How San Franciscans and New Yorkers Differ

Even though I now live in San Francisco (have been here for 12 years), I’m a New Yawyer at heart. I love New York … I generally typify New York … I complain about not finding good pizza … I walk faster than everyone in California … and I search out people who tell it like it is.

NYC and SF have a lot of commonalities (it is very common for San Franciscans to have spent time in NYC), but they also have a lot of differences.


San Francisco is massively smaller than New York — even when you include Silicon Valley. At least in the technology arena, it seems like everyone is only two degrees removed from one another. Everyone can check up on everyone else.

Because of sheer size issues, it is much more profitable to be ethical in San Francisco (as opposed to the largely anonymous New York). People can easily check up on you in San Francisco — so business dealings are smoother, people behave better, and everyone who is rational is extremely concerned with their reputation.

In my twelve years here, I have only known one SF guy who cheated on his significant other. Only one. (for some reason, I have known five SF women that were not true to their spouses). This is probably because the town is so small, one would likely get caught. Hence it is more profitable to be ethical.

In New York, by contrast, cheating on girlfriends and wives, while not commonplace and still unacceptable, is much more common.

And whether it is one’s sex life, or their business transactions, one can screw over a lot more people in New York before one’s reputation globally suffers.


San Francisco and Silicon Valley are more of a meritocracy than any place I have ever been. Discrimination in SF is based more on one’s brain than on one’s background. In all my dealings in the Bay Area, I have never been asked, in a business setting, what my father does for a living or what high school I went to. Those are very East Coast questions.

In New York, people are always trying to put a box around you. Where did you grow up? What church do you go to? what is your ethnicity? What club did you join? How many middle names do you have? Not necessarily to discriminate (as I find New Yorkers extraordinarily friendly and inviting), but more to try to better categorize someone. In New York, it is far more important that one is Jewish and went to Exeter Academy then that information would be in San Francisco.


A New York friend is far more likely to invite you into his home than a San Francisco friend. I have no idea why, but New Yorkers are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Need a place to stay? Want a meal? Need help moving to a new place? Look no further …

San Franciscans, by contrast, are connectors. They might not let you stay the night at their house, but they are happy to introduce you to Tom Siebel or Jerry Yang in a business setting. No one in New York has ever offered to introduce me to Hank Paulson or Stephen Schwarzman.


My guess is that after Washington DC, San Francisco is the most transitory city in America (maybe tied with Atlanta and Phoenix). It is hard to find someone in SF that is actually from SF. Many people are immigrants or transplants (including thousands from New York).

NY has is share of transplants, but much of the nightlife and business-life revolves around people that have been in the New York area for generations. Old money is more important. In New York, your high school friends are more important … in Boston, your college friends are more important … in San Francisco, your business school friends are more important …

Because SF is so transitory, people are far more open to meeting new people.


Religion tends to be deemed more important in New York. San Francisco has one of the highest rates of intermarriage between religions of all American cities (that is probably due to the fact that SF also has lowest rate of people who regularly attend religious services).

Though New York is certainly not the bastion of religious zeal, it does promote more adherence to God. That might be because tradition is much more ingrained in NY society (and there is a historic church or synagogue on every corner).


That’s right, small cities like San Francisco (where everyone is maximum of two degrees from everyone else) massively change behavior.

First, people are more social … what? You say people are more social than in New York?


My guess is that the average San Franciscan has double the amount of acquaintances than the average New Yorker. Double.

They probably have the same number of “friends” — but twice as many people they know and like (the next step beyond friends). eVite originated in SF because of the dotcom craze — but it also originated here because there more of a reason for evites. Parties of 50 people that all know each other are commonplace in SF — they’re rare in NY.

This is, of course, due to SF’s size and transitory nature. When I go out in NYC, I go to a bar with three friends and maybe, just maybe, we happen to run into someone we know there. In SF I go to a bar with three friends — but I already know that they’ll be at least 20 acquaintances there. Now all these acquaintances brought their friends — so what happens is that I go into the bar knowing 20 and I leave knowing 30.

And clubs … how many people in SF do you know that joined a social club? I think I might know three. But many of the people I know in New York are part of some club — whether it is the Harvard Club, the Metropolitan Club, the banana-split with all the toppings club …

Why the difference?

