Moving to a new place can be nerve-wracking. Sure, you think you know what you’re getting yourself into. You’ve watched Laguna Beach and The Hills growing up (even if you don’t mention that to anyone), so you know what California is like, right?
Not so fast.
Whether you’re moving to the San Francisco Bay Area for an internship or full-time job, these tips will save you from regretting your decisions leading up to the move.
1. East Bay? South Bay? The Peninsula? There’s a difference!
While these regions are collectively known as “The Bay Area”, knowing what part of the Bay you want to be in is crucial! The Peninsula refers to Silicon Valley proper and some describe it as a more “urban-suburban” experience. There you'll find many tech campuses, plazas, and bubble teas. East Bay generally has less expensive housing, is a little more spread out and has significantly fewer tech companies. South Bay is home to some great hiking, perfect for the adventurous renter! All of these areas are accessible by public transportation and ready for your next adventure!
2. Oh, and Silicon Valley — it’s actually an hour drive south of San Francisco (including some traffic).
Many people think that Silicon Valley is synonymous with San Francisco. While Tech is King in the Bay Area, the true Silicon Valley is actually just south of San Francisco proper, closer to the areas of Mountain View, Palo Alto, Cupertino, and San Jose. The proximity means you’re going to meet a LOT of people in tech.
3. Please — whatever you do — don’t call it “San Fran” or “Frisco.”
Locals (AKA San Franciscans) refer to their city as “San Francisco”, “The City”, or “SF.” If you slip up, it’s okay — you’ll cause lots of cringes, but you’ll be forgiven.
4. In San Francisco, Divisadero St. separates Karl the Fog
When choosing a neighborhood to live in or visit, keep in mind that half the city is colder and shaded by fog most of the year. The good news is that Karl’s pretty chill (literally), and he’s pretty great to follow on social media.
5. Since we’re talking weather, the average temperature is 60º F.
Fun fact: The #1 souvenir purchased in San Francisco is a sweater. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I’d believe it. Most people think of sun and shorts when they think of California. Thanks to Karl and the cold ocean current coming from the North, San Fransisco can be pretty chilly year-round. Be sure to dress in layers when you can and have a light sweater or jacket available throughout the day. You’ll be cold in the mornings, hot in the early afternoon, and cold again at night.
Depending on where you live, some spots are significantly warmer though. Berkeley (the East Bay in general) and the South Bay can be significantly warmer.
6. The housing market is crazy competitive…
Whether you're looking to live in the Castro, SOMA, Marina, Presidio, Hayes Valley or Noe Valley, all San Francisco neighborhoods are well above the national average for real estate prices. Let's just say one-bedrooms tend to have more than one bed. It's that hippie lifestyle, I suppose. The only neighborhood where prices are slightly lower is the Tenderloin, but that's for a reason. Did you know that due to the tech boom the average rent of a 3-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is around $5700/month? By some rankings, San Francisco is the most expensive city in the United States. While the unemployment rate is better than in New York City, the homeless situation and cost of living are not.
Websites like Kopa help you find 1. legit spaces, 2. owned/managed hosts who are actually legit (and don’t claim to be “in West Africa for a crusade” *cough* Craigslist *cough*), and 3. housemates because you’re likely not going to be able to afford to live alone.
7. Use bike/scooter to commute in SF. (Just be careful and WEAR A HELMET.)
San Francisco proper has one of the smallest land areas of any city in the United States (7 miles by 7 miles, to be exact), so it’s often more convenient and more affordable to bike or use scooters to get around the city. Just be careful! As you enjoy the cool weather through your hair, be on the lookout for traffic and any other potential dangers that might dampen your day. Jump bikes tend to be popular since they’re electric and make cycling way easier.
8. Public transit is here for your daily commutes and trips across town … but expect some delays.
First, let’s talk about what the difference is between Municipal Transportation (MUNI), Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Caltrain, and cable cars:
- MUNI: Basic transit service (e.g. going from Noe Valley to the Marina within San Francisco)
- BART: High-speed subway, SFO -> SF -> East Bay (AKA Oakland)
- Caltrain: Light-rail system, San Jose -> SF (for you Google folks that want to live in the city by the bay while working in the South Bay)
- Cable cars: the trolleys gliding up and down the hills that you picture when you think of San Francisco (I hate to be a downer, but most of the people who ride the cable cars are tourists waiting in line for 1+ hours.)
San Francisco isn’t always the most driver-friendly place. Why try to navigate driving when you can let the experts handle it? Sit back and enjoy the ride.
9. It’s a foodie’s dream, but eat your dinner early.
One of the best parts of San Francisco (if not THE best part) is the variety of delicious food available! Well known for its burrito war, San Francisco has all kinds of cuisine from Tartine’s morning buns to divine small-batch ice cream served in sundaes at Bi-Rite Creamery. Pro tip: Berkeley and SOMA have great new foodie favorites from brunch to dumplings. If you can dream of eating it, you can find it. But diner beware, unlike Los Angeles or New York where nightlife never stops, many restaurants in San Francisco aren’t open past 10 pm.
10. Earthquakes happen all the time…
…Okay, maybe not ALL the time. San Francisco does sit on top of 6 different fault lines which can result in some shifting and occasionally some shaking for residents, too. The last major earthquake hit San Fransisco in 1989 but if you’re feeling like the floor’s moving…it might be!
11. Parking can be kind of a nightmare.
You don’t have to be this guy. Please don’t be this guy. (P.S. This is a trick because there aren’t any Walmarts in San Francisco proper.)
Given the small streets in San Francisco, you might come to find that a good parking spot becomes more precious to you than, well, gold. Some San Franciscans will drive around for more than 30 minutes after work, trying to find a spot anywhere near their home. Lots of people who own cars will even Uber or Lyft places just to save their parking space (and that’s pretty easy since both Uber and Lyft are also headquartered in SF)!
12. Your calves are going to burn.
If you're not used to walking, you will be after you live in San Francisco, AKA “the city built on seven hills.” As you now know, public transit and driving can take a while, so sometimes walking is the quickest way. No sweat (well, maybe some), you’ll at least get your 30-minutes of cardio each day! If you like free tours, explore SF on foot with the best San Francisco neighborhood walks according to Culture Trip.
13. You can find a relaxing spot with nature in most parts of the city
Even in the hustle and bustle of downtown, you can enjoy some crazy good views at the Salesforce Transit Center. If you make it to the west side, you can breathe in the salty air or catch a bonfire at Ocean Beach, or you take a stroll through Golden Gate Park to see the bison. Fun fact: Golden Gate Bridge is actually a ways from Golden Gate Park.
While the process of moving, finding a new space to live, and creating a new chapter in your life can seem daunting, a few helpful hints can do a lot to point you in the right direction and make the transition feel just a little bit easier.
Which item are we missing? Help future San Franciscans by providing your suggestion / SF pro tip in the comments!
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