How To Live In San Francisco For A Short Period Of Time

Have this perception of San Francisco as being this giant cloud of love. People must do lots of acid, hug each other in the streets and be really really happy. Move to the city and quickly discover that the only people still doing acid have been tripping for thirty years. They hang out in the upper Haight, which is like Times Square for hippies, and hang out with teenage runaways and their ten dogs.

San Francisco is a city where the beautiful and ugly coexist. The projects are situated next to a multi-million dollar Full House home. You’ll pay $1300 a month in rent in the Mission for a view of two crackheads shooting up in an alleyway. This unlikely marriage of destitute poverty and bourgie princess creates a tension in the city that is alternately terrifying and exhilarating.

Never eat so well and so affordably in your life. Laugh when people suggest that Los Angeles or New York have the best food. Um, have they been to the Slanted Door or Pancho Villa? New York can’t  even do Mexican food. That alone disqualifies it from the competition. San Francisco can master any kind of cuisine and it can do it on a budget.

Be shocked by how much weed is smoked  in San Francisco. It’s perhaps more popular than smoking cigarettes. Understand that everyone is on drugs in San Francisco, but they’re also a weird health nut. People take bong rips and go to yoga. They’ll do hallucinogens and then go on the Master Cleanse to purify their body. This contradictory lifestyle may be confusing but you can’t really question it. After all, this is San Francisco. People pay high rents to be…high.

Get frustrated by the tiny  size of the city. Feel like it’s the biggest small town you’ve ever lived in. Run into everyone you know when you go out. Spend time at the same bars making out with the same people. Start to feel a little bored and get embarrassed about it. You’re living in San Francisco! How could you be getting restless? There’s so much to see, so much to do, so many joints to smoke in Dolores Park. What is wrong with you?

Live in the Sunset district and laugh at the irony of it being one of the few places in the city that never gets any sun. Have a schizophrenic chase you down the street for a dollar. Be surrounded by mentally ill drug addicts 24/7 and feel a pit begin to develop in your stomach. Go to the Marina on accident and marvel at the amount of rich baby girl brats who must’ve lost their way to L.A. Think to yourself, “This is the neighborhood for the people who don’t make sense in San Francisco.”

As frustrating as it can be, understand that there is something truly magical about SF. The city casts a spell over you and even in the moments when you totally hate it, you’re still like, “I’m obsessed with you, you stoner freak of a city.”

Know that your time here is running out. You want to move to Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles or New York. You just need a change. San Francisco can’t be the last stop for you. Promise yourself that you’ll move back eventually when you’re older and want something more mellow, and 70% believe it. When you tell people you lived in San Francisco, they will say “OMG, I’ve just always loved that city. I feel like I could live there.” The city gets no bad reviews from visitors. You mention L.A. or New York and some people will be like. “Nope. Not for me.” San Francisco, however, always elicits a positive response. Laugh to yourself because you know these people will never live there. They just saw it in movies and pop culture like you did and fell in love with it. To live in San Francisco is to know the complete clashing picture. You loved it though. You’re going to move back at, like, 30. Yeah. That sounds like a good age to live in San Francisco. 30. TC mark

image – BG3Photo

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • cinnarose

    I visited SF two years ago for five days and decided I wanted to live there. It's never going to happen, but I keep wishing. In the meantime, I've settled on Chicago, or Portland.

    • Anonymous

      Live your dream dude, move to SF!

  • brandollars

    As a native of San Francisco transplanted in LA, I fucking loved this.

  • Jade Mitchell

    Is food really that cheap there?

    I imagine every place bigger than my suburban Michigan to have $60 entrees at every restaurant.

    • Kyriet87

      totally is. ive eaten like a king for a week on $60. there are expensive places, but the cheap hole in wall places are a million times better.

    • James H. Bao

      Food is not really that cheap.  I've lived here for 3 years now and it's certainly more expensive than LA and a touch under New York prices.  It only makes sense: the Bay Area is home to the best food in the world, and the best demands a higher price.  (We officially have the best restaurant: French Laundry).

      SF is really the biggest small town, and that makes it awesome.  Fresh air, good food, heavenly weather, diverse community.  Like they say, San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.  It's heaven here.

      • Pfft

        i guess you have eaten everywhere in the world to make that statement then?

      • James H. Bao

        Only to the same extent that a boxer has to beat every single fighter in the world to become World Champion (ps. They don't).

        PSS. About French Laundry:

    • jordan

      No the food is not that cheap. And even in the places where the food is cheap, the time you spend getting there on the broken down muni, or searching for a spot to park, along with the cost of paying for parking, or riding the muni ends up eliminating some of the perks. Places like the Slanted Door are totally OVER RATED btw. I have never understood how some of these average restaurants get so blown up like they’re somehow vastly more fabulous than any of the other hundreds of restaurants in the city that are pretty much just like them. But on the other hand you’ll never find another Foreign Cinema or the like. But to that extent you’re really mostly paying for the ambiance, although the food is excellent :)

      – I’ve lived here for 10 years.

