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Ask HN: Do you like working in San Francisco?
34 points by PascLeRasc on June 14, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments
I'm considering moving to SF for a job offer and it seems like there's a unique work culture there. I've been looking for a place where I can bike to work every day all year, and it seems like SF is perfect for that. Do you like working in San Francisco? What do you wish you knew about the work/hiring culture there before you moved?

I've known folks that have moved back to SF after years away because they were looking for the place where makers meet investors. For that, the city is the place to be.

Also, it's the bees knees for tech meetups and generally being an active technologist.

But honestly, it's oppressively expensive if you're not making well over $150K. Forget buying a home here. And renting, you'll just know every day that you're getting screwed. Even if you can "afford it," it doesn't feel good to know so many Americans are struggling and meanwhile you're burning money to live here.

Having lived here myself for over 8 years, I can say that culturally the city has been decimated. Only the rich can play here now. Students, teachers, artists, normal people of all kinds are priced out. For me, that means 90% of the friends I've had over my lifetime cannot afford to live in my city. It's not a good feeling.

My other experience has been that the city is no longer friendly, most store clerks and other folks you'll interact with on a daily basis are stressed out because they are commuting from 60 miles away to work here (serving the rich). Don't even get me started about the Uber drivers.

Despite all that, it's a beautiful place, and easy to romanticize, and I still love calling it home.

This is such a reasonable and great response.

I wasn't sure at the time I did it, but in retrospect, moving to SF was the best health-related decision of my life. (After Ga Tech in Atlanta, I waffled for years about moving to either SF or Boston, before finally moving to Mtn View in the early dotcom era. After one yr, I left for a 2 yr stint overseas, then moved back to SF in 2000.) I hate going to the gym, and Atlanta is miserably hot for outdoor exercise. As you say, in SF you can cycle or walk every day all year -- lately I walk an average 5 miles per day. When out of town friends come visit, they're so used to driving in the suburbs that they can't walk 6 blocks without complaining (six block isn't even one mile). I love it when ppl complain about parking; tough parking is your friend, bc it encourages you to bike or walk.

SF has multiple local farmers markets where you can get fresh seasonal produce. Fresh vegetables taste different than what you get in a supermarket. This is one of the key benefits of being in California. (In Atlanta, there are "International Farmers Markets" where the produce is shipped from Peru/Chile.)

In Atlanta I rented a 2br house by myself, and when I moved to Mtn View I brought most my stuff with me. Luckily I was able to drop that mentality while living out of a suitcase in a Sao Paulo hotel suite for two years. When I moved to SF, I ditched all my crap and shared an apartment. At the time I worked in Walnut Creek at Maxis/EA and several coworkers told me they wished they could live in SF but "couldn't afford it". The real issue is that for the same cost of renting a tiny SF apartment, they could rent a 2BR house in Pleasant Hill with garage and washer/dryer and they were unwilling to downgrade their lifestyle. My sister told me for decades she wanted to move back to a city, but they were trapped on the Florida space coast by that same mentality. Consider that you might be able to find a living situation where the master tenant has been living there for a while and has cheaper rent than market rate.

When living in Sao Paulo, I got some kind of severe respiratory allergy, and even after it passed, it still affected my sinuses. Moving to SF, I recovered because the air is fresh here. The smog gets pushed against the hills in Alameda. The famous fog and ocean air gets sucked across the city due to inland heating that lifts air, lowers air pressure, causing a breathing effect.

People are transient here, over the years most the friends I'd made moved away. Many of them had moved to SF intending to stay only for a few years in the first place.

People are busy here, and it's difficult to socialize. It's totally unlike Atlanta where people had time to chat and I had built a huge professional network. Here my network is relatively small.

