federal government, local culture, transportation, etc. The influence of DC extends beyond city limits, just like for any city. In that sense I’ve lived most of my 28 years in the Washington Bubble.

    • BRP


  • Bob

    The day I got mugged was the day I feel I became a Washingtonian. Was in town about seven years at that point. But figure that is as good a measure as any.

    • eva

      If this is the measure I hope I never become one? I’ve lived here nearly 20 years though so I consider DC my home.

  • DJ New

    When you adopt the local teams as your favorites

  • blindbible

    Do you have to live in DC to be considered a Washingtonian? I work in DC and spend a lot of free time in DC, but live in Southern Maryland (yes, I say Warsh-ington sometimes). Most of my friends live in DC, or really close, I do more happy hours in-town than anywhere else, root for the Redskins, and abhor the Metro, but realize it’s a necessary evil. Depending on who I’m talking to and where I’m at in the world, I’d mostly say I’m from DC.

  • After getting the whole living abroad thing out of my system, when I no longer thought of DC as a stop on the journey, and decided I didn’t want to live anywhere else…that’s when I became a Washingtonian.

  • dcd

    I got to the DC area in 1994. I met my wife here, we got married here, we bought our first house here, our daughter was born here – this is home. So, I guess I’m a Washingtonian. I just moved to Maryland, but still identify with DC on local issues – politics, land use, zoning, etc. – and when I need something, my first instinct is to go to DC to get it, not drive up the soul-crushing Rockville Pike. (That’s actually one of the reasons we picked our neighborhood – it, and the people in it, largely identify with and gravitate to DC, not Maryland.) I’ll be interested to see what my daughter views as her larger community as she gets older.
    But, I do not, will not, root for the Redskins. No.

    • seen this before

      1) move to dc
      2) have kids
      3) move to VA/MD
      4) claim to still be in tune with DC
      5) your daugther will identify with maryland, i gaurantee it

      • dcd

        Thanks for your input.

      • eggs

        Two of my best friends were born and raised near Gaithersburg and identify very, very strongly with DC. Only one of them ever actually lived in DC, they’ve both been living in Northern VA for a decade or more now. It blows my mind when people who were born and raised in the DC metro area and have worked and lived in the DC metro area for almost all or all of their lives are immediately written off because that 5 miles to the actual DC line is just so important.

        • Joe C

          It is important though! The suburbs are so stacked that living just a few miles outside of the city means you barely need to come into it. Being a Washingtonian is about being in the city and knowing the city. Go to the DC DMV, go out here at night, go to the restaurants, have friends here, go to events, root for (or at least be familiar with) our teams, work here, go to DC court – its all part of the experience.
          If you happen to live across the line but still do these things, then no big deal. But there are so many people who live right outside of town and claim DC while not really knowing anything about it or spending any time here. (I moved here when I was 4 and have lived in the district the entire time. I went to DCPS and all that jazz – I am now 29 and my friends still give me a hard time about “not being from here”)

          • eggs

            We’re saying the same thing, though – my point was that my friends who were born/raised in the MD burbs then moved to the VA burbs after college HAVE done those things their whole lives. They have stories of going to the old 9:30 Club by hitching rides into town, crazy weekends spent in the city with friends who did live those 5 miles away, they’re die hard Nats/Caps/Skins fans, have worked here their whole lives, etc. It just drives me nuts to hear someone say “oh but you’re not a Washingtonian” when it’s my friends giving them driving directions or restaurant recommendations in the city.

        • Anonymous

          I struggle with this too. I was born in the District but grew up literally just over the District line. I went to school and college in DC and am a Fed so that’s where I’ve spent most of my time. I don’t feel totally right saying I’m from DC when I’m in the area but am ok with it if I’m travelling. I have friends who grew up in the burbs and almost never travel into the District and it bugs me when they say they’re from DC so I can be hypocritical too.

          • DaBurgh

            The DC vs VA vs MD divide is one of the things I find uniquely interesting about DC, because there are ethnic and cultural differences between these places, and they are seen by folks in this region as distinct. In contrast, for example, the areas outside of Pittsburgh are just like the areas in the city limits, with the exception of the outer areas being really economically depressed now. Whether in the city or way outside, the basic groups and history of the Western PA, Northern WV, Eastern OH region are all the same. But in DC, being raised in the District is seen as a very different thing from being raised in Fairfax, just a few miles away.

    • nancy

      ‘Skins rule! (sorry, had to). I came here from Oregon, so didn’t have any hometown team I grew up rooting for. I was a ‘skins fan from the day I stepped off the plane. And got lucky, a friend who hates football used to get tickets to the games from her boss. So I attended every hometown game for my first three years. Still haven’t been to snyder’s stadium though.

  • anon

    I’ve lived my entire adult life here- from age 18 to now- 14 years. I have lived in four different neighborhoods and owned two homes in that time. For me- it was when I’d travel and arrive back in DC, and during the cab ride home we’d pass the monuments and I’d think, “it’s good to be home.” That started to happen about six years in for me and at this point I certainly consider myself a Washingtonian.