  • Sean Li

    You have to talk about the Tenderloin! Castro! Golden Gate Park! China/Japan/Little Italy/all the other ethnic bastions!

  • Netty Rivera

    Is article isn't very extensive like similar articles in this whole series. Yeah, people love weed in SF, food is delicious and reasonably priced, rent is expensive as fuck, and the neighborhoods are diverse. 

    What about SF's amazing music scene, poetry scene, the loads of sweet awesome shit to do for FREE, the music festivals, the epic house shows, bay to breakers, folsom street fair, day of dead fair, lovefest, the keggers in golden gate park, the roof top access, the beaches, the awesome thrift stores, MUNI, BART, etc. 

    How can you mention Dolores Park without describing the view? How about camping out with your friends on a hot day in Dolores, with hundreds of other people on the lawn and you're thinking does no one in this FUCKING city have a job? Getting high as fuck while still buying edibles from the nice vendors also enjoying the sun/turning a profit. 

    What about the MOMA or walking home at 5 am drunk as fuck the 4 miles back to your neck of the woods? What about that amazing fucking taco cart next to 16th and mission? WHAT ABOUT 16TH AND MISSION? What about Chinatown? And the tagging scene. Or how more adults have dogs in SF then have children?


  • Michael Koh

    I was there like, when I was a baby.

  • M. Kitchell

    I am moving to SF in a month and a half and WHO EVEN KNOWS how long i'll last

  • Bema

    Am I the only one here who has a low opinion of San Francisco, and no intent of moving there?

    • brandollars

      yes. What is wrong with you?

      • Bema

        Personally, I don't want to live next to all those gay people, because then

        I would lose the cachet of my own homosexuality.

  • James H. Bao

    SF is really the biggest small town, and that makes it awesome.  Fresh air, good food, heavenly weather, diverse community.  Like they say, San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.  It's heaven here.

  • Test


  • harmonicmotion

    There are quite a few people can't stand SF, myself included.  Google “I hate San Francisco”

    • Bema

      Thank you, Lawdy! I have googled that many times.

    • michele_flowers

      Add me to the list.  SF is the Seventh Circle of Hell.

  • Michael

    Come for the San Francisco, stay for the Oakland.

    • Myemail

      Yes. Absolutely adored Oakland when I lived there.

  • narlycarly

    Heading over any bridge, or coming from the south, the first peak of the city skyline makes my heart quiver with anticipation. HOME! This place is Crazy and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

  • Albekirky Jr.

    Probably the best thing about SF is that people aren't too judge mental. If you go with the “I'm always right ” attitude than you probably won't have too good of a time.  San Francisco is great, so much to do, so many things to see, always something going on, and you can also talk to almost anyone. 

    The best part about this city is that you can almost anywhere at any given time…

    The beach, the marina, beautiful parks full of flowers, art museums, Farmers markets, ample amounts of music venues, amazing rooftops to view the city and an aquarium and a zoo.

    There are a lot of hippies, Old and young, some good vibes and bad. But you never really need to worry about your safety around that type of person. Yes pretty much everyone smokes pot, but hey, at least they're still social. 

    Grandparents out here still smoke, I've even seen a baby smoke… not. But nope, not too many problems associated with this. 

    Golden gate park is great, but don't forget that theres a couple miles left even after “hippie hill.” And some of these hippies are a bit to lazy to venture further out than the Janis tree. If you happen to come to SF, heres one tip… Drop your judgement, everyone is amazing and may ask you for a dollar or if you want to buy their incense, but if you say something like ” apples are interesting” you might spark up a pretty amazing conversation. 

    The cost of living is ridiculous out here, everything is very high priced, Houses, apartments, awesomely organic and local food, monkeys and toothpaste. If you want to live here be prepared to spend no less that 800 a month on rent, 50 to 150 a week on great groceries, time on finding a job, “because everyone here needs one,” and at most 30 dollars for an 1/8 of dank ganja….

    Of course people party out here, life is damn good when you live in this city, everyones down to talk and if your good looking you can meet the sexiest people, exchange vibes, and make sexy time all day.

    There is nothing better to do than enjoy this wonderful life. Jump out of the rat race and come to SF, don't be afraid, you will find that the universe always provides.

    • Pfft

      more expensive than brooklyn?

      • Pfft

        even if you don't do drugs? seriously curious.

  • Amy

    This is 100% accurate. And I'm never moving back to the Bay.

  • Dan

    Actually, I can say something negative about San Francisco. All of the “positives” you listed, such as the massive amounts of drug use, seem like big negatives to me. Why would I want to be surrounded by high idiots when I oppose all drug use. And don't even get me started on the amount of queers in SF. I just want to move to some Southern town where I can be with my fellow white middle-class folk.

    • hunter ray

      keep trollin, trollin, trollin

    • Pfft

      like queers are a bad thing. You, on the other hand, seem like a fucking tosser.

    • David Elrod

      You should leave.  ASAP.

