Golden Gate Bridge
Aaaah, yes! So I’ve been in San Francisco (SF from here on out, that’s what us locals call it, lol) for two weeks and I’ve loved it so far. It has not been without it challenges, as is any time of drastic change, but I am now somewhat settled, enjoying the groove of the city and soaking up the joy of each moment in this dynamic city. I live in a great up-and-coming yuppie area (SOMA – South of Market Street), work with a fantastic team at work and have enough time do explore the city at night or on weekends. Moving from South Africa, I expected a lot of differences and new experiences but even with all the pre-research, below are some of the things that have been absolute new discoveries for me – some good, some bad, some inspiring and some disturbing. SF is everything…and more!
1. Beautiful but also Scary
This city is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever been to but SF has a darker side that people don’t really talk about. Areas such as the Tenderloin (that name is so apt…who calls a neighbourhood that anyway? Seriously?) can feel quite unsafe. These areas are next to the safer/nicer/cleaner areas…sometimes the dodginess is just one block away so one needs to be careful not to make a wrong turn. In these scary areas, liquor stores are abound, random sketchy people stand on the street cursb, the number of crazy people increase…but I guess it’s an experience nonetheless. In retrospect, this shouldn’t have been such a surprise, every city has less desirable places so SF shouldn’t be an exception.
San Francisco Liquor Store
2. The Crazies
They say SF is the city with the highest percentage of mentally ill people. This is not a lie. Walking on Market Street (a main street in downtown San Francisco) will lead you to your fair share of looney people. They’re quite harmless but still shocking. Some of them yell at you…I had one preach a sermon my way and my friend got “bushed” while taking a job across the promenade (Explanation: To Bush – verb. When a homeless person crouches and hides behind a bush and jumps out when someone come past in order to scare them – and everyone else around laughs at the passerby hysterically). This is a crazy city indeed, but I love it.
3. Food Food Food – All Kinds of Food!
When they say you can find any food in SF, that is no joke ladies & gentlemen. If you want to try 3 different cuisines every day for a month, this is the city for you (probably a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the vibe, lol). South Africa is known for its diversity regarding ethnicities but SF is one of the leaders when it comes to diversity in terms of food options. In my first week at work, I had lunch with cuisines that spanned from Korean, Thai, Italian, Greek, Mexican – PLENTY of Taquerias in every corner of the city, Chinese, Vietnamese, French. There is plenty more out there that I can’t wait to try. As an aside, apparently “American” cuisine is a thing…besides fast foods, what else is American? I had an interesting debate with my work teammates which ended in a stalemate.
Chinese Black Sesame Dumpling Dessert
Mexican Food Menu
4. Work Work Work
This may not be just SF but America as a whole, buy dayum, the people in this nation work hard! I had thought since SF-ers like health/lifestyle they would balance their lives between work and lifestyle – no such thing unfortunately. Stores open till super super late, corporate people (such as myself) are given side-eyes if they leave anytime before 6 or 6:30pm. It’s not a bad thing either – I guess this is why the USA is an economic machine, they work so hard. This gets a little in the way of the time I have to explore the city on some nights buy hey, I’m glad that I get to experience what it is like to really live here like a local. Also, I have a great view from my client’s office – the view of the bay is beautiful.
Deloitte Office – San Francisco
Oyster Point – View from Client
5. Healthy and Organic is Everything!
This is Granola City – for real man! It’s more than I could have ever imagined. On my first day, I went to buy groceries at Trader Joe’s..let me just say, I have never seen so much organic produce in my life and there was one whole aisle basically dedicated to granola (akin to muesli at home). I’ve had more tofu in 2 weeks than in my whole life…imagine that! SF folk take their health seriously. With 24-hour gyms all over the city, plenty a jogger revving up their heartbeat on the promenade, a Groupon site that seems basically dedicated to gym/yoga specials, I think I made the right choice coming here…I need to shed some of the pounds I picked up in the SA winter. Also, people here walk everywhere so the there’s quite a bit of hotness on the streets *wink wink*. The only unhealthy situation is the love or coffee that SFers have – from Peets, Starbucks, mom & pop style coffee shops and the massive coffee machines at my client’s offices – coffee obsession!
