Top 10 Differences between NYC and the Bay Area

So its been almost 3 months since I’ve been living here in the Bay Area, and I’d like to reflect on some of the major differences that I’ve noticed between here and New York City.

  1. The people- there’s often a generalization that people in the west coast are more laid-back. Do I agree with this? Absolutely yes. Just in my day to day life, I notice people here are not as rushed to get to places. People form lines to get on the train, bus drivers greet you, and I’ve been asked more than once why I’m walking so fast, even though I have short legs. In New York, you’re more likely to be carried into the train by the hordes of commuters rushing in, than someone actually letting you go first. New Yorkers are not patient people, and you just do not want to stand in their way (especially not in front of the subway entrance). For this, I actually prefer the Bay Area because it’s nice to not feel like I’m in a stampede all the time.
  2. Personal time- here in the Bay Area, doctor’s offices, businesses and grocery stores are generally closed after 5 or 6pm, and the “later” restaurants close after 8 or 9pm. Then on the weekends, most stuff are closed or have shorter hours. I love that everyone values their personal time more, even the kids in my school have more recess time than the kids in NYC. However this makes it quite a challenge to find things to do when you are out with friends pass 6pm on a weekday.   In New York, I’ve never had this problem. There was always somewhere to go or loiter, but here, even public places like the park become pretty quiet after the sun set, so you’re forced to either go to a bar, the movie theater, or someone’s home. And if you want to go see a doctor (not the ER) on the weekends? Forget about it. But maybe that is why people are more laid-back here, they have more time to themselves so they’re less stressed?
  3. Public transportation- okay, I use to complain relentlessly about the New York subway system all the time (and which New Yorker doesn’t?), but now it is the number one thing that I miss about New York City. Public transportation in the Bay Area S-U-C-K-S. Yes I went there. It is expensive and complicated as heck! There are over 20 different transportation agencies, and they EACH charge different prices. I know, I know, the Bay Area is big and contains several cities, but still, why can’t there be a more unified fare system? It doesn’t make sense that if I have to get somewhere, I have to pay for the train, pay again for the bus, and pay again for another bus. I feel like I’m constantly replenishing my clipper card (their version of the MTA card). If you have to pay $70 a week to get to work, it defeats the purpose of having public transportation. Public transportation is suppose to be affordable, that way it can incentivize people to not drive, be greener, and decrease traffic, but here in the Bay Area it almost makes more sense to have a car. In New York, you can get a monthly pass for $116 and ride to your hearts content. I miss you, MTA.
  4. Geography- for some reason I use to think Oakland and Berkeley were all part of San Francisco, like Queens and Brooklyn are part of New York City, but that is not the case. The Bay Area is a huge area consisting of many, many different cities including San Francisco. So if you’re thinking SF=NYC. WRONG. It’s more like Bay Area=NYC, except all the counties in New York City are considered part of one city, but not all the counties in the Bay Area are one city. SF just happens to be the most popular (and populous?) city in the Bay Area, that’s why they call it the San Francisco Bay Area. Does that make sense?
  5. Housing- is crazy expensive in the Bay Area! New York is expensive but the Bay Area is just downright outrageous. Just take a look on Craigslist for yourself.
  6. Food- cost of grocery is WAY cheaper in the Bay Area. The other day I bought a huge box of spinach here for $3.99, and a head of broccoli for $1.99. I’m pretty sure the exact same things costed me $5.99 and $2.99 in New York. That’s a huge difference! But get this…eating out is about the same, if not, more expensive in the Bay Area. Maybe because competition is more fierce in New York?
  7. Diversity – just like in New York, people in the Bay Area are very diverse. However I feel like the diversity here in the Bay Area is much more integrated, whereas in New York it’s more segregated. In the Bay Area, you just see more groups of diverse friends or colleagues hanging out, and common jobs such as bus drivers, grocery clerks, salespeople, are held by more variety of ethnicities. In New York,  often times businesses tend to be dominated by one or two groups (ie. laundromats tend to be owned by Chinese people, delis are owned by people from the Middle East, taxi drivers are from India or Pakistan, and so forth), but that is less of the case here in the Bay Area, which I like. I even noticed more female bus drivers here.
  8. Homelessness- is much more prevalent in the Bay Area, or at least it appears to be. According to the world wide web, the homeless population in New York City is estimated to be around 60,000, whereas in the Bay Area it’s 16,000, so why is it that I feel like I see (and smell) so many more homeless people in the Bay Area? Well for one thing, homeless people are not as heavily policed here. You can often see them sleeping on sidewalks, in bus stops, under highways, and even camping in parks. In New York City, this is simply not allowed. The city goes to great lengths to make sure public benches have dividers on them (so that you cannot lay down), and homeless people are not allowed to sleep on sidewalks. If they do, the cops come and ask them to leave right away. And camping on New York streets? Forget it. There is hardly enough room for pedestrians to walk, and if you try, the police would be there in seconds. I would say there is definitely more of a stigma attached to being homeless in New York City than in the Bay Area.
  9. Weather- to put it simply: New York City weather is more consistent throughout the day, but less consistent throughout the year. Bay Area weather is more consistent throughout the year, but less consistent throughout the day. Oh, and they don’t call SF the foggy city for nothing. It is always, always, looming over, and they’ve even named it Karl, and it has its own Twitter, what?
  10. Traffic and parking- is horrendous in both metropolitans, but I would say the Bay Area is worse. New York has more bridges and tunnels to deal with gridlock, but the Bay Area only has several bridges and they are far from each other. Parking is equally terrible in both places, NYC has less space, but more people drive in the Bay Area.

Other little things I’ve noticed:

  • Every third person here has a tattoo or a nose ring.
  • There are streets that you can cross diagonally here!
  • Rock, paper, scissors is sometimes call Ro-sham-bo. Why? I don’t know.
  • Garbage cans are decorated with lots of art here (at least in Oakland), and they’re pretty.
  • Activism is definitely more pronounced here.
  • Vegetarianism and veganism is more widespread here.
  • Draught is real here, and because of that, a lot of people have succulents on their yards, which I love!
I cannot see pretty succulents and not take a picture. It’s a problem.

So that concludes the top differences that I’ve noticed between the Bay Area and New York City, and please keep in mind these are just MY generalizations, not everything or everyone is that way or another. It has been an eye opening experience so far, and I can’t wait to discover more.


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