04/27/2012 12:51 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2012

Metro D.C. Residents, Who are We Anyway?

What does it mean to be a resident of the Metropolitan D.C. region? What defines us as a people and a culture? Most people from other parts of the country seem to have a host of ready answers when it comes to this question. For example, people from California can reference the beach, or the sun, or Hollywood. New Yorkers have Manhattan, a defining city that is the quintessential melting pot, a microcosm of what America truly is. What do we have? High resident turnover, overcrowded suburbs, mediocre wine, or are we simply the home of the federal government, which for all intents and purposes sucks up all the air in the room, anyway? How do we capture the essence of the region and find topics that bind us, when so little actually does? It got me thinking, and I came up with a few common threads that offer us -- residents of Southern Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia -- some sort of connectivity, an identity that leaves out the government, lobbyists and that less-than-amazing Virginia wine.

  1. Traffic: Firstly, we are united by soul-killing traffic congestion that has become a mainstay of life in our region. No one is free from its confines. It is the most universal experience of life in our region. Sure the 405 in L.A., can turn into a parking lot during rush hour, or the Lincoln Tunnel may be severely congested, but try leaving D.C. for Virginia on Route 66 at anytime of the day, and you'll see why Washington consistently ranks in the top three worst places in the United States for traffic.
  2. The Washington Mall: Yes, I know it's touristy and crowded, but really, we have the Smithsonian, the National Gallery and grand monuments dedicated to grand ideals. We have so many cultural treasures, you would need a year to see them all in their entirety.
  3. The Potomac River: Yes, perhaps you shouldn't swim in it, and yes, it has mutated fish in it, and last year a deadly bull shark appeared in shallow waters, but it is also the main "fresh" waterway that connects Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland to the District. You may find yourself glowing in the dark after a day of being in the water, but it's ours.
  4. Food: World-renowned chefs such as Jose Andrès, Michel Richard, Alain Ducasse have world class restaurants in the D.C. region. We have become, in a few short years, a vibrant gastronomic center with chefs pushing the envelope by creating restaurants that cater to every taste imaginable. The suburbs too, have an overabundance of hidden gems, tucked away in a multitude of mini malls. We in the Metro region are unified by our passion for food.
  5. The Cherry Blossom Festival: We are a region of festivals and other celebrations. Being the seat of the federal government, it seems that there is a walk, run or festival of some sort celebrating a whole host of nationally relevant causes. For locals, the Cherry Blossom Festival is the one that is closest to our hearts. For a few weeks out of the year, Washington D.C. looks like almost unreal, a gorgeous fantasy amidst picture perfect landscape.
So, there you have it, a few things that, for good or ill bind us, and in a small way define our regional culture. Can you think of some others?