    • nancy

      I know what you mean – coming home at night from National and seeing all the monuments lit up, I’m the same way.

      • shmoo

        agreed, coming over that bend on 66 and having the washington monument in full view. When that starts to affect you and make you feel tingly inside, that’s when you are a true DC resident.

        • b

          This is exactly when I realized I never wanted to move back “home” and DC was my town. It’s been 9 great yrs.

          • PetworthMom

            When I moved to DC, someone gave me some great advice.

            “When the Capitol Dome and the Memorials are all lit up at night, and you don’t have that tingly feeling anymore, that’s when it’s time to leave.”

          • anon

            Of course, to be fair, the capitol dome looks no where near as impressive as it usually does with all that scaffolding all over it :)

          • elbeech

            PetworthMom, I like that. And glad to be reassured I should stay awhile longer.

  • nancy

    Might depend on your ties to where you’re from. I’m an Oregonian ’till the day I die. But when I talk to cabbies who were born here & they learn that I got here in 1980 they all say, “Well you’re from DC then.” I still say I live in DC but I’m from Oregon when people ask.

  • PetworthMom

    Tomorrow is my five year DC anniversary. But DC is now home.

    I moved a lot growing up, 10 times before age 18, so I never truly felt a connection to a place. I say I’m from IN because I did my second half of high school, met my husband, and lived there for a couple years after college.

    But at this point, we live in DC, we’ve had kids in DC, we owe a home in DC, and plan to raise our family here. We’re from DC.

  • MarkQ

    I’ve been here 20 years. 10 reasons I don’t consider myself a Washingtonian:

    1. I can’t find my way around parts of SE, NE or far NW (AU Park etc.) to save my life.
    2. I’ve no affinity for local schools…couldn’t tell you who is a rival of whom, what the kids at Sidwell are like vs the kids at Maret, or the kids from Woodson vs. Dunbar, etc.
    3. I am not deeply into any local music scenes (Punk, Go go, whatever in between)
    4. I don’t know and use local slang
    5. I have very few “remember when that used to be here” moments, save for major venues like the Capital Centre
    6. I have no connections to long-time DC families from any side of town. I wouldn’t know the Joneses of Woodley Park from the Joneses of Hillcrest.
    7. I don’t know or hang out with the Hill crowd or have any associations with diplomats.
    8. I’ve never participated in any local social or political movements (DC statehood, no freeways.. that sort of thing)
    9. I have rooted for the local teams, but don’t live and die with them the way I did with sports team I followed as a kid
    10. I don’t have that native defensive sense of pride about the city… like when a “which city is better” argument comes up, I can be objective about DC.

    • dcd

      “6. I have no connections to long-time DC families from any side of town. I wouldn’t know the Joneses of Woodley Park from the Joneses of Hillcrest.”
      You know, I bet if you saw the Joneses of Hillcrest sitting next to the Joneses of Woodley Park, you’d be able to hazard a pretty good guess as to which was which.

    • Philippe Lecheval

      #2: Having lived in proximity of these schools, I can tell you that the kids at both Sidwell and Maret are very privileged, spoiled little shits, just as you might imagine.

  • K

    For me it was when I had my twins. I have only lived here 10 years but they’ve lived here their entire life (all 5 years of it)

  • eggs

    I’ve lived in various places in DC and Northern VA now for 6.5 years and do not consider myself a “Washingtonian” (or a Virginian if you want, for the time I’ve lived there). The DC metro area has a mentality/way of life that I just don’t identify with – I’m not super career-oriented or cutthroat ambitious like I see so often around here, I’m not interested in finding out what you do for work or who you know more than what you’re into or enjoy doing, I don’t go out of my way to make connections for the purpose of just making connections rather than making friends, wanting to talk politics has been absolutely driven out of me by living here, etc. You all know what I’m talking about, and it’s just not me. Mr Eggs and I have plans to move away in two years and by then this will be the longest time I’ve ever spent in one city/area in my life.
    I do have to say that I feel more at home here than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of things I love about living here, and I have some of the greatest friends ever here, I just don’t feel like I’m the right kind of person to say they’re a “Washingtonian”.

    • shmoo

      I feel like all the stuff you said you dont do defines a true Washingtonian who is making this their home as opposed to a stop on the road. All of the things you listed, I would put those under the “will be here for 5-10 years column”.

      Ive lived here all my life and the true DC people are not like that.

      • Katie


      • Truxton Thomas

        Agree. More like two years in a high-rise complex followed by a move to the ‘burbs.

      • eggs

        I’m not going to argue that, you’re totally right. It’s just been my predominant experience. I have a new boss at work who started a few months back and moved here from Atlanta and she is having a really, really tough time with it. She hasn’t met anyone here that she hasn’t gotten this vibe from yet, and it’s been a constant struggle to encourage her that not everyone is like that and that she will find her niche here. She’s on the edge of quitting because she’s so miserable with the culture here, and it’s making me so sad. I just see this a lot, unfortunately.

