So the trend continues. Every 8 months, another city, another move. This time? San Francisco. I had heard it quite a few times when I mentioned I was moving there, “Oh you are sooooo San Francisco.” Nice sentiment I suppose, but not the most helpful of responses. Isn’t San Francisco one of the biggest, most recognizable, iconic cities in, oh I don’t know…the World?? Well, to find out what that meant, I up and moved. And shall now present some of the memorable (and helpful?) things I took away from this seriously unique city.
Step 1: Surviving the Apartment Trenches
I’ll keep this next bit short, because you will find all this out soon enough the day you cross the Bay Bridge and enter “The City.”
Fist thing to know when you move to San Francisco: YES, finding an apartment is as hard as they say. YES, it is as expensive as they say. Take it in to your heart, let it settle there, then release it. You won’t find inner peace (at least in this city) until this fact is just part of your SF armor. It doesn’t have to been this second, but the sooner, the happier.
Do what we all do, open up that computer (that you obviously have since you’ve chosen to live in a city that shuns those without…and those without iPhones. Believe me, I attempted a month with no phone and was hard pressed to get any solidly encouraging response from anyone. A tale for another time) and jump on the ole’ Craigslist. Sublets and temporary housing are great options that can often turn into long-term situations. Filter by neighborhood (see below) if that’s your gig, or price. But let thee be warned, being picky isn’t going to get you far. Write personalized emails that show your personality and that you’ve taken the time to get a sense of what they are looking for. Hit send, and get. out. the. door. Be prepared for lots of people at open houses. Have a positive attitude. And don’t forget the most important resource: friends. You’d be surprised if you throw a wide enough net saying you are moving to the city, who might be able to connect you with a friend of a friend of an aunt’s brother who has that killer room opening up in North Beach. Miracles do happen my friends.
Step 2: The Neighborhood Game
Some might place this before apartment hunting, but either way it is good to start knowing your hoods around here. People in San Francisco love to talk about them, as if each of the neighborhoods are themselves their own little cities. And actually, there is some truth to this. Two great neighborhood guides can be found at The Bold Italic (great resource for what’s happenin’ in SF), and Airbnb’s San Francisco Neighborhood Guide (Airbnb is also a great option for temporary housing while you are looking for a permanent spot). There are some who move to the city and know exactly where they want to be and get an apartment there. Great. Some, like myself, fall into the neighborhood and find it fits. Everyone has their opinion, but I’ll let you get out there and wander the streets for yourself. I personally live in The Mission District, and jive quite well with it.
The Mission has all that I need. It’s flat. It’s sunny. Both of which is like finding a bright yellow unicorn in the middle of San Francisco. It has every kind of delicious food you can possibly imagine. Two of my favorites are Pakwon for BYOB Indian Food and Sunflower for delicious Vietnamese Pho — both on the corners of 16th & Valencia. It has Dolores Park, where every kind of weirdness takes place under the sun (be ready for the Mushroom Man). Think of it as the neighborhood’s Living Room, where you just lounge with friends, smoke, drink, read, hula-hoop, eat, sleep, be merry, and be yourself. Art is also everywhere here — especially on the street. From graffiti to live music, you never know what will be the visual or auditory treat of the day. I happen to live on Clarion Alley, which I will just say is worth a stroll down. And finally, I will admit it….. Yes, it’s hipster here. There’s no escaping it. But it also maintains the latin roots it inherited from the 1940s-60’s influx of Mexican immigrants, and then the later 1980’s-90’s Central and South American refugees. Take your pick — walk down Valencia Street for boutiques, mustaches, fixies, hour long lines for craft ice cream at BiRite, and the likes, then cruise just one little block over to Mission Street for full blown churches inside open street side rooms all in spanish, the best burrito you’ll ever have, and very little of the English language. To me a little hipster, well, okay…a lot hipster, is stomachable for all the weird, scruffy, tasty, and delightful wonder that is this neighborhood. Oh, the Mission, how you feed my soul…and stomach.
Well, hopefully I have begun the whet your appetite for moving to this city. This is an incredibly small taste of what living here is like, but it’s some of what I learned in the first month or so of getting here. Welcome to San Francisco, and don’t worry, none of us are from around here either.