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Reflections on San Francisco

December 13th, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
It's been two years now since I moved to San Francisco.  It's hard to decide whether to move away as the people around will constantly tell you this is the place to be and how awesome it is.  Yet it's harder still to ignore that there's no real scene outside of tech as well as how unsophisticated (read - ghetto) many things are that you'd think would be taken for granted in a big city.

Some of the posts I've found on Quora are pretty spot on with my own experiences, though mine are limited more to the San Francisco side of it.

SF vs Chicago
     I very much agree with the comments on paying so much in SF for something subpar (though in high demand), as well as there being homeless people screaming constantly, even in the more upscale SOMA and Financial District.  Chicago has a lower cost of living yes, but it seems at times that even if you spend $3000 on a studio here in SF, it doesn't compare with what you can get spending just $1500 in Chicago.  The quality in SF just isn't there even if you wanted to pay for it. (Instead, you have people now paying over $1200 for 170 sq ft.)
     Many people would cite the weather in SF as being a pro, but I'm rather on the other side.  SF is never that cold but it's never that warm either.  It's just always mildly cold and very chilly.  I grew up with four seasons, so I'd very much prefer having a decent summer (warm enough not to carry a jacket or sweatshirt) even if it meant a colder winter.  But the darnest part is that SF actually feels much colder than Chicago because of the chill factor.  Twice I've traveled back from Chicago with a full trenchcoat that was perfectly warm in Chicago but left me feeling bone-chilled once I came out of the Embarcadero station in SF.  On paper, SF seems warm, but it's a different humid kind of cold that goes through your coat, whereas that in Chicago is no different than what you feel going skiing.  This probably pertains much more to the city and its fog than bay area, as I've lived in Berkeley/Oakland as well without as much issue with the weather.

     The points about the arts/culture in SF I think are pretty accurate, but my experience is mainly among peers in early 20s.
     I'm a pretty heavy reader myself (read Wrinkle in Time in 5th grade, the entire Harry Potter series of the time in one night during 6th grade, Crichton in 7th grade, Hitchhiker's Guide in 8th....).  However, I've rarely come across others my age here who really enjoy reading, and among those I do find, often times they don't quite understand the details or more critical themes in the novels (they read it like a textbook).
     It's nice to finally see someone else note the lack of diversity in San Francisco, contrary to the stereotype of it being a very diverse city.  It really is mostly white and Asian, which is not a bad thing, but there's also a very strong conformity aspect underlying all of this, such that the diversity that does exist exists more on the surface as the people you meet largely think and behave alike.  Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but as someone who grew up in Sacramento at schools which were much more balanced and interesting, it gets rather tiresome to hear the diversity in San Francisco constantly being touted when it's really a tokenism more than anything.
     The commentary on owning cars is funny because the public transportation (contrary to popular belief again) is pretty terrible.  It really only runs along Market St across the city.  To get anywhere else would be by bus, which is often crowded and unreliable.  The author forgets to mention that even if you wanted to own a car to bypass all this, parking is extremely hard to find and often expensive (my apartment won't even include parking for residents, charging about $100 a month instead on top of the already ridiculous rent).
     And yes, much of San Francisco just "shuts down" after 8; many places often don't even open past 5 on the weekends (or at all on Sundays).  It's perplexing as I see plenty of tourists, just no one wanting to take their business.

Again, much of my experience is from the perspective of someone in their early 20s though.  If I were later in my life, I might enjoy the city more as somewhere to have a stable life, but as someone yearning to explore and see what the world has to offer, there isn't a whole lot here outside of working in tech.  A friend of mine described it best as SF being rather "mono-cultural".

The difficult part on all this is I really haven't lived in any other city long enough to know if it's better out there. As before, I worry most about just having the "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome and not finding it any better elsewhere either if I were to actually give up what I have here and move.
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