We all form impressions of the places we visit, based on how we’re treated by the locals. There are many stereotypes: New Yorkers are impatient and rude. Parisians are snooty. Washingtonians are self-important blow-hards. Based on my experience, with only the fewest exceptions, these stereotypes couldn’t be further from reality.
Our nation’s capital is host to millions of tourists. The crowds can be overwhelming, for them and for us. Our grid can be confusing and our subway system can be intimidating to the unfamiliar. I try to be a gracious host by making visitors feel welcome and helping them find their way around along the streets or on the Metro. I know I’m not alone.
As we approach a big holiday weekend, I would like to share a letter to the editor that appeared in The Washington Post yesterday and remind all of us who live in tourist destinations how much visitors appreciate a little hospitality.
Mickey and Nancy Choppa of Queensbury, N.Y., wrote:
“We just spent a week in Washington, and its residents have renewed our faith in people. Our first trip on the Metro brought confusion, but a man approached us to ask where we wanted to go. We told him, and he directed us to the proper train. This happened frequently during the week — without our asking for help, it was offered often. Whenever we seemed at a loss, someone would ask if he or she could help.
“The icing on the cake came the day after we got home: We received a letter with a Washington return address. As we don’t know anyone there, we were curious.
“In the envelope was our luggage tag and a note saying that the writer found it on the street and thought we would like it back.
“Who does this? I called the woman, thanked her and said that she was an example of the fine residents of her fair city. Thank you, residents of Washington, for making our trip wonderful.”
This letter didn’t surprise me one bit. We really are nice people. Come see us!
Note: Last summer, Washington Post columnist John Kelly published some tips for Washington tourists to follow in order to get along better with the locals. It wasn’t penned in very welcoming tone, but if you follow even one or two, we’ll be extra extra nice.