The 7 Stages of Life After You've Moved to San Francisco


With its stunning views, incredible cuisine, and fraught political climate, you don’t so much move to San Francisco as you enter a relationship with it. One that will change you, challenge you, and cost you a bunch of money. Anyone who’s spent any time living in the 7x7 will tell you that loving San Francisco ain’t always easy -- but who said core-shaking relationships would be?

I was born in San Francisco but was raised 30 minutes north starting at the age of two. I’ve lived in a Nob Hill apartment for six and a half years, where I’ve paid rent on both a freelance and tech salary. I’m white and by virtue of the very zip code I inherited, was born rounding third. That being said, moving to SF from anywhere can elicit some serious feels and might be one of the more complex relationships in your life.

San Francisco
Rafael Ramirez Lee/Shutterstock

The first stage: The Chase

At this stage in the game, you don’t really know San Francisco. But you know of it. How could you not? SF straddles the line of being both in-demand and over-exposed -- not unlike the Instagram-famous. We can barely go a news cycle without someone writing a trend piece about the 7x7 or one of its neighbors. And surely if the City was a real live single woman, she’d have her Instagram set to public featuring many pictures of the luscious curves of her coastline; maybe even with the hashtag #wokeuplikethis when she feelin’ it. San Francisco isn’t just a flirt,  it’s a city of legend and myth, and if you’re about to embark on a relationship with SF, it probably started to seduce you long before you met its pretty shores.

What you’re doing: Online stalking. It’s OK, there’s literally no other way to find an apartment here.

San Francisco
Flickr/Giuseppe Milo

The second stage: The Honeymoon Phase

Welcome to an adult playground. Dive right in -- the water is frigid but you don’t even care -- you’re here! Now that you’ve arrived, you’re in that dizzying, intoxicating phase in which you’re dying to discover all of San Francisco’s wonders and soak up everything it has to offer from dive bars to hiking trails. You’re love-drunk and more than a little booze addled.

What you’re doing: Nightlife at every museum, making your way through bucket lists, and these 53 things (preferably before you turn 30).

San Francisco
Flickr/Davide D'Amico Follow

The third stage: Your First Fight

There comes a time in everyone’s relationship with San Francisco when you see a side of it that makes you go “meh.” It’s 50 degrees in July. There’s a 45-minute wait for brunch. Ugh Muni.

Whatever irks you about San Francisco, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but it’s definitely that seemingly small thing that will remain a constant annoyance in every subsequent problem you have with this high-maintenance city. Kind of like when you first discover what fight you’ll have with your significant other until either you break up or one of you dies. Take a deep breath; we’ll  get through it.

What you’re doing: Probably talking about the weather. It’s too chilly; it’s foggy on one corner but sunny on another; even though you’re hot now, you’ll need a sweater later; what’s the shortest distance you can drive to find sun?

San Francisco
Flickr/Chris Goldberg

The fourth stage: The Netflix-and-Chill Zone

Even if San Francisco isn’t perfect, it’s hard to stay mad when it looks this good.

At this point, you and SF have a good thing going. You know her secrets -- especially if they’re bar-related -- and everyday you think about how lucky you are to live in the best city on earth (at these 13 things).

What you’re doing: You may still be Facebook-RSVPing to activity dates with your boo, but San Francisco’s quintessential flakiness has rubbed off on you, meaning you’re just as often choosing to go to your favorite neighborhood pizza place where you’ll revel in that super-cozy SF-local feeling. If you’re lucky, this stage will last a very long time, and if you’re very, very lucky, you’ll get to return to it even after butting up against the City’s impossible expectations and horrendous fights about money, gentrification, and weird people on the bus.

Santa Cruz
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

The fifth stage: Spicing It Up

You still love San Francisco, but you’re not ruling out the occasional threesome action with Oakland. Or Alameda. Or Marin. Or Santa Cruz. In fact, you’ve lived here long enough to realize one of the best things about living in San Francisco is leaving the City to visit its neighbors.

What you’re doing: California road trips, near-SF weekend road trips, and day trips. Every warm weekend is booked with trips to waterfalls, wine country, breweries, and even special trips to eat oysters.

San Francisco Rain
Flickr/Thomas Hawk

The sixth stage: The ‘Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?’ Phase

You’re increasingly noticing something you’ve known all along: San Francisco has issues. There’s the impossibly high rents, the lack of diversity, and a culture that often caters only to the rich elite. Muni still sucks and it really has been the coldest summer. In other words, you feel trapped by San Francisco’s golden handcuffs.

Whether you can remember San Francisco before this latest tech boom or came here because of it, this city, for better or worse, forces you to ask yourself the hard questions: can you make it work? Will you create change? Or will you watch helplessly as things change around you? Its relentless highs and lows and extremes in everything from elevation to wealth distribution constantly begs the quintessential relationship worthiness question: Is the juice worth the squeeze?

What you’re doing: Combing Craigslist -- this time for Oakland apartments.  

San Francisco
Flickr/Thomas Hawk

The seventh stage: Acceptance

There’s some good news about this fraught, deliciously dysfunctional relationship. If you can make it work, there’s no place more worth the effort. For all of its issues, SF has it going on -- from the sweeping views (seemingly around every corner) and the proximity to nature. The culture is a constant state of revolution, against a backdrop of history that remains protected and immortalized by those who believe in the very idea of this small, but mighty city. 

I, too, have felt the weight of San Francisco’s golden handcuffs, perhaps now more than ever -- the sense that breaking up with it over its issues means also leaving everything I fell in love with behind too... maybe forever. I don’t know if I’m ready for that sort of commitment. During my worst fights with San Francisco, I remember that no matter how long it lasts, there’s no denying this gorgeous place offers an affair to remember.

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Amy Copperman’s relationship with San Francisco became Facebook-official in 2010, but it was thing long before that. Stalk San Francisco on her Instagram.