Culture Shock from Coast to Coast

Okay, technically Montana isn’t on the coast (and really, neither is DC), but “coast to coast” sounded better than “Culture Shock from just west of the Rockies to the center of the Beltway”.  Still, both Missoula and Washington DC are definitely located on the same continent, and are part of the same country.  Somehow, though, I got more of a culture shock coming here than I did when I went up to Canada over New Year’s (although, Western Canada and Montana are . . . virtually the same).

I was expecting a change when I moved from a Montana town of 65,000 to the nation’s capital (holding a staggering 643,000 people (THAT’S A POPULATION DENSITY OF OVER 10,000 PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE)), but oh man.  Culture shock indeed.

During my first few weeks here, I’d been keeping a list of all the things about Washington DC that surprised me:

  • Escalators.  Escalators everywhere.
  • People use their car horns to be rude!  Also, there’s a lot of honking at night, which interrupts my Monday viewing of the Bachelor (we can’t have that).
  • The sidewalks are big enough for you to drive a car on (and sometimes people do).
  • Business professional does not consist of a nice pair of jeans and a button down shirt.
  • Really, I think there are more escalators in one Metro station than there are in the entirety of Montana.

I’d been to DC before, back in 2013 for Obama’s second inauguration.  But I’d only visited that time, and visiting in conjunction with hundreds of thousands of other people gave me a bit of a false view of this city.  Second time around, now that I’m living here, I’m starting to realize that, yes, the Metro is always crowded (unless you’re riding it at 1 pm – then it’s eerily empty), and yes, everything is overpriced (also – sales tax is the worst invention ever), and yes, there is far greater ethnic and racial diversity here than I’ve ever experienced before.  Somehow, though, it all works.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still adjusting to the city.  I’m still walking everywhere, because that seems preferable to cramming myself into a moving metal tube, and I still walk up the escalators even though I really don’t have to, and I still have to double check with the roommate every morning to see if my outfit is professional enough for the workplace (guys, I really miss wearing jeans to work), but I’m starting to expect the crowded streets and the 11 pm honk war outside my apartment and the fact that nothing here really costs a dollar.  DC is definitely different than Missoula, Montana, but just like the college town I came to love, it’s got its own, particular brand of weird.  A weird I can definitely get used to.

Except for escalators.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand the number of escalators.

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