There have been a couple blog posts floating around lately that talk about what people wish they knew before they moved to SF. I thought they were great, had some good points about neighborhoods defining people and the fog line being Divisidero, but missed some of the key points, some of the most important things, if you are going to be integrated seamlessly into SF social life.
1) A disproportionate number of people grew up and/or went to college in California, which gives them a huge network.
I was talking to a middle aged lady sitting next to me at Tacolicious a few weeks ago. She was from the South and commented on how difficult it was to meet new people since she had moved here 2 years ago, and how she didn’t have very many friends, as she ran her own one-woman dog-walking business. She asked me if I felt that way.
I grew up in Santa Monica, went to UC Berkeley, where my HS sends around 40 kids per year. 50% of my fraternity moved straight into the city, and another 25% of them trickled in over the next two years. There is a house in the Richmond nicknamed the “ATO retirement home,” where everyone congregates. I can think of one good friend who I genuinely miss who moved out of California, and another couple who are out of SF. Everyone else is here.
It isn’t uncommon to meet someone, realize that they went to USC, UCLA, Stanford, or Berkeley and were in the same fraternity as a guy you went to elementary school with, etc.
California’s great weather and domination of some of the world’s most glamorous industries (Tech and Movies and Music) means there isn’t much reason to leave in search of someplace that can provide you adequate career opportunities.
That means that a lot of people stick around after graduation, and …
2) This makes it hard for a true outsider to break in.
My mom always said that you don’t meet anyone of worth at a bar. Not that good people don’t go to bars, I go to bars, just that it’s not where friendships or relationships are formed.
That generally happens at the house parties, the brunches, where you meet friends of friends.
Now this is the case in every city, personal connections and mutual friends always trump random drunken bar conversations, but the point I’m making is that it’s worse in SF.
I think because many people are only separated by one to two degrees of connection in SF, it makes them less social in other situations: you don’t have to strike up a conversation in a bar, because you came with 4 friends and are meeting more friends of friends. I can go to McTeagues and be fairly certain that between me and my 3 friends, there are at least 5-10 people who we went to college, high school etc. with.
This kind of “old boys & girls” network leads to a lot of house parties and pregames and bottomless mimosa invites.
3) ProTip: If you didn’t grow up here or go to school here, you should find an in with a network of some sort.
All this doesn’t mean that if you don’t have an SF connection, don’t move here. It does mean though that you need to be more methodical about how you go about meeting people.
We have some friends who went to Brown, Harvard, etc. and didn’t grow up in California either. But they work for a big tech company or a big consulting company, so they are immediately plugged into a network of people who do activities together.
Triage is the most reknowned for this: they are a healthcare consulting company that is known as essentially one big grownup party, playing sloshball on Fridays as a company, and all the coworkers throw “Triage Parties” at their houses, many of which I’ve been to. They recruit heavily from the Greek system, if not on purpose, it definitely ends up that way.
If you are in your early twenties and went to a good school and are social, it’s probably enough if you know a few friends who can plug you in, invite you to the house parties, etc.
It’s cases like the Tacolicious woman that are dangerous: if you know literally no one, and will be self-employed, you need to figure out something to join that gives you a chance at forming real friendships. Maybe it’s a sports team, maybe you join a coworking space just to have interaction with other people, maybe you work for Google for a year before branching out on your own. Or maybe you just have to be more of a social butterfly, but the fact that many SF residents are lifelong California natives is a double edged sword: it makes the city a smaller place if you are one of them, but one that is a bit harder to break into if you aren’t.