Because New York is about those boxes … SF is about off with the suit and tie …

36 thoughts on “How San Franciscans and New Yorkers Differ

  1. apophenia

    NY vs. SF

    I’ve always been a bit obsessed about the differences between New York and San Francisco. As such, i really enjoyed reading Auren’s reflections on the difference (even if he’s a Republican – ::wink::)….

  2. Liz

    I think you hit the nail on the head about NYC. I find many New Yorkers to be open and friendly. Laid back doesn’t necessarily mean friendly, as I have discovered about many Bay area folks.

  3. Lawrence Krubner

    The other thing I’ve noticed about New York is that people are very busy. This leads to some strange paradoxes. New York is a city for the ambitious, everyone works hard. Everyone I knew was craving a broad social life, but had to cram it into a limited amounts of time. Partly for that reason, people were shockingly open abouut their lives. I was at parties where 3 or 4 of us, all strangers, would start to talk and within 10 minutes someone would be talking about the darkest moments of their life, being betrayed by their spouse, or being sexually molested at age 9. And I think, partly, people used this openness as a sorting mechanism, a quick way to figure out who was worth following up with, who did you click with. There was no time to waste on bad leads, no one had spare time.(I mostly ran in artist circles, so the people I knew may have been more open than the average.)
    New York makes an interesting comparison to the South, where I am now. The South seems much more insular. You can go out and meet people, but it seems as if there is less lonliness in the South, and therefore people are less willing to make new friends. They are open to new friends, but there is no urgency to it, so people don’t make the effort. As I said, there seems to be less lonliness, and I think it is because the South is less transitory, there are less people who’ve just arrived.

  4. Karen

    I couldn’t agree more with Auren. For all those of you who read this and can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic, I have the perfect website for you: Its for those who have left NY but still consider themselves to be New Yorkers. Enjoy!

  5. scribbles

    East versus West

    Had this link sitting around for a while, waiting to be posted. I have plots of one day experiencing living in the east coast–mainly New York; so Auren Hoffman’s write-up on How San Franciscans and New Yorkers Differ is an…

  6. scribbles

    East versus West

    Had this link sitting around for a while, waiting to be posted. I have plots of one day experiencing living in the east coast–mainly New York; so Auren Hoffman’s write-up on How San Franciscans and New Yorkers Differ is an…

  7. Liz

    did I miss it? I am a native Californian with native New Yorker relatives. One big one is mass transit (New York) vs. car (SF).
    I ahve never met a Californian who has never learned to drive. Most of my friends in NY do not have driver’s licenses. I was stunned when I found out this erudite, sophisticated person…had never driven a car.
    (ps, stopped by from recently updated).

  8. Aaron

    You are a truely too into yourself and your jewishmess. Get over it, go back to NYC and let San Francisco alone. Thanks.

  9. Joe Reskin

    (a friend of mine pointed me to this site a couple of days ago)
    See, right there, that’s it. That last comment actually says quite a lot more about San Franciscans than the rest of the post.
    I’ve been living in San Francisco for a few years and when I’ve been here, I’ve found that most others who live here are not only not as friendly as new yorkers, but are actually, simply not friendly. End of story. Sure, people in San Francisco are nice, they’ll help you if you’re lost or lend you the $27.50 you need to get a cup of coffee, but beyond the basics, most people here are closed off and cliquish.
    The person who commented ahead of me might be joking, sure, but I’ve seen that same sentiment around genuinely before. It seems that people in San Francisco, while claiming incredibly openmindedness and diversity are actually striving for homogeny and sameness among everyone.
    What other city have you ever been in in which people have bumper stickers, t-shirts, billboards and full-page newspaper ads saying “BORN AND RAISED IN SAN FRANCISCO?” Who cares?!
    I’ve found that you’re either one of them or you’re not.
    What I can’t quite figure out, though, is why San Franciscans seem to complain about everything all the time. The weather’s crappy. The bus is late. BART’s crowded. There are too many tourists. I overheard a conversation at a coffee shop in the Mission not too long ago that had some guy say that people who go anywhere near the wharf area, north beach, union square, or the cable cars aren’t “real” San Franciscans. Doesn’t it occur to anyone that the tourists are just about the only ones bringing any money into this city theese days?
    People in San Francisco are more concerned with WHY people are here. Right reasons vs. wrong reasons? Please. What’s wrong with simply trying to make yourself happy, regardless of the reason?
    In New York, “Hi, I’m Larry.” will get you into most conversations pretty well, but here it seems you need to say, “Hi, I’m Larry and I’m Gay Vegan Tibetan Unitaririan Member of the Green Party who has been to Burning Man every year since 1651.”
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to get into conversations at bars, over games of pool, only to be shut out because I’m not a bike messenger, or I’ve never been to India, or I like a good burger. Sorry, folks, I’m just Joe. That seems to be good enough for most people, just not you San Franciscans.
    The PR machine in San Francisco has everyone believing that San Franciscans are the most forward-thinking, open-minded, and creative people the world has ever known. While they are pretty creative and forward thinking, open-mindedness couldn’t be further from the truth.
    In New York people actually tell you what they think and care what you have to say about things. Here, not so. Here, no one tells you anything, but if you don’t guess what they’re thinking, the doors closed.
    Frankly, I’ve spent enough time and energy trying to figure out what exactly San Franciscans want, when it really just seems most people simply want to close the door and keep out anyone who isn’t exactly like them. Sure, San Franciscans are more open about differences in skin color and sexual orientation, but beyond that, the minds are closed.
    Sure New Yorkers have reputations for bring rude and always too busy for everything, but at least they’re genuine. At least they’re caring. At least they’re not looking at what you are, rather than who you are. I’d take a New Yorker’s intesity over a San Franciscan’s hollowness in a second.
    I’m, very clearly, not from San Francicso. I’m not from New York (though, sometimes I wish I was)I’m from one of those “other” cities. I’m getting out of here as soon as I can. Going to go somewhere where people aren’t going to tell me I’m being too Jewish (I’ve been told that, too).
    Later folks.

