The First Year…

I’m going to talk about one of those things that many have experienced but no one likes to talk about: moving to a new city in your 20s can be a lot harder than you expect.

Outside of the college environment where everyone is looking to make friends presents a totally different set of challenges. Most people already have their social circles defined, their teams formed and their weekends planned. To work your way into any of them takes time, persistence and an openness to try new things. Since this doesn’t happen overnight, it can be lonely and depressing at times.

During some of those tougher, lonelier times I found solace in talking to friends who had made similar moves after college. Regardless of where they moved, they all echoed the same thing: the first year is really hard, but after that you’ll be a lot happier.

Surviving the first year in SF

In passing 1 year in SF a few months ago, I can say the first year rule definitely held true for me. I’ve also observed a few things that helped myself and other transplants that may be unique to SF, a particularly transient city, where few are “from” here:

Go with the flow.

I often assumed what I enjoyed doing in Boston (where I lived for 8 years, including college) would instantly translate to SF. What I’ve come to appreciate is that every city is different and so instead of re-creating what you had where you lived before you need an explorers attitude to try new things and pick up on what makes a city uniquely awesome.

I eat out and try new things way more than I ever did in Boston and have come to appreciate the open, come-as-you-are culture here. I’ve also learned to navigate the novelty addiction here; San Franciscans are always looking for new experiences and avoid repetition in most things. You are more likely to have others join you to try some new restaurant or festival than get them to want to return to the great bar you went to last weekend.

Acquaintances are easy. Friendship is hard.

San Franciscans are very welcoming and open to newcomers whether you’re walking into an ultimate frisbee game or just making conversation with a stranger at a bar. I’m constantly amazed at how quickly the teams I play on bond and how welcoming everyone is to meeting new people. Bostonians can take a long time to get to know so this was a big change.

The flip side of this comes on the side of depth of knowing others. Probably as part of the transient nature of the city, just because you hung out with someone once doesn’t mean you’ll ever see them again. As someone who was used to having a tight core group of friends and activities, it took time to adapt to a breadth over depth strategy that works a lot better in SF.

Your coworkers are your family.

Those I know who had the best transition in moving here all work for companies with strong cultures and that work hard and play hard together. This means that the same people you work with are the ones you often spend your weekends with. This is great for an instant social life as well as building great camaraderie with your coworkers.

This is a double edged sword. The drawbacks of this are that you may find yourself constantly working (all your friends are there anyways) and it’s really to hard to move on to something new (how can you leave all your friends?). I’ve had some friends who email people for their birthday and all but 1 or 2 people are coworkers and been out with a group largely of the same company that can’t help but talk about work the whole time.

If you’ve just moved to a new city and find yourself feeling lonely and homesick, hang in there. With a little courage, persistence and a positive attitude, you’ll emerge from the first year in a great place.