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How not to offend Washingtonians

Jenna Johnson

Today's guest blogger is Beatrice Peterson, a Washington native and a junior at Trinity University here in D.C.

The culture of an area isn't something that is learned in a short period of time -- and certainly not during the few months interns spend in Washington. In some cases, it takes people years to understand seemingly simple things that drive Washingtonians crazy.

Here are three things to remember on the path to knowing "how not to offend a Washingtonian."

Beatrice Peterson.jpgStand right, walk left
"Escalefters" are people who stand on the left side instead of the right side of an escalator, preventing people from passing them. Escalefters are one of a kind. And irritating. And they cause the tardiness of many busy Washingtonians.

Escalefters are usually ignorant to the confusion that they cause, and often do not think that the loud "excuse me," "move", or "I'm coming though" (accompanied sometimes with profanity that would make a sailor blush) is in response to anything they are doing wrong.

Often crowds of tourists commit the crime of standing on the left. So do interns with the red congressional badges who insist that they are so important that they can defy the unwritten rules of the Metro and stand in the center.

I was told by one of these Red Badges that because he wasn't from Washington and was working in Senator XYZ's office, it was okay for him to stand in the middle of the escalator. This red badge fellow took the opportunity to flash his red identification card, and tell me and many other people at the popular metro station that he would be complaining to the head of Metro and advising them that they need to make an announcement that people could walk and stand on either side of the escalators. And all that I said was, simply, "Excuse me, sir."

North vs. South
Neighborhood barbecues and block parties, which are synonymous with the D.C. summers, almost always have some kind of conversations about the strategic location of D.C. I have seen many relatives or friends (or friends of friends) make comments about the location of Washington D.C. -- comments that almost always lead to some sort of heated debate.

Although we are south of the Mason-Dixon Line, should we be considered the South? Should we be considered northern on the fact that we are north of Virginia?

Many feel that this conversation is some sort of conspiracy by someone (never is that person identified in the conversations I've had) to divert attention to the subject of the District of Columbia becoming a state. That is a sensitive subject for many Washingtonians and is best left untouched.

A lot of my friends and I prefer to be called a Mid-Atlantic state. For me D.C. has a touch of both the north and the south, a unique aspect that makes the city so special.

Don't talk about our Go-go in a bad way
Go-go personifies a subsection Washington's culture and is unique to the region. Go-go is an outlet for musicians to display the politics of the nation's capitol. And it allows listeners to take time and escape in the music, the dancing and emotion of the music. One night in Gallery Place after the Caps lost to the NY Rangers, I learned this lesson first hand.

That night, as a joke, a friend and I pretended to be NY Rangers fans and native New Yorkers, just to observe what a Washingtonian would say to us about the strengths of the city. After arguing with several people who couldn't develop an argument following the loss, my friend decided to irritate a group of rowdy, rude and presumably drunk Caps fans on Metro.

The Caps fans began to tell us everything about D.C. that was better than NYC: The clean Metro, the people and even D.C.'s go-go. What intrigued me was that this handful of men could only name two go-go groups, but they were still very passionate about the music. They even proceeded to try to "beat their feet" and sang "Welcome to D.C."

The group had no clue that my friend and I were both born here and have lived in the area our entire lives. We were enamored with their passion.


Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all D.C. interns. So, make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  |  July 30, 2010; 3:12 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Interns  | Tags: Internships, Trinity  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Interns tweet along as summer winds down
Next: 21 cliched D.C. attractions you must visit

Comments

Calling National Airport "Reagan" is sacrilege, too.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | August 2, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

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