  10. shayla

    I dont see why you people have such a negative outlook on sf I go to New York every year and I have never met a person there who was nice so in general people who live in large cities are more then likely self centered

  11. Mark T

    Look people San Francisco is one of the best cities in the work. New York is cool, but San Francisco is much better place to live and be at.
    Thats right!

  12. Rick

    San Francisco is the best city in the world.
    You New Yorkers just envy the greatness of California.

  13. Darryl

    yeah. alotta new yorkers(not all, but the few rotten apples) are so caught up in “New York” that nothing exists outside of it. They don’t even realize it. I moved to SF from the east. It’s more open, people are more individualistic, and less likely to “follow the leader” out here. New Yorkers don’t even realize when they’re being followers, but alot of them spend life comparing every single, irrelevant thing to ny! People spend so much time going in circles over there that nothing gets done. They envy Cali, because Cali is the only state that’s not fascinated with it. Plus Cali has just as many, well actually more people; the mentality is just as fast while people don’t see the need to speedwalk for the cameras.

  14. KAW

    Interesting. I have been out here in CA for 8years now. Born in the Great Lakes region and lived in several East Coast cities. I find CA to be great due to its…outdoor beauty..beyond that…nothing. Most native Californians I’ve met have never been East of Las Vegas or Reno(an oversized Greyhound bus station). Most have gone to Hawaii and to Disneyland or whatever it is in Anaheim. Most don’t have any clue about what the rest of the country is like, is about or about patriotic historical feelings that I think are more deeply ingrained when you get east of the Continental Divide. CA is a place that freaks come to get lost..and disappear. CA is full of immigrants from the Eastern nations that are way different than my Western European mindset(give me an old tudor in a foggy valley to a contemporary cold place on a beach any day)
    I sum it up like this…brains west. I really don’t date native Californians..I don’t feel like they ‘get’ my core being…and would be like…clueless about what value,beauty and depth industrial cold, tough environment can contain. I wish I had more lives to live! later- gotta go out an battle against this AWFUL CA rain-

  15. Bill

    The guy who wrote this article had some interesting things to say, but you readers are just a bunch of haters.
    NYC is dope, but SF is gorgeous. Way to much hating on the weather too, where else can you get 75 degree days in January without dealing with SoCal bullshit.

  16. victor

    who says “dope” anymore? SF is worse tha NYC and SoCal by far. From far away it’s nice, but when you get down to the substance of SF, it’s nothing but a midsized city with an oversized opinion of itself. And it’s not gorgeous. The setting AROUND it, yes, but the city is a dirty toilet. But I guess NYC isn’t much better in that respect…

  17. Bernadette Balla

    Interesting that you came out for the rapleaf theme “IT IS MORE PROFITABLE TO BE ETHICAL” in this post way before rapleaf was born. Or was it born but in stealth mode?