The art/music culture may not be what it used to be, but you can still see the arts in Oakland [1], and open studios every October in SF [2], and it's still decent compared to other similar sized cities. The art museums here are certainly better than the ones in Atlanta. [1] https://www.oaklandfirstfridays.org [2] https://www.artspan.org/visit-sf-open-studios

When I'm working on the peninsula, I take my bike on Caltrain. It takes longer than driving, but I like aspects about it: exercise while commuting, enforced practice focusing on work during the train ride (instead of wasting that time reading news), and you see some regulars on the train.

Cool things you can do in SF that you can't do in Atlanta: - For a few years I was a volunteer docent at Point Bonita lighthouse in the Marin Headlands (part of Golden Gate Natl Rec Area), which I thought was cool. But if you want to meet females, you're better off volunteering at the Marine Mammal Center. - For the first 5 yrs in SF, I shared a ski house in Tahoe every winter. Tahoe is ~3.5-4 hour drive from SF (if no traffic). I'd find a group on Craigslist, 12 ppl get a Dec-Apr lease. Mid-week skiing is awesome, sometimes you have whole slopes to yourself. - I had a roommate who'd get up early a few times per week and go surfing in Pacifica before work.

You can dial in your cost of living: - I learned how to cook well, and cook at home almost every meal now. Most my groceries are from the farmers market and Costco. Huge savings compared to eating out all the time. - For a while I got rid of my car, and was spending about the same on Zipcar as I had spent on car liability insurance alone. - Housing is cheaper in Berkeley/Oakland and Bart isn't bad. Some companies give pre-tax commuter benefits. It's unfortunate there aren't more tech startups in East Bay.

I grew up there and also worked there. If you lean into what's good, then it's great.

What's good?

The outdoors, especially on weekends. It's easy to get to Tahoe, the Sierras, Yosemite, Mt. Tam. Most people don't fully explore Mt. Tam (only 30-40 mins away) and it's huge, even with waterfalls.

Burritos. I grew up on La Taqueria. But everyone has their fav.

Best of tech. It is the hub and that brings an energy and a lot of insider knowledge that's exciting.

Biking is good. I biked to work. It's nice because there isn't much rain.

The bad? Expensive. I thought it felt like a monoculture after being there too long.

Traffic will fairly quickly stifle any of the romanticism and beauty surrounding a quick trip up to Mt. Tam or Tahoe. At some point during the 70mins in traffic it takes me to go the ~10 miles from SF to Mt. Tam I realize it just isn’t worth it.

Try coming out to the east bay. Mt Diablo has some really nice sightlines (you can see the moutains around Yosemite in the right conditions). And there's an area near Las Trampas where you can see Moffet Airfield, San Francisco, Oakland and Mt. Tam in the same view. It's a bit more of a drive, but less traffic.

Where is the ideal place to live right now if you also want to work in the office of a tech company?

I found commuting into SF to be a pain and heard that commuting from the east bay to SF or from SF to the south bay is also very tough. For awhile, I lived in Mill Valley (north of the GGB) and commuted in on the Ferry. I loved that experience on the days that it worked. But I also felt like I was way too tied to the ferry schedules.

If I could work from home (like I do now), I'd love to live in Sonoma again (fires aside). It's beautiful and a great place to ride your bike.

It's tough. I mean the subtext is "Where is the ideal, affordable place to live".

I'm in the Tri-Valley area, but we bought a while ago when prices were more reasonable. I'm used to long commutes, so they don't bother me so much. Pleasanton is the end of the Bart line, so you're pretty much guaranteed a seat if you use that to commute in. I work in the south bay, so for me it's car / bus on rainy days and motorcycle on the nicer ones. I can do a good chunk of work from home too, so that helps.

Livermore is a little too far out; the last couple miles of traffic are torturous. Oakland is pretty hit or miss. Berkeley is... uh... Berkeley. Fremont isn't a terrible choice, but there's always traffic no matter which direction you want to go. Anything near Milpitas smells like landfill. Walnut Creek and Lafayette are nice, but expensive.

I don't really know much about the peninsulas or Richmond.

Depends on your commute tolerance. I think the best commute is a 5 minute walk from your high rise apartment to your high rise office.