      • Colhi

        +1 I’ve lived in DC for 24 years. I really only knew those ambitious and career focused people in my twenties. They all left.

      • wdc

        +1 more to shmoo. Those politics- and networking-obsessed people don’t stick around.

        • dcd

          I don’t know about that – I think they changed. It’s easy to be ambitious and career focused when you are single, or at a minimum have no kids. Networking can double as your social life, and you can stay out multiple nights of the week to all hours with no repercussions (and with more financial resources). Once you have kids, most people (of necessity) mellow out. Or at least, this kind of asocial behavior is less noticeable.

          • eggs

            This is a really good point. Thanks for the thought-provoking response!

          • wdc

            You’re probably right! I can think of examples of both– people who went back home to be big fishes in small ponds, and people who just chilled out after a while.

    • I’m always a little saddened when I hear people talk about the “super career-oriented or cutthroat ambitious”…I honestly don’t know anyone who fits into that stereotype. I promise you, there are some genuine, down-to-earth people here (whether they call themselves Washingtonians or not); I wish you luck on being able to broaden your social circle to meet some of them before dismissing the city entirely.

      • eggs

        It’s something that I’ve definitely grown into over the last few years, I didn’t feel like way for the first 4ish years I lived here. My friends are nothing like this – but then none of them consider themselves Washingtonians, either. I did 3 years of college here and have worked various jobs in the area (retail, bartending/serving, university housing) until I got into government contracting and have experienced the same thing everywhere. I’ve been completely dismissed and ignored by so many people in the past when asked what I do and my answer was “oh I bartend at ____” because it was assumed I had nothing to offer them networking-wise. I’m really glad to hear that your experience hasn’t been like this, but I can pull together 20 people off the top of my head who have had the same experiences here as me. It is really unfortunate, and I think that this is what often plays into many people leaving in 5-10 years like shmoo said above. It certainly is for me.

        • anonymous

          “I’ve been completely dismissed and ignored by so many people in the past when asked what I do and my answer was ‘oh I bartend at ____’ because it was assumed I had nothing to offer them networking-wise.”
          How short-sighted. I’d think a bartender would be the best person to network with. I’m envious of my friends with a dog because they’re now friendly with half the bartenders in our neighborhood (who are dog walkers during the day). Going out with them and their dog makes me feel like I’m getting to tag along with the cool/popular kids in school.

        • ke

          I think the “Powerhungry DC A-Hole” is an unfortunate stereotype rooted in reality. My wife has a non-power job by DC standards and runs into this kind of behavior from time to time. At it’s core, though, is a snobbishness, and I have to think that every city (or community) has that. “Oh, you don’t belong to a country club?” “Oh, you don’t go to such-and-such church?” “Oh, you live in -that- area of town?”
          But, not -everyone- is like that…I do think that it depends on your age, maybe, and where you are spending time and meeting people. I think that dcd addressed that in the earlier comment – i.e., your experience in Columbia Heights is going to be different than the experience in Georgetown. (I think that this was touched on a few weeks ago when someone was lamenting moving from NYC to DC and having a hard time finding friends.)

      • skj84

        I’ve never met anyone who’s fallen into that DC stereotype. While I do know people who are very proud of thier jobs, no one I know is that status obsessed. And honestly “career oriented” or “cutthroat ambitous” is not a uniquely DC trait.

        • eggs

          I meant more career oriented than anything else, I suppose I should have clarified. One of my best friends dated a lawyer a few years back for 6 months, they broke up when he told her that none of her friends were worth being friends with from a social status point of view and that she would need to cut ties with everyone who wasn’t making a name for themselves in their careers or marrying diplomats, etc. I’m really glad you’ve not met these people but I’m just sharing my perspective.

          • shmoo

            that dude just sounds like a pretentious dick. again, that’s not the dc i know. the dc i know is sitting on my porch after work talking to my 70 year old neighbor about how much the skins suck. THAT is real dc.

          • eggs

            That sounds wonderful! Maybe part of my issue here too is that I can’t ever afford to buy here so there’s no chance of staying long term. I won’t ever get that neighborhood experience that comes with being a real, vested member of the community. Though by the time we move away we’ll have lived in our same place for four years, it’s been really nice to be able to stay for more than one!

          • Wow–she dodged a bullet when she broke up with that d-bag!

          • eggs

            Dear lord, yes.

          • dcd

            I meant to reply to this comment a while ago, but I don’t get this attitude. One of the things I loved most about living in Columbia Heights and having my daughter attend a charter school is the completely random and eclectic mix of people we became friends with. Actors, performance artists, event planners, etc. I haven’t found that yet in the ‘burbs – I have enough law firm partners, lobbyists and senior government managers in my life, thank you very much. If I found someone with a cool – hell, even different – job, I’d annoy them to distraction just asking them about it.

