What's expat life like in the US capital?
The capital of the United States of America – home to the White House, the US Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian Institution – is the traditional centre of American power and culture. Often depicted in films and television series, expats will be familiar with the grand buildings, strong political presence and patriotism associated with this capital district.
Washington, D.C. is not easily defined like other US states and cities. It is neither a state itself or within a state. D.C. stands for District of Columbia and is bordered by the states of Maryland and Virginia. The district was established by the American Constitution in 1790 to serve as the nation’s capital as a new city, named Washington after the USA’s first president, using land that belonged to its neighbouring states.
The actual city itself is therefore relatively small, which can be quite a surprise to British expats moving to the USA. The population is officially a little over 600,000 people. However, the Washington D.C. metropolitan area reaches into Maryland and Virginia, where many city workers reside in the suburbs and commute in daily. It’s estimated that the metropolitan population is closer to 6 million people.
Working in the capital
Washington D.C. has a rich national heritage, as well as a diverse international population. It is an attractive destination for American workers looking to develop their careers in the country’s capital, but it is also home to expatriates from around the world. Many workers in the city will have ties to the political infrastructure, given that the US Government is the largest employer in the city.
However, expatriates are more likely to work in foreign government agencies or consulates, international corporations, research facilities, educational establishments, banking and finance, or healthcare. Most countries around the world are represented in the city in some sense, making Washington D.C. diverse and inclusive. The business culture is very centred around who you know, and networking can go a long way in securing connections and advancing careers.
The diversity of the city also expands to residential locations. It is not uncommon to live in the leafy suburbs and commute into the centre, as this offers more space, particularly for families. Public schools are accessible to expatriate families and there are some excellent schools within the Washington D.C. district, as well as plenty of private and international schools too. Eligibility to go to a particular public school is often based on proximity.
It’s a vibrant city, with plenty to see and do. It has some of the best museums and galleries in America, as well as a wide range of diverse restaurants and markets. The two-mile National Mall links many of the key attractions and world-class exhibition spaces, which all expatriates should pay a visit to.
There are plenty of wide, open parks to spend a lunchbreak or weekend, and for active, outdoor adventures, a trip into Virginia or Maryland offers hiking, camping and more. Washington D.C. is very bike friendly, which combined with the excellent public transport system, means that it’s easy to go car-free day to day.
If you’re moving to the USA, find out how our international removals team can help to arrange packing, storage and transportation on your behalf.