When Financial Times correspondent Anna Fifield moved to Washington in 2009, she worried that the city wouldn’t be as exotic as her former homes, which include Beirut, Tehran, and Seoul. And she was right!

“I am not going to pretend that Washington is a dynamic cosmopolitan city, but I can say this much: life is easy and enjoyable here,” Fifield writes in an ex-pat’s guide to the District.

Fifield rented a house around Eastern Market, where she fell in with a neighborhood listserv crew she calls the “mommy mafia.”  “I love the Eastern Market area, named for the 140-year-old food market at its epicentre, because it is diverse and feels more real,” she writes.

But occasionally she needs a break from the mommy mafioso, so she heads to where mothers dare not tread: H Street.

But it is also not difficult to find some respite from the granola-making-mommy scene. I am a fully paid-up member, but it’s easy to feel like I’m stepping out of it in the edgy H Street corridor, a nearby strip that could politely be called “up and coming”.

It is still decisively at the gritty end of the gentrification spectrum, but it has funky bars and innovative restaurants, from quirky New American to cheerful Taiwanese ramen.

But all the Taiwanese ramen in the world can’t save D.C. from a case of the doldrums. “Few would describe the city as bustling or cosmopolitan,” Fifield concludes.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery