Over the weekend, the viral content fairy dumped a fun one on the Washington region: a TikTok map comparing different DMV neighborhoods to the New York City metro area. In this map, Bethesda/Chevy Chase becomes the state of Connecticut, Northeast is Brooklyn, Southeast is the Bronx, et cetera.
As you can imagine, Washingtonians had many opinions, questions, and opinionated questions. Does NoVa have enough mob wives to be New Jersey? Can you actually get to Glover Park by helicopter, as the Hamptons comparison implies? How does Navy Yard belong in the Bronx? And where on earth is Staten Island?
So we called the creator of this map, a communications manager named Roya (@royaventurera on TikTok) who moved to the DC area from New York in 2018.
Your TikTok seems to be a lot of drinking wine in exotic locales. How did you end up making a map comparing DC to NYC?
So I recently was traveling, and that’s where I was doing a lot of travel content, but I don’t think I fit into any particular niche. I speak four languages, including English, and my most successful content has been stuff that I’ve done in French—you know, tips for learning French or skits in French. But recently there was a viral video that I came across in my “For You” page comparing LA and New York, and I thought it was interesting. I think it’s a natural inclination to compare a new place where you’re living to what’s familiar to you. I lived in New York for four years right before I moved to DC, so I’ve made lots of connections in my own mind between the two cities.
Where in DC do you live?
I live in Arlington, Virginia.
So, in Jersey.
Yes, I live in Jersey City. But I did live in DC proper, in Northeast, up until about a year and a half ago.
And where in New York City did you live?
I lived in Manhattan. Upper West Side, just south of Harlem.
What was the initial comparison between DC and NYC that sparked the map?
I completely understand that people are going to disagree with this, but it was Arlington and Jersey City—you know, being literally across the river from a big economic center that people commute into. I think the way people in DC talk about Arlington—it just sounded very familiar to some of the things that I’ve heard people in Manhattan saying about people who live just across the water in New Jersey.
Personally, I love Arlington, and so it was never meant to be any sort of negative comment. But I did notice that some people were like, “Oh, I don’t want to be the New Jersey of DC,” or something like that. And for me, that shows more what people think of New Jersey than it says about Virginia.
What did Washingtonians disagree with most?
Something that I saw a lot was people defending how close Bethesda is to the city center. Which is completely fine—I was a little bit joking saying that it’s so far. But technically, from Connecticut, you can also get into New York City by train in 40 minutes, so it’s also not that far.
And were there ones that people broadly agreed with?
I did get a lot of feedback of people saying, “This is spot on.” They weren’t always as specific, though, about their agreements. Some people liked the comparison of Northeast being similar to Brooklyn. Of course, there are people that disagree with that, too. But I saw a comment that was like, “Oh, I lived in Brooklyn, and then when I moved to DC, I felt most at home in Northeast, so that’s where I decided to live.”
OK, so I’m curious about the comparison between Northwest and the Hamptons. Can you tell me about that?
Sure. I have noticed, driving through Northwest, there being a lot of large, grand single family homes. Before putting the map together, I did Google where are the most expensive neighborhoods in DC and the top three were all in that area. So it checked out in that way, and I was like, OK, I think I can say that.
I was thinking about it this morning because, I mean, you can’t take the metro to Georgetown, but you can actually get to the Hamptons by LIRR or the Jitney or helicopter. So maybe the Hamptons is actually more accessible by transit than Georgetown?
That’s hilarious. I have, in fact, taken the Long Island Railroad to the Hamptons before. Though you could maybe walk to Georgetown faster than it would take for the LIRR.
So, where’s Staten Island?
I recognized before posting it that I left out Staten Island. But in the time that I lived in New York, I just never went to Staten Island. And simply not knowing enough about it, I just didn’t feel like I could place it anywhere. And so I thought it was better to not place it.
Interesting. Is there a comparable place in DC where you have never been?
Um, I mean, it’s a big city. There’s tons of places I’ve never been, but I’ve definitely explored, you know, all of the quadrants to some degree.
Did you think about doing a PG County comparison?
No. People did point out that it was left off. Which is fair, but in a minute and a half, there’s only so much detail that you can provide. And similarly, I’m not super familiar with PG County. I’ve been there, but not very much, and I really don’t know how to categorize it. I don’t think that would be my place.
I’m curious if it’s insulting to Rock Creek Park to compare it to Central Park.
What?! Oh, no. When I lived in New York City, I spent a lot of my time in Central Park. It was one of the places in the city that made me feel most at home. Central Park is very manicured and built and intentional, but the northern part of the park just felt a little bit more wild. That’s also what I love about Rock Creek Park. I think it’s incredible to be in such an important metropolitan area and feel like you can be in the middle of the woods at the same time—other than maybe if a helicopter flies over or something. But Rock Creek is, I think, an absolute gem.
I ask because I find DC’s nature situation to be far superior to New York’s.
Yeah, something I love about being in DC is that I feel very close to nature. You have this beautiful river and these lush trees and islands. If you’re in the middle of one of the bridges and you look up the Potomac, you know there’s city there, but the way the trees kind of grow over the water in the summertime, it just looks like it’s complete nature up that direction. I think it’s really cool to be in the middle of the city and have that feeling.
My editor joked that one of the best things about DC is that it’s nothing like New York City. True or false?
Ah, I’m gonna say disagree. Because there are things about New York City that I find similar to DC. DC is very different from New York, but I can’t say that they’re nothing alike.
Are there things that you would change about your map now that people have been weighing in on it?
I mean, sure, I think there are really good arguments for why certain things did or didn’t fit. But it wasn’t meant to be a perfect representation of either place—more of, like, a comparative essay, making an argument that may or may not be true. If somebody wants to draw it a different way, by all means.