Living in New York City vs San Francisco

I have a fun little post today that I’ve been wanting to write for a while :). I recently celebrated my 2 year anniversary of living in San Francisco (woohoo!). Before that, I lived in NYC for 6 years (hopping around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens). Living in these two cities has been, gratifying, challenging, and transformative, and I’d finally like to reflect via a NYC-versus-SF post. 🙂

Please note that this is completely based on my own experience and not meant to generalize on anyone or anything! I’ve also lived in these two cities during my 20s and am probably observing things and forming opinions based on my own place in life. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts too!

More industries –> NYC! SF is completely and utterly dominated by the tech industry. I remember when I moved out here 1.5 years ago, I said I was NOT going to work in tech like everyone, but here I am with a job in tech, ha – it really gets to you seeing all your friends have cushy jobs at cool, young offices, and it’s hard to resist jumping on that bandwagon. NYC represents a larger variety of industries, although my circle of friends were primarily in the financial services, but I never felt “left out” for not working in finance like I did in the SF’s tech scene.

Better dating scene (for girls) –> SF! There are way more dudes in SF than girls. As such, I’ve found the dating scene to be more favorable in SF and have gone on a lot more dates since moving here (both from day-to-day interactions and on the apps!). However – and I may be biased from some personal stories – I’ve found that the quality of guys here aren’t really that much better than NYC. I think my comment about industries in each city contributes to the dating culture. In NYC, I was use to dating straight-forward finance guys who were upfront about their intentions, even if it was wanting something casual, but here in SF I’ve found that tech guys are “nicer” on the outside, but on the inside still want the same things that guys in their 20s want… they’re just less direct about it.

More expensive –> SF! If you can believe it…rent prices are HIGHER in SF than NYC. Moving from the second most expensive city in the U.S. to the first was a lot of fun 😛

More healthy –> SF! Açaí bowls, green smoothies, organics, wellness events, rock climbing, yoga, hiking…you name it. People in SF are about living a healthy lifestyle. It seems like everyone here has at least one main hobby centered around wellness and fitness.

More work-life balance –> SF! I remember when I lived in NYC, I wouldn’t make plans with friends on weekdays before 8pm. It’s just assumed that everyone works or is busy until then, at least in my circle. In SF, even if people have busy work schedules, I’ve found that they make an effort to get off work earlier to do activities on weekdays. Requesting a 6pm happy hour date is no biggie!

Better music scene –> NYC! I sooo miss the days when I would chill at a concert in Brooklyn over a cold beer, by myself or with friends – at one point I was exploring different venues and artists almost every week in NYC! SF’s music scene is completely lacking…the venues are lower quality, and artists realize this and I feel they end up not playing their best sets when visiting SF.

Better nightlife –> NYC! NYC is THE place to be if you love to part-ayy! There are so many more options for clubs, concerts, bars, and more (at night)! Bars and clubs strictly close at 2am in SF, and so partying is more centered around day-drinking in parks/wineries/outdoor bars during the day.

More scenic –> SF! SF has SO many more options for hiking, running, biking – in the city and also quick drives outside of it. There are mountains/lakes/parks galore I never have an issue finding a new spot to explore in SF.

More weekend trips –> SF! Going off of above, I just LOVE the casual outlook on weekend trips in SF: Tahoe, Napa, Pacifica, Santa Cruz, LA – all places that you can casually visit from the city on any weekend. It definitely livens up the social life if you quickly get bored from the city scene like me 🙂

Better public transportation –> NYC! I never thought I’d say these words…but I miss the NYC subway. It’s not perfect, but it SO beats the basically non-existent public transportation system in SF, as well as being quite affordable. Everyone in SF uses Uber, which was quite an adjustment when I moved here, since Ubers are usually seen as a “treat” in NYC.

