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Unmistakable Traits of a Typical Bay Area Native

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Anytime I step out of the Bay Area, I’m struck with one simple fact; you can take the Bay Area native outta the bay but you can’t take away my weird Bay Area quirks. It’s fun to ask yourself “What qualities give a Bay Area native away when we are outside of our bubble?” Thinking about it, there are some strong Bay Area only traits that are unique to us. Whether you have lived here most of your life like me, or you’ve lived here for just a few years, I think you’ll relate to some traits I thought made us different than other areas of the country.

Here are some typical traits of a Bay Area Native.

  • We don’t wince anymore at the astronomical prices for food. For instance, I’ve seen folks pay $10 for avocado toast without batting an eye.
  • We insert hella into a sentence casually.
  • We tend to immediately judge other Bay Area locals based on which city or county they grew up in. Whether you’re a Marinite or a San Franciscan, where you grew up in The Bay says a lot about who you are, if you like it or not.
  • When you give a tour of The Bay, you often point out where things used to be. I’m sad for years after something moves or shuts down. I still point out where Rasputin Music used to be in Union Square and note that you can still go to their East Bay location. Locals are also historians of The Bay Area’s past.

The Marina Green

  • We grew up thrifting on Telegraph in Berkeley and The Haight.
  • We all have a Loma Prieta Story. For me, I was playing Duck Hunt mid-earthquack.
  • We likely have a 415/510 area code. We might potentially run out of 415/510 phone numbers according to some. If you run into someone with one of those area codes, you can easily determine that they are from The Bay.
  • We cringe if someone who isn’t from here calls The City – “Frisco”.

  • We know to bring layers to any summer activity in The City.
  • Bay Area natives rarely, if ever, go to Alcatraz. Honestly, the number of locals I know who have never been to The Rock might shock you. The only reason I’ve ever gone is that I was able to spend the night in a D-block cell.
  • We remember when there were people working the toll booths at The Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) and The Bay Bridge. I used to love checking in on my toll booth lady and always used the same lane in hopes I’d run into her. Wonder whatever happened to her?
  • We take public transit as option #1 because we know Muni is the GOAT.

  • We remember when it was weird to see people from The Marina at bars in The Mission. Is it all just blended in now or can you tell what neighborhood folks are from still?

    Broke-Ass Stuart, Editor in Cheap, says, “I used to joke that I dated girls who looked like they lived in the Marina but acted like they lived in the Mission. That really has no meaning anymore.”

  • You know what 6 Degrees of Separation from Robin Williams means.
  • “Yay Area” is a term you’re all too familiar with.
  • We have strong feelings about where to get the best burrito. I’ve even heard folks discuss whether there should be rice or not in Super Burritos.
  • You grew up listening to Live105 and KMEL. Does anyone else miss KFRC?
  • You remember in the 90s when it wasn’t safe to drive through Richmond with your doors unlocked.
  • Some of us know pager code. Well, I do. In the late 90s most of my friends had pagers and we used them to “text” each other in class.

Bay 2 Breakers crayon costumes for the win – photo from 2014 B2B

  • We will still complain about inflation even if we’re emptying out bank account for foodie goodies like Ube donuts, lavender lattes or locally caught oysters.
  • Your costume closet includes at least two Bay to Breakers costumes. If you don’t have an epic story about B2B, are you really from here?
  • We will reminisce about how things used to be often.
  • When you’re traveling, people can automatically tell you’re from The Bay. I dunno if it’s our style, our attitude, or what. Something just screams Bay Area about each and every one of us. We’re somewhat atypical which makes us all typical Bay Area locals.
  • We dream of leaving The Bay Area but also at the same time can’t dream of anywhere else we’d rather live.

Note: I’m pretty sure this list is incomplete but it’s a pretty solid list nonetheless. What I know for sure is that we’re all unique in our own way here and that’s part of why The Bay Area is so great.

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.

60 Comments

  1. May 20, 2022 at 9:24 am — Reply

    As a born SF native whose Black ass has lived here all his 41 years on this Earth… I’m a bit disappointed you didn’t mention
    – SF Zoo keys (which just came back in a new form),
    – often having multiple BART tickets and a fistful of MUNI transfers by day’s end
    – attending the first-ever holiday lighting ceremony at the Embarcadero
    – seeing Peaches Christ at The Bridge (I still have my DVD)
    – leaving a film at The Castro to get Escape from NY Pizza
    – drinking at Lucky 13
    – visiting sex shoppes
    – celebrating in The Fillmore (and arguing with Oakland fam)
    …and many more.