Walking in San Francisco
Crisp Apples – Safeway
Starbucks San Francisco
Coffee Machines at Client
6. Unassuming & Nice People
Having never been to the States before, I had heard that Americans are quite obnoxious and rude. My experience has been quite the contrary. The checkout clerks at Safeway, Trader Joes, Walgreens etc have all been so nice – nothing like being asked how you are doing by a stranger…they probably don’t really care but it’s still nice. In addition, there are many high-flying tech-starter uppers in this city but you may not even know that you are standing next to them – they’re well off but unassuming. Very refreshing. The other day, I was walking down the street and I overhead a guy talking to his friend talking about how his shares might be diluted with the new investors coming in….only in SF…that could be the next Facebook (probably not, but it’s still cool to me, lol). I always imagined that successful IT people, the beloved 1%, would not mix with us mere mortals. Baz Luhrman says one needs to make sure they leave SF before it makes you “soft”…I can see why, lol.
7. Baseball and The Giants are Life!
Living 2 minutes from AT & T Park and have The Giants, the SF baseball team, win the World Series will leave you feeling like the city has turned orange (main colour of The Giants) and obsessed with baseball. I must say though, it was so cool to experience that happening in my first week here – noisy buy still super cool. The whole city went crazy! I still don’t know the rules of the game though, lol. Also, why is it called the World Series when it’s only 2 teams that play it, and they’re both from America…i.e. where’s the “world” part? *raised eyebrow*
AT&T Park – Home of The Giants
8. Halloween is Serious Here!
SF is known as being a little alternative/hippy-esque so Halloween builds on that premise and makes sure not to disappoint. My friends and I went out to The Castro for a Halloween party and let me say, I have never seen that many people dressed up in costumes my whole life! Loved it! And these outfits were intricate pieces of work…I spoke to some people who worked on constructing their outfits for a full month. A. FULL. MONTH. Craziness I tell you. Fun to see, but crazy nonetheless.
Halloween Pumpkins in Safeway
9. Transportation here is NOT for the Weak!
Moving to a 1st world city, I expected SF to have super efficient and easy to understand public transport systems. Not the case. The bus system (Muni) is not the easiest to understand, taxi’s are quite hard to hail, some highways have 5-6 lanes (which is too much for me) and driving in the city is a mess. I made the mistake of driving to dinner to a great Thai restaurant in town, Chebbas, I couldn’t find parking, drove in the direction of incoming traffic, hit a couple of curbs – it was a hot mess I tell you, hot mess! My advice: do not drive in the city at all costs, lol. Or maybe my sister is right, my driving just sucks. (Aside: the trams look cool though).
Tram San Francisco
Downtown San Francisco
Bus (Muni) Ride to The Mission
Driving Across The Bay Bridge at Sunset
10. Blessings are in abundance
Living here has really made me aware of what blessings I have. Most of the people on my team live away from their family (in different States) – I am lucky to have my family close to me when I’m in South Africa. Real estate is super expensive here – it is not uncommon to have a roommate at 40 years old – back in South Africa, I have the ability to purchase property. SF is beyond expensive (it’s the second most expensive city in the US after NY apparently) – wine tasting here costs $20 whereas at home is either from or around $3 (and Lord knows I love my wine) – I’ll blog about my trip to Napa soon. It’s all the small things. Sometimes one needs to be taken out of their familiar space to appreciate everything they have. This city is diverse (Asians, White, Hispanic people are abound) but I see very few black people in the heart of the city or even at work where I am the only black person at my client’s premises out of about 200 people…the diversity of Johannesburg really is a blessing, a tremendous blessing. I still love SF but I love home even more.
Tenderloin San Francisco
Freedom in San Francisco
That’s my intro to SF. Looking forward to digging deeper into this place and sharing some great finds.