Local traditions and culture in Washington D.C.

  • Embassy Events / Other Festivities
    by Ewingjr98
  • A silent protest for freedom of speech
    A silent protest for freedom of speech
    by Faiza-Ifrah
  • Cherry trees in bloom
    Cherry trees in bloom
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Most Viewed Local Customs in Washington D.C.

  • swedishanna's Profile Photo

    Always have your passport

    by swedishanna Written Jan 10, 2006

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    I don't really like carrying around my passport because I don't want to loose it if I get mugged. Credit cards are fairly easy to cancel and replace, you can always get money wired to you as well, and unless you have hired a car your driving licence isn't of essence either. Which is why I didn't carry around my passport all the time. However.... apperently this was naive of me. First of all we had to show our passports to enter the tourist information bureau....because it was situated in the World Trade Centre. Maybe not the best place to place an information bureau then.
    Then being 24, I got constantly asked for id at bars, and they wouldn't accept my driving licence!!! I was there with my mum so it wasn't that I was out drinking with friends, and I am 24 AND I did have id!! But noooo....not enough. I had to have my passport. At one bar the bartender said the regulations stated that he couldn't accept foreign driving licences as a form of id, and at the airport lounge (the executive one) there was a notice up saying that two forms of offical id was needed to prove your age.

    I am well aware that you should adapt to local customs, when in Rome...which I do, and normally think they make sense. But this makes no sense. Fair enough, passport in World Trade Centre (we got let in anyway by the way as we were "only" going to the information centre, but "next time you will need your passports") makes sense (do they then stop say Arabs to go to the information centre??), but why is my driving licence not valid as a proof of my age?? It's stupid. Well none-the-less,my advice is to bring your passport when you are in Washington, just make sure you have a photocopy at the hotel in case you do get mugged of it and then at least it will be slightly easier trying to get out of the US and back into your home country.......

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  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Taxation without representation?

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 25, 2005

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    At first I was surprised seeing the phrase "Taxation Without Representation" on the automobile license plates of Washington, DC. "No taxation without representation" was a rallying cry for advocates of American independence from Great Britain in the eighteenth century. The American colonies were required to pay taxes to London, yet had no representatives in Parliament, and felt therefore that they were being forced to fund a government into which they had no input.

    Now, I know that District of Columbia is the home of over 550,000 United States citizens who pay taxes although they have no voting representative in the United States Congress! Thus it's the only area in the USA where "taxation without represantion" still exists. How is it possible?

    Well, look back into the beginning of the city. Two states, Virginia and Maryland, gave land to the Federal government, and the US capitol was created as District of Columbia in 1800. In the Constitution, the residents of the District of Columbia were put under the jurisdiction of Congress, not part of any state and were granted no vote in Congress. Today the district does have a NON-VOTING delegate to the House of Representatives who can sit on committees and participate in debates.

    There is a lot of rumour about it recently. The problem is that, you know, Americans very rarely change their constitution and maybe first of all having 1 voting representative in both chambers of US Congress would be regarded by all other states as over-representation as DC has only some 550,000 citizens. And part of federal taxes (for sure more then paid by DC citizens) is spent in DC and serves both its citizens and maybe even more its visitors (free museums!). It's difficult to find right solution, isn't it?

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  • gilabrand's Profile Photo

    Hitting (or mangling) the high notes

    by gilabrand Updated Jul 5, 2005

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    If you are not an opera singer, America's national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, can be awfully hard to sing.

    The words were written by Francis Scott Key on September 14, 1814, and later set to the tune of a popular drinking song. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson decreed that it be played at military events, and in 1931, it became the national anthem by act of Congress. The official musical arrangement, in B flat, was published by the Armed Forces School of Music in 1942.

    Now, according to the International Herald Tribune, a California psychiatrist by the name of Ed Siegel, who organizes sing-alongs, is waging a campaign to have the Star Spangled Banner sung three keys lower, in G major. That way, he says, even tone-deaf people will be able to sing it!

    Personally, I would change the anthem to "My country, 'tis of Thee." It's so much simpler and easier on the ear:

    My country, 'tis of Thee
    Sweet Land of Liberty
    Of thee I sing;
    Land where my fathers died,
    Land of the pilgrims' pride,
    From every mountain side
    Let Freedom ring.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Why is Washington DC the capital?

    by Dabs Updated Jun 25, 2005

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    Although peculiar to think of Washington DC as being southern, indeed it was considered to be so at the time the location for the capital of the United States was decided. The northern and southern states were vying for the capital and eventually a political compromise was reached. In exchange for agreeing to locate the capital in the "south", the northern states were relieved of the debt they incurred during the Revolutionary War.

    The first President of the United States, George Washington, picked the location then known as Foggy Bottom, at the junction of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers about 14 miles upstream from Mount Vernon, Washington's estate.

    Ironically, George Washington was the only President not to live in the White House.

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  • deecat's Profile Photo

    Cherry Trees: Gift of Friendship

    by deecat Updated May 29, 2005

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    "Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success..." H. Ross Perot

    Washington's annual Cherry Blossom Parade attracts about 200,000 visitors each year.

    Why do they have this parade you ask? Well, these decorative trees along the banks of the Potomac River came about as a result of a "symbolic blossoming" of US & Japanese relations about 85 years ago.

    An American botanist, David Fairchild, is credited with introducing some 75,000 new varieties into the city. These new varieties attracted the attention of Helen Taft (wife of the president in 1910); she thought that Japanese cherry trees would be just the thing to cover a local eyesore by the Potomac River.

    A Japanese Ambassador called Tokyo & said that US-Japanese relations could be happily cemented with a gift of 2,000 young trees. The trees were shipped across the world at quite an expense. The note from the Japanese emperor said something like the trees would last at least 30 years & would symbolize the enduring friendship between the 2 countries. The friendship ended when war broke out after the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, exactly 31 years later!