    And I’ve never been to Bay to Breakers.

    • Katy Atchison
      May 20, 2022 at 9:27 am — Reply

      Ahhh! SF Zoo Keys! That’s a great one. Reminded me that I also have a collection of original Muni Monthly Passes that I keep meaning to frame.
      These are all great additions!

      • Tess
        May 22, 2022 at 8:08 am

        This list isn’t for bay area natives. It’s for a geriatric millennial who doesn’t seem to grasp that the peninsula and south bay exists too in the bay area. Pager codes has nothing to do with where you lived but when you lived. Only 415 or 510 area codes? Hello there’s 707 and 408. I treat sf like an island that I never leave but I don’t keep my world views locked there like this writer. Real San Franciscans don’t judge because nothing is weird to us. And reminiscing how to used to be is called old age. What a useless article and highly inaccurate.

    • Mrs Walker
      May 20, 2022 at 9:34 pm — Reply

      I was thinking the same about Bay to Breakers. Dead on with the zoo keys! Also:
      – paletas from the cart
      -double rainbow ice cream
      -calling story time
      -leaving the zoo to get Leon’s bbq
      -freezing your ass off at Candlestick

      • Sweetauntie
        May 21, 2022 at 11:38 am

        Ohhhhhhhhhhh, Leon’s……💕

    • Jason
      May 21, 2022 at 9:08 pm — Reply

      Oh, live 105 I miss you….

    • Glitsy Gus
      May 26, 2022 at 1:16 pm — Reply

      Zoo Keys! And Fairyland Keys! I still have both of mine.

    • KJ
      May 26, 2022 at 8:33 pm — Reply

      Omg, yes to the handful (pocketful, purseful) of MUNI transfers!

  2. ~chibi
    May 20, 2022 at 9:34 am — Reply

    They’re not out of 415s anymore!
    Also isn’t Frisco a term from Black San Franciscans ?

    • Michele
      May 23, 2022 at 3:47 am — Reply

      @tess you summed it up exactly 👏🏼

  3. Stella
    May 20, 2022 at 12:09 pm — Reply

    Nah – We use “Frisco.” What we DON’T use is “San Fran.”

    • Cara Nella
      May 22, 2022 at 2:32 pm — Reply

      No self respecting SF native says FRISCO

    • Robert Curlee
      May 22, 2022 at 4:54 pm — Reply

      Nope. NO native born kid from the bay area says “Frisco”…

    • KJ
      May 26, 2022 at 8:30 pm — Reply

      Nope. No native San Franciscans use Frisco. Ever.

  4. janet toliver
    May 20, 2022 at 8:16 pm — Reply

    I’ve never been to Bay to Breakers but I still have plenty of Halloween (Castro) and Pride costumes (90’s).
    We lived for years in lower Haight/Mission and never once went to the Marina.
    Yes! Bart tickets, late night muni passes, toll takers, and ZIMS!

    • HRod
      May 21, 2022 at 10:59 pm — Reply

      I DO remember KFRC, Pink popcorn at the Zoo. Zoo keys, the P.A.L. Paco’s Tacos on 24th Street, Lay away at Giant Value on Mission and Cholos, Discolandia…I can go on but I’ll stop there. Those who grew up in the Mission will remember.

    • Heather
      May 22, 2022 at 5:46 pm — Reply

      Don’t forget KOME. Who went to Kamp KOME? Or KFAT in the south bay. 408 area code all the way! And yes we all have our favorite burrito joints, but also our favorite dumpling joints too.

      • Pffft
        May 23, 2022 at 1:23 pm

        0 is right. This whole list is hella cringe. Might as well be called “how to rep like you are an OG Bay Arean, when in truth, you maybe moved here in 2015 and still think you’re way cooler than the folks back home in Phoenix.”

        PS: I’m from Berkeley, my family has lived here since 1880s, and I *still* cringe when I hear people say “hella” unironically. Even when I was a kid we wouldn’t say that. Ain’t nothing more square than being on a slang bandwagon, you know?