    • eggs

      For the record, I’m not trying to argue about this and I’m not trying to put down DC as a whole. I’m referring to what PoP referenced in his question about the “frame of mind” part of this – and for me, this has been my experience with that Washingtonian frame of mind. I apologize if it comes off as attacking anyone, if this had been my impression of you all here on this blog I obviously wouldn’t stick around – this has been my “IRL” experience. Reading this blog and all of you who comment have made me feel much warmer towards the area and have slowly been changing my opinions in the last year I’ve been reading/commenting. I just figured I would share my experience as well.

      • skj84

        oh no worries! Everyone’s frame of mind is unique. I was thinking about the DC stereotype, and I think part of it is my social circle has never swung into any of that scene. I’ve never worked a government job and while I have friends who work in federal/lobbyist/law, I don’t socialize with them in that way. Our jobs came secondary. So i’ve never really dealt with anyone with the power player mindset. I don’t doubt they exist, I’ve just never met anyone like that.

      • AnonAgain

        My experience has been a lot more like binpetworth’s (most people I know are friendly, welcoming, genuine, and laid back), but unfortunately I do know that the people you’re talking about do exist. Thankfully they’ve mostly just been a few “friends of a casual friend” or have let their true colors fly at the outset so I excuse myself from the conversation. Or maybe I’ve just developed a knack for spotting and ignoring them, because I really don’t run into this very much anymore.
        To take a different point of view, most of the people I’ve met with the stereotypical “DC frame of mind” (super career-oriented, cutthroat, status-obsessed) were actually newer to the area and usually when I was in my 20s. They’ve since moved on or relaxed with time and the realization that they had nothing to “prove” (nothing wrong with being ambitious in your career, but there’s more to life). Then again, while I’ve been in government my entire career I’ve always been on the bureaucratic side and avoid politicians/politicals as much as I can, so maybe it’s a Hill/White House staffer thing?
        Sorry, not trying to argue, just offering up another experience. I get the “mindset” argument in general in terms of feeling like DC is “home”, but I think what I’m thinking of a totally different state of mind.

    • v

      born Washingtonian here. I lived in NYC for 10 years and I’ve never seen more cutthroat people than when I lived there. Washington feels MUCH more laid back than NYC did, where people actually eat lunch sitting down with a linen napkin rather than shove it in their mouths while walking down the street. Maybe I’m in the wrong field, but even in politics, I see a much more relaxed atmosphere. People leave the office at normal times … it’s such a refreshing change. As a native who moved back, I didn’t realize how transient the city was and it was quite a shock to me when my friends started up and leaving. I’m used to it now I suppose and wish them luck, knowing DC will always be home. No matter where I go. #dc4life

  • anon

    It’s funny to hear the differences between how older and younger generations feel about it. My husband’s mother has been living in DC (proper, not MD or VA) going on 65 years and she still says she is from NC. Her boyfriend the same, been in DC for 60 years and still says he’s from MD. My husband was born raised and public schooled in DC he calls himself a Washingtonian. I’ve been here 14 years when people say where are you from I say I live in DC but not from there.

  • DaBurgh

    I’ve lived in DC for a long time, but I grew up in a rust belt city which has a lot of different European ethnic groups in old ethnic neighborhoods. Its monuments are mainly to the Labor Movement. (I’m looking at you, Pittsburgh!) DC has a history, ethnic makeup and culture that is very different. For example, when was the last time you heard someone in DC mention company towns, pirogis or the Pinkertons?

    Although I love DC and think I fit right in with other “gentrifiers” — I’m not sure they even use that word a lot in Pittsburgh even though the city is going through similar gentrification — I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a Washingtonian.

    Go Bucs!

    • KG

      Not that it’s a bad thing to have hometown pride at all, BUT what is with people from Pittsburgh? Everyone I seem to meet from there is obsessed with just moving back some day and I’ve definitely heard native PIttsburgh-ers say that it is “the greatest city on earth.” I’ve been there and it is fun, but seriously? Is there something in the water in Pgh the rest of us don’t know about?

      • anon

        After moving here, I thought it was the craziest thing that people born and raised in DC liked the cowboys. Literally blew my mind! I couldn’t imagine someone born and raised in the burgh liking the ravens.

        Go Steelers!

        • dcd

          You can thank George Preston Marshall for that.

      • DaBurgh

        I don’t know why we really love it, but we just do. Maybe because it feels unique to us, given its topography, rich history and ethnic cultural mix. The fact that it keeps making “Best of” lists only confirms what we think.

        If you ever sit in PNC Park on a beautiful summer night and take in the “dahntahn” skyline, you’ll understand. And there’s no view like the one you get coming through the Ft. Pitt tunnel when you see The Point for the first time.

        • Still homesick

          I’m a Pittsburgher. Have lived here in DC (yes, in the city) for over 30 years, which is longer than I lived in Pittsburgh. Expect to die in DC. But Pittsburgh is still home, and my heart leaps when I see its incredible topography and the three rivers and the Point and that dramatic skyline, in a way that it doesn’t when I return to DC from travel. Can’t explain it, but Pittsburgh gets into your blood. Yinz never leave.