  18. NY State of Mind

    Born in NYC, I’ve lived these last 8 years in Southern CA. Anaheim, to be precise.
    There is NO comparison between ANY city in Cali and NYC. I find most californicans dull, kinda slow-witted and totally lacking any charm. Physically, like the state itself, native californians are mostly attractive. That’s simply because beauty is such an obsession here that if God didn’t give you any then the Plastic Surgeon certainly will. Fake boobs, dental veneers, nose-jobs, hair transplants’s ridiculous.
    There’s so many blond people (natural or Revlon) that it looks like a f*cking Hitler Youth Rally wherever you go. Everyone has a gym membership. Unlike NYC, the racial mix is limited to very snobbish anglos, mexicans, asians and blacks. That’s IT. These races live mostly amongst themselves and only mix with the others when inevitable. There is NONE of the exciting social interplay that goes on in NY.
    Californians are very socially-challenged people because their lifestyles revolve around the automobile to such an extent that they rarely have the opportunity to really mix-it-up with others in order to interact and develop social skills.
    They’re very materialistic, poorly formed culturally (they rarely travel beyong AZ and if they do go to the East Coast they stay 3 days and think they’re experts on the topic).
    YES. The place is BEAUTIFUL, although that applies mostly to the coastal areas, because you go a few miles inland and quickly realize the place is actually a f*cking desert scrubland. If they didn’t water their vegetation for 4 weeks the whole state would turn brown.
    Let do do a little free-word association to give you an idea of the major differences:
    NY: nice, exciting, right, fast, intelligent, brainy, funny, avant-garde, a place where things are happening and life is exciting!..
    CA: brown, dull, stupid, sleepy, slow, boring, superficial, racist, a place in the desert you crawl to in order to die alone and forgotten and bored to fuckin’ death.

  19. Damon F.

    Gimme a break, NY State of Mind.. You live in friggin’ Anahiem for crying out loud! What self-respecting NY’er or SF’er would do that to themselves? Orange County is notorious for living in a cocoon.

  20. SF_Guitarist

    Everytime I am on the East Coast (whether Boston or NYC), I can’t wait to return to San Francisco. San Francisco is the Best City on Earth and I’ve been to many in the US and Europe. It’s like an obsession. It gets under your skin. There is definitely a way of life in Northern California that cannot be compared to anywhere else than possibly the Pacific Northwest.
    I always wonder why people who consider themselves “New Yorkers” living in other cities even live in those in those cities. Trust me, the only thing we Northern Californians natives think when you refer to yourselves as a “New Yorkers” is how tragic it is for you not to be living where your heart is. Living in San Francisco, my heart is where it belongs. Nothing compares. I can’t help but feel like I just came out of a black-and-white movie everytime I return home to the Bay Area after spending time on the East Coast and it never fails that I meet people on their way back that feels the same, whether they are from here originally or not.
    Life is too short to live somewhere you don’t love. There is nothing on the East Coast that I deem any better than here in Northern California. Sorry, having tact is something POSITIVE, not NEGATIVE. And living life calmly instead of running around in a rat race is what I prefer. Seeing how successful we are out here should be an indication that you CAN HAVE IT ALL – success and peacefulness. And the balance of nature and city is perfect for me. Life is too short to be uptight and stressed all the time.
    So, my recommendation is that if you feel so strongly as a New Yorker, perhaps the best place for you is to be in New York.

  21. Janet

    I find this topic endlessly interesting. Is there really no SF New Yorkers Club with skits to mock us all – East and West? If so – please do tell! I’ve lived in many places before (including abroad) but in the 4 years I’ve been in Silicon Valley – having moved from the NY metropolitan area – I cannot seem to define this culture – and I think it’s because there is no one culture to define – especially in SV.
    The SF culture is a bit easier to figure out, but Silicon Valley is harder to peg – and yes, you’re right – New Yorkers like to peg – it’s a survival thing.
    I have been struck – like between the eyes with a wet fist – by the huge differences between NY humor and that of this area. In NY – most people love and expect – and respect – a good joke, gibe, jab, quip, etc. In Silicon Valley, I’ve learned don’t do it. Californians mistake what they call, “sarcasm” for what New Yorkers enjoy as minute by minute entertainment / wit – and it’s why Seinfeld and so many other NY-based comedies do so well. We grow up with fast thinking, fast talking, funny, creative go-getting people. We thrive on a good laugh out loud. We say it how it is – and you always know where you stand with us. In California, you may never know where you stand – or why. And what a waste of time and energy that can be. (I don’t mean throw diplomacy to the wind – but do stand up for what you think.)
    And yes, the transient nature of this area makes bond-making challenging. New Yorkers, I have always found, get below the surface fast. Perhaps because of their speed of life, there’s less time to waste. Out here, it takes longer to get deeper – and to hear a person’s real opinion.
    All that said, my Chicago and Wisconsin friends are some of the nicest, real friends in need you could ever meet.
    But back to the “Coastal Comparisons.” I’m going to sign off on a positive note for the sake of our Californians who do not want to offend anyone: I do love the freedom out here to wear whatever the heck I want. And to pass up a McDonalds because I can get the best food value from a variety of Asian and Middle Eastern, etc., restaurants and grocers at good prices!
    And the cyclists can ride … and the flowers can grow … all year long….
    But for all you fellow New Yorkers out here – I know you too miss the quick New York State of minds …let’s keep it alive on the West Coast: Californians need us – whether they know it or not!