      • Lauren
        May 26, 2022 at 2:23 pm

        KFAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        The best music ever.
        Other items:
        I. Magnin
        Farrells
        Zims
        Rock-N-Bowl on Haight
        Day on the Green (thinking of summer ’83 Police/The Fixx/Oingo Boingo/Thompson Twins and ’84 The Tubes/David Bowie
        The Kabuki as concert venue to see The Untouchables
        Mike’s for Chinese food on Geary

        FTR, never ran the B2B, love taking tourists to Alcatraz especially on foggy cold days, weird no mention of it b/c it started in SF at Baker Beach, but Burning Man. Also never gone once (& no intention of ever going)

    • Evelyn Aleridge
      May 23, 2022 at 9:37 am — Reply

      I was at the Holloween in Castro when they had the shooting that shut down Halloween for years. 2006.

  5. O
    May 20, 2022 at 8:33 pm — Reply

    This is hella cringe

    • Seth
      May 21, 2022 at 10:58 pm — Reply

      Ive never been to bay to breakers. I
      grew up in the 80s and I always got the impression that it was a thing where the first 30 people were serious maraton runners, and everyone behind them had a Porsche and a Volvo, smoked pot and dropped lsd with wavy gravy in the 60s and now had money, two kids in private school, and A’s or Giants Season tickets. I like naked people as much as the next bay area perv, but at 37 ive still not been out to see it.

    • Nate
      May 21, 2022 at 11:54 pm — Reply

      Niiiiiiiice

    • Pffft
      May 23, 2022 at 1:24 pm — Reply

      Hella cringe indeed.

  6. Rose
    May 20, 2022 at 9:51 pm — Reply

    100% miss KFRC! But plenty of SF born and raised hate B2B and never go, me being one of them.

  7. Butter
    May 20, 2022 at 10:12 pm — Reply

    Frisco > San Fran. Listen to classic IMP. The late great Cougnut called it Frisco & so did my peers.

  8. May 21, 2022 at 12:10 am — Reply

    Bay to Breakers is like Alcatraz for me. Perhaps for older BAy Area dudes, now, I cringe.

    • BigRed
      May 21, 2022 at 9:02 pm — Reply

      Alright let me be the first to strap on a set and reveal my vintage :
      Things I miss :
      Freezing my ass at the stick
      Happily freezing my ass while eating a carnation malt at a night game while waiting for them to put in Rollie Fingers
      Days on the Green
      1/4 pie at brickways
      The Fillmore
      Riding flexies down the hills in Oakland bouncing off the front lawn retaining walls

  9. Excelsior Guy
    May 21, 2022 at 11:15 am — Reply

    You will know some is a San Francisco native within the first 15 minutes of meeting them. They will tell you. Usually to underscore how their opinion matters more than yours.

  10. Ashandrak
    May 21, 2022 at 11:54 am — Reply

    Frisco is a place in Texas!
    Emperor Norton The 1st would be hellashamed.
    It is ‘San Francisco’ or ‘The City’

    • Ashandrak
      May 21, 2022 at 11:56 am — Reply

      Also, Gordo’s taco truck in East Bay, hands down.

  11. David Richoux
    May 21, 2022 at 1:22 pm — Reply

    I grew up listening to KCBS, then KEWB, then KYA, KMPX, KSAN, KFAT… then Live105, TheCITY, KFJC, KFOG, KJAZ, KPFA, KPOO, KALX, etc.. listening to just two Bay Area radio stations would be impossible.

  12. Cj
    May 21, 2022 at 6:03 pm — Reply

    I moved to sf in 94, left in 2017.
    When I go out of town I notice that food is cheaper.
    I think $30 parking tickets is a deal.
    Cheap gas is a deal.
    Cheap housing is deal.
    The best nightlife when I used to go out from the end up then universe then end up.
    I cheated and got a ride to skip blocks at bay to breakers. But I did the whole thing a year later.
    Had a blast on pink Saturday, the pride, and not work Monday.
    Best Halloween at the Castro!

  13. Al
    May 21, 2022 at 7:23 pm — Reply

    What about crushing
    We used to Cruz mission street and then Broadway

  14. Kristin
    May 21, 2022 at 8:14 pm — Reply

    This is really good. I laughed and it brought back good memories. Maybe this is everywhere but I definitely had my own secret taxi number so that I could actually get a hold of one and go out / get home from bars in the late 90s! Otherwise you were walking home

  15. Vonnie
    May 21, 2022 at 9:08 pm — Reply

    When did it become “the bay”? I started hearing that about two years ago. Been here since 1986 The Bay is not a term I hear long term residents use

  16. Wenceslao
    May 21, 2022 at 9:20 pm — Reply

    Damn. This article was written like the South Bay wasn’t even a thing, yet a huge population lives down here! No love for the (408)?

