Gendlin, Frances. Culture Shock! San Francisco.

Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2007, 2001.

The concept behind this series is a good one — to provide beginners’ manuals for people moving to a foreign country to live and work, as opposed to just seeing the sights for a few weeks. The execution, unfortunately, has been much more problematic. Some of the titles are far, far better written, more accurate, and more useful than others, though all of them seem to suffer from sloppy editing and nearly useless indexes.

It’s also useful to remember that “foreign” is a relative term, and that settling into life in the Bay Area can be just as much of a challenge for a German, say, as life for a Yank in Frankfort. In fact, many Americans from the middle part of the country might find San Francisco as strange as Europe — or the Moon. I was living with my folks in southern Marin when I started college in the early ‘60s (unfortunately missing out on the Summer of Love altogether) and I loved it. There’s no way I could afford to live there now, though I have made a number of extended visits over the years. Simply put, San Francisco is not the sort of city one can shrug at. While many people attack its politics, lifestyle, and deeply rooted social tolerance, no one ever says the city’s setting is anything but magical, the climate invigorating, and the surrounding countryside outrageously beautiful.

The author, who lived there for twenty years (before moving to Paris, another magical city), provides a great deal of useful nuts-and-bolts information regarding the city’s neighborhoods (“districts” in local parlance), as defined by history and geography. (The weather can vary greatly depending on which side of a hill you’re on.) My own previous residence had been in a large Texas city with almost nonexistent public transit and I was amazed at how well the network of buses, trolleys, and cable cars functioned — and now there’s BART, as well. Like New York, it’s entirely possible to live happily in San Francisco without owning a car — and a good deal cheaper and less frustrating when you’re trying to park. Even with all the differences in elevation, it’s a walker’s city. It’s also a Mecca for food-lovers, and not just for the wide variety of Chinese cuisine, either. San Francisco has a very broad ethnic history and all of them are represented by first-rate restaurants. It’s a great place for kids, too, and for older students. There are more than three dozen degree-granting institutions in the Bay Area and the majority of the nation’s foreign students are in California. And while salaries tend to be higher in San Francisco than in most parts of the U.S., the much higher costs of almost everything can be a challenge — and also pretty much rule out S.F. as a place to retire to on a pension. But if your company wants to transfer you to San Francisco, either from Europe or Asia or from elsewhere in the U.S., you should grab it and enjoy the experience. And this book will go a long way in helping you orient yourself. Be aware, though, that while the publisher and the cover are new, the text of the 2008 edition is exactly the same as the 2001 edition. Which was before the dot-com crash, but that doesn’t invalidate most of what the author has to say, because San Francisco keeps on keeping on.

Published in: on 9 October 2012 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: