I grew up in San Jose and lived in Fremont for 2 years after graduating college. I’ve driven all over the South Bay for work, and spent a ton of time in San Francisco and Oakland visiting friends. I wouldn’t say that the Bay Area sucks – I will always love the Bay (here are the 8 reasons why I’ll miss it), but I’m also very ready to leave.
However, I understand that some of you reading this article may be considering moving to the Bay Area, so I’ll add some of my insider tips as well.
WHY I HATED LIVING IN THE BAY AREA
THE TRAFFIC IS AWFULDare I say it, I think Bay Area traffic is starting to rival that of LA! For instance, my commute to my previous job should have only taken me about 25 minutes, but it usually took about an hour…sometimes more!
I also had to drive all over the Bay for my old job, and let me tell you – driving between Palo Alto, Mountain View, Milpitas, and San Jose during peak traffic hours is NOT fun.
And it seems like there’s ALWAYS traffic now – between 7:00-11:00AM and 2:00-8:00PM you can expect delays. It drives (heheh) me freaking nuts. My dad would leave for work around 6/6:30 every morning just so he didn’t have to deal with it.
If you’re planning to move to the Bay Area, you should definitely factor in traffic flow in choosing where to live. It can literally ruin your life. I truly think this is why people in the Bay are always rushing, and often cranky.
Try to find a job that will either let you work remotely, have flexible work hours, ensure your commute is outside of the peak traffic times (I had a short stint working from 11AM-8PM which was awesome), or drive the opposite flow of traffic. Or just be sure you live less than a 5 minute drive from work, ha. I’d highly suggest checking Google Maps at different times of the day, and on different days of the week, before you move there to learn the flow of traffic. Be sure to learn about the location of schools in your neighborhood, too, as that can have a huge effect – aka LOTS of traffic during morning drop off and afternoon pick up.
In general, going from east to west in the South Bay (i.e. San Jose to Cupertino) will have heavier traffic than vice versa. This is because it’s typically cheaper to live in places like San Jose and Fremont than it is to live in Cupertino, but of course many people work at Apple and other companies there. Then you have to factor in Facebook in Palo Alto and Google in Mountain View.
You will also probably get more traffic going north, to San Francisco and Oakland, than going south. There’s a lot less traffic in the summer since kids are out of school, and during any school break.
On the bright side, I got to listen to lots and lots of podcasts!
THE SHITTY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATIONTrust me, if I could have taken public transportation I certainly would have!
In the South Bay (i.e. San Jose, Santa Clara, Cupertino, etc.) the public transportation SUCKS. Yes, there’s lightrail and all the different buses, but it’s really not the best. I’d LOVE to take public transportation to work, but it would take forever since there’s no direct route – I’d still have to drive part way and change a bunch of buses.
Or I’d love to bike – but according to Google Maps, it would have taken me 2 hours.
And then there’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). I mean, it works, but it’s also kind of the worst. It’s a little pricey and kinda sketchy and smelly. I don’t mind riding it, but I realllly don’t like doing it alone on a weekend night (which I don’t do often, but have done occasionally).
I like Cal Train better than BART. Cal Train feels a bit safer and cleaner, but is also more expensive.
BART runs through San Francisco, the East Bay, and the Peninsula, while Cal Train goes from San Francisco through the Peninsula, ending in the South Bay. (Click for the BART map; click for the Cal Train map)
IT WAS SUCH A HASSLE TO VISIT MY FRIENDSYou’d think that moving to the Bay Area would make your social life thrive – not so for me! Maybe it’s just me since I’m kind of a hermit anyways, or maybe it’s just part of growing up, but everyone seems so BUSY these days, myself included.
And when I did have some free time, the thought of sitting through traffic just to see my friends just sounded exhausting (yes, there’s also traffic on weekends!). I often didn’t feel like driving to San Jose or taking Bart to Oakland/SF since I did so much driving and running around during the week.
I used to make a lot more of an effort when I first moved back, but after a while it just felt like a lot of work! I guess that’s also just a part of getting older, and busy with life and whatnot. But still, I’d love to have a community of friends that I didn’t have to sit through an hour of traffic every time I wanted to visit!
THE RUSHING AROUNDMaybe this is just me, but I feel very go go go living here. I feel like I’m always super busy, and rushing all the time, and it very much feels like the ‘vibe’ here. Life just felt like it was passing me by.
