A Retrospective on Living in San Francisco

The Hills in the Castro District

This summer, I lived in San Francisco, and it was an amazing experience. It was certainly different from living in the Midwest for most of my life and in New York City last summer. Here are some of the observations as a first-time San Francisco resident.

Different neighborhoods have vastly different vibes

Even though I lived in the Mission Bay neighborhood, which felt like a suburb right next to the bustling city, I tried to venture out to different parts of the city. Soma was techie central with plenty of people walking around in T-shirts and hoodies adorned with the logos of various tech companies. The Mission District seemed to be on the verge of gentrification, yet it still felt culturally rich; it’s home to many people with Latin American heritage. North Beach was very touristy, and the Marina District and Pacific Heights looked nice and posh and had lots of expensive real estate.

I also tried to experience the nightlife in different parts of the city. A night out in Soma was vastly different from one in the Mission or on Polk Street. Also, drink prices would also vary a lot from neighborhood to neighborhood. I remembered getting a beer in a Mission bar for four bucks, whereas that same beer would cost six or seven bucks in Soma. And a cocktail could run as high as fifteen bucks at some bars.

Mission Bay

The cost of living is insane 💸💸💸

To many Americans, making $100K per year straight out of college would be amazing. A typical 22-year-old, single without children, earning this much would be living luxuriously… but not in San Francisco, which perhaps aside from New York City, is the most expensive city in the US! If the high rent prices don’t eat away at the salary, the transportation, groceries, and life neccesities will. For example, ten dollars would buy a decent in my hometown in Minnesota or in my college town—Champaign, Illinois—but those same ten dollars would only buy a sandwich in San Francisco.

That being said, the tech scene in the Bay Area is the best in the world and offers the most opportunities, and I’ve met many people who make a good living working in tech. I find that a lot of my friends who majored in computer science, and graduated and moved to the Bay Area seem to be doing well for themselves—earning good money while having a good work-life balance.

Outdoor activities are very accessible

View on Angel Island

During the summer, I had the chance to partake in a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking Angel Island, biking across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, and strolling through Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. While I didn’t get the chance to drive out and visit Lake Tahoe or Yosemite, those seemed to be on a lot of San Franciscans’ minds. I noticed that, compared to New York City, it was a lot easier to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and go out to enjoy nature; and as a result, a lot of the people I met in San Francisco did some sort of outdoor activity on a regular basis.

There are dogs everywhere 🐶🐶🐶

Every day when commuting to and from work via a five minute stroll to the office (four when jaywalking and three when powerwalking and jaywalking), I would always walk past someone walking their dog. Never before in my life had I encountered so many dogs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take this opportunity to take some pictures of cute puppers and probably post them on the “Dogspotting” Facebook group for likes and Internet points, but I did get to pet a lot of them.

The weather is nice and temperate

San Francisco Microclimate Map
San Francisco Microclimate Map from Mr. Chilly

On most days this summer, the temperature hovered between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (13 and 21 degrees Celsius), and it usually came with a breeze. For a Minnesotan like me, this weather was perfect! It didn’t vary too much and it was neither too warm or too cold. In contrast, Midwest weather varies tremendously by the season—in summer, temperatures often exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), and in the winter they can dip below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).

The weather also drastically changes depending on neighborhood. The neighborhoods on the east side of the city tended to be warmer and less windy than the ones on the west side of the city facing the ocean.

The fog is omnipresent… and it has a name!

Fourth of July fireworks obscured by Karl the Fog

When I first arrived in San Francisco in May, I didn’t notice the fog too much. Most of the time, it hung back on the hills south of the city or somewhere out over the Bay. However, on the 4th of July, the fog started rolling in and didn’t let up when the fireworks started. All I could see were red, white, and blue flashes of light inside the clouds like colored lightning.

After that, I took more notice of the fog—how it stuck around in the late afternoon and evening and how it retreated in the morning. It turns out that the San Francisco fog has a name, Karl, and it has a Twitter and Instagram account.

In retrospective, I think that San Francisco is a different but cool city and I enjoyed my summer there. If I end up in San Francisco again after graduation, which I likely will, I will go out of my way to explore more of the city, pet even more dogs, and take aesthetic pictures of the city’s foggy landscape.