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We are considering moving to NOVA from SoCal. The prices for housing out here are still sky high and dumps at that. The public schools are horrible, so we spend 6K a year for private schools for our children. I've read the post about people being so unfriendly in NOVA and I'm a bit frieked out. I'm from the Midwest and CA has been comparable with people being out-going, probably even more so. How bad is it? How far South should we move? Thinking of the Burke-Springfield, VA area. Is it unfriendly there? Are people that pretentious? Maybe the reason people in CA are so happy is because they are living in their own little world out here and don't realize the rest of the country is in the shambles. We are looking for a nice community in which we can stay permanently. Tired of moving! Is this a possibility in NOVA?
Welcome. I am a longtime Northern VA resident who lived many years in Burke/Springfield and now live in North Arlington. I also go to Madison, Wis., every year to see relatives and have been to Southern California many times (and love it) so hopefully I can help you here:
OK....Nova/DC. Here are a few things, you may or may not know these, so sorry if it's re-hash:
1) Most people here were born somewhere else (U.S. or world depending on what area you are in).
2) Many, not all, but many people take their jobs and work life VERY SERIOUSLY. Casual Fridays do exist, but many offices still have normal weekday dress codes on Fridays.
3) There is a real rush/rush mentality here. I love going to Madison and seeing how relaxed the people are (parents, singles and kids). You will run into 14 year olds, 24 year olds, 34 year olds and 54 year olds who feel they are the center of the universe and all. (That can be found anywhere of course, but it is at a much higher level here).
4) Not that this is a bad thing or good thing, but you will notice this area to be VERY, VERY diverse. It might even be more diverse than SoCal in some ways, but certainly more than the Midwest. As in many areas of the country, there are a high proportion of workers in the service industry who do not speak English.
5) As far as Burke/Springfield goes, first for Springfield make sure you are outside the Beltway and in the 22152 or 22153 zips ONLY. 22151 and 22150 are just changing too rapidly--we have an issue here with like 15 unrelated adults piling up and living in a single dwelling. Burke single-family homes are fine--just make sure you watch out if you are looking for a townhome. And that goes for Springfield as well. If you want a townhome, go to Vienna or Arlington as they will be better overall--less crowding, multiple cars per unit, etc.
You may think the above sounded a bit negative--I think it is simply realistic. The schools here are good overall. There are tons of parks, groups for families to join, bike trails, etc. There are definite advantages to living here and raising your kids here. As with anywhere, you will meet people if you make the effort. One idea would be to hold an open house at your house when you move in and invite your neighbors. There are tons of day trips to be had to the beaches, mountains and lakes. I personally don't care for the winter, but if you lived in the Midwest this will feel like FL.
There's a part of NoVA that seems hell bent on pushing success and the acquisition of stuff and standing to it's absolute limit, but there are many smaller, older communities within the area that are very comfortable and relatively laid back. I don't know that it's a pretentiousness as much as just a fact of life in a place where people push hard to do better or have more. The housing is not exactly cheap, so for most families, both parents work. Many are degree holders and push their kids to be the same. So the kids end up with a full schedule as well. This leaves a lot of communities around the beltway where it can seem pretty quiet if you're not part of that crowd. It tends to feel a bit overcrowded and fast paced.
The rules end up being the same for connecting to people in any place. Find the community hang outs and consider some hobby or classes that can get you in touch with people with like interests.
I realize it's all the way across the country, but any chance you can get out for a four day? It would be a small investment in a larger life plan. There are some great things about NoVA and some things that suck the life clean out of you. People's anecdotes can help, but the truth is you're the one that will determine if the particular balance NoVA offers is appealing. Some people see the Mall in DC, lots of walking paths, nice shopping, plenty of money in infrastructure, an efficient metrorail system and good schools. Others see traffic, a fast paced life, high expenses and people so busy hanging on, they can't stop to shake a hand.
Take this with a grain of salt--I'm a native. Born in right in Washington DC, moved to Maryland when I was 2 years old, lived there until I was in my late 20s, and then crossed the river to Virginia. I have lived outside this area when my husband was in the Air Force, so I lived in Maine and Japan.
Because I really have nothing to compare it to, I really am amazed when I read that this area is unfriendly and pretentious. I guess I just don't see it at all. Now, I am fairly introverted by nature, so I don't have a huge circle of friends, but the ones I do have are ones that I have made through my children (their parents) and my work associates. I've really never had a problem. You are going to get what you give. I know TONS of people (not from this area) who have very wide social circles and they socialize quite a bit. One of my co-workers lives in a neighborhood (Clifton area) which is very social and they have a great time.
As the other poster said, there is in an enclave of people who are "climbers" and they can be offputting, but if you are a down to earth, genuine person, they quickly leave you alone!! I have my daughter in a private high school in Fairfax County and a good portion of those families are very wealthy but I have found them all to be exceedingly nice!
So, I think maybe our reputation might be a bit undeserved or hyped up more than it really is. And of course, the people who do have very bad experiences are apt to post a lot and loudly about it versus people who have normal experiences who don't say much.
I think, if you are outgoing and want to be friendly, you will get that in return. If you're quiet and are waiting for the welcoming committee, then you probably *will* be disappointed.