I think it might be related to all the traffic? And because it’s expensive to live here, so people are constantly hustling/working side jobs?
I’ve since lived in smaller towns and cities, where life feels a little slower. I really think it’s related to the traffic, and the hustle mentality of people working in startups and long hours to feed their families. I personally liked that vibe a lot better, and enjoyed being able to walk or bike to the nearest grocery store rather than drive.
IT’S VERY CROWDED
[The Bay as seen out the plane window; LOTS of houses and people!]
It feels VERY crowded in the Bay since so many people live in one house/apartment so they can still afford it (because it really is so damn expensive).
Lots of people come here for the jobs, especially in tech (they don’t call it “Silicon Valley” for nothing).
Then there are all the people that grew up here/have lived here before all the BIG tech companies started moving in and are staying because their family/friends live here, like a lot of my high school friends. A lot of my college friends moved to San Francisco because of the allure of the city. And a lot of people live here for the weather!
SUPER EXPENSIVE HOUSINGThere’s a reason I lived with my dad for two years instead of moving out. Because I did not want to pay $800 a month for a room that was actually part of the kitchen and divided by a curtain. With 3 other roommates. No thanks. True story – I found a place like that in San Jose. The other cheapest place I found was one room, also for $800, in East Palo Alto with 5 roommates. I didn’t end up choosing either option.
And this is pretty much the norm, to be honest. I have several friends that still live at home with their parents, and we’re just shy of 30 at this point. I also have plenty of friends that live in shoeboxes in San Francisco, paying $1200 for a tiny room in an apartment with 2 other roommates, or that have just bought houses and are in a considerable amount of debt because of it.
Seriously, the housing prices are RIDICULOUS. The nice thing about that is that everywhere else seems cheap to me now!
If you are looking for a cheap place, there are many Facebook groups you can join to try and find housing. You can usually find cheaper housing in Fremont, Milpitas (although be aware of the garbage dump there – at times it really stinks, earning it the nickname “Smellpitas” although it’s not as bad as it used to be), East Side San Jose (aka ESSJ, where I grew up!), East Palo Alto, Oakland, and parts of Santa Clara and Mountain View. I used a combination of Craigslist and Facebook groups when I was looking for a place. Best of luck to you!
THE URBAN-NESS AND LACK OF NATUREYes, we do live near outdoor spaces in the Bay Area – I do love that it’s surrounded by mountains. But AGAIN with the traffic. Unless you lived really close to one, like a walk or 5 minute drive, it was a pain to get anywhere.
When I lived in Flagstaff in Arizona, it felt like I was plopped down in the middle of nature. Like a town that was built INTO nature – there were tons of trails right in your backyard. The Bay feels like it was built ONTO it. Idk if that makes sense, but there are just so many freeways and stores and city things.
THE LACK OF SEASONSI think I’m the only person ever to say this, but I like the cold!! And a variety of weather!! And the Bay seemed like it only had two seasons: warm and less warm. Maybe I’ll regret saying this when I move somewhere colder, BUT I honestly got tired of all the sun. I wanted more cloudy days, and more rain! And maybe some snow? Like SOMETHING OTHER THAN SUNSHINE FOR ONCE. That would be cool.
It also realllllly pisses me off when it’s warm during the holidays. It should NOT be sunny and 70 degrees!!! At the very least it should be cloudy so I can sit in front of the fire and sip my tea in peace.
And also every single leaf should change color in the fall. I feel like that should be a rule somewhere. We don’t really have a beautiful fall in the Bay Area they do in other parts of the country. It kind of just gets a litttttle cold. That’s it. Maybe some leaves change. But it’s not anything spectacular. If you want to get a real fall experience, you have to drive elsewhere in northern California, the Eastern Sierras (Aspens!), or elsewhere in the mountains.
And I know many other places in the Bay do get colder, like San Francisco, but it still doesn’t ever get THAT cold. Like 50s F. And it still is just kinda rainy/foggy (it’s pretty much always foggy and cold in SF, though, even in summer), nothing too exciting. Side note: did you know the fog in SF is called ‘Karl’? And it has its own Instagram page, @karlthefog? You’re welcome.Okay, so I know I just kind of shit all over the Bay Area, but it’s not all bad – I promise! These are just my grinch-y vibes from living here for so long.
I also have plenty of friends who LOVE IT and swear they’ll never leave. So to counteract all the negativity, I also wrote a post on what I loved about living in the Bay Area!