Five Things I Don’t Miss About San Francisco.

San Francisco: a deceptively beautiful city

After 2 years and 23 days – not that I was counting –  my family and I moved back to Singapore from San Francisco. In that time I don’t think I met anyone who didn’t love San Francisco when they visited or had spent some time working there . Sure longtimers can get a bit weary of the City by the Bay, but generally all references to SF (never call it San Fran) were so positive I felt like Miss Negativity when I mentioned some things I had found a bit challenging about the place.

Not quite $19 but near enough

The articles you read on the cost of living are very true; it’s very expensive, it makes Singapore seem cheap and that is saying something. And I am not only talking about $19  Avocado toast.  For example a thousand square foot apartment in the centre of the city can cost $4,800 a month. Parking can cost $6 for every 20mins. And of course, what you see on the sticker is never what you pay: tipping 20 percent – even when the service is crap because you are worried you will get abuse if you don’t – bumps up the prices even more.

great photo for homelessness SF
A homeless area near where I lived in San Francisco

The homelessness situation in San Francisco is worse than I have seen in any other first world country I have visited, and given America is the land of opportunity it was an odd check on reality. And it wasn’t just that people were hard up for cash and needed a roof over their heads, there were many people who looked like they needed medical attention, either physical or psychiatric care, and they are eating, sleeping and eyeing out an existence on the streets, often in a tent, usually under an overpass or in a doorway. You get used to seeing people lying in the street, often half naked, looking like they desperately needed help. That’s not something you want to get used to.

It may be a beautiful city but it is also one of the dirtiest and smelliest cities I have lived in. There is a joke about only a true San Franciscan can tell the difference between human poop and dog poop when you pass it in the street in SF. Nevertheless, you pass plenty of it. That along with the smell of pee sometimes makes you forget for a moment that it is suppose to be such a breathtakingly beautiful city.

SF (note: acceptable abbreviation) tries very hard to be cool, and, OK, it is cool up to a certain point. But it’s also hard work, and that hard work can leave people slightly stressed and sometimes forgetting to be nice to each other. When I moved there initially I felt like a contestant might feel like on a show like ‘Survivor.’ I moderated my behavior like a new prisoner in ‘Orange is the New Black:’ head down, don’t look at anyone. Or maybe I just wanted to be in an American TV show, who knows!  You are in a race to be the best, the fastest, the most successful. And if you aren’t you will be squashed. People you meet on the street didn’t always seem very happy. I have no research to back this up, but I was used to people on the whole being pretty friendly in other cities I lived in. My kids are used to people giving them a smile on occasion if they passed them on the street in Singapore or the UK or Ireland, but not so much in SF.

Last seen walking down Market Street in San Francisco

In fact it got to point where you might worry if someone did smile at them.  They have been cursed at, shouted at and told to be quiet when swimming and playing on a Saturday afternoon in a swimming pool. You know how quiet children can be when swimming, right? I also had people shouting at me for some transgression or other on a pretty regular basis. “Calm the F*** down… I see you!” Yelled one woman after she nearly hit me with her car and I looked a bit put out. I think I was worried that my stroller might have been crushed by her vehicle but I did my best to acquiesce. And “Get off the F****** road,” as I gently made my way down a side street… one with no footpath. Right, sure, happy to oblige. Anything to stop you yelling at me. I only bring this up as my impression of SF before living there was of a laid back city that welcomed everyone. I, for one, did not leave my heart there.

It’s not all bad, and my next post is on five things I miss about SF. And I never did acquire the talent of recognizing human poop from dog poop.


  1. Irene Francis says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Oonaugh. Visiting SF was exactly like seeing a movie everyone tells you is great. Everyone…really, everyone said “you’ll love it”. But a city filled with homeless people that clearly need help is so completely distressing, I stuggled to find anything to like, let alone love!
    Look forward to learning from your next episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oonagh Grace says:

      Thanks for commenting Irene. I can definitely think of a couple of things I am sure you would like about the place. The food is great, and there are some cool restaurants although not so many are swanky like New York. And you don’t get the amazing Sunday brunches and free flow of Champagne like Singapore. The weather is great – except for the summer months! I seem to be counter arguing with myself.


  2. Natalie Diamond says:

    SF, in my experience is a horrible city. The homeless look like something out of a thriller video and they are everywhere, I didn’t feel safe either, I would never return.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oonagh Grace says:

      Thanks for commenting Natalie. I think it is also hard for many people from San Francisco who have seen the homeless situation get worse over the years. Many of them try and help as much as they can but the large numbers make it difficult. And homeless people travel to SF from other states because they think are more likely to be accepted or at least find it a bit easier to survive.


  3. Mel & Suan says:

    Yeah we sort of noticed that last year too : higher prices, not so friendly locals… sigh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oonagh Grace says:

      Thanks Mel and Suan and looking forward to reading about your next adventure!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. R. J. Nello says:

    Whew. I have only visited SF, and that was years ago now. 2004 to be specific.

    On one point: I will say in the U.S., among the less well off, everywhere in the country I’ve been you tend to see unhealthy people, as if they haven’t been near a doctor in decades. Clearly they have health issues, perhaps they are even debilitating, but they are not LIFE-threatening so never had them seen to, but they CAN function. You tend not to see that in Western Europe. The reason is simple: if they did not have health insurance, they stayed away from doctors for non-emergencies because they couldn’t afford a doctor or a hospitalization. Among the homeless (and partly for those with mental health issues) in an extremely expensive place like SF, I’m sure the situation is even worse.

    As for the competitive nature of the city, as you probably know by now, America is like that. But it is really nothing new. In the past, it was probably even more cutthroat than it is today believe it or not. The country has always been about getting an advantage and as soon as possible pummeling the next guy. A Danish friend had told me that – when she had worked years ago in the U.S. – Americans were always blowing their own horns and talking themselves up and rah-rahing in the office, and she always felt out of place. I could only agree: I grew up there. I know the way it is. It is tough for outsiders to understand that.

    I do think, too, that Americans are becoming more “in your face” confrontational. Maybe it is social media transferred to ordinary life. I have been shocked in recent years by some of the stuff I have overheard said in public between strangers – the swearing and b-tching. And some are extremely tut-tutting judgmental. The kids in the pool yelling is a case in point. They always want everyone else to behave impeccably, but if you dare complain about their child throwing food at you in a restaurant, well, you may well be told to “F-ck off.” Because their little Tyler or Veronica is perfect, of course.

    I must say, you don’t pull punches. I look forward to your positive post on SF! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oonagh Grace says:

      Thanks so much for commenting, R.J., more to come on the positives. Please do keep reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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