From One Bridge to Another: San Francisco Myth Busters

Ariel Burch Novak

I was born and raised in the Boston area, in the town where the American Revolution began. I root for the Red Sox, love a good bowl of clam chowda and live right off the Freedom Trail. I’m a true New Englander at heart.

When PAN offered me the opportunity to spend three months in San Francisco (which happened to coincide with the snowy Boston winter), I jumped at the chance to experience life on the other coast. I was eager to check out the tech scene, spend time face-to-face with my West Coast colleagues and clients, and explore a new city.

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But, I have to admit, I had some misconceptions about “San Fran” (more on that later) – some of which turned out to be true; others, not at all. As I wrap up my time in San Francisco, here are the top myths I had heard about the Bay Area, and my take on whether or not they’re true. 

1. Everyone Works in Tech – True. Whenever I’ve met someone new here and told them I’m spending three months in SF, their immediate reaction has been, “you must work in tech.” The Bay Area is now home to a record number of tech jobs, surpassing even the dot-com era. As a tech PR professional, it has been fascinating to be right in the heart of the tech scene. Just walking to work, I see the headquarters of so many technology companies that I follow. It’s an energizing feeling to be around all this innovation.

2. The West Coast is Chill – True. Walking through the Financial District, where PAN West is based, you can see the casual culture right away in people’s dress. Athleisure rules, and jeans and flannel are definitely more prevalent than the Boston staples of pencil skirts and boat shoes. But, don’t let the laid-back vibe fool you. The West Coast workforce is just as hard working as its East Coast counterparts.

3. It’s Hard to Adapt to SF – False. I have to disagree here. I’ve found everyone I’ve met – whether at networking events, or even the barista at the local Philz – to be incredibly friendly, welcoming, and eager to provide restaurant recommendations or tips on the right West Coast lingo to fit in. For example – you can call the city SF, but not San Fran, and don’t even think about saying ‘Frisco!

4. SF is Too Expensive – True. Unfortunately, this is all too true. A report this week from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development went viral, as it included the dramatic finding that in some parts of the Bay Area, a six-figure salary is considered low income. Boston isn’t exactly cheap either, with cost of living at about 40 percent above the U.S. average.

5. The Time Difference is Terrible – False. I’ve seen that there’s a gravitational pull of sorts toward the East Coast – The day in SF starts earlier, with a lot of emails to catch up on from colleagues in Boston. But, this means, the day also slows down (or at least the emails do) at end of day Eastern. I had been dreading this schedule, but I soon came to love it! Having a few hours in the afternoon to devote to writing projects or creative brainstorming is a wonderful opportunity.

Looking back on my time in San Francisco, I have learned so much. I’m already looking forward to my next trip back!

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