- I moved from the Texas suburb of Pflugerville, which is about 20 miles north of Austin, to San Francisco in February 2018.
- I’ve lived here ever since and have adjusted to not only city life but also life in America’s biggest tech hub.
- Here are the 11 things that surprised me the most about moving here.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
I’d never necessarily dreamed of moving to San Francisco specifically. That fantasy was reserved for New York, just like every journalist’s pipe dream.
But fortunately, I landed a job in February 2018 and made the move from my hometown of Pflugerville, Texas, to the Bay Area and have lived here ever since while also reporting on the region.
There was a bit of culture shock when I was first adapting to the tech hub — companies like LinkedIn and Twitter ran their global headquarters in buildings near my office, and the people walking next to me on the street were some of the country’s highest-paid workers. Down in the South Bay was the heart of Silicon Valley, where for decades the industry’s greatest advancements have been pioneered. What was happening around me was clearly much bigger than me.
There was also a bit of an adjustment going from what feels like a small town to a major metro area. Pflugerville is a suburb about 20 miles north of Austin, Texas, which is a tech city in its own right. I also went to school at Texas A&M in College Station, which also has a small-town feel.
Two years in and my skin’s gotten fairly thick — but only after I learned a few things.
Here are 11 things that surprised me most moving from Texas suburbia to Silicon Valley.
SEE ALSO: Photos of San Francisco taken 10 years apart show how much the city has changed
1. Let’s just get this one out of the way: Yes, it is expensive to live here. The high costs gave me a bit of a fright at first, but it’s doable if you have a full-time job that pays well.
You’ll see stats on median rent thrown around. Some sites list the average rent as $3,550, others at $2,492. But at the end of the day, they all conclude that rent in San Francisco is more expensive than anywhere else.
I pay $1,200 a month for a room in an apartment in a building constructed in 1907 with two other roommates, one of whom lives in what was once the living room. The only common area we have is the kitchen, and we have a split bathroom (meaning the toilet is in one room while the shower is down the hall in its own space).
My sister lives in a modern two-story house with two bathrooms in Austin, has 2 roommates as I do, and pays $200 less than I do for a room. Her downstairs floor is bigger than my entire apartment.
But we’re both where we want to be, which is exactly the point — people living in San Francisco are lucky enough to have jobs that allow them to put up with the city’s quirks because we deem them worth it to live here.
That’s not to say that the high costs don’t get frustrating.
Nothing gets under my skin more than a $13 cocktail served in a shot glass or a $10 sandwich. But that’s not the restaurant’s fault more than it is anyone else’s. There are a lot of reasons why it’s so expensive out here for business owners and residents alike.
2. It’s not San Fran for some reason. It’s SF, “the city,” or, as some may call it, “Frisco,” but never San Fran. Let your relatives and friends call it that when they come to visit, but you are a local, so don’t you dare.
3. It took me a while to get used to seeing the names and logos of some of the biggest tech companies displayed on street corners.
LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram — these used to exist merely in my phone. Now they’re plastered above me whenever I venture outside for a bite to eat during my lunch break.
It’s surreal, and sometimes I don’t think I’ve fully adapted to it.
4. The people working in these offices are some of the highest-paid in the city — and the country, for that matter. But besides the typical techie uniform that most conform to, you wouldn’t be able to tell that by looking at them.
With so much wealth and success, I thought it would be reflected in the lives and possessions of people living in the city.
And it is to a point — there are Teslas aplenty — but you’ll still see people that make sky-high salaries dressed in jeans and sneakers riding a bike to and from work. Ostentatious lifestyles are not as common as I thought they would be.
And that’s because it costs so much to merely survive here. Your money doesn’t go as far as it would in, say, my hometown of Pflugerville.
5. It is nowhere near as bohemian as I thought it would be.
I knew there would be a more corporate side to the city, but I pictured there being pockets of truly bohemian people. And there are — mostly artists, surfers, and other free spirits living on the western side of the city — but they’re not as prominent as I thought.
No flowing dresses and peace signs — just Patagonia vests and sneakers. Everyone dresses the same (including myself), and it’s all pared down, nothing fancy. As tech has grown in the city, artists and other free spirits have been priced out.
6. Many below a certain pay grade have been priced out, and I’ve never seen homelessness like I’ve seen it here.
The living conditions for homeless people in San Francisco are some of the worst in the world, with discarded needles, human feces, and tent encampments just some regular sights when walking around the city.
I’ve seen trash collectors slip on human feces on the sidewalk while dumping trash bins on my walk to work in the morning.
But there are systemic problems causing San Francisco’s homelessness crisis — a crushing housing shortage, stunted living wages, and an explosion of tech money have all contributed to a growing wealth divide that is seeing more and more people pushed out of their homes and onto the streets.
7. I knew the Bay Area had a temperate climate, but in reality, that means it’s just straight cold. It’s always chilly, with periodic bursts of warmth and sunlight throughout the day.
Summers don’t really exist here. Never (ever) leave home without a jacket. And dress in layers whenever you can, i.e., short-sleeve shirt, button-down over that, then a jacket. Remove as needed.
And if you live in a building that’s over 100 years old (like yours truly), the windows are loose and insulation is nonexistent. Socks and layers are your friend, both outside and indoors.
8. You can be in the heart of an urban city, at a beach, or on the mountains all within a day.
Living in San Francisco gives you easy access to so much adventure, for lack of a better word.
Lake Tahoe is about a three- to four-hour drive east, there are beaches like Ocean Beach out to the west of the city, and hiking trails surround the Bay Area. I could go on, but it makes you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth when you can experience everything that comes with living in the Bay Area.
9. The hills will kill you, but then you’ll get used to them.
Parking spaces are not guaranteed, even for some living in multimillion-dollar homes, and traffic is congested throughout the city.
So if you are carless, which in my mind has been a perk of living in an urban environment, walking can be much easier than public transit or ridesharing. The downside is that I’ve worn out and have had to toss some of my favorite shoes, and I’ve dealt with foot problems since I moved out here. On the bright side, I have calves of steel.
Sneakers or work boots and thick socks are the way to go — you learn to opt for function over form very quickly.
10. You can absolutely meet your forever friends and maybe even a lifetime partner here, but don’t get used to it.
You’ll meet a Bay Area native occasionally, but most people who live here aren’t from here.
The turnover rate of people coming to and leaving SF is high. A 2018 poll showed that 46% of San Franciscans in the survey said they would move in the near future. And a recent November survey of city residents showed that a third of the respondents want out. There’s a mass exodus from the city as costs rise and issues plaguing the region are exacerbated.
Another reason is simply that many see San Francisco as a temporary place to live to jump-start their careers or enjoy the youth of their 20s and 30s.
I met my best friends here when I moved to the city in 2018, and about a year and a half later, they packed up and moved to London for grad school — and I doubt it’s the last time I’ll have to deal with friends moving away.
11. Reporting on Silicon Valley has been interesting as I’ve learned about how the tech industry has also played a role back home in Texas.
There’s a long history of tech in Austin, spearheaded by companies like Texas Instruments, Motorola, IBM, and Dell, to name a few. And Apple has had a presence in the region for two decades now.
But tech offices and workers have filed in even more noticeably within the past decade or so. And the suburbs will continue to feel the effects as well.
Every time I go home to Pflugerville, more apartment complexes seem to appear. Shopping centers are planned for my hometown, I overhear venture-capitalist meetings at my neighborhood Starbucks, and a Bay Area couple, one of whom came from Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters, recently moved into my parent’s neighborhood.
Whether I’m home in Texas or back in the Bay Area, tech has become inescapable.