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What People in Europe Say About San Francisco

Updated: Jul 05, 2015 11:13
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I’ll admit it, I totally use the fact that I briefly lived in San Francisco to sound cooler (seems impossible, seeing my level of coolness, right? WRONG). I’m also willing to bet that if you ever make the stupid mistake of leaving the Bay Area, you will too.

In Europe it’s fun to reminisce about SF. Telling people that I used to live on the 90 degree hill of Bush and Leavenworth opens up tons of opportunities to tell them (whether they ask me or not) about the food, the cocktails, the events, the hills, the rent, the public whipping and the food. Also, the food.

Once I stop being an ass and actually allow people to get a word in edgewise, I noticed something striking. While most everyone is aware that San Francisco exists, its reputation precedes it.  But, not many people know a lot about it, and the opinions were…interesting.

I conducted a little experiment to give you a glimpse of how San Francisco is being perceived by the world. It’s been difficult – turns out people are a tiny bit reticent to draw if they can’t draw, and a bit hesitant to describe a city they know little about. However, after harassing friends and strangers alike, I got some pretty cool results. Without further ado, here’s what people in Europe (including many non-Europeans) think about San Francisco, never having been there:



Dancing maniac, dress-up enthusiast

From: Germany

“My idea of San Francisco is that 40% of the population are surfer dudes, 30% chilled hippie guys and the other 30% beautiful beach women”


Drawing of San Francisco, by Alina from Germany




Jazz guitarist, magician, bartender, and scary good poker player

From: Canada

“Kind of a bobo (bohemian) place but open minded”


Drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge by Hugo from Canada




That theater kid you once knew, musicals enthusiast, polyglot, used to live in China

From: England


Drawing of San Francisco by Rob  from England




Mountain climber, musician, health and exercise guru, one of the only people I know who actually uses Pinterest

From: South Africa

“More than just rows of pretty houses – I suppose”


Illustration of San Francisco, by Sigrid from South Africa




Multi-talented musician/photographer/tinkerer/inventor/jack of all trades

From: Lebanon

“San Francisco looks like an organised city just like the structural waves of sound.”


Drawing of San Francisco by Wissam from Lebanon




 Surfer, photographer, psychonaut and hippie-metalhead hybrid

From: France


Drawing of San Francisco by Martin from France




Bodacious skater, hitch hiker, kitten owner, sign painter

From: England

“Could you rotate the picture to the side? I want people to see the insanely steep hill.”


Drawing of San Francisco by Eric from England


and, last but not least,



Architecture student, techno and house junkie, great cook

From: Switzerland

“I know on one side it’s more nature, on the other there’s the city, and in the middle there’s a hippie bus and gays just getting married!”


Drawing of San Francisco by Vinz from Switzerland

All photographs taken from w/ user permission

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Rae Bathgate - Down and Out and Overseas

Rae Bathgate - Down and Out and Overseas

Rae, known also (depending on the country) as Rachelle/Raquel/ Rachele (and often sadly mistaken as Richard, because biblical names are hard you guys) is an aspiring writer and now sort of a dick for having actually defined herself as such. She was born and lived over the first half of her life in Italy; she then moved to the States and lived a good ten years there (including in SF). Currently back in Europe, she is neither a hapless American tourist nor a snobby European jerkyjerk; luckily for you, she is some weird ungodly combination of both. Also, she’s broke and is probably stealing bread crumbs from pigeons.


  1. Cut-Rate Curmudgeon
    Charles Daly
    June 30, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I love the whole SF = LA = Hawaii fallacy. You hear that back east too. People don’t realize you need a jacket all year.

    • Anna S
      July 1, 2015 at 2:34 am

      Lots of them (unless it’s just my friends) don’t realize how far LA and SF are. Perhaps they don’t own a map…

  2. dougie fresh
    July 2, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Most of these countries are not in Europe

  3. Gayle Svendsen
    July 3, 2015 at 7:57 am

    The bridge leads to the Marine Headlands and further north the Redwoods. It seems Europeans miss out on this perhaps because Europe does not enjoy this kind of nature. LA is not on the edge of SF they miss the Big Sur ocean as well. California is so much more than our cities that are FAR apart.

  4. December 3, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Resided 22yrs. California familiar external attractions social marginalized society “pitiable my opinion article in general. Why must colleagues, didn’t say close friends anyhow: enjoy economic success of San Francisco indifferent towards political disunity! Mention paradox, narcissim