For all those who say…wow working in DC must be SO cool! Well, honestly, it’s not as cool as you think. Living in the Nation’s Capital is not as glamorous as you think. It’s actually really hard and a tough culture to work here. The mentality of working on the East Coast is “Live for Work” versus “Work to Live and Enjoy.”
You deal with a million tourists, traffic, and the high cost of living. Also, the politics at work and stress can start taking a toll on you.
For all of you that watch Homeland, Scandal, House of Cards, or The Americans, it’s definitely not like that. After living here for a while and working in DC, I hear every misconception based on TV and even when I’m walking around the White House during lunch, I hear pretty entertaining comments.
1. Air Force One is not at the White House?!? One day at lunch, I got stuck in a giant crowd. I was kept looking around to see why they were standing there. They were taking selfies and looking to the sky and then I heard them say, “I’m Obama’s friend, we get to see Air Force One.” At that moment, I just could not break their hearts to say, Air Force One is not at the White House, it’s in a secure location and you’re going to see a few helicopters instead. Their faces were so sad when Air Force One did not appear.
2. The White House is not as big as you think. A few weeks ago, some of my friends came into town. The guys kept asking where this “White House” was and why they can’t see it. They thought it was going to be huge. I had to explain, it’s big, but not as big as the movies make it out to be because it’s in the center of the DC. Like NYC, there is not much land.
3. No you cannot meet the President. People think it’s so easy to meet the President. It’s not, you can’t just walk up to the White House and make an appointment.
4. Money is not printed in the Treasury. Everyone always asks to go to the Treasury. Wrong building, you need to go the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
5. People are not held for ransom as often as you think. Kidnappings don’t happen as often as you think and no it’s not like the movies. If you get kidnapped, unless you are a some senator’s daughter, there is no way the Government will pay to get you back nor do you have a dad in the CIA that has ninja moves to appear and save you.
6. There are no bomb threats every day.
7. Almost everyone has a clearance. In Utah, yes, not many have high level clearances, but here, literally 1 out of 3 people probably have some type of clearance. Government and contracting jobs keep DC alive.
8. Not everyone goes to Gala’s and political events. You don’t go to events every weekend. You are lucky if you know someone to get you in.
9. We all don’t wear suits. We dress like normal people to work.
10. Yes, DC is corrupt, but not THAT corrupt. There are scandals, but it’s neither as public nor crazy as the movies. Yes, it’s true that you don’t know who to trust and there may be a lot of things going on under the table, but it’s a handful that controls the corruption. Not EVERYONE that works for the Government is brainwashed or corrupt.
11. Every time they block the roads, it’s not the President. Tourists always stop when a diplomatic car goes by. People, it’s a diplomat, not Obama.
12. We don’t all live in DC. We all say DC, but most live in Virginia or Maryland.
13. Most people share apartments. The reporter in House of Cards lives in a 1 bedroom apartment in DC in the show…That is a rarity. It’s so expensive, that on a reporter’s salary, I don’t think so. For a studio apartment within 20 minutes of DC, it would be about $1300-$1500 for a tiny 400 Square Feet place called home, not including utilities and Internet.
14. Money does not grow from trees. When people hear you live in DC, they think you make A LOT of money. Life in DC is expensive. Everyone in the movies drives nice cars, lives in a nice house, and goes out all the time. Um….that is very hard to keep up that lifestyle. A small and older townhouse here is almost half a million dollars.
There are a few things that are very true though:
- #1 question: What do you do? Worst question ever.
- It is definitely about who you know in the city. This is a powerful city, your network is crucial to your success.
- The White House is extremely well protected. I’ve listened to people wonder if they can claim the fence. Nope, not unless you want to get hit by a sniper.
- Stay away from reporters. The biggest joke around my office is “Do you want to be on the front of the Washington Post?” We always have to be careful of saying anything when we are in public because one slip will end up on the front page.
- Everyone knows someone in Congress, running for the Senate, etc…
- You really don’t know your neighbors. Since everyone is so busy with their lives, it’s definitely not like Desperate House in Wisteria Lanes. Your neighbors could be spies and you never know