SF is known for its lovely views atop majestic hills while NY is the buzzing city that never sleeps. I love both places dearly but there are some things that I would prefer to have from one city than the other:
Transportation: Bus/BART vs subways
SF: The bus system runs pretty often and seems to have imported NY retired subway conductors to drive their buses. (My reference: NY subway drivers are both crazy and drive crazy fast.) The BART is great to take if you are in the immediate area. Some of it runs underground which is great on those chilly nights.
On the downside, if you don’t know the area nor have an iphone, you can easily get lost looking for the nonexistent bus stop sign. And if you are traveling at night and do not know your bus’ route, you may possibly get off in a really bad neighborhood. In addition, only certain bus lines (the owl lines) run all night. If you are stuck in an area where the buses aren’t running, tough luck.
NY: If there is one thing they get a gold star for, it would be for their public transportation. The subways are extremely easy to find and run all night in addition to running about every fifteen minutes. They are also so numerous that you can do most of your traveling underground when it’s cold out and most people who live in the in the city do not own a car. +1
SF: There is an abundant number of taxis during the week but once it is the weekend, it is impossible to catch a cab between 6 pm and midnight. This can be a bitch if you are in a hurry or stuck somewhere far away from any bus lines.
NY: Birthplace of taxis. You can see them rushing down the street by the millions. The maximum waiting time is five minutes and the only time I have ever had a hard flagging down a cab is when it rains.
SF: Great place to get boatloads of amazing sushi or Mexican food. Chinatown and Inner Richmond are great candidates for finding really cheap chinese food. There are also amazing restaurants like Andalu that serve $1 tacos on Tuesdays or the Woodhouse Fish Company that serve $4 draft beers and $1 oysters on Tuesdays as well. Unfortunately, the Bay Area lacks Malaysian food or a great variety of spanish food. If you want to have Mexican everyday until you die, then we can do that but if you seek Puerto Rican food (like me), you are screwed.
NY: It has so many different foods places that a close friend of mine, Matt Knox who had lived in NY still has yet gone to all of them.
What I truly miss is my Nyonya, located off Grand St and Mott St. It is absolutely amazing Malaysian food. The best things to order off the menu include their famous roti canai and their spicy mango chicken. Do remember to bring cash.
The Big Apple also supplies me with spectacular gyros. One thing I miss from the city are restaurants that are open at odd hours of the night. For example, the Great NY Noodletown restaurant down by Chinatown is always open. I think there was one instance when they were closed but I am pretty sure I was imagining things. There have been many a time when I have ventured in at 5 in the morning and obtained my tasty beef with broccoli or my succulent duck with rice. This is one of many of my favorite late night food locations.
SF: I love being surrounded by the really friendly burning man population. Everyday seems like Halloween. Everyone gets dressed up in fuzzy, bright clothing and there are outrageous outfits that often include nudity. I am not pleased though with the ‘put on a happy face and talk behind your back’ attitude. If you have an issue with me, say it to my face, not in some emo forum.
NY: New Yorkers are quite fashion forward and as a possible future fashion designer, I absolutely love that. They also are more vocal and direct than any other group of people that I know. They have no problem expressing their feelings and tend to be extremely boisterous. As long as you aren’t preaching about God on a crowded train or you aren’t being ridiculously loud and obnoxious during a movie, we are all good.
SF: There is nothing better than to be at one of the many awesome events which have ginormous turnouts. The epic Pillow Fight of 2009 was one of the funnest events I have ever attended. Most SF events like to run all day and all night with after parties that go until noon the following day. As for the usual nightlife, there are plenty of clubs to go to. 1015 is one of my favorites especially when all six rooms are open and blasting with music. On a sad note, alcohol is only served til 2 am. This law should be revised.
NY: I had turned 21 right after leaving New York City so I cannot comment on the city’s nightlife but I’ve heard it’s pretty awesome. As for city events, I suspect there aren’t as many nor are as fun as those in SF.
Cost of living
SF/NY: Both SF and NY have pretty high costs of living. When I moved to SF, a friend of mine pointed out that I seem to enjoy moving from one expensive city to the next. This city is a bit more expensive in areas like food than NY (how is it that a hot dog vendor in SF charges $4 when in NY, they are only $2? Insanity, I say.) To compensate, SF’s minimum wage is double that of NY.
SF: Best place live as a techie. When I was on the plane getting ready to move from Boston to California, the two people sitting behind me got into an intense conversation about programming languages from the old days. I have yet to land in California and I already hear people talking about programming. Awesome.
More than three quarters of my current contacts are in the tech field and most of them are into ruby on rails . You can find devs roaming the streets and it is relatively easy to engage in interesting conversations whether it is about the future of facebook or the creative designs for twestivalsf or what database problems are happening at work. This is a place where nerds can feel at ease.
NY: Not too shabby for startups but most of them wish they could relocate to SF. And there are ruby meetups and other tech events but they are more obscure.
Other than the fun facts mentioned above, my utopian place would also have warmer weather all year round. I will surely need to get an apartment in both cities and hope to obtain a remote job or one that is extremely flexible so that I am able to travel to either places pretty freely. And it wouldn’t hurt to acquire a million dollars to pay for airfare or rent or other such expenses. If that doesn’t work, I can sell babies out of my basement for extra income.