Hello, San Francisco | Lessons Learned Living in the City by the Bay

When I was just a wee little lass, I loved watching this tv show called Full House. You might have heard of it. It was pretty popular. There was a girl on that show named Stephanie, just like me. She was roughly the same age as me and had great taste in first names (except for that "call me Dawn" nonsense) so naturally I wanted to be her best friend.

Since I couldn't actually become friends with a fictional character, I decided I'd do the next best thing and live in San Francisco someday, just like Stephanie Tanner. That someday finally happened 17 months ago and, in that time, I've learned this little city has quite a a few quirks. It's funky and weird and awesome all at the same time. But there are some key lessons about living in this city that I've had to learn the hard way.

Now I know some of these may seem like I'm getting down on the city a bit but make no mistake, I absolutely love living here and wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe the ridiculous taxes (and I'm not even a Republican so that should tell you something).

A sunny day does not equal warm weather. Always pack a sweater, even if it's August and 90+ degrees everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.

You will get a contact high if you hang out at Ocean Beach, in the Haight, anywhere in Golden Gate Park on April 20th . . . you get the idea. The city should just adopt that distinctive cannabis smell as the Official Scent of San Francisco. You really can't avoid it.

Bike riders think they're drivers and wish to be treated as such, unless the rules of the road are inconvenient for them, in which case they wish to be treated like pedestrians and given the right of way every. single. time. How are you to know how to treat them? You don't. Just cross your fingers and say a prayer you don't kill one every time you get in your car.

When you head out some place unfamiliar, you'd better get that address right. One or two blocks in the wrong direction and things can get . . . entertaining, to put it nicely.

Never mind what the Health Code says, you will probably encounter a dog or two in the cafe / restaurant / grocery store down the street. It's okay, they're usually cute.

Does anyone actually live in the Presidio? I still haven't figured that one out.

Don't be fooled by the recent ban on public nudity. There is still quite a bit of inappropriateness to be found, especially at Baker Beach. And for citywide events like Bay to Breakers? Fuhgeddaboudit. You will definitely see old man junk whether you want to or not.

There are some really stupid drivers out on the road and they don't even know they're stupid drivers. That, combined with the crazy streets and hills of this city, can make for an ugly situation.

You are more likely to get weird stares in public if you are openly Republican than if you openly light up a joint and get to smokin'. It is the city's lowest priority in law enforcement, after all. . .

It's not enough to say what neighborhood you live in. San Franciscans want an intersection, too, people! A typical convo usually goes something like this:

SF'er:  So what neighborhood are you in?

Newbie: (insert SF neighborhood here)

SF'er:  Oh, really? Where?

Newbie:  Uh . . . (wait, does this new person I literally just met 30 seconds ago really want my address or do they just magically know every street in the city?)

It's really hard to tell the difference between the hipsters and the homeless around here sometimes.

Still, the 26-year old "kid' you always see at the cafe down the street probably just launched his third tech company while you were sipping your overpriced-and-only-slightly-better-than-Starbucks coffee.

*sniff* *sniff sniff* What's that? Another funny smell in the city? It's okay, it's just beer. Because everyone here in the neighborhood is a home brewer and when they're taking the day off, Anchor Steam is beering it up. It's not a bad smell, just a distinct one that you will definitely notice.

I've never heard anyone actually from San Francisco refer to it as "Frisco" and I very rarely hear them call it "San Fran." It seems "SF" or "The City" are the only acceptable nicknames according to locals. It took me a while to figure that one out but now, I sound just like an overly-sensitive native getting my knickers in a twist when I hear the ol' "San Fran" thrown out in street convos.

And finally, if the sun is out, take advantage and get outside even if it's just for a walk around the block. You never know when that fog will come rolling in, engulfing the city in all its damp, chilly beautiful gray glory.





  1. This post made me so happy, and I LOVE that you watched "Full House" as a kid! The first time I visited the city with my family, probably when I was around 10 or so, we rented a convertible and went across the Golden Gate Bridge while singing the theme song at the top of our lungs. I can still hear my dad, who loves San Francisco more than anyone I know, singing loudly and off-key. :) (Aww, now I'm teary-eyed.)

    As for more recent adventures, definitely appreciate what you mean about public nudity... when my fiance and I were on vacation in the city last year, we had literally just stepped out of our hotel after arriving 30 minutes earlier and were walking near the Ferry Building when Spencer said, "Don't freak out, but there's a naked guy on a bike headed our way."

    And sure enough, there totally was. With another semi-naked friend... with his bits wrapped in tinfoil. An image seared in my mind forever.

    We laughed so, so hard... mostly at my prudish expression.

  2. haha I love this post! When people hear I from Brazil, they think I am a *wild* one. But, I gotta tell you, no street party in Brazil will ever compare to how crazy things are in SF!

    Oh and you forgot that incredible smell of urine when you get out of bart... Or how the restaurants are so cramped and overpriced...

  3. I think you can smell cannabis on any given day, in the middle of the morning, afternoon, evening... haha

    I also really hate when people call San Francisco "Frisco, San Fran" UGH. And I was only a resident there for a short while.

    It does get interesting fast. I loved that about SF.

    I also miss SF daily. It was the best city in the world and I would give anything to move back!


  4. Hahah I love this!! So true. And I actually have a friend that lives IN the Presidio. It is really pretty up there and it feels like a little neighborhood/different world. There is actually lawn and a backyard. Go figure.

  5. So when I was a teenager a lot of people used the term Frisco, but never San Fran. Frisco is now frowned upon like nobody's business.

    Your bit about the intersection? SO TRUE, because I do that all the time when someone talks about which neighborhood they live in.

    And yes, people live in the Presidio.

  6. Oh my goodness this post kills me. I lived there for 1 year (in the Richmond), and definitely agree about the hipsters and the homeless. hahaha. Such a great city though.

  7. This made me laugh.

    My husband and I visited a few years ago - we were shocked by how cold it was in August. We both had to go out and buy sweaters to get us through the week. I was totally expecting more 'Californian' weather!

  8. I love San Francisco so much! Definitely my favourite city, and I mean, I love my home town, but it just isn't San Francisco.
    Two years ago I stayed at The Red Victorian in The Haight, and I couldn't have asked for a better 'welcome back' experience! This place is right in the centre of the Haight and run by a little old and awesome lady called Sammi Sunchild. She came to SF during Woodstock and never left :)
    San Francisco is the most interesting patchwork of neighbourhoods and the common theme is that nobody belongs but everybody belongs. I can't wait to come back.
    Your photos definitely have the twin effects of satiating some hunger for the city by the bay, and at the same time I have to remind myself that I can't just jump on a plane right now unfortunately!

  9. LLOOOVVEEE this and soooo truee!!

  10. Great post! I just moved out of the City after a few years of great times. One thing I would always notice, early Saturday mornings the streets smell like urine (so gross). Not sure if it's all the cute dogs, the drunk 20-somethings, or the homeless whatever it is, it smells! My fiance and I would always say weed and pee are the City's signature scents. This post made me miss SF big time.

  11. this is AMAZING! And so so SO true hahah. The whole "intersection" convo happened to me last night and totally made me think about how everyone gives their address when telling someone where they live and expecting them to know exactly where they acutally live. Love my San Francisco!

  12. i always say San Fran...damn it!


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