  22. Jason

    Intriguing read.
    There are a few differences between the city the set the stage for such different cultures:
    1. the average age.
    You find NYers of every age, from kids (yes they actually exist there) to old people. Families actually stay here, generations are represented. SF is bizarrely a town of 20-40 year olds, with the median age around 25. The only white hairs are tourists. It feels like a college campus. And similar to college, it’s dominated by a bunch of white hipsters, with the Mexicans and Asians cleaning their shit up.
    2. Diversity
    There is “diversity” in the wrongly-construed definition in SF, meaning “a lot of non-white people”, but they tend to be Mexican, Asian (Chinese & Filipino almost exclusively) and blacks ghettoized in very specific, very dangerous housing projects.
    In NY there are literally people from everywhere. That is what diversity means.
    3. “Counterculture”
    SF pays a lot of lip service to this but as it’s been discussed here already that’s BS since everyone dresses exactly the same (think Urban Outfitters) and listens to the same music. Looks (bordering on anorexic, skater, bicycle messenger) are extremely important – and there is only one look that’s considered cool.
    in NY people bitch about the orthodoxy of haute couture but the reality is that you see a wide range of looks, types of music.
    4. Culture
    SFers are still in their midwester college mode – meaning they don’t have any real interest in culture at all, unless you consider lounging at a cafe for hours a day with a laptop (Apple Macbook of course – don’t dare break with the orthodoxy and use a PC!) culture.
    NYers actually are aware of what the city offers, even if they can’t fit everything into their schedule. And it’s not only limited to “high culture” either – you can easily spend a day at the galleries near the Chelsea piers. SF galleries sell schlock to tacky tourists.

  23. The Japsican

    I enjoyed the post, although I disagree with much of it.
    People form NYC and SF are more similar than they are different.
    First thing I found wrong with your entry was the talk about SF as a small city. “City” is a very subjective term. For example, Boston’s city population is only Metro area is the real tale about the size of a city. For example, Boston’s population is only 559034. However, we all know that Boston isn’t smaller than Albuquerque New Mexico. Why? Because the Metro Area of Boston is 6 million vs. Albuquerque’s 800,000. Boston is NOT a small city.
    To make my point, SF’s metro area is not only the 2nd densest, it’s the 5 most populated metro area. Only 2 million less than Chicago.
    I think by your definition of “Big City” only NY and LA would be considered “Big”. This is intellectually misleading.
    But good read, I certainly like your writing style.

  24. Bob

    Yvette and I moved out to Laguna from the NYC Metro area about a year and half ago.
    The newness fascination and the beauty of the California are wearing thin.
    There is a saying in NY about California and Californian:
    “California 780 miles long, 350 miles wide, and Californians, a half inch deep”.
    It is surprising how different people act and think out here. I lived in North Dakota for a few years when I was a young man, I can see a “mid-western” influence on the people down here in this homogenous Orange County area.
    The lay of the land is beautiful, and the ocean coastline is breathtaking…no question.
    BUT the People are superficial, and seem to live by watching TV reality shows, and are about as sincere as Lindsay Lohan attending a drug free clinic.
    I mentioned, superficial–On more than one occasion on meeting a Californian, their introduction incorporates what the own, cars, and what they do, and not about WHO they are.
    A statement of “Let’s meet again”, is mentioned, but doesn’t come about.
    We had numerous TRUE and REAL friends back east, and getting to know quality people here in California, is just is not happening.
    We are considering getting out of Orange County and moving to San Diego as it has more of a city like feel and we feel the town has more character, and maybe that will carry over to the people who live there.