I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic, but this is exactly what I want. I'd settle for a 15 minute walk, but being able to walk to work would be incredible - commuting is by far the most stressful part about work for me.

Not being sarcastic. Had that setup for a while. Humorously despite the 5 minute commute I would still work from home because it was so quiet I was absurdly productive.

One trick is to go on weeknights after work. If you live in Sausalito you can get to Muir Woods in about 10 minutes and no one is there so there is tons of parking and free entry.

One trick is to go at the most inconvenient time possible? Thats not a trick. Its just the most inconvenient time possible.

I hear ya. Everyone has different schedules and preferences. I love hiking after work personally.

If you're young, in tech, and have no attachments. Most of the complaints people have about SF stem from either living there too long or not being able to afford it.

Otherwise, it's a really unique and exciting place to be (for at least a few years). I will say I moved out because of the monoculture and wouldn't move back at this point, but I enjoyed my time there and am grateful I got to live there.

I've been out here around 12 years, and I agree with the criticisms. However, I would add that it's an amazing place if you're in the right neighborhood and can take advantage of the outdoors. As mentioned elsewhere, Mt. Tam is a short drive away, Marin headlands is even closer. Tahoe, Yosemite are between 3.5 and 5 hours away (usually, though traffic can cause issues).

I bike a lot and it's an amazing place for that. It's 40 min round trip from my door to the top of twin peaks and panoramic views of the city+bridges, 40 min round trip for a fun single track mountain biking outing up Mt. Sutro. Not to mention the great routes on the peninsula and up north (Mt. Tam is a beautiful 50-60 mile round trip).

In terms of cleanliness, I live in the Nopa/Alamo square area and I don't think it's particularly dirty. Petty theft from cars is an issue though.

Regarding some of the other criticisms, I'm not sure whether things are very different in other major metro areas in the US. In NYC you'd have the same criticisms about the finance industry. In DC you'd also have the same issues with the law/government industry. In LA it's about where you sit in the entertainment industry. If you work in an area's "industry" I think it's probably the same.

I've thought of leaving, but if I did I probably would aim for a smaller city with less of an "industry town" disposition.

SF and more broadly the bay area has much better job opportunities than where I'm from on the east coast, but after spending a few months living in the city from living on the peninsula, I really hate it.

SF is not a real city and the default is to be surrounded by the most extreme greed and antisocial behavior imaginable on a near constant basis. It's also more literally disgusting and expensive. I believe that there are probably ways to help mitigate this, but I have been unable to do so.

It is very easy to make a lot of money here especially if that's your primary focus. If you're even marginally competent technically and lack a strong sense of ethics, you will thrive in the area. There are many amazing programmers here, but there are even more bad programmers making, to be frank obscene amounts of money for their level of competence and ability to provide value.

It goes beyond being a tech monoculture, that exists but it's secondary. The thing that everyone here has in common is a greed monoculture. Getting rich at any cost is the name of the game. I don't think it was always like this, but I've only been here for 3 or 4 years so I don't really know.

Do I regret moving to the area? I don't think so, I've changed so much while here. I don't know how I would have changed somewhere nicer. I feel good that I've decided to leave soon.

I hate it very much, the city is dirty and chaotic, feeling unsafe. The commute was soul crashing, food is expensive. Can’t understand why startups like it. The South Bay is much quieter, you can focus better.

I moved from SF to NYC after quitting my job in SF with nothing lined up because of how godawful it was outside of work from a social standpoint (found something decent with an awesome raise in NYC after about a week do it worked out. Lol). You do you though, it’ll do wonders for the career at a minimum and likely leave you starved for any kind of interesting and diverse social interaction in a few years at which point you will hopefully move on.

NYC lost it’s crown as the loneliest city!!

I’ve literally had more interesting social interaction on a personal level in a month out here than 3 years in SF.

I find the same. The NYC social scene is way more diverse and it’s not hard to find like minded people. SF seems to be a bit of a monoculture.

