Bringing west coast charm to D.C.

Two summers ago, I interned in the D.C. area. Although I’d spent a lot of time on the east coast, I’d never lived there before, so I couldn’t understand why my Arizona and California classmates dubbed easterners as “rude.”

But, after completing my internship, I came to the conclusion that eastern ways were not as friendly as I was used to.

That was two years ago, and my own mindset has changed.
Instead of accusing city folk of being soulless bureaucrats, I’ve chosen to bring my western roots to D.C.

I’d like to think that Californians are generally happy, spirited people. Every time I entered a California restaurant, coffee shop, boutique, or grocery store, I recall having pleasant conversations with people in line, employees, and various passersby. Out west, it seemed as if everyone was willing to talk or laugh with a perfect stranger.

I don’t see this as much in D.C., but I still maintain my California persona, of which the D.C. population has responded well to.
The metro can be a chaotic, intimidating place, especially during rush hour, when there’s barely enough room to stand. More often than not, everyone is forced to huddle together, taking in each other’s cologne, perfume, Ax deodorant, and, in some unfortunate circumstances, rancid breath.

In the days immediately following my move, I took the metro to the Columbia Heights Target, where I purchased various bed and bath necessities.

One afternoon, I bought my mattress pad, bed sheets, and comforter. I left the store with three huge plastic Target bags and headed to the metrorail station.

It’s typically not a good idea to bring loads of stuff onto the metro. Not only does it make you more likely to lose something or get pick pocketed, but you’re definitely going to annoying fellow riders because you’ll take up a considerably large amount of space.

But, if you enter the train with a smile on your face and you repeat, “excuse me, pardon me, thank you,” as you squeeze past the other 70 passengers, you’re less likely to get yelled at or scolded.

It truly pays to be nice and wear a grin 24/7. Wherever I went that day, people held doors for me and asked if I needed any help carrying my new belongings. I doubt anyone would’ve offered the same type of candor had I not made the extra effort to be courteous, aware of my surroundings, and considerate of everybody around.

A few nights ago, I made a stop to Haagen Daaz, which was packed. I studied the customer-cashier interaction and noticed that there was no exchange of “hello, how are you?” or “thank you, have a good night” on the customers’ part.

So, when it was my turn to pay for my regular sized cup of Cookie Dough, I greeted the cashier, asked how his day had been, and thanked him for my ice cream.

“I only charged you for a kid’s cup,” the employee said, smiling.
So, I disagree with the argument that easterners are miserable individuals. Everyone I’ve met admires and appreciates a good attitude.

What you can take away from my blog entry is this: Very few people will go out of their way to be exceptionally kind, but if you’re in a cheerful mood and make an effort to be warm, you’re going to rub off on others.

At the same time, you have to keep up with all the city hustle. If you’re slow to buy your metro fare card or stand on the wrong side of the metro escalator, someone is going to get very upset.
I found a nice yoga studio that is only a few metro stops away from my residence.

After tonight, I feel as if this particular D.C. yoga class was much more high energy and fast paced than what I’m used to. In my Arizona class, the instructor dimmed the lights, played slow music, and repeatedly told the class, “This is not a competition. I’m not here to correct your positions unless you look like you’re going to topple over.” The same can be said about my California yoga sessions, which were also taught by an older man.

Tonight, I was caught off guard by the background music, which was a Coldplay album. The lights were also on, a completely new concept to me. I felt like the course was more geared towards working out than meditating, but I’m actually okay with that right now. In the last twenty minutes, we all had time to observe our breath, heartbeat, and thoughts.

The yoga teacher spent the majority of the lesson walking around and fixing everyone’s postures.

At one point, when we were all laying down doing the “child’s position,” she shifted my legs and started massaging my neck for about fifteen seconds. That’s definitely never happened to me before, but there’s a first time for everything, right?! I enjoyed the class nonetheless.

When I have some time, I’ll return for another session. Unfortunately, yoga is much more expensive in the D.C. area than in Arizona and California, but I’m sure there’s a higher demand for yoga in D.C., where the stress level tends to be higher.

Tomorrow evening, I’m going to a sorority networking event with my roommate, a Chi Omega alumnus. It never hurts to meet new people, especially when you’re out of college and your social network shrinks.

I miss my college friends all the time. I wish I could be there for them as they go into the workforce, start their graduate programs, or begin another year at the University of Arizona. My only hope is that we don’t lose touch. Judging by the way I incessantly text message and email my friends, this won’t happen, at least not on my end.