    • JoDa

      Speaking of pirogies, have you found any good (or even passable) ones around these parts? Being from a different rust-belt town with the same kind of thing (waves of immigrants kept parts of their culture, and the food was a big part of that), the food is the one thing I miss. My hometown has been hit much harder and I don’t think will find its footing again any time soon, so I don’t feel any pride going to visit (just sadness), but, boy, I eat like it’s going out of style and come back tipping the scales after every holiday, and not so much from the main-event holiday meal! Maybe I’d pig out less if I could find some decent foods like that around here to indulge in *occasionally.* :)
      Also, Pittsburgh is really a lovely city and, despite not being from there, enjoy myself when I visit (I have friends in the area). Parts of my family lived in the Pittsburgh area before moving west following the steel and manufacturing booms, some for long enough that I speak decent Pittsburghese and even chuckle at the “Pittsburgh Dad” YouTube videos, seeing and hearing a little something I grew up with. Everything you said below is true, and it’s got this really cool blue collar vibe that is hard to describe but really refreshing. Sit in a bar watching people dressed in professional clothes slip into full-on Pittsburgese while swearing at the game and you start to get it. It’s just…unpretentious, is part of it…but there’s more than that. Probably partially because it’s like my hometown but not so sad. And, yeah, PNC is a beautiful park! I like DC and can handle myself here socially, professionally, etc., and don’t see myself going back to the rust-belt area (partially because there isn’t a lot of opportunity for my specific professional background in the area…if there was, I might somewhat consider it for the simple reason that the cost of living is *so* much lower…one of those Pittsburgher friends is a Realtor, and her listings make me WEEP), but I always enjoy myself in a *different* way in Pittsburgh. I get why you natives love it so much.

      • Blithe

        The Kielbasa Factory on Rockville Pike has a variety of pierogies. If you’re willing to go even farther, Sophia’s — in the Broadway Market in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood should either have good ones or be able to tell you where to get them. There are probably a few churches in Baltimore that make them for fund raisers. Your descriptions of Pittsburgh remind me a LOT of Baltimore.

        • JoDa

          Haha…”church fundraisers” are how most food is consumed in my hometown, I believe. You go to Mount Carmel for sausages and cavatelli (Wednesdays) and St. Stanislaus (Fridays) for pirogies and paczki and, well, you get the picture. While Baltimore and Rockville are a bit of a trip for me (Rockville being a trip simply because I live on the east side of the red line, and both because I lack a car), I’ll be sure to check those out as opportunity presents.
          I plan on spending a weekend in Baltimore this spring (event that allows me to get a hotel and have some time to peek around…I’ve been before, but only for baseball, up to Camden and back immediately). Maybe it will be like a little slice of home, in some ways. Because “home” had so many hardships, it’s not fond memories in all ways, but, like I said, I do miss some of it.

  • TX2DC

    I’ve been here going on 13 years now. I began to consider myself a Washingtonian after year 10. At 10 years you’ve been around long enough to see the city transform and neighborhoods change, thus giving you a longer-term perspective on things.
    I’ll always love DC but I am increasingly looking at what is next for me. It’s been a good run but I’m feeling like I have seen pretty much all there is to see/experience here.

    • TX2DC

      Also, I consider myself an “honorary” Washingtonian. Will always be Texan first!

  • Truxton Thomas

    D.C. is home, but I’m “from Missouri” and don’t consider myself a Washingtonian. I’ve been in the area for eight years and in D.C. proper for six. I got married, bought a home, and had a kid, but I feel like there is so much about the city I don’t know. We try to visit new neighborhoods on the weekends, but there is still a lot of ground to cover. Going back to Missouri has never been a consideration, though I’ll always root for the Cardinals and Mizzou, even if my son grows up backing the local teams. We’re looking at DCPS or charter schools—no plans for the ‘burbs.

  • Lisa

    Really great, thoughtful comments.

    • Anonymous

      I was thinking the same thing. I usually skip comments but I have enjoyed reading these. I am not from DC and I often wonder how other people ended up here.

  • wdc

    It’s twofold: Less than 5 years just seems a little silly. But you must intend to stay here. People who have been here 30 years and still plan to go “back home” someday aren’t Washingtonians.
    Me, I’ve been here more than 10 years, own a house, have kids born in a DC hospital and enrolled in DC schools, and have no plans to leave, ever. Guess I should go get me a DC flag tattoo. I don’t identify with any other place, so by default, if nothing else.

    • eggs

      This is a really good point. The “planning to stay here” I think is critical.

  • Anon

    Almost 16 years a District rez. Washington seems so transitory and constantly changing, with so many contrasts between neighborhoods and suburbs, I think it’s too slippery to identify as a Washingtonian.

  • Quotia Zelda

    I don’t. The DC area is where I am because of my job. I like living here well enough, but if I won the Powerball I would be gone tomorrow. Not that I mind DC, but New Orleans will always be my place and I am a little sad pretty much every day that I don’t live there any more.