  25. Some Brit

    Lol! Come on guys! I’m not from New York or California but, seriously, does no one have anything good to say about Cali??
    Sure the people may be “superficial” on the South Coast, but I sure as hell would rather someone was “superficial” and kind to my face, saying, ” Hey, let’s meet again sometime!” when they didn’t really mean it, than someone saying, ” F*ck off!” and really meaning it!!
    ( Billy Connelly is totally right imo! Lol!)
    I’d much prefer a kind and courteous lie to a harsh truth from someone I don’t really know!!!
    Maybe that’s just me being ignorant and British in my attitudes, but reading this page has only really solidified for me the worldwide rumor that New Yorker’s hate Californians and Californians don’t care! Sorry!
    I love New Yorkers so much but I think it’s unfair to say all Californians are superficial and fake. That’s like saying all New Yorkers go,” Fuhgeddaboutit” and wander about as neurotic as Woody Allen!
    Can we get some Cali support please? I don’t wanna believe something so negative as a whole state of people being shallow weirdos!!

  26. Veroniqua

    Here’s some support for Cali:
    I live in San Francisco, and I used to live in New York City for a very long time. I agree with the blogger that New Yorkers – and many East Coasters in general – tend to care much more about your background than San Franciscans. One of the reasons I left NYC was because I got sick of constantly being asked where my parents and grandparents were from, and judged for it. I was from the South, and many New Yorkers considered me politically incorrect for this reason, even though my family never had slaves and were not racists. Many people in my family had only just arrived in this country during the Civil War! Here in San Francisco, I tell people I’m from Kentucky all the time, and no one cares. It’s simply not an issue with them.
    It was interesting that most of those politically correct New Yorkers that looked down on me because I was from Kentucky were wealthy or at least upper-middle-class (much more so than I was), and lived in fancy New York neighborhoods like Park Avenue. Even though they prided themselves on being so hip and liberal, the only non-white people they knew were their hired help.
    So I left New York City because for a long time I saw it as a city full of mostly limousine liberals that looked down on me for things that – deep down – they really didn’t like about themselves.
    I’m not saying that San Francisco is perfect either…I do think it’s true that many of its people can be very cliquish. But here if someone is not acting too friendly, chances are it’s because they don’t know me and I’m not in their clique…whereas in New York, I’ve usually found out it’s because I don’t look or act or talk like someone from their background. I would much prefer to live in a place where someone snubs me because they don’t know me, or because I’m not part of their clique, rather than live in a place where someone snubs me for things about myself that I can’t change, or because of they think I’m a certain way and I’m really not that way, but can’t prove to them that I’m not that way.
    On the flip side, I have learned that many if not most New Yorkers do not have this snooty attitude. In my experience, the ones that do mostly live in fancy Manhattan neighborhoods. There are a lot of great things about New York and I now see them; although it’s now becoming more and more of a playground for yuppies and the super-rich. There’s a book called “The Suburbanization of New York.”

  27. Rafael

    “San Francisco is massively smaller than New York”
    Did you weigh it yourself, or are you taking someone else’s word for it?

