Since leaving my home in Kentucky, I was told that no one in the world is like the people I grew up with. And no truer statement has ever been said. It has taken me nineteen years but I finally understand that no place in the world is like my home.
People are just not nice. I know, lots of people are shocked to hear I'm just figuring this out, but it actually never occurred to me before. See, I don't do much traveling, so I don't meet many different people. The way I grew up just conditioned me to expect certain things out of people. I expect the cashier at the grocery to carry on a conversation with me; I expect the person next to me waiting for the bus to ask me how my day has been; I expect drivers to wave to me when I cross the street, not try to run me down. My expectations, obviously, have been downgraded since I got to D.C.
Although my realization that people are usually not nice is relatively new, I have grown in this understanding a lot lately in my life. I went to school in northern Indiana my first semester and I was miserable and could not figure out why. I now realize that I was in culture shock - the people were, well, northern. In all the times I had actually traveled out of Kentucky I never concluded that the reason I thought everyone was so rude was because we were actually coming from very different cultures. Upon realizing this, I just deduced that I could never live outside of Kentucky without being absolutely miserable.
You can imagine my nervousness then in anticipating an entire semester in Washington D.C. - I was terrified. Though my nerves were shot, I was determined to make the best of this semester since I planned on working in D.C. later down the road. So I tried as hard as I could to prepare myself for exceptionally mean people. I fully expected to arrive and have people shout at me for no reason, refuse to let me sit next to them on the metro and spit on me. However, what I found was pretty shocking.
People in D.C. are actually nice - more than that they're even friendly. This was not at all what I had anticipated. The first time I ventured into the city, I encouraged my family traveling with me to stay together and avoid others as much as possible. My family, though, has Kentucky spirit through and through and could not help but try to carry on conversations with every single person they made eye contact with. To my surprise, people in the city actually responded and returned the friendly sentiment. The first few times I just figured the people we were talking to were just visitors too, but even the Metro workers and store clerks were friendly and helpful.
It was shocking, but in the best possible way. Throughout my stay so far, I have discovered that most of the people here are a lot nicer than expected. Most of the time even just walking down the sidewalk people will speak to me and smile - something that is not common in many big cities. Although the occasional taxi still tries to flatten me in the street and someone may not thank me for holding the door, this city still gets high markings in the friendliness department. It still doesn't match up to home, but Washington D.C. has great potential.