    • gk

      L7 no squares allowed kick rocks bro

  • sjfjhfjfhf

    Um, Pancho Villa? You obviously have not spent enough time in SF. It should have said El Farolito.

    • Selvi Husenaj


      • Joseph Anthony Nicoletti

        or los coyotes

  • Wi Na

    Been here since college, have a hard time thinking of living anywhere else than the Bay.

    The foodie thing is probably the most spot-on detail, even if the author stuck to more commonly known joints…it's nearly endless. NYC and LA can't compete, even if i have to begrudgingly give LA props for better Chinese. Now raising my own spawn here – kids who'd rather have Vietnamese sandwiches, Dim Sum and salad than MickeyD's or pizza. Excellent execution and prime ingredients being the norm, not the exception at every new place you go. Off the Grid trucks, insane bakeries, The Tamale Lady's late night stops at Zeitgeist….all in a day's work.

    • Miki

      Fully agree with you on kids using good food tastes. I grew up in SF and my husband marvels at how open my childhood taste buds were. I tend to hole-in-the-wall places in the Sunset and say stuff like, “Oh – that’s where my friend and I would stop for sushi on the way home from school when I was in middle school.”. I can’t wait to raise my kids the same way. I went to the symphony, the opera, plays, musicals, and museums all the time. And we weren’t a rich family! But there’s always time for good food and culture. :)

  • mymbeb
  • Nancy

    Haha-“The Marina is for people who don't make sense here”. While I can see where you're coming from, the spoiled frat/sorority types do add to the freakish nature of the entire city. Moved to SF alone cause I just felt like I had to live there for a while, had a love/hate relationship with it the entire time, was the most broke and most rich I've ever been,hated on the food elitism and in the process became a food elitist myself , had my stuff stolen all the time and was given a 100 bucks from a total stranger….the city is one giant paradox. I also met my husband there and we are  both convinced that when we make our millions, we're buying property there. Loved this article!

  • Dom Ken

    SF like most places is a giant contradiction, not really understood by visitors… known for its diversity and falsely thought of as a melting pot.. the city is probably the most segregated place in the whole bay area… and I've always felt more racial tension in the city than I have in most other places despite peoples image of SF as a city that would be very harmonious… this isnt something that white hipsters/yuppies would pick up on though as its mainly something that goes on in and between blacks, asians, and latinos in the city

    • PNW

      This is so true. I moved out here to SF from Seattle a few monthes ago and I can’t believe how much thinly veiled racial tension is here. I moved to Oakland ASAP and from the looks of it, that’s exaxtly where they want all the minorities. SF fail.

    • gk

      idk about that bro maybe you’re the racist. its sf for christ’s sake we are the definition of diversity. you probably aren’t a native like me you wouldn’t know first hand

      • Lee

        A little exercise. Go to a “well-known” SF establishment (where “well-known” depends on the circles you run in). Any establishment – a museum, a restaurant, a bar, a club, a church… Your pick. Pick a seat in the center of the room, or a place where you have a good view of the entire room. Now, count how many white people there are in the room (who are not paid to service the establishment). How many Asian people are in the room. Black people. Latino people. Do this every day for a week, then look at your numbers, and ask yourself if the numbers really add up to “diversity”. Because I can tell you, as a black female who has been living in SF for almost a decade, I certainly don’t see too many people who look like me on a regular basis and I’ve lived in Haight, Mission, North Beach, Marina and Russian Hill. I love this city, I can’t see myself anywhere else for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t make me blind to the fact that this city is one of the least diverse big US cities I have lived in or visited.

  • Brad

    Has anyone lived in Vancouver and SF to give an objective opinion on both? Which of these 2 cities would be a better place for a small young family to move and settle in?

    • NewtoSF

      I lived in Seattle for over 12 years, visited Vancouver a lot. We moved to SF a year ago and I must say, if you love the trees, safe and clean streets, live in a nice house/condo and good food, you will hate living in SF. Vancouver is absolutely FAR BETTER than SF. People are nice, it’s beautiful, more affordable to live than SF. In SF, housing cost is ridiculous high, unless you are the 1%, this is not definitely a great city for a young family. Many families live on the northwest side of the city but that’s also where it’s coldest and foggiest. So, you might as well just live in Vancouver. Compared to the NW, I think the quality of life is not as good here. I would say maybe down in the peninsula but then the housing cost is still pretty high and you are in the suburbs. Public schools in SF is just pathetic so in addition to high cost of rent/mortgage, you will definitely need to pay for private education. As a foodie, I’ve had better food in Seattle and Vancouver, with the exception of Mexican food (maybe). The homeless situation here is outta control!!! If I remember correctly, there is one bad part of DT Vancouver but here in SF, it’s the reverse. There are part of the city where it’s nice and most of it is bad. 1/2 the city is concret jungle filled with litter, druggies and crazy people who should be in a hospital not living on the streets.
      On a beautiful clear sunny day and I am at Golden Gate Park or the Ferry Building, I do like it here but I see more cons to living here than the pros. 

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