But, my parents were definitely right when they told me that college friends are unbeatable. Too bad we all had to scatter.

Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

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10 thoughts on “Bringing west coast charm to D.C.

  1. With no offense meant – but plenty of annoyance – mindsets like this are exactly why so many of the rest of us roll our eyes at Californians. Yes, we’re nice, too, & yes, our cities are nice, & – GASP! – California isn’t the center of the universe.

    perhaps you’ll feel that this comment is antithetical to your newfound idea of the rest of the country sometimes being as nice as your fellow West Coasties, but I don’t mean it that way. I just mean… come on, of course we’re nice. Nice people are everywhere, & so are mean people. But only in Californians do I notice that “Why can’t everyone else be more like us?!” mentality.

    • I agree that eastern cities are nice, but I didn’t create the reputation that easterners have. I’m merely bringing attention to a common stereotype.

      Others would argue that Californians are fake in their sincerity, and I won’t dispute this. In a perfect world, everyone would be completely friendly all the time, but this doesn’t happen everywhere, especially not in big cities.

      I would have to disagree with your claim that “nice people are everywhere.”

  2. Really? Where have you been where there is not a SINGLE nice person? Surely that state would’ve been booted from the union by now.

    Oof. Fine. I’ll quit being argumentative. This post annoys me too much for me to think about it much more.

    • SS,

      There are nice people everywhere, but you can’t deny that certain places in the world (I’m not just referring to the east anymore) tend to bring out the worst in people. Weather problems, high unemployment, and crime rate can contribute to a general attitude of hostility in specific areas.

      I never said that Californians are perfect. I’ve met a lot of fake, insincere people that come from California, so even I know that politeness doesn’t always amount to much. I just think that making the extra effort to be positive and friendly can bring out the good in others, even if they’re in a hurry or stressed out.

  3. What a coincidence- I moved out here from California about two years ago, too! While I miss NorCal, I have completely fallen in love with D.C. At first, I found the Metro a little intense, but over time I have realized that, while life certainly goes at a faster pace in the District than in CA, there are plenty of great and kind people to get to know. I hope you enjoy your time here!

    • Hi Sarah,

      I’m glad to meet another NorCal transplant! I feel as if we are few and far between in the DC area. I really enjoy living here and have found that a good attitude definitely makes stressful, humid days much easier to handle. Thanks for the nice message and Twitter follow!

  4. This is an interesting post. I recently relocated to the D.C. area from Florida. However, I would have to suggest that people in the urban areas of the southeast, namely Miami and Tampa (where I previously resided) are even more abrupt with others than they are here in D.C.

    Before moving to Tampa, I lived in the most friendly of places, North Dakota. In that alternate reality, people even waved when passing in their vehicles. “Anger” is a term that has yet to enter the typical North Dakota lexicon. When visiting Chicago, I experienced much the same; pub patrons were more talkative than in Tampa, tabs were shared, and people were much less “into themselves” than I had grown accustom to experiencing during college in Tampa.

    So, with your post’s encouragement, I am going to bring the warmth I was given while in the Midwest to this area. We can consider it one big social experiment for the greater good!

    Thanks.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thank God someone else shares my opinion on this issue! I agree about Florida as well. A good friend of mine once wrote a column about Florida lacking identity and personality. This could explain why some of the residents come across as abrupt and cold.

      Everyone I’ve met that hails from the Midwest has been nice, friendly, talkative, and helpful.

      Thanks for taking my post in a positive way, and I wish you good luck as you bring your North Dakotan warmth to the D.C. area.

      • A comment I posted on another blog noted something worth mentioning here since you spoke of Florida’s lack of personality. One of my biggest complaints about Tampa is its lack of “hole-in-the-wall” type of places. I am pretty serious when I suggest that nearly every dining option, for example, is something along the lines of Outback, Carrabbas, or Applebees.

        The urban areas of Florida have become, in my opinion, big corporate manipulations of what they once were. Oh well, happy to be here :)

  5. Chain restaurants have the advantage of predictability, yet they don’t have the character that most people would like to see in restaurants. My hope is that Florida can gain some spirit and culture.

    Sometimes, I feel like DC doesn’t have as much of a culture as other cities (i.e. New York, Chicago, San Francisco), but I think this is due to the fact that most DC residents come from somewhere else.

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