  17. Seth
    May 21, 2022 at 11:04 pm — Reply

    Also hella miss live 105 and wyld 94.9 being wyld 107.7 and who remembers live 105’s competator station 98.5 kome. They would put on KampKome at the shoreline every summer. Those were good lineups.

  18. Christian Alfonso
    May 22, 2022 at 8:13 am — Reply

    Nice article! Yes…I listened to KMEL, KSOL ( when it used to be 107.7 then changed to 94.9) and X-100 ( who remembers that?). Reading the comments above absolutely brings me back from the zoo keys, Leon’s bbq on Sloat Blvd, Tic-Toks on Third Street, the Drive-Ins in Alameda and would turn into a flea market on the weekends, going to Westlake Bowl or Serra Bowl in Daly City with friends on a Friday night. Farrel’s and Pizza & Pipes we’re also fun to go to at Serramonte. Who remembers City Nights and The Jam Zone for the 18 and up clubs? Oh yeah..Roscoes Chicken and Waffles was in Oakland. I can go on and on. I actually left The Bay to live in Atlanta for five years, and I could not wait to leave San Francisco…but as you mentioned, it’s really hard to dream about living elsewhere other than The Bay so I came back home…I HELLA miss the the pre tech Bay Area though.

    • Anthony
      May 23, 2022 at 5:34 am — Reply

      City Nights!!! Man those were the days… You’d leave the club and right around the corner was the Mexican style hotdogs wrapped in bacon sold from a little flat grill that were bomb. What about poetry slams at the Starry Plough in Berkeley or Marine World USA in Vallejo back in the day?

  19. RED
    May 22, 2022 at 9:26 am — Reply

    Well, I remember the Big E Emporium Christmas festivities on the roof.
    Playland
    Chinatown Lunar parades as well as gay parades!
    Never been to bay to breakers , avoid it like the plague.
    Some folks may say Frisco, not me. San Francisco or the CITY.
    Zoo Keys
    and almost dying in the Loma Prieta earthquake. lol.

    • Dana
      May 23, 2022 at 2:26 pm — Reply

      I remember the emporium roof rides!

  20. LGSF
    May 22, 2022 at 10:42 am — Reply

    Yes to Live 105 (Big Rick Stuart!) and KMEL, but don’t forget about now defunct KSOL and KDIA 1310am.
    Yes to freezing at the ‘Stick. Who still has their Croix de Candlestick?
    No to both San Fran and Frisco. It’s just The City, saying San Francisco will do.

    I have to add that anyone who grew up here should refuse to call the fog by a made up name. It’s just fog dammit!

  21. A
    May 22, 2022 at 11:02 am — Reply

    Body rolling down the grassy hills in Mission Dolores Park and Kezar or any where there wasn’t dog poop.

  22. A
    May 22, 2022 at 11:05 am — Reply

    Never quite getting that bonfire smell outta yur hoodie.

  23. Margarita
    May 22, 2022 at 12:49 pm — Reply

    I second those zoo keys, having one was like having the key to the city!
    Also, us natives miss KSOL, old school KMEL, and Summer Jam. Honorable mention to Rick Chase and the original Dog House.
    We remember Dennis Richmond and Elaine Corral.
    ummm Muni is not GOAT — it’s slightly less of a headache than fighting traffic and paying ridiculous prices for parking
    Natives also know how to parallel park a car in a tight space

    — SF born and raised

  24. May 22, 2022 at 1:01 pm — Reply

    Ahh, a bunch of kids commenting here. No one mentioned Playland, Laughing Sal and the obligatory It’s It while there! And how about a car ride through the Presidio which always included a stop at the pet cemetary to pay our respects… and also find the funniest or most heart warming inscription on the headstones? The Zoo keys were golden! I won one once through a kids art contest which the Chronicle ran. I got honorable mention… meaning, my art sucked but my effort was commendable!

    • Maureen
      May 22, 2022 at 6:39 pm — Reply

      Nancy! You’re comment is the best out of all of them! You take the crown. But if my Mom were still alive she might beat you out with the “Bay shrimp” lunches on Sunday, in newspaper, (now extinct) the 5 cent crab stuffed tomatoes for lunch in the Mission, her high school St. Rose (all girls Catholic school torn down after the Loma Prieta). No such thing as Bay to Breakers or “Pillow Fights” back then. All adults acted as such

  25. Ezme
    May 22, 2022 at 7:24 pm — Reply

    Thank you! Saying Frisco is nails on a chalkboard!