More holiday spirit –> NYC! One huge thing I miss about NYC is all the holiday spirit around fall and winter. SF has the same weather all year round, which takes away from the cozy, crisp vibes around the holidays. NYC streets and stores filling with Christmas lights and decorations…that just doesn’t happen in SF! It’s definitely a treat to go back home for Christmas because I can’t really imagine that time of year without snow and classic holiday traditions 😛

More homeless people –> SF! I thought I was pretty resilient to homeless people after 6 years in NYC…but SF completely changed my perspective. It is such a tragic problem out here. There are huge communities of mentally ill homeless people populating the downtown streets, and as such I’ve found that the SF homeless are more aggressive to strangers which is pretty frightening.

Better food –> NYC! NYC food…how I miss you! Not only in the quality and diversity, but also in prices. SF has a decent fine-dining scene, but casual utility food is generally more expensive, and there are hardly any places you can go to get quick, cheap meals for less than $10. In any neighborhood in NYC, you’d never have this problem.

More environmental –> SF! I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t really consciously compost or even recycle until I moved to SF. Every single restaurant or street corner in SF have stations for this. Movements to use less plastic, buy locally, and save our earth’s resources is very strong on the west coast.

Less cliquey –> SF! Even though NYC has 5x the number of people than SF, I definitely found it easier to make friends in SF. Reaching out to strangers and helping people connect feels much easier here. I would say 1/3 of my current friends I met through mutual friends, 1/3 from my own daily encounters (like the work or kava bar), and 1/3 from completely unconventional means (i.e. Anna – we actually met on Facebook!).

Better drivers –> NYC! I have never gotten into more near-accidents than the past two years of living in SF. SF drivers are THE WORST. Even though NYC’s traffic is 10x crazier, I think it keeps people alert and better drivers.

More “real” –> NYC! If there’s one thing I always credit to NYC people, it’s that they are relentlessly genuine and real. You always know where you stand with the people around you as there’s an attitude of if-I-don’t-need-to-interact-with-you-I-won’t. So make of that what you will. I’m actually one to enjoy little pleasantries like small talk and smiling to strangers, and find these add to my quality of life, so I don’t mind if it’s a tad superficial 😛

More spontaneous –> SF! Social life in SF is definitely more spontaneous than in NYC. When living in NYC, I felt like everyone was so busy; if I wanted to make plans with a friend I’d have to reach out a few days before to “book” them. Now, I have no problem waking up on a Saturday with no plans since I know that things form last minute – that’s just the nature of the west coast. The downside to this is that I think people in SF are much more flakey…This flexibility has helped my personal growth since I’m naturally very type-A and use to get anxiety when I didn’t have a plan. I definitely feel myself more patient and free-spirited after moving to the west coast.

Less judgement –> SF! SF is such a special place because it generally feels like there’s zero judgement for what you do, what you wear, what you want to pursue…I literally see people walking down the street in crazy costumes and don’t turn my head anymore since it’s so normal here – it’s truly a city of weirdos. 😛 SF was also on the forefront of liberal movements like LGBT pride. Of course, NYC is very liberal too, but I always felt like there was slightly more judgement around image and status (i.e. clubs in NYC having dress codes, which you would never come across in SF.)

In that sense, I’m really glad I live in SF in my 20’s because I can explore my passions and “find myself” with no bounds.

More diversity –> NYC! New York is filled with people from all walks of life, cultures, political beliefs, and income levels. If you can’t afford living in the heart of Manhattan, you can always live somewhere like deep Queens and still very much be ingrained in NYC and have friends from all over the city. In SF, it’s so expensive that you literally can’t live in the city unless you make a tech salary…and that definitely self-selects the bougie, yuppie tech crowd who don’t interact with the service workers who live in the Bay Area suburbs. Truly a bubble.

That’s actually why I love going to places like the kava bar regularly, which attracts a more free-spirited, hippie crowd. I’ve met so many interesting people outside my usual circle of young professional friends – branching out like this helps me stay in check and gain new perspectives.

Have you lived in either city? What are your thoughts?!


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