Bethesda, Maryland has a lot of appeal for new residents. It’s close to the National Institute of Health, offers many opportunities to tour Washington D.C., and is close to several major airports that are perfect for world travel. People who visit the city for work can easily be tempted to move there permanently.
However, locals think you should know some key things about the city before you commit to moving in. From long traffic waits to frustrations with gamers, here are 17 reasons not to move to Bethesda, Maryland.
1. Traffic in Bethesda Can Turn A Short Drive Into An Hours-Long Ordeal
If you’ve ever experienced traffic in a major city, you’ll understand what I’m talking about without effort. Traffic is a miserable fact of life for many people around the world.
However, this concept is hard to understand if you’ve never personally experienced it. Traffic like Bethesda experiences involves more than just a few extra minutes on the freeway. It can drag what should be a ten-minute drive into an ordeal that lasts over an hour.
If somebody gets into an accident or road conditions are especially bad, it can go even longer. Everyone should keep bottled water, snacks, and a phone charger in their car, make sure their gas tank stays over half, and keep a stockpile of blankets in the winter while driving in this city.
Besides the obvious issues here like lost time and the high cost of gas, there are few things in life that are as purely aggravating as seeing your destination wait just out of reach while you’re at a complete stop on the freeway. It really is a unique kind of torture.
2. Taking Public Transport Won’t Make Your Commute Any Shorter
If you think you might save some time by taking public transportation to your destination, think again. The traffic on the metros and busses is still awful, and you’ll be sharing it with a large portion of the population. Crowding into packed public transportation may be a common experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
People may opt to take public transportation instead of driving because they think they’ll get to work faster. From my own experience, that is rarely the case on busy days.
Public transportation can still take an hour or more when traveling from destination to destination, but you have less privacy and less air conditioning than if you’d made the trip in the car. In addition to this, you may still experience major delays in weather, strikes, overcrowding, or other unpredictable issues.
3. The City is Packed, Making Quarantine or Social Distancing a Challenge
This concern may not have seemed like a real decision-making factor in 2019, but a post-pandemic world is acutely aware of the challenges of quarantining in a crowded environment. Most of us have had to try it, after all!
Bethesda, like many cities in the Washington D.C. area and along the east coast, is not made for social distancing. Everyone is packed together in traffic, apartments, suburbs outside the main city, and in every form of public transportation.
If you’re coming from the suburbs or a more rural area, you know that social distancing or quarantine is a little easier there. Kids can play in the yard, you can call a neighbor for a cup of flour or a few eggs, and you can still get sunlight. In a busy city, you may be stuck in a small apartment with several roommates and end up spending a fortune on Doordash.
While we all hope that this is never a real concern again, I think that our collective experience is enough to make us think twice before committing to a busy city when we’re not prepared for the risk of quarantine.
4. Homes in the City are Small and Very Expensive
Bethesda is an old city despite all of the beautiful skyscrapers that make it look new. Because of this, a lot of the available houses can be small and old-fashioned under a modern facelift. Surprise stairs, laundry chutes, and dumbwaiters will keep you on your toes while you’re house-shopping.
Keep an eye out for false promises. If you have to walk through a bedroom to reach another bedroom, that’s not a bedroom. That’s an office or a dining room, and don’t listen to any agent who tries to convince you otherwise. Do you really want your room to double as your roommate’s hallway?
5. Rent Is Steep and Getting an Apartment is Competitive
Rent in Bethesda, like in much of the US right now, is painfully expensive. Good apartments are few and far between, and the rent can often feel wholly inappropriate for the conditions you’re offered.
Make sure you know what you can live with before you sign your name. For example, it might not seem awful to live without summer air conditioning if you’re from the pacific northwest or northern Idaho, but Maryland residents can tell you that it gets hot during the summer.
6. The City Shares a Name With a Prolific Video Game Company, Making Info-Gathering a Challenge
Have you heard of the gaming company that’s also named Bethesda? Bethesda Softworks, which produces games like Doom, the Elder Scrolls, and the Fallout series, is one of the most popular household names in gaming.
While Bethesda is a passionate, if not beloved, topic among gamers, the existence of the company can be a headache for the city that shares the same name. The two are often confused, which makes it difficult to use community pages like Reddit for Bethesda, Maryland because gamers are posting in between every lost pet or meetup request.
Googling information about Bethesda, Maryland is also made more challenging because of the company. If you want information about disability accessibility, work opportunities in the city, or even insurance, you’ll have to weed through posts and articles about the game company before you’ll find information about the city.
7. Competitive Job Market
Bethesda is an attractive city for many people, offering close proximity to cities like Washington D.C. and New York City without the extreme crowding and dangerous neighborhoods that those cities have tucked away. Even Baltimore can’t hold a candle to Bethesda’s charm and class.