I don’t get SF but then again I’m not American. The weather is rubbish, the rent absolutely insane, the city small, security is atrocious, cleanliness down the toilet.

It feels like you belong to either of two camps: wealthy tech narcissist or low paid survivalist.

You can feel the tension in the air, how people look at you, speak to you, judge your every move, quietly quantifying what you could mean to them.

Live there long enough and you’ll understand you have no intrinsic value as a human being. Your only value is measured by what role you have at what company you work for. Get the right combination and everyone is your friend.

Not going to argue your other points, but curious where you are from that San Francisco weather is "rubbish".

A lot of people find the year round fog and chill frustrating and would rather have a proper summer with balmy nights and seasons and such I think

Sure, San Diego is better, but "rubbish"? It makes me think these people have never lived in a places like Montana, Nebraska etc. where if you aren't soaked with sweat and covered in mosquito bites your face is stinging because of the biting cold.

In locales with bad weather you are comfortable maybe 3-4 months out of the year, in places with good weather you are comfortable with little accommodation, e.g. AC, heating, clothing, for most of the year; San Francisco has demonstrably okay weather, it is boring and not "perfect" but far from rubbish.

> Your only value is measured by what role you have at what company you work for.

I’ve seen this in Bay Area churches unfortunately. Fortunately, my friends are interested in deeper aspects of life. You can find people like that here. Meditation groups are a good start.

I’m sorry for my tone in writing this.

Frankly I was rather drunk and should not have been making non-constructive criticisms like this.

I really like SF, even though it has many faults. I can live without a car here and walk/bike to work easily. I can make enough money here that I can live comfortably and still save over 100/year. The natural beauty in and around SF is truly stunning. While not as good as a real big city, the food and culture is acceptable.

Now for the bad. With each passing year the city feels like it loses more and more of its soul. At times it’s so bougie it hurts. The transit is horrendous for a city of this size and density. I’ve always felt bad just for being here; I know I’m part of the problem.

If I were in your shoes, I’d say if you can make enough come here and give it a try. It’s worth it to live here even if it’s only short term.

"and still save over 100/year."

That's just it though, as others have said, you have to be making a great deal of money to still be able to have a good time there.

For those Americans considering moving to SF or NYC from somewhere else in the US as an experience, I'd recommend instead trying to live and work somewhere in Europe. I say this as someone who did five years in NYC. It's just not as exotic of an experience as you think and the lifestyle sucks without huge money. I live abroad now but wish I could have tried Europe.

It seems grass is always greener on the other side. I'm from Eastern Europe and work remotely for a Western European company which is very beneficial from the financial point of view. Schengen Agreement makes it also very convenient to travel around and stay in different countries from time to time.

I do, however, always feel like the actual place to be for tech experts is USA. The European market seems too fragmented and too conservative. The VC money just doesn't seem to be there and most tech companies never grow that big as on the other side of the pond. I would love to spend some time in US, be it in SV, NYC or some other tech hub, but I don't really want to go through all the immigration hassle if I can pick any of the EU countries and just move there whenever I wish...

Absolutely, I like it a lot!

I am from Austria and moved here 2.5 years ago. In between I lived in Dublin, Ireland for 1.5 years (can't recommend unless you like rain).

The main reason I moved to SF and why I also see myself here for the foreseeable future is the job market. No other place in the world can match the density of exciting tech companies of the SF Bay Area.

I LOVE my job but if I would not, then there would be tons of other interesting companies I could work for. If you’re a good engineer, then you can basically choose which company to work for (assuming you’re good at the interviewing game). Recruiters reach out all the time, and over time you will also build up a network of friends at other companies.

All these exciting opportunities attract great talent from all over, and companies try hard to attract and retain that talent. It’s a lot of fun to work on a strong team!

