Help me decide where to move
April 13, 2015 6:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to decide which city to move to and really struggling with a decision that seemingly has no "right" answer.

I've asked questions related to this before, so I apologize for sounding like I'm beating a dead horse. I'm really struggling.

I'm a 37-year-old American female, born and raised in a big city on the East Coast. I want to move somewhere new and have narrowed it down to San Francisco or Sydney.

I used to feel Sydney would be the more exciting option, since it's far away and a foreign country, but oddly, SF is starting to feel a little more intriguing since I've spent a few vacations and working trips in Sydney already and have a decent feel for the city, and have not spent much time in SF (and, like many East Coast natives, I've always been curious about the West Coast). Of course, if I did move to SF, I imagine that initial newness would wear off quickly and I would feel I know it about as well as I know Sydney, so perhaps the cities are equal in this regard.

My job situation would be better in Sydney (I could transfer to a new team there, and I know and like the people already). In SF, I would continue my existing role remotely which would be a bit lonely.

I would ideally want to stay in Sydney for about a year (not ideal since I want to get married and have kids and I'm already pushing the boundaries of time for those things). In some ways it feels like I would just be putting off marriage/kids for a year, e.g. wasting a year that I don't really have to waste. SF could potentially be a permanent move if I liked it. I've heard dating is easier for women on the West Coast than on the East Coast, which sounds appealing. I would probably take a year off from searching for a long-term partner if I go to Sydney (unless I just happen to stumble upon Mr. Right) since I don't want to settle there permanently.

I have one friend in Sydney and three in SF. I'm pretty social and not too worried about meeting new people in either city, though of course more friends is a nice advantage.

I'm sure I'll second-