Because of this, competition for good job opportunities can be brutal. Try to make sure you can get interviews early on, make sure your employer isn’t using desperation to hide red flags, and keep your options open. A salary that would be great in Nebraska can be wholly inappropriate in Bethesda.
8. If You Don’t Have a Tech, Medical, or Political Job, You Might Struggle to Afford the Cost of Living
Not everyone can be a doctor, lawyer, or software developer, but landlords certainly seem to hope that is the case. The expense of the city is nothing to sneeze at. There’s a reason it attracts well-educated people.
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you may struggle to find work that will pay for your basic needs. In spite of the city’s need for good baristas or waitstaff, the pay can still be abysmal compared to rent.
Make sure your job can supply what you need to live. If you can’t afford rent and groceries, there’s no shame in choosing a different city to live in, especially if you can find a better job in a different city.
9. The City Isn’t Built for Kids
If you haven’t grown up in a big city, it’s hard to explain just how profoundly difficult it is to raise kids there. They can’t safely bike to the park or walk down the street to a friend’s house like they could in the suburbs, and there aren’t as many activities built with them in mind. People are visibly more irritated by kids just existing.
Kids need green space. This is a fact backed up by both science and easy observation. Unfortunately, cities are short on green space that is easily accessible to children.
In fact, the available green spaces in cities like Bethesda can be borderline hostile to children. Parks don’t always have playgrounds, they can be dangerous for children, and safe parks are often filled with adults who want a quiet space to relax.
Finding truly child-friendly spaces is a challenge. It will require research, travel, and determination on the part of the parent or guardian. Bethesda’s gorgeous green spaces are worth the effort, but make sure you’re aware of the challenge before you move there with your children.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Bethesda is high. The cost of childcare, whether that be a private nanny or a daycare, can be even higher. Demand is higher than supply, and the competition for a good spot is intense.
If you’re moving to Bethesda, make sure you can afford your childcare of choice. If you can’t, you may want to move to a surrounding suburb and have the working parents commute into the city.
10. Bethesda, Maryland, and the Surrounding County Both Lean Liberal
While this isn’t a problem for many people, some may feel like it’s a deal breaker to have too many liberal neighbors. The city’s political preferences toward democratic mayors and representatives work well for them but have resulted in community conflicts in the past.
Be sure to update yourself on school curriculums, local laws, and local practices to see if you can live with them before you move to the area. If you’re heavily invested in republican or right-leaning politics, this probably won’t be the most comfortable city for you to live in.
11. Locals Can Get Heated Over Political Differences
As mentioned in the previous point, Bethesda leans liberal but isn’t a fully homogenous society. Some difference in belief is common everywhere.
However, the heated reactions of locals are not always that common. Little girls putting up posters were attacked by a cyclist a few years ago over political differences, and no one was very shocked.
12. The Quality Difference Between Schools Can Be Dramatic
Bethesda holds some of the best schools in the state, as well as some very mediocre schools. Make sure to read up on them before you move with children, and plan on getting some tutoring if your child is zoned for a lower-quality school.
13. Winter Snow And Ice Can Be Brutal
Snow here can be heavy, and the ice can freeze onto roads, cars, and sidewalks. Even walking can get dangerous. If you’re from somewhere warmer, make sure you’re prepared for the cold before winter comes!
14. Summers Get Extremely Hot
The summer can be just as surprising as the winter for new residents. Heat, humidity, and a lack of air conditioning can combine to make conditions vary between uncomfortable and legitimately dangerous. Make sure you can tolerate humid heat before moving.
15. The Humidity Feels Like You’re Drinking the Air
As someone who came from the desert before seeing Bethesda for the first time, the atmosphere was a big shock. Stepping out of the plane and into the open air feels like you’re stepping into a sauna, instantly gluing your lungs shut. I’d never even seen a dehumidifier before, but it was a necessity! Be sure you’re prepared, or you’ll be steamed alive.
16. Summer Mosquitoes Think You’re the Main Course
Bethesda has several interesting restaurants with great food, a great ambiance, and great service. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes have the same idea, and you’re their favorite special.
Bethesda is a beautiful city, but the summer weather is miserable for anyone with a mosquito bite allergy. Prepare to be eaten alive, or get used to the smell of bug spray on all your clothing. Those little bugs are determined!
17. If You’re in the Wrong Area, You’ll Spend Summers Hearing Cicadas Scream
If you’ve never heard a Cicada screaming in the summer, it’s something that no description can accurately convey. These little guys are loud, and they want to announce their existence to the whole world.
Local bloggers and anyone on social media are excited to share the news about hatching Cicadas. As annoying and even terrifying as the bugs can be, they are undeniably fascinating. Just say goodbye to any chance of a good night’s sleep if you have a bunch in your backyard.