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10 Simple Steps To Pass Off As A Real San Franciscan

Picture of Deanna Morgado
Updated: 9 February 2017
It can be challenging navigating through a new city, especially if you’re a tourist. However, some travelers don’t want the cookie-cutter tourist experience; they want to blend in with the locals. In San Francisco, there are a few easy steps to accomplish just that.

Step 1: Get used to fog, fog, and more fog

The weather habits of the ‘city by the bay’ are certainly no secret. Where there’s the bay, there is fog. Wrap up warm, and never leave the house, apartment, hotel, or bungalow without an extra jacket. However, there’s a little more to it when it comes to the San Francisco fog. The fog has a name. In San Francisco, you will meet ‘Karl’, the fog. True San Franciscans are quite familiar and fond of Karl. He can be better acquainted with via his Instagram too.

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Fog│ | © Steve Elliot/Flickr

Step 2: Drop the slang term ‘San Fran’ from your vocabulary

The most surefire way of being deemed an ‘out-of-towner’ is by referring to San Francisco as ‘San Fran’. Locals will never be caught using that name and will call out anyone who does. Therefore, adopt the terms ‘SF’ and ‘the city’.

Step 3: Get creative when it comes to spending money

San Francisco is currently in the top 10 most expensive places to live in America. So try not to act surprised with how much that dinner cost. That said, natives know there are numerous amounts of ways to save money while gallivanting through the city. Researching discounted shows and restaurants, ridesharing, and the half-price ticket booth at Union Square are just some of the little SF secrets to saving a bit of dough.

Step 4: Learn to navigate through hills

North Beach, Bernal Heights, and the infamous Filbert Street in Russian Hill. These areas have some of the highest inclined hills. If you’re not prepared, navigating through these neighborhoods can turn into a nightmare. Practice makes perfect driving through these hilly roads and districts. Follow the lead of locals driving around.

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The Bumpy Rides of San Francisco│ | © GPS/Flickr

Step 5: Mark the days on your calendar of large local events

San Francisco natives know when and where the big events are for two reasons: because they are planning to attend or they aren’t attending but still need to plan around the ensuing traffic. Regardless, knowing how the Giants games will effect Embarcadero, Golden Gate Park during seasonal festivals, and the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown will help you blend right in with the most seasoned San Franciscan.

The Sea of People: Hardly Barely Bluegrass Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco (2012)│ | © torbakhopper/Flickr

Step 6: Become comfortable with public transportation

Just like many other cities, San Francisco has an enormous public transportation system. There’s BART, MUNI, taxis, ridesharing, etc. What the natives know is how to utilize the system. BART connects to MUNI, taxis are your most expensive option, and ridesharing is the best when you are short on time.

Bart Train San Francisco│ | © Mapag Biyahe/Flickr

Step 7: Ditch the cash. Get a Clipper Card

On the subject of public transportation, purchasing a Clipper Card is the best way for a San Franciscan to get around. The Clipper Card is a reloadable card that can be used in multiple transit agencies throughout the bay area. In San Francisco, however, a Clipper Card is mostly used for accessing BART and the San Francisco Ferry. Just a quick scan at the gates and you are on your way.

Step 8: Don’t shy away from social nudity

Despite the public nudity ban, San Francisco can certainly be categorized as being on the liberal and open-minded side of the social spectrum. That’s why, more often than not, a local won’t be seen looking uncomfortable as a group of nude pedestrians stroll by during one of SF’s many gathering events. Baker Beach, Marshall Beach, and Land’s End are just three clothing-optional beaches.

Step 9: Get used to one-way streets

Another navigating rule of thumb all locals know is to always be on the lookout for one-way streets. There are a lot of different street signs to look for while driving through San Francisco, sometimes even the safest thing is just to assume a street is one way.

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Get The Message│ | © Marcin Wichary/Flickr

Step 10: Find your coffee shop

One of the never-changing aspects all San Franciscans know about is actually the ever-changing coffee shops popping up all over the city. There are more than 300 shops within SF. With all the different companies producing special and varietal brews and styles, nearly every coffee-consuming local has a specific shop and an even more specific brew they will always order. Make sure to explore and expand your caffeine drinking palette to join in on the SF coffee community.

Coffee Shop│ | © Kathy Drasky/Flickr