    • Anon

      Powerball winnings could buy a nice palace on Audubon Park! :) Lived in NOLA several years. Miss it quite a bit as well.

    • What you’d do with Powerball winnings might be a good gauge of whether you consider yourself a Washingtonian. If I won, I’d stay here and buy a swanky penthouse and/or a nice house in Crestwood/16th St Heights (just not near Bowser).

      • wdc

        I’d get one of those california modern houses in Rock Creek Park!

      • Kukki Bakemono

        +1. When I was a teenager, I would hang out in Boston all the time and fell in love with the brownstones in Beacon Hill. After I moved to DC and I first saw the rowhouses, I fell in love with one in particular on 2nd St NE that reminded me of those brownstones and always said if I won the lottery, I’d buy it in a heartbeat and live there forever and ever.

  • LedroitTigah

    Like many folks here, I moved away from the state where I was raised more than a dozen years ago, and have been a bit of a gypsy ever since. I recently moved to DC (6 mos ago!) and bought a house (within the first 6 weeks of being here – yep, it was a little intense). I now pay property taxes here and utilities, and its shifted my mindset – it now feels like home (for the first time for me in a very very long time).

    I do imagine myself retiring on the west coast to be closer to family, but that’s a long way off. For now, Im a Washingtonian, and really happy to finally be putting down roots.

  • jd

    Never. I live in DC but am from Maryland and will always be a Marylander I’ve been doing activities in DC since i was a kid in the 80’s and like this city but I will never claim it. MD gets a lot of hate on this site but I am proud to be 5 generations deep. This might sound bad but I live in DC because I like the money and women here (amongst other things like the art, music, bars, etc..).

    • eggs

      I love your honesty!! The money and women made me laugh out loud.

  • Paul

    Home is were you heart is and my heart will always be for Maryland, more specifically Baltimore.

  • AJSE

    I didn’t have a plan for how long I would stay in DC, but I started considering myself a Washingtonian when I started referring to DC as “home” when I traveled, which would have been about 2 years in. I went to Ireland in July 2014 and, when asked where I’m from, I’d say DC.

    • AJSE

      I should add that I’ve recently found myself in the mindset that I will be in DC for life, which is pretty exciting! I’m glad to feel so settled and content in “my place.”

      • eggs

        That’s awesome! What a great, contented feeling.

  • navyard

    I’ve lived in the area for 13 years and in DC proper for 4 years now. I plan to live here the rest of my life. I don’t consider myself a Washingtonian yet. There is so much history everywhere, and I don’t feel like I fit into much of it yet. I am somewhat active in my community. Living here is hte first time I ever cared about local politics, because it matters so much more here than anywhere else I’ve ever lived and I feel like I make a difference here.
    When people ask me where I’m from, I usually say “the East Coast” because I’ve moved around a few times and never one place more than the others.

  • FtLincolnLove

    I grew up in Germantown, MD, and minus college and about 6 months of living in Germantown after graduation, have been living in DC for over 5 years. I’m native to this area, and now am comfortable saying I am a Washingtonian given the amount of time I’ve lived in the city, the fact that I identify more with DC than MD, and feel rooted in the city. I’ve been a Redskins fan for 24 years and am a DC sports fan for life. I love this city to my core. Every day I fall in love with DC more and more, and can never imagine leaving. DC is home.

  • pokerface

    Born at Georgetown in ’67, lived in DC proper until elementary school and then family moved across Key Bridge to North Arlington. Mother still in childhood home there and I’ve bounced between living in Ballston, Cap Hill and U st my adult life. (I went to college at GW while living at home) I consider myself a Washingtonian. Growing up, to people outside the area we always said we were from DC and family outside the area always referred to us as their family in DC. If I used “Virginia” in a response from where I was people assumed Richmond, Charlottesville or Va. Beach. And Yes I have lived in the same 5 mile radius all 48 years of my life. I love DC and that’s why I never left. And boy have I seen so much change! I road metro on first day of service, I played on streets where 66 now runs inside the beltway, I hung out in Parkington (now Ballston) and there wasn’t much to Rosslyn except Arlington Towers (now River Place) and the Key Bridge Marriott. Clarendon was a ghost town and Courthouse a shit hole. We never ventured into South Arlington as that was considered the other side of the tracks. And as white kids, we never ventured further into DC than Georgetown (drinking age 18) OR the mall via the Orange line. Yup…. I’ve seen a lot of change living in DC my whole life. :) #memorylane

    • eggs

      This was such a great read, thanks for sharing!!

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      My uncle talks about how Clarendon used to be a dirt road and how they’d go to Georgetown to buy beer!

    • Kukki Bakemono

      See, this is why I’m glad I finally found a place I call home. Like I said in my previous comment, I’ve moved around a lot in my life and was always envious of people who had deep roots in a certain city like you do. I’m sick of moving and have always wanted to identify with a city and feel proud of where I’m from and I’m proud to say I’m from DC.

