Dos and Don'ts

When riding the Washington metro system's escalators, the accepted protocol is to stand to the right and walk on the left. The city's many inhabitants who work and live among the tourist attractions appreciate the consideration of visitors as they travel to their jobs or their homes on a busy schedule.

It is customary to tip for most services provided: restaurant waiters generally receive 18 percent of the bill; taxi drivers 10 percent (15 percent for longer rides); bartenders 10 percent; porters $1 per bag; and doormen and parking valets $2 and up.

Americans are used to a great deal of personal space. Four to six feet is not uncommon, and most will feel uncomfortable if a stranger enters their space without invitation. Exceptions in D.C. include crowded elevators and metro cars, though Americans will seek as much personal space as possible in any given situation.

In greeting, most Americans use a handshake with a firm grip. Look the individual in the eye and extend your right hand, thumb at top and palm to the inside.

Phrase Book

Wonk: A person obsessed with details and procedures of a topic; a thorough student of a field. Most often used in D.C. in the context of policy a policy wonk.

Talking Head: A television personality who appears in head and shoulder shots.

Red Tape: Excessive routine or procedure, which generally results in delay.

Bureaucrat: One who follows a system marked by red tape.

Politico: A politician.

Lobbyist: One who attempts to sway a public official to vote in a particular direction.

Pundit: Critic who offers opinions through the media.

Spin: The practice of interpreting an event favorably; a spin doctor is one who creates such favorable interpretations and disseminates them to the media.

The Hill: Capitol Hill; the Capitol and its surrounding office buildings and residences.

Penn Quarter: The downtown area of Washington just north of Pennsylvania Avenue midway between the Capitol and the White House.

Metro: The largely underground public system which utilizes trains for mass transport; also short for D.C. and the surrounding suburbs: the metro area.

Beltway: Interstate 495 that circles the District of Columbia and surrounding suburbs; also refers to the area encircled: beltway gang.

About Washington, D.C. and the United States

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