Throughout 2013, I’ve been spending a lot more time both in New York and in San Francisco, for personal and professional reasons. I’m a native New Yorker, born in Riverdale and raised in the burbs, and still consider NY “The City.” And even though I’ve regularly frequented SF over the past 10 years, averaging 3-5 extended trips per year, this year I’ve spent months at a time here, working as I am now from a friend’s desk with a view of the intersection of Haight & Laguna. Proximity is one key to relationship development (among many others, like doing great work, being nice, networking, and having a little luck), and my increased time in SF has happily resulted in building business here (yay travel write-offs!). The more people I meet, the more fodder I have for developing a hypothesis about the vastly different cultures of both places.
At the root of this hypothesis is the influence that the physical & natural environment has on its culture:
New York has miles of concrete and verticality, and is vast in size, which informs a directness and solidity of communication; maybe its history or tradition influences this, too. It has volume, noise, individuals feel competitive even for sidewalk space, and there are extremes of weather.
San Francisco has little bedrock and crazy hills, and its 7x7 mile environment is ultraconcentrated with immense variety; things are subject to shift around every corner, and at any moment. There is an almost cosmic openness and tolerance for individuality and range of expression. Conversely, or for balance, there’s less of a variation in climate.
Having written this, I feel like I’m just beginning to learn a new language, or two.