  28. Sylvester

    I’m a different kind of NYer. I love NYC when it is cold, and loathe it (right now) when it is hot.
    San Francisco has the best weather in the Continental U.S., and that is why I constantly wish I was there from July through mid-September.
    I live in Times Square. (lived in Bx, Qns, Westchester, also) In SF, I lived in The Tenderloin adn SOMA: the best that I could do. I’m riotously poor, and I fare slightly better in NYC.
    I find both cities interesting for many different reasons.
    Unfortunately, the truth about Manhattan versus San Francisco – the real argument here, is that they have become much of a muchness.
    Manhattan looks more and more like a giant, maladjusted suburb. We have more chain stores than any city in the USA right here in one Boro.
    San Francisco has not much more to offer – not really. The things that defined both cities in the past that is gone forever are either tourist attractions or they are torn down/excavated/turned into luxury housing. Clubs come and go, and art taste changes. I had a lover in SF who was an artist, so I know there is a vibrant scene out there.
    What defined NYC? Two things: Wealth and immigrants.
    What defined SF? Two things: Wealth and immigrants.
    The wealth is held by the few. It screams at you more in SF, because the City manages to use a sort of sneaky population control scheme that leaves working class families out of the city center. Or even out of the County altogether.
    In NYC, that same process is going on, now. Manhattan is becoming a fortress for the wealthy. It’s swell if you have lots of cash.
    The poor live in tinier enclaves: most are pushed to the outer Boros, or out altogehter. They often move South, these days.
    The argument goes something like this:
    The “color” and “soul” that make a neighborhood interesting is lovely to have. But the real estate is more important – and the poor people who are that “color” and “soul” didn’t think it was so great to grow up poor and under-educated, in hot, substandard housing.
    So people move up the economic ladder, if they can. They take the “color” and “soul” with them. It gets dispersed – all over the place.
    Both cities are seeing a constant influx of immigrants. Some people don’t favor the Asian and Hispanic influences in both cities that are the current strong wave.
    Perhaps if they were French or English, that would suit many who write here better.
    What I ask myself is this: Where do I want to live? I am lucky to have any choice about it at all. I am okay living at The Times Square Hotel in 120 Sq. feet. I have a kitchenette, my own bath, a good lease. It is safe. We have a nice roof terrace.
    My neighborhood is like 1,000 Powell Streets colliding all at once. On some days, I appreciate the novelty for the visitor; on others, I am crusty and impatient.
    SF has small tolerance for its homeless problem. They strategically placed themsleves right in the Center of it all (which is sad and hilarious at the same time). NYC has more of a spread, but we have just as many homeless in Manhattan, even right now, with tip-top rents.
    Since I live with 50% formerly homeless tenants in my building, and I lived with a larger percentage of the same in the Tenderloin (Dalt Hotel, Shawmut Hotel, etc), I can try to form a comparison.
    People in NYC are a little more sympathetic. Reason? NYC has a larger strata of economic difference. People who ride the subway are not the richest folk, usually. At least 1 million people in NYC today know they are just a few paychecks away from real homelessness – and they have families.
    That gives extra “color” and “soul” to a city. Fear, perhaps, too.
    There is plenty of religion in both Cities. The proportion of liberals per capita is larger in SF, but the spread is similar. Each liberal group has its own reason for voting liberal, or at least as Democrat on the ticket.
    If I was on a Green Card, I would not want to vote Republican. But if I had a big house in Queens, with rising taxes, I might change my tune, if finances got tight.
    I think New Yorkers are slightly more prepared for the new Global reality that is NYC today. It is more than a smattering of this and that. We have 3 large Chinatowns (Sunset Park, Flushing, & “Chinatown”), which are actually pan-Asian. And at least 188 countries are decently represented in the 5 Boros.
    Our Black communities are not simply “Black.” There is an interesting debate within over religion and culture. There is a real difference seen when experiencing the West Indian culture, the sub-Saharan African culture, and the North American African-American culture.
    This is critical to consider in the discussion. Many people like SF because is has a tiny Black community, and the Latin community is being pressed out of The Mission and squeezed out of the Tenderloin.
    In NYC, similar sentiments [and actions] exist/persist, but Latins and Blacks OWN big chunks of New York now. I think New York is a much more promising City for those two groups, in particular – even with existing racial tensions. I’d say the same for any number of Internationals who are not European.
    SF is a nice place to found a new neighborhood.
    New York is an experiment that may go in any direction – it may glorify and surpass all expectations of what America was supposed to be for everyone, but has not been that to date. It may crash and burn in a battle of hate and greed.
    We are still separate and unequal.
    San Franciscans know this, they read a lot of books, demonstrate a lot, give money to causes.
    Caucasian New Yorkers are less likely to be as well-read and politically hip, as a whole. And other races/ethnicities are less likely to know it all, because they are too busy making rent. But New Yorkers are more likely to have real-time experience with many of the issues that Americans argue about constantly, right now. And in NY, one sees a more “pure” immigrant.
    I love San Franciso dearly. It is so beautiful, and it is easier for a guy like me – a simple psycho AIDS fag.
    The MUNI is great if you live downtown, which I actually prefer. People may not approve of my Tenderloin choice, but it was a few blocks uphill to The Cathedrals, and well – really – who is to say what SF is and is not.
    I have a Driver’s License. Lots of people do in NYC. My ex lives in Central Queens. I drive him around every so often.
    In California, I only had an Identification Card. If I drove, I pulled out my NY ID.
    So what?
    If you want to live in SF, and can afford to make it there, why not try? If you like it, that’s great.
    If you aspire to NYC, there’s always room for one more. Caution: you may not get to live in Manhattan! If you are clever and persistent, you might get to.
    Some of us would now argue that the real NYC does not start until you reach 110th Street, or you are around people who fall below the poverty level, or are in another Boro besides Manhattan.
    But this is not realistic. NYC extends exactly to the boundaries. You really feel them. Long Island is kaboom! Westchester is whoosh! And the rest is water.
    Same for SF. Oakland is too smoggy and hot. Daly City is ugly. SF is just to the border of SF, and perhaps you may not notice you left if you drive south, but you have.
    The rest is water.
    Do I add something to NYC? Did I add something to SF?
    I ask myself this. San Franciscans often told me to go back to NY. Too many poor people already. No services. In part, that was true.
    I have to admit I never saw so much alcohol and drug abuse in such a small area. It is intense, and not for those who are tempted.
    I may have 5-10 years left to live. I am stuck in NYC now, because because.
    But if I come back to SF, entering through the hotel system of the Tenderloin, and St. Anthony’s soup kitchen, I will not be fazed by those who would prefer me back in NYC, or anywhere but there.
    Yes, if I return to SF, it has to be for the weather. It’s very hard to form relationships, friendships, until you are very well established. For the poor, this is even more marked.
    But then, I always went to SF to get away from everyone. No one can reach me out there – it is well, Land’s End.
    Peace from Sylvester of the Times Square Hotel, apt. 1026.