  26. HyphyYayArea
    May 22, 2022 at 9:13 pm — Reply

    Writes “Yay Area,” and completely ignores Vallejo, Richmond, Oakland, Hayward, San Leandro. Cite your source if you really believe “Yay Area” is a San Francisco thing. So many bay area cities, and only one of them is San Francisco.

  27. Harry
    May 22, 2022 at 9:27 pm — Reply

    Married to a San Franciscan, and the ultimate trait is:

    Native San Franciscans are entirely obsessed about San Francisco, in a singularly narcissistic way. No other incredible metropolis in the world has as high a proportion of people who smugly pity people who don’t live in their city.

    It’s a nice city. But… please.

  28. Martin
    May 23, 2022 at 7:44 am — Reply

    You are real native if you remember Bud’s ice cream of 24th and Castro. Also growing up listening to the Quake and KSOL also taking 2 MUNI busses to get to school. And playing sports all summer long for the city reck department. Last but not least going to summer camp at Glen Park.

  29. Martin
    May 23, 2022 at 8:09 am — Reply

    Remembering Bud’s ice cream 24th and Castro. Playing sports all summer long at city reck department. Taking 2 muni buses to get to school every morning. Last but not least going to summer day camp at Glen Park.

  30. Ling ling Lee
    May 24, 2022 at 7:33 am — Reply

    Please please please stop using the term native if you arnt indigenous to this land. Language is important and it shapes world views. I was born and raised in San Francisco and I take the time to say that. I am not from the ohlone tribe and I do not say I am a native. Please please please consider your impact on our indigenous communities with your use of these terms.

    • Mary
      May 27, 2022 at 1:38 am — Reply

      Agree with a standing ovation

  31. Nienna
    May 25, 2022 at 2:35 am — Reply

    Apparently San Jose is not the Bay Area to you.

    Literally none of this list. That or you’re younger than 30. Or both.

  32. LG
    May 26, 2022 at 12:14 pm — Reply

    This is largely super accurate. I was born in Hayward and raised in Lafayette and I’m old enough to remember when the ENTIRE Bay Area was 415, which is why I insist on my 415 area code even though I’m East Bay all the way.
    I never have run Bay to Breakers but I bet some of my super 80s/90s folk here remember the Run to the Far Side! There was also the Oakland Zoo Run, which most just called “The Zoo Run.” We’d eat at Johnny’s after. Oh man…
    Dude also for radio stations: KRQR. That was my parents favorite. Live105 was mine, but I went through a Wild 107 phase because I liked “Rump Shaker.”

  33. emily
    May 26, 2022 at 1:18 pm — Reply

    You all are hella missing out by not going to Alcatraz Island. The boat ride is cool, the view of SF is amazing and there’s great birdwatching! Everyone should go at least once.

  34. KJ
    May 26, 2022 at 9:10 pm — Reply

    The thing about this article is that Bay Area natives and born and raised San Franciscans are NOT the same thing. No San Franciscan says they’re from the Bay Area (or uses the term yay area. Shudder). Because yes, Harry, we’re proud of our City and can definitely be obnoxiously smug about it. Mea culpa for sure. As a born and raised San Franciscan I’m surprised no one mentioned a) Swensen’s on Russian Hill or b) the first thing one native San Franciscan asks another is “where did you go to high school?”

  35. Mayray
    May 27, 2022 at 1:52 am — Reply

    Agreed. I was born & raised in SF and have never lived anywhere else. I’m sorry, author, but you have no right claiming to be a native or writing an article on the topic- you are a transplant. True natives were born in San Francisco, and as for our “traits” which you failed to pinpoint, let me help you out:
    -Old habits die hard. Meaning, no true native calls SF some ridiculous broken name, like Frisco, and we will never abbreviate certain areas (ex/you’ll never hear a native call it the “TenderNob” or the “FiDi”). A lot of us still use the OG street names, like Army St, and we all know the name of the original school that sat atop O’Shaughnessey.
    -Natives seem to maintain a chill, calm level of non judgment & we know when we meet one of our own.
    -You truly know an SF native when you see us treat Mission St as the invisible line not to cross when walking down 16th from Valencia. And if we do venture that ways, our eyes will be on the rooftops (look it up transplants) and we sure as hell wont be wearing a certain color.
    -Lastly, true natives remember when the only hot days of the year were about 2 weeks in October. The rest of the days were foggy and a native will NEVER call the fog Karl.

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