As for Burke/Springfield--Burke is very nice as are parts of Springfield. I know many people who live in these areas and none are unhappy.
We moved to Alexandria (22310) this summer. Maybe its just because our neighborhood has a lot of military who are used to moving around and making friends every 3 years, but our neighborhood has been so much friendlier than anywhere we lived in Maryland (Columbia, Crofton). We had a dozen different neighbors come over and meet us with welcoming gifts when we first moved in.
I would suggest before you make an offer on any house that you and/or your agent meet a couple of the potential neighbors and ask them about the neighborhood dynamic.
Christine pretty much summed things up here.
Wanted to add a few things though. There is a huge outside influence in NoVA. There are many outsiders that move into this area and they bring their characteristics along with them (be it foreign or from other States in the nation.) It is a highly competetive area; after all, you have the Pentagon and other federal bureau's, along with private industries, i.e. major tech co. @ the Tysons-Dulles corridor, and of course all the Embassies in DC. So everything comes into play. Education is diverse. The workforce is diverse. So with fairness, your hapiness here will come along with your expectations. If you move into a house and keep to yourself, others will leave you alone. If you present yourself in a friendly manner, you will recieve it back. Same as just about anywhere else in the world. There is something here for everybody!!! I truly mean that. If you get the time to look around, you will find something to your liking. People here ARE friendly. People say hello, greet you, and smile. Then again you will find the rush-rush mentality, zombie looking people packed on the subway, traffic, the occasional "gtfo of the way!!!", but it is expected. You won't be in Saltville, Virginia. This is a high impact area. People have things to do, some more than others, and some less than others. You have whites, blacks, asians, hispanic, africans, and europeans. You wanna meet locals, we're out here, you don't want to meet locals, stay inside, but we'll still be out here. HEHEHEHEHE. As a friendly European myself, I can place many negatives to NoVA's name, but I find more positives. I just hope you know how to drive :-) ...............better than MDers at least!!! :-P
You will find plenty of people from southern California here. Especially scientists and people who worked in aerospace--many engineers moved here in the '90s. I moved to Loudoun County from Redondo Beach about ten years ago. Three comments:
1. NOVA is expensive. If you're leaving CA because it's too expensive, you're not going to find it much cheaper here. Try Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, or a host of other cities if you want less expensive living.
2. NOVA is much more family-oriented than Los Angeles. It may be more difficult to find people to hang out with because they have aunts and uncles and grandparents, etc. here. People are friendly, but they don't want to hang out because they're already spending time with their extended families.
3. People who live on the east coast tend to be more aggressive than people on the west coast. You'll see this especially in traffic. That doesn't mean they aren't friendly, it's just a different attitude. The further west you get from DC, the more relaxed people get. By the time you get out to Loudoun complete strangers wave whenever you drive by.
Bottom line: we love Virginia. Even though it's expensive, I highly recommend it as a great place to live. I've made many deep friendships here--but it took a little while to adjust at first.
To a large degree, NOVA is as friendly or as unfriendly as you make it. And I believe that's true of most of the country.
In the late 80's we bought a townhouse that was nothing but a hole in the ground when we bought it, so we could watch it being built - that was cool. And when we moved in, we found that we had so much in common with many of our neighbors - first home owned, kids, pets, etc. - that we made many, many friends right off the bat.
In the early 90's we bought the house we live in today, and again found that we had a lot in common with many of our neighbors and again made some good friends. Over the years, and for various reasons (military, retirements, larger/newer house), literally everyone we knew moved somewhere else.
Times change, neighborhoods change, people change, and sometimes it requires a little more effort, but there are plenty of genuinely nice people around, and plenty of friends to be made.
I've been in the DC metropolitan area - suburban Maryland, DC, and northern VA - since my family moved to Maryland in the mid-60's. The area has changed tremendously in that time ... but it's still a good place to live .... a better place when you're retired and don't have to face a commute every day!
Funny -- I found LA to be dirty, overbuilt, congested and tacky -- not for me. I'll never forget walking out of Disneyland and seeing two grown men carrying their small children and sharing a joint together -- not cool.
Yes, people in NoVa can be standoffish -- but that's mostly in large-group settings -- NoVa is a crowded place. Where you'll find the standoffish: the Metros -- perhaps the coffee hasn't set in or they hate that awful commute...or they don't want people listening in on their conversations inside a sardine can; Public school: kids at school were stand-offish, but not mean. The geeks were proud of being geeks (annoyingly so) and the jocks were not that obnoxious -- people were just not that open in a large setting. The key is to get to know people in smaller settings, such as work, church, organizations and you and your kids will be just fine! Welcome to insanely crazy, congested, Northern Virginia!
Thank you all for your replies. I feel way better now because I am friendly and outgoing. I do not require a welcoming committee. I realize NOVA is expensive, but at least you get a nice house and your children a top notch education. I'm tired of apologizing for my wanting a decent home and a quality education for my children. I think people settle for less out here in CA because the weather is so great. We have planned a four day for the end of the month and are really excited to check out the area. Thank you so much for quelling my fears a bit!
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