  • timmyp

    I think having a decent knowledge of many of the different areas of DC should play in to it. If someone tells you they live in say Petworth or Bloomingdale at this point and you don’t know where or even what that is then I’d say you should not consider yourself “from DC”.
    There area other factors obviously but if you can’t pass that sniff test then…

    • v

      no way. when i first moved back, i had NO IDEA what or where Bloomingdale was… I mean, I could get to Bloomingdale’s, but what neighborhood??? I knew Bloomingdale as that stretch from downtown to uptown on North Cap where you just drove real fast… that’s it. When I was growing up, it was the biggest open air drug market in the country and NO ONE was referring to North of Massachusetts as NOMA. It was, “the area near the post office that stays open all night”. I knew where Barry Farms were and River Terrace, Woodley Park and Shepherd Park, but…. then again, i was 17 when I left and basically knew how to get to school and the mall. and I mean Montgomery Mall.

      • stacksp

        The whole and I will say new or recent phenomenon of identifying every single neighborhood by name is not a DC thing at all. Outside of Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and a few other spots, most places were identified by the most notable landmark as you stated. No one ever used the term Bloomingdale. It was North Capitol or Lincoln road or some other distinctive identifier like a housing project, metro station etc… Kennedy st was never called “Petworth” it was just Kennedy St etc…Anything past Missouri Ave was called Uptown outside of Takoma…

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    As others have said I think it’s a frame of mind. I was born and raised in the Virginia suburbs, but didn’t consider myself “from DC.” Although I do have some fond memories of Caps and Wizards games with my dad and neighbors. I also remember thinking “Marion Barry” was two people because I always heard my parents talking about “Mary ‘n Barry” and always wondered who those people were when I was a kid! Haha.

    Then when we bought a house in DC I though ah yes, DC is definitely home and I’ll be here forever, but life happens and my wife got a great opportunity in her home city of Toronto. I still think of DC as home and right now I think we’ll move back in a few years, but who knows. My dad and I were talking the other day and of course my parents didn’t want me to move up here. He said “I vote for you guys to move back to DC.” Maybe it’s because we still own a house there, but if it were my sisters he would say he wants them to move back to Virginia.

  • v

    this conversation should be interesting #bornwashingtonian

  • rachel

    I have lived in DC for a little over 10 years, plus one summer during college – mostly lived in Columbia Heights, but also U Street, and very brief stays in Glover Park and Bloomingdale. Flirted with the idea of moving to the west coast in 2007, but chickened out and I’m still here. Now with my job & partner’s job situation it would be impossible for us to move any time soon, although I could imagine a scenario where we moved to Baltimore sometime in the distant future (like another 10 years down the road). In any case, I love DC and definitely call DC home, although I’m not sure I would call myself a “Washingtonian.”

  • d

    Going on year 12. I picked over 5 years, but really it is a frame of mind. It’s just that unless you were extremely rootless prior to moving here, I think it’s nearly impossible to be in that frame of mind until you’ve been here at least 5 years. For all its faults, I do love DC. I still get that home-sweet-home feeling every time I come back from a trip. The monuments on the ride from DCA trigger it even though I otherwise give little thought to the monumental/museum/federal side of DC. After 12 years here, I’d definitely be open to new experiences in a new place, but love my job, friends, and neighborhood so I’m in no rush to leave.

  • anon anon

    Been here nearly 20 years. Born here. In DC. But spent most of childhood (and some young adulthood) elsewhere.

    I’m definitely more at home than many people I know in DC, but I don’t have those child hood connections that people who spent all their formative years here have.

    So, no, I’m not a Washingtonian.

  • Q

    I knew I was well on my way when, my directions to a tourists were more right than wrong. Then, last year–my 17th year in the city–I was unemployed and desperately looking for a job, but I barely even considered moving to any other city and even recoiled at the idea of taking a job in Maryland or Virginia.

    • anon

      Maybe that’s why DC still doesn’t feel like home to me. The other 3 cities I’ve lived in as an adult, I wanted to move there – for school (twice) and to NYC (just because). I ended up in DC when on a job search where I had to find something, and my skills were rare in DC, so I got interviews. Came for the job – was happy to get it after a long search, and came willing and open to making DC my permanent home, as I had other cities. Job didn’t last all that long, stayed here anyway rather than moving right out again, figuring life brought me to DC for a reason, and I had barely yet scratched the surface of the place. DC having a very different jobs economy, maybe staying here would take my work and life in different directions. In hindsight, that was a mistake, should have left when I left the job. Despite my desire to do work for the public good, I find the company-town atmosphere (everybody working for the gov’ment) atmosphere here really stifling and complacent. Finding work has been hard, even though I have the education and the experience. People have not been helpful. I keep finding out that I make friends with totally self-obsessed people with not a shred of empathy (the lack of empathy a sign of narcissism, and often dismayingly in evidence in comments on this blog). The people I have met here don’t seem to value friendship in their lives at all. Those people seem to do very well here. I may end up here for the rest of my working life – it is difficult to get a job not where you live because everybody assumes you will need to be relocated on the employer’s dime – but I think I should plan to get out when I can to someplace else. I find that DC is an easy and very pleasant place to live in many, many ways, but I find real connections lacking – I haven’t found a niche with people I like and respect, who genuinely feel like good friends, rather than mere activity buddies because they can’t go to a movie alone. I miss real conversation – about the movie we’ve seen, about life, about anything real, the stuff that makes for real relationships. I think it is hard to establish connections in a place you move to after a certain age, when you are not young anymore. Perhaps the lack of this place feeling like home is a combination of unique peculiarities of DC culture as a capital city, without other job sectors, and my current stage of life.

