In my six years in the greater Washington area, I’ve come across many interns. Some of them are very talented and will go on to do great things and be successful. Others are worth the minimum wage for interning, $0 an hour and actually cause more harm than benefit.
While I never interned anywhere, I’ve picked up some (not so) helpful “tips” along the way and figured I’d share them with you.
1.) All the best happy hours are in Anacostia.
Seriously, nobody goes out in Adam’s Morgan, Capitol Hill, or DuPont except tourists. You don’t want to mingle with them. Go to Anacostia and revel in the good atmosphere, historic neighborhoods, and amazing drink specials. Order anything with Mumbo sauce.
2.) Use the bus.
Nobody takes the train except tourists and uber commuters. Washington’s bus system is extensive and will get you where you need to go in no time flat. Best of all, they’re cheap.
3.) If you have to take a train, use your ID Badge for Free Rides.
If you work for a federal agency, simply wave your ID badge to the station manager and walk through the gate on the side. You won’t need to pay. Do the same thing as you exit. (If you’re at an NGO, business, or non-profit, wave your student ID.) If you see the doors closing, run like the wind because metro doors operate like elevator doors. Stick your arm, leg, or bag in there and they’ll pop open and you’re all set. Here, we also do not hold elevator doors since people constantly do this. If somebody says “hold the elevator” — don’t.
4.) Stand left, walk right.
This town has a lot of escalators. In Washington, we stand on the left and walk on the right. If you see anyone breaking this rule, kindly inform them “Stand left, walk right.”
5.) Flag Day is an official federal holiday in the District.
None of your bosses will tell you this, as it’s a time-honored Washington prank. Nobody goes to work and all the poor interns show up to locked buildings. Don’t fall for this. Stay home.
6.) Don’t see the fireworks.
People wait for hours for a four minute fireworks show. Federal law limits the show’s length to four minutes because of airspace regulations and also because it would harm the District’s Bald Eagle population. Stay home with friends, and tune into WETA or any local PBS station to watch the fireworks.
7.) The monuments are crowded at night.
Nobody sees the monuments during the day, because they all go at night. You should plan on going any weekend day in June, July, or August between the hours of 12 and 3pm. Nobody will be there and you can recreate the scene from Wedding Crashers at the Lincoln Monument and enjoy some champagne looking out at the empty reflecting pool. On really hot days, people bring pool toys and floaties to hang out in in the reflecting pool (free!).
8.) Always bring a jacket.
Weather varies wildly during the day and metro’s air conditioning is sporadic. Bring a fleece and wear it to work on the train. You won’t be sorry.
9.) Jumping up and down is the best way to hail a cab.
New cab regulations have established an official call sign for hailing cabs in the district. Since Washington is a friendly town where people often wave to each other, persons wishing to hail a cab should jump and down as if they’re doing jumping jacks and the nearest vacant cab must stop and pick them up. If they don’t pick you up, get their cab association name and number and report them to the nearest law enforcement. Also, ask about student intern discounts.
10.) The Smithsonian Museums Are Free on Fridays Between 5-7 — The Newseum is free After Five.
One great perk about being here for a few months is that there are enough Fridays to see every museum for free. Sadly, good museums cost, but lucky for you they’re open for free on Fridays between 5pm and 7pm. The Newseum costs every day, but is free after five. Consider taking the silver line train to Dulles to see the Udvar Hazy center. It has a space shuttle!
11.) Introduce yourself to every famous person you see.
You will see a lot of famous people walking around, say hello! Washington is friendly. Interrupt them and insist on a picture. They’ll be happy to oblige. Even if they’re on the phone.
12.) Street Sense has the best “going out guide” in town.
Nobody reads the Post or the Times for going out and weekend specials. The real deal can be found on the street’s corners where vendors sell Street Sense. If you really want to know what to do this weekend, buy a Street Sense. It’s worth the $2 and goes to a good cause.
13.) Thank police & law enforcement for their service.
D.C. is a town that respects the men and women in blue who keep us safe. Thank them every time you see them, and make it heart felt. Even if they’re in an unmarked car with D.C. tags that don’t say “Taxation Without Representation.” Look for the tinted windows, hidden flashers, and lots of antennas.
14.) Drinking is legal in public, and D.C. has no federal drinking age.
Since D.C. is a district and not a state, there are no drinking laws here since states — not the feds — set drinking laws. It’s just like London.
15.) Embassies are open to the public.
Most have cafeterias that highlight their native foods. But be careful, some embassies only accept their own currency or credit cards. Iran has an amazing lunch special.
16.) Heard of traffic cameras? Washington has pedestrian cameras.
If you walk when the sign says “Don’t Walk” you’ll get busted by the FBI facial recognition software in no time and a $275 ticket will be mailed to your home. Obey the law.
17.) Camping is legal outside of the White House.
Back in the day some hippies bent on stopping the progress of nuclear weapons started camping outside of the White House. Camping is perfectly kosher as long as they’re there. If you see the tent, feel free to plop down next to them and make it a weekend.
18.) The New Republic and Daily Caller have free happy hours every day after 5pm.
Seriously. They have bars in their offices and you should go meet Tucker Carlson or Chris Hughes. Make sure you pitch them a story when you’re there, as this is the only way they’ll accept freelance submissions.
Disclaimer: Follow these (not so) helpful “tips” at your own peril and do your own research before attempting to complete any of these tasks.