In response to my good friend, and ex-San Franciscan, Anil Dash’s post on How To Visit New York, and because we are currently in the midst of All-Star Fever (Catch It!), I present to you a guide to visiting San Francisco.
But first off, I must ask you to bear in mind that I, like many of our citizens, am not native to this place but immigrated here not too long ago. So I can vouch that, yes, many of us are weird, although not as much as we think; and no, you should not be comfortable with most, if any, of it.
Hopefully by following these short and helpful guidelines you will show up prepared and enjoy your time here. Because it really is a nice place, once you get past most of the people.
I know it’s hot where you live, but it’s cold here right now. It doesn’t matter what time of year you might be reading this; it is ALWAYS cold here. Except in October. In October it is warm for about a week. Pack a sweater, a hooded sweatshirt (known to the locals as a ‘hoodie‘), some long pants, mittens and a coat. This will save you from purchasing a Blue and Yellow Fleet fleece jacket at Pier 39 and getting your wallet or purse stolen on that very cute F-line.
Oh, and since we’re talking about what to wear: please stop with the hiking boots. Yes, we have hills, but they were paved a long time ago.
What to call it. Before you get here you should realize what ‘here’ is called. Your safest bet is just referring to it as ‘San Francisco.’ White collar tech workers who moved here during the dot com boom like to pass off as locals by cringing when you refer to it as ‘Frisco’, but honestly, that’s what the oldest of the locals call it. If you consider yourself an ultra hip individual you can refer to it as ‘The City’, but please never ‘San Fran.’
Don’t rent a car. You’ll spend your entire visit trying to park it. Take BART from the airport. It’s carpeted! And if you wanna go to the Mission, or Downtown, or the East Bay BART will do you right. If you’re going elsewhere, though, you’ll have to take MUNI. MUNI is awesome if only because it manages to unite the entire city in our hatred towards it.
We have gay people. Don’t be afraid; they’re not the weird ones. The nice Police Officer you asked for directions last night? Yeah. His name is Bob, he has a cute wife named Cindy, who also has a girlfriend named Pam, and they both share a transgendered robot lover named Chris, but only on Wednesdays and depending on Cindy’s cycle because she’s trying to get pregnant so the Chinese girl they adopted last year and named Satchell will have a friend to play with. They all met because they’re part of a Spiritual Raver society. No, not THAT Spiritual Raver society, the one that splintered off from that one.
All the good food comes in tubes. Get yourself to The Mission for a good burrito. Make it ‘super’ and don’t pay more than $7. Please don’t pick and choose what goes in it, just let them make it. And please don’t ask them how spicy it will be, they’ll know from your Blue and Gold Fleet fleece jacket to make it mild.
And speaking of eating; remember the vegetarian hippie you made friends with that first year in college because he always seemed to have a big sticky ball of hash to share? And remember how you took him home for Thanksgiving and your Mom spent the entire meal trying to convince him that turkey wasn’t meat because it isn’t beef? Well, most of us are vegetarians. We’re happy to invite vegans into our home because, hey, more ice cream for us! And we’re curious about the raw food eaters and like to tease them about whether sun tea is actually cooked or not, but we’re a little afraid of the freegans if only because we don’t want people going through our garbage and finding our copious amounts of porn.
We have no homeless people. Thanks to our lovely mayor’s Care Not Cash program homeless people are now obsolete.
It’s expensive here. If a local tells you how much their rent is they do NOT mean yearly. This will shock everyone except New Yorkers who pay even higher rents for the privilege of showering in their kitchen.
And most importantly; people here greet each other differently than in other places. Growing up in Philadelphia, when you were walking by someone and you happened to make contact you were both expected to nod towards each other. It wasn’t exactly friendly as much it was an ‘acknowledgment’ that neither was going to hurt the other one. When I moved to Austin I was completely thrown when I nodded at someone and they replied with a hearty and friendly “Hello there!!” I’m guessing that wherever you’re from the typical greeting might be somewhere in between those two.
In San Francisco, should you make eye contact with someone and either nod or say hello, you should expect them to turn their head slightly away from you, turn their nose up a bit and pucker their mouth as if you’ve just inserted a small lemon into it. Try to remember that they don’t mean to be rude, they’re just thinking of the excellent gas mileage they’re getting on their Toyota Prius.
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