  29. tjk

    New Yorkers seem to have more to back up their liberal espousing than San Franciscans for whom liberalism seems to be a ‘cool’ badge.
    I get the sense sometimes that most SFers are great at talking a ‘liberal game’ but in my experience most lack any in-depth knowledge of the issues besides the fact they support something or are against it.
    New Yorkers on the other hand don’t seem to tout their liberalism quit as much but when they do they usually can back it up with in-depth knowledge/understanding of the issues and some sort of political activism.
    Keep in mind the following is a generalization but from my experience an accurate one. My typical experience with a SFer who toutes themself as liberal is that they eat at nice restaurants, drive a Prius, know a lot about wine, endlessly talk about their volunteer trip to Cambodia for orphans in college, know a lot of good liberal buzzwords and then absolutely know little or nothing about issues they advocate and aren’t in the least way politically active.

  30. Elvis Presley

    New York is great; San Francisco, awesome, but I am still confused as to what a “New Yawyer” is…
    just joking about your first paragraph typo….
    good article…

  31. Rachel

    My husband and I were born and raised in the Bronx, NY but have lived in the bay area for about 4 years. Due to him losing his job we moved back to the Bronx to be with family. We both absolutely LOVE California because we both had a better quality of life out there. There is so much beauty and so much to do and see. If we wanted the beach we drove to it, if we wanted the snow, we drove to it. We struggle with racism issues here in NYC. Most people that we meet are extremely racist (Always us and them) We did not feel this way in Cali. Maybe we were blind to it but I personally did not feel like people were racist. I also loved how driving 5 miles outside most cities did not lead you into the ghetto. We could be in Milpitas and drive 5 miles and still be in a decent area such as Sunnyvale or Santa Clara. Here in NY, we are very limited to being in decent areas and places can become very shady just by walking around the corner. However, we did struggle with making new friends in Cali because people were “cliquish.” If you did not go to their grade school or high school, then you did not belong. People in Cali also found me and my husband to be on the “hostile” side because our sense of humors came off as a little too harsh for many of their sense of humors. In conclusion, if you want to live in a stress-free environment where you get to enjoy the outdoors but may be lucky to find a 2 good friends, then Cali is your place. But if you like the hustle and bustle of a city and wouldn’t mind traveling 25-30 miles to beautiful areas then it is NYC. Now me and my husband need to decide where we want to settle down. The decision is much harder than many may think.

  32. jdizzle

    Who cares about 2nd densest metro area, we are talking BIG cities. Chicago and Philly are both way bigger cities than San Francisco, but NYC absolutely dwarfs them. NYC feels about 6x larger than Chicago in it’s central core and Chicago feels 2-3x bigger than SF including infrastructure, which is pathetic in SF. SF and the Bay Area are beautiful but big urban city it is not. Europe and Asia also have tons of large cities. NYC is more comparable to Paris, Hong Kong or Tokyo, SF is more like Boston or Montreal, wayyyy smaller.

  33. Sav

    This is an unbelievably beautiful, poetic and truthful response to the reality of life in these large, diverse, expensive, and sometimes ruthless cities.


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