Talking politics over brunch on a Sunday at the hot spot ‘Le Diplomate’ could be considered an ultimate Washingtonian activity. Going on a run past the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Reflection Pool and not batting an eyelid while seeing all these attractions could be considered a Washingtonian activity. However the cold hard truth is that I don’t really know what a true ‘Washingtonian’ activity is. I have lived here for almost two months and have yet to meet a native ‘Washingtonian’. I have met many commuters coming from Virginia or Maryland, as well as people from other states and countries, but no one who was born and raised in the city. I have often pondered this and got my answer one day during class. Washington D.C. is primarily a commuter city with the population falling dramatically during weekends when many people don’t work. This has made my quest for authenticity that much harder.
Is an authentic DC experience sitting in traffic everyday? (As a large share of the working population of DC does) Or is it luxury of being able to walk home and not sit in a car for hours everyday? A true ‘Washingtonian’ experience is not as easy to find as I had hoped.
Dean MacCannell writes ‘It might not be so easy to penetrate the true inner workings of other individuals or societies.’ I completely agree with his thoughts as I can hardly find a person to questions about DC, let alone discover their true inner workings.
It’s also hard to know who an authentic person of the city really is. DC is such a diverse place that an authentic experience could be going to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. In some ways being aware of all the differences in DC makes me feel like I’ve come across one of the ‘back doors’ of DC. Knowing which areas to go to for the various cuisines and being able to recommend places and give directions makes me feel like I am starting to become a true ‘Washingtonian’.
Although I do feel more acquainted with DC I am not sure I truly believe that I will ever be a native Washingtonian or a native of any one city. A great thing about travelling aboard and being able to experience all these different culture and places means that you expand who you are as a person and really branch out. I believe that once you’ve lived in more than one city you are never truly just a ‘Londoner’ or just a ‘Washingtonian’. You are able to be a little bit of every place you’ve been too. Of course where you grew up and can relate the most too will most likely always be the biggest part of your identity but you cannot discount all the other places that now become part of who you are. You’ll always have the experience of living where you are currently studying aboard and I think that expands you identity to include these places.