      • Q

        I’m sorry–nothing sucks as much as living in a place where you feel trapped and don’t have any support system to lean on. However, saying that DC folks, more than folks in other cities, “don’t value friendship in their lives at all” is a pretty bleak–and inaccurate–perspective that is hurting your cause a lot more than it’s helping it. No population is a monolith, even if it seems that way, and if what you’re doing to try to make friends isn’t working, you’ve got to try something different. I think that DC and its people are awesome, and I’m sorry you haven’t been able to find that too.

      • Paul


        I know exactly what you mean, and I completely agree. I find people here only want to make friendship/relationship connections if it’s to their benefit. Lots of hidden motives.

      • Blithe

        I’m wondering if those who find it difficult to establish genuine connections with people in Washington are, for the most part, transients who are reaching out to other transients and wondering why the relationships feel, well, transient. That is, if people who are coming to Washington focused on career goals — and eventually leaving, are reaching out primarily or exclusively to others who are coming to Washington focused on career goals — and eventually leaving. I’ve met many people who seem to treat living in Washington (as well as cities like NYC) as sort of a college dorm, and tend to stay in social circles that support that type of lifestyle and the expectations that can go along with that — which might tend to be antithetical to developing deeper relationships.
        – I also wonder if there is an affluence/individualistic component as well. I have a sense that people with fewer personal resources tend to cultivate relationships in which resources can be shared, building both trust and options. I haven’t really thought this through though, but my sense of this is consistent with my experiences living in several East Coast cities.

        • Blithe

          tldr version: My question, I think, is whether those of you who have found DC a difficult place to develop deeper relationships are looking to people who already have established deep relationships with friends, family, communities, interest groups, etc. in the city, or if you have been mostly looking to people who haven’t already established these types of relationships — and who may be more available and open to new relationships, but possibly not as open to building deeper ones.

  • Anna

    I’ve jokingly considered myself a true DC’er after being held up by Obama’s motorcade and being exposed to on the metro. That was maybe 2 years in.

  • AMDCer

    Interesting comments here, and so many different experiences. Like others, I grew up in the area (MD), but we did a lot in the city, including coming in to church every Sunday. I’ve now lived in DC for 23 years, so I’ll tell people I’m from DC, but I will always have state pride for Maryland, too (Go Terps!! Fear the Turtle! and yes, we do have the best state flag). I also have deep DC roots since my father and grand/great grands on both sides of my family were born or lived (and are buried) in DC.

    • DaBurgh

      This. It’s funny how having a bunch of ancestors buried somewhere makes you feel tied to that place, but it does!

  • bruno

    I felt like a Washingtonian when I found I started to defend the city against critics, in a way that felt like I was a native. Hard to describe. And that took a while to evolve. Also, I am always happy to come back to Washington — it now feels like home.

  • Pixie

    I love DC and have lived here for five years, the longest I’ve lived in one place as an adult. When I travel I tell people I’m from DC. But New York will always be my place. It’s where I was born and raised, where my parents were born and raised, and where my grandparents were born and raised. My entire family still lives there. I have no plans to move back (I enjoy having a buffer zone) and the more time I spend in DC the more it feels like home, but I would not claim to be a Washingtonian.

  • ke

    I think I became a Washingtonian when we bought our home in the District, although we had lived in close-in Bethesda and Silver Spring for almost 10 years prior. From that point on, I felt a connection to and interest in the community and local affairs that I hadn’t felt as a Maryland renter. That was also the point when I knew we definitely plan to stay here for a long time. Just recently, I was flying back from a trip, and as we were swooping over the Potomac on that awesome approach into National, I looked out onto the city and thought, “Ahhh, home!”

  • DC_Chica

    I never thought about it before, but I associate the term “Washingtonian” with the magazine, which covers DC, MD, and VA. That’s probably why I think of it as an umbrella term for people who live in the city and also in surrounding suburbs. I tell people I’m “from Maryland” (grew up there, from age 8 to 21) but I “live in DC” (I’ve had a DC address for over 10 years). It is probably a frame of mind thing, but I chose the 10+ years option because anyone who lives here that long is doing it by choice (or out of inertia) and they’re not just here to work at a job that they plan on leaving in a few years.

  • e

    One indicator might be when you read Popville religiously even though you’ve been gone from DC for more than 2 years … The sight of the monuments still gives me a tingly feeling when I come back for a visit.


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