It’s officially 2 months since I moved to San Francisco. I always knew I would have a love hate relationship with this place, but I am discovering more about the things I do like about here, and also appreciate the things I took for granted living in suburbia Sacramento.
Coming from a smaller city like Sacramento (if I straight up call Sacramento small, the 916 folks would lose their fucking shit because apparently it’s the new Austin), I always thought it had a lot to offer — the night life you wanted (at a few spots throughout town), the affordable cost of living, the occasional
tries-really-hard-to-be fun events that happens around town, and last but not least, the space to do the things you want to do and the resources to do it. I know the last one sounds a bit vague, but you’ll understand where I am coming from after reading this. I always defended against moving to a bigger city, because I genuinely liked my higher quality of life when it comes to living in Sacramento, or any smaller city that is not a huge metropolitan. Growing up in China, I know what it’s like to live among the populous. For a big chunk of my childhood, I lived in a city call Guangzhou, one of the largest and most populated city in China with about 8 million people living in it. To give you some perspectives, it’s population is neck-in-neck with NYC. I liked my space in Sacramento — parking is everywhere, the only caveat is finding a spot that is both SHADED and within pole vaulting distance to the automatic sliding doors where you’ll be instantly bathed in the comforts of automatic climate control. I didn’t realize how LAZY and fat I was until I discovered how out of breath I get when I decide to walk around in the city. But that’s the country life for ya, we like to drive our cars everywhere, and sometimes even park on the grass.
However, living in the city like San Francisco presents an entire set of challenges that are commonly acknowledged but rarely understood. These things might or might not include: astronomical rent, having a yard that you can just let your dog out to, curb-side parking readily available for anyone, a hobby room, clean streets that doesn’t smell like urine or have crazy hobos loitering, free parking, and last but not least, iced water. I know the last one is crazy, but SF is one of the few cities in America that does NOT serve ice water on autopilot. A lot of times, I have to ask for it in restaurants, sometimes emphasize on the word “ICE” like I am a lunatic. I am not roughing it as hard others I know that are living in the city. I have it pretty good here since I have a decent paying job that allows me to afford certain luxuries. I also occasionally enjoy telling people who doesn’t live in the city how much I pay for my 2 bedroom apartment that I share with my roommate. It’s a guarantee jaw dropper — followed by words of disbelief. In fact, I use it as ice breakers and conversational leaders when I am stuck in a room with nothing else to talk about. Nothing gets people going like crazy rent prices. My expenses are also out of this world since I have a house that I have to pay for in Sacramento, so I am extra fucked if I don’t hustle, and even though I bitch and whine about working so much, I wouldn’t know what to do with all my extra free time. Actually I lied — I do know what to do with my extra free time, I just said that to make myself feel better.
Despite the lack of amenities that I just complained about, I do love a lot of things about living in the city. Public transportation is pretty good here in San Francisco. Not as awesome as NYC’s subway system, but it’s half way decent. I am lucky that where I live, I am so close to everything. I can go shopping to all of the top retailers in the world, visit world renown museums — all within 10 minute walking distance. I can also go to Michelin starred restaurants, and yeah, that’s in PLURAL, and that’s because there are 17 of them within 3 mile radius from my house. If I had taken a job in say, Redwood City in the dreadful Silicon Valley, at best I’ll get is the Cheesecake Factory (whilst I dine among 20 other Indian families and 4 other dudes of various ethnicity but never got the memo to stop wearing Aeropostale past the age of 20). Granted, it is slightly cheaper to live there, a 1 bedroom apartment in San Jose goes for about 2/3 of the price in San Francisco, and there’s PLENTY of parking… but in terms of world-class events and being a central hub of culture, art, and emerging trends, no other city quite has it down in the spades like San Francisco, and especially all within close proximity of each other.
The weather here is awesome. I know a lot of people don’t like the “gloom” that certain parts of San Francisco experience on a daily basis, but I just LOVE the micro climates here. If I want sun, I’ll go east. If I want cooler weather, I’ll go west. I am slowly exploring what San Francisco has to offer, all while trying to decipher what’s bullshit/stupid hype and what’s actually worth experiencing. I’ve also joined the civic symphony, and it’s definitely an interesting experience. I love the cuisine and the plethora of choices this tiny 7×7 city has to offer. It has all of the hustle and bustle, craziness and changing landscape that any big city has, but a huge chunk of that distinct SF charm is still intact, and can be seen in almost every corner you turn to. I can always tell that whenever I am randomly picking up a conversation with people on the streets here, who is from out of town, and who is born and raised in SF.
If I have to give someone advice about living in SF, someone new, and never lived in the city before – about what it’s like to live here and what to expect, I just have one: It’s what you make it.
You don’t have to buy into the culture and participate in all of the artsy/eclectic/albeit sometimes bizarre things that makes SF, well, SF. You can go from point A to point B in uber alone and rely solely on Eat24 and Caviar to provide your meals. You don’t have to go to Dolores park with your sandwich and beer and talk to the 20 other hippies that might run by to pet your dog. You don’t have to do yoga or pilates and eat only organic vegetables whilst go on a juice cleanse because all of your friends have tried it. SF is what you make it out to be