Life here isn’t all about eating Potbelly sandwiches, drinking malts and reading the Washington Post while some dude does slow jam covers of pop songs in the corner on a guitar. Unfortunately. Because let me tell you, the Washington Post is a much easier read compared to some of the dense academic theory I’ve been swimming in lately.
However, for a quick break, here’s five fast little tidbits of information that I’m pretty sure most non-Americans wouldn’t know about Washington DC, the capital city of what is allegedly the greatest and most powerful nation in the world.
1. More than one in four children in the District of Columbia live in poverty, 2009 figures show. While stats released this week show that a staggering 44 million Americans live below the poverty line, in the District, poverty sits at 17 percent of the population, which is also pretty damn high. You wouldn’t think poverty would be such a huge issue here, considering this city is home to some of the most powerful people on the planet and arguably a big chunk of some of the better paid, but don’t even think that DC as a city is just about the West Wing and the Capitol and everything tangled up with all of that.
2. Because of its notoriously super high crime rates, DC has a night curfew for young people, which means that during the hours of 10pm – 6am, no persons 16 years or younger are allowed on the streets, unless they are with their parent or guardian or on an organized activity (i.e. church youth group). It started in 2006… in July that year, there were 16 murders in one month alone. Crazy.
3. Washington, as a planned city, has a layout that is (theoretically) supposed to ensure that you know where you are at any time. The streets are numbered, lettered and go up in alphabetical and numerical order, then increase in length to two syllables, then to three and so on. The grid works well downtown, but the further you stray from the center, the more confusing it can become. For more detail, try and make sense of this Wikipedia article.
4. There are no skyscrapers in Washington DC (maybe if tall buildings were allowed, it would help lower the damn rents!). There’s lots of different theories out there about why that is the case. Some say it is because they didn’t want buildings to be taller than the Capitol and its beautiful dome. Some say its because of a fire law… firefighters argued they didn’t have long enough ladders to rescue people from tall buildings. Here’s an interesting article about the pros and cons of it over at the WaPo.
5. Starbucks really is everywhere. There’s more than 50 Starbucks in the downtown DC area alone. But besides that, I think, in terms of queues, Chipotle Mexican is probably the next most popular food chain store in the capital, followed by Five Guys. Oh, and there are CVS everywhere too.
Ok, that last one was a bit lame, but I was running out of facts to make it five.