The other thing that’s fairly unique to the Bay Area is the high total compensation for engineers. Based on what I hear and read, I would assume that the TC for a regular engineer with a few years of experience is at least $300k on average. AFAIK that’s impossible to find outside of the US, and only in a few other places inside the US (Seattle, NYC). Also, since the Bay Area is home to a lot of fast growing companies, the potential financial upside is huge if you're lucky enough to choose such a company!

The best advice I can give is to choose the company you work for carefully. Ensure the business has the right trajectory, the hiring bar is high, and the compensation is fair.

The city itself has been discussed here and elsewhere extensively. I agree with many of the points but overall I quite enjoy it. I live in a nice neighborhood (Inner Sunset) and for me the job market far outweighs the downsides of living here. At the moment I can not imagine moving back to Europe.

In the end, it depends on what you’re looking for and which set of trade offs is the right one for you.

I'm also in the same boat. I'm considering moving to SF from the east coast.

What's the cost of living like? What is the minimum salary with benefits that would allow someone to commute to SF (<30 min) to work, but also live a reasonable lifestyle without roommates?

It's around the same price per sq-foot as NYC, but you get paid about 30% less.

How do you like biking up hills? There are some with a 40% grade, and many with a 25% grade.

Going down is less work, but an opportunity to go flying over the handlebars or skidding out into an intersection.

You must keep your bike with you at all times, lest it be stolen.

I get around SF by bike and for the most part there are routes that avoid the big hills. And I find the bike lanes in the city just wonderful.

Re stolen: it's a problem. Worse than other big cities? Not sure. A month ago I made the mistake of thinking it would be ok to lock my bike for a few hours inside the ticketed area of a BART station...no more bike. That was the end of that assumption. But with a good lock it seems ok in general to leave a bike outside for short periods. I wouldn't do it with an expensive one though.

A couple of things I like about the Bay Area:

It's gorgeous; We get cold winters and hot summers with a nice inbetween for spring/fall.

I enjoy the drives (out of rush hour) and the many, many things you can get to easily outside of the city.

Well paid and pay about $1200 for a 3 bedroom with one room mate (Outlier I know) right across the GGB.

Things I dislike:

The traffic into the city is disgustingly bad.

A lot of elitism going around based on worth/employer/general status.

Too many got-damn people have moved here in the last 10 years.

advice: If you have a really well-paying offer, then jump on it, get an electric bike for the steep hills, and enjoy your time here.

I moved from Canada to management position and found myself working from home most of the time. Or traveling to visit customers.

I don't go to SF often, unless the visit is driven by some sort of event. Traffic is a mess, parking is a mess.

SF area is expensive. I can afford it but it feels like a big waste of money as I can work anywhere. So I going to move soon to area with better weather and less taxes.

If you have friends and local social circle - then it makes things more fun and you can tolerate things to better degree.

In case of economy crash SF area is the first and worst to suffer.

I left for various reasons, but I would definitely take the opportunity to move back if circumstances changed. It's an amazing place to work in tech in terms of compensation, growth, and general vitality. The food and drink scene is good, and the city is generally very safe, relative to other US cities. And it is surrounded by pretty amazing nature: within a three to four hour drive you have world class skiing, hiking, camping, climbing, etc.

How's age discrimination in SF these days? When I was ~30, my job brought me to SF to have a week or two of meetings at 10-20 different places each more than once, and I was always among the oldest in the building.

I really like it, but I was born here. I biked to work every day before until I moved to a closer office. I enjoy the people and the culture. It's not just tech, but most of the non-local culture is that.

Could anybody explain why some people say the weather in SF is amazing and some others that it's rubbish? I've never been to California.

SF weather is unusually consistent and most days it's on the cooler side but not super cold, often a bit cloudy/overcast. If you like that (I do), the weather is great. If not, the weather will be bad almost every day.

I haven't been there either but weather is clearly a very subjective thing. Personally, I don't like rains at all, for example, but most others seem to enjoy them (at least here in India). So, it depends.

coming from western washington, it felt amazing!!! But yeah, coming from other places I think it feels too cloudy/foggy/cool for people.

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