Tl;dr: it’s good, not great.
I moved to San Francisco in June from RTP, North Carolina to start a new job as a software developer. I moved with hopes of one day being financially successful enough that I could pursue my personal interests daily for years at a time, without needing to work. These are the things which stand out to me after being here six months:
It’s unbelievably dirty here. My coworker introduced me to a sad game called “Guess the Animal” for the droppings left on the sidewalk. That such a game exists is sad, that I have many opportunities to play daily is gross. Not to mention the drug needles I’ve seen on sidewalks, the countless mattresses, clothes, spilled oil, and people who haven’t showered in weeks. All of this, along with the cracked and uneven sidewalks, make drifting into post-apocalyptic fantasies easy on the walk to work.
The services here are amazing. Uber, Zipcar, Google Shopping Express, Amazon Fresh, and TalkTo are amazing services that have changed the way I live. Living in a test market for services often means first access, and free access! Even my doctor’s office has a very useful website and iPhone app.
Everyone seems strangely comfortable with their financial situation. Or, they aren’t doing much about it. I expected everyone to have side gigs, passive income, personal product launches, etc. Talking Bitcoin prospecting with folks falls flat. No one seems to care how high the taxes are. I’ve met a couple people who are interested in making money, but, they are the extreme minority. The only segment of people who don’t fit this description are the people who already have lots of money – VCs and execs.
Acquaintances are easy, but I have no idea how to make friends in a new city. I’ve met hundreds of people, but keeping up a relationship when you don’t implicitly see each other regularly seems impossible. Outside of coworkers and room mates, the best avenue for regular contact I’ve seen is the gym. Other options are dinners or weekend outings. These are tough because they must always be planned, and I rarely feel like going out after work with someone to have surface level conversations. I doubt few others enjoy that either. I am toying around with the idea of no longer participating in surface level conversations and only bringing up topics with people as if we’ve been friends for years. Undecided on that currently. However, the lack of meaningful conversations is really beginning to bother me. It’s also very difficult to balance evenings which I want to spend building things which will make me money, with evenings which can be spent socializing.
I am in a much bigger pond. The general tide of technical ability is higher than in RTP, not surprisingly. What I didn’t account for is the unnerving effects this would have on me. From self doubt, to impostor syndrome, to anxiety. I need to get over this, as stress effects can compound…but realizing the effects compound makes things worse! On the other hand, being in a much bigger pond does mean learning a lot more. If/When I decide to leave, I’ll be much more capable than if I had not come to SF.
Noise. I may be biased by my early rising, high-heel-wearing, foot-stomping, throw-up-every-morning (seriously), upstairs neighbor…but the noise of the city is enough to drive someone crazy. Aside from my neighbors there is the Mexican food truck which plays La Cucaracha every day at 12:26, the emergency vehicles with their freakishly bassy sirens, the endless road construction, or people regularly shouting on the sidewalk. I’m really looking forward to trying somewhere else in the city. Somewhere up high, away from the noise of the street level.
Beautiful places are very close. The coastline is like nothing I’ve ever seen before – cliffs right next to the ocean. Napa is an enjoyable hour ride away. The Embarcadero in SF has some great views. Golden Gate Park is beautiful. Twin Peaks, Dolores Park, and many other places around the city all have some beautiful views. Tahoe is close enough to drive. The city is in an impeccable location.
The government must be terrible. Taxes are very high. Services are terrible (particularly bus). The city is gross. There are so many homeless people. I almost never see police. (Want to clean up areas of the city? Put a cop on every block!) New housing is not being allowed, rents are skyrocketing. After re-reading this list, it seems as if the city is falling apart…and, for now, it presses on.
Overall, living in SF is not as easy as living in NC. Some things, like being in a bigger pond, are difficult and will cause personal growth. Some things, like rent and the dirtiness, are unnecessarily difficult. Some things, like making friends, are just facts of life. SF is, however, the most likely place where I can achieve my original goal of being financially successful enough that I could pursue my personal interests daily. So, thats where I’ll be for a while, until I see somewhere better or my goals change.