    The first trees sent over were burned by US Customs because they were diseased. Then, 3,000 healthy trees were sent & planted along the banks of the river, & they have become a pride & symbol of the city ever since.

    It was in 1935 that the city fathers inaugurated the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to attract tourist. The only interruption to that custom was from 1942-1951 (anti-Japanese sentiments).

    Today, there's a three-hour Cherry Blossom parade that has bands, floats, & a Miss Cherry Blossom contest. This usually happens about the 1st two weeks of April.

    Sadly, there are only about 12 of the original trees left, but the stocks are constantly renewed through exchanges with the city of Tokyo.

    Note: if you plan to visit during the two weeks of Cherry Blossom time, reserve way ahead of time.

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  • deecat's Profile Photo

    Diplomatic Impunity

    by deecat Updated May 29, 2005

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    "There is no right way to do something wrong."

    I personally find Diplomatic Impunity disgusting. It protects diplomats from any kind of punishment for misbehavior or for breaking the law. As far as I am concerned, it encourages lawlessness.

    Some diplomates have been known to ignore parking rules, speed, drink and drive, partake in drugs, abuse family members, shoplift, or even attempt murder (some successfully!) I don't mean to give all diplomats a bad reputation because most of them are law abiding; however, I see no reason for them to be given special treatment.

    Diplomats already have special privileges such as exclusive license plates that exempt them from paying fines for parking anywhere they please.
    They live in some of the most exclusive residents in Washington on Embassy Row and have maids and butlers who look after their every need. What a life.

    So, if you see a car parked illegally, don't think that you, too, can get by with it...not unless you have a "special license" such as the one in the photograph.

    I did not take this photographi

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  • tpangelinan's Profile Photo

    The Cherry Blossom Parade

    by tpangelinan Written Apr 25, 2005

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    This parade starts around 10am, and everyone in town is here. Dozens of kids from local high schools line up to march also.
    Stores like Target, and sponsors like Comcast, ABC, Channel 8 News and Southwest Airlines make this a fairly large event. Traffic in cars and on foot was like nothing I have experienced. This is Epic Event Traffic.

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  • deecat's Profile Photo

    Why is Our Capital Not Within a State?

    by deecat Updated Apr 23, 2005

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    A man's dreams are an index to his greatness

    Washington, D.C., although the capital of the US, is not part of any state. Supposedly, the country's founders feared a state with the nation's capital might have too much power.

    It was George Washington who chose the location for the capita, the area along the Potomac River; the land belonged to Maryland & Virginia. It was important to keep everyone in the North & South happy. So part of the land came from Maryland, a northern state; the rest came from Virginia, a southern state. Both states agreed to give their land & many people were upset because it was a backward, out-of-the-way spot.

    Today, "all of what Virginia ceded for Washington, D.C. (present day Arlington and Alexandria) was retroceded in the 1840s, so all of what is now Washington is the land that Maryland donated."
    Courtesty of b1bob (Nat).

    It was called District of Columbia.
    Why? The name derives from Christopher Columbus who discovered America. It was named Washington, D.C. because George Washington chose its location. Today, Washington, D.C. is called the District, or simply D.C..

    I've read a good deal about the man who designed our capital, Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Washington appointed this French engineer, artist, & architect to be the project's chief engineer & planner of the city.

    L'Enfant was inspired by Versailles, France, & he strove to make America's capital "an even grander metropolis than anything in Europe." Even though L'Enfant only lasted 1 year on the job as chief planner, his plans guided the future design of Washington D.C.

    Because of him, the capital grew as a "planned city". Sadly, L'Enfant died penniless in 1825; 84 years after his death, his remains were reburied on a hill at Arlington National Cemetery. At his gravesite, you'll be able to have a spectacular view of Washington, D.C.,the city of L'Enfant's dreams!

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  • deecat's Profile Photo

    Easily Mixed Up Words: Capital & the Capitol

    by deecat Written Apr 23, 2005

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    So many people mix up the two words: Capital and Capitol. I have to "think" about them whenever I use them.

    Washington D.C. is the capital (spelled with an a) of the United States, and in the city of Washington stands the Capitol (spelled with an o). The Capitol is the building where the Senate and the House of Representatives meet.

    The capital is the center of the government of the United States of America.

    The word capitol stems from the Temple of Jupiter that once stood on Capitoline Hill in Rome. Just like our Capitol, that temple was used as a meeting place in ancient times.

    From the very first, the meeting-house for the U.S. Congress was called the Capitol.

    Hope this clarifies the difference between the two.

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  • JetlagCity's Profile Photo

    South vs. North Mentality

    by JetlagCity Updated Dec 18, 2004

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    Washington D.C. is the only place I've ever been where I was referred to as a "Yankee". Although the people who labelled me this way didn't appear to mean it in a derogatory way, I felt very surprised and a little uncomfortable with it. I had always thought of everyone in the U.S. as just "Americans". If anyone had asked me to identify myself with a region of the country, I would've said I was from the West, but some people here tend to see things in terms of North and South. I found this rather odd, since that culture (and the war between the North and the South, which ended well over a hundred years ago) was, in reality, between the Northeast and the Southeast. The West had little or nothing to do with it.

    Also I had never thought of the capital of my country as being "Southern" before, since if I look at a map it doesn't look that far South to me. But it's a matter of culture, not geography, and clearly some people here think of it that way. I even experienced a rousing round of "I Wish I Was in Dixie" at a piano bar one night! It IS a fun song : )

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    13 1/2 Street

    by Dabs Written Oct 27, 2004

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    What caused them to name this 13 1/2 Street? Did they add a street after numbering? Did they miss a street?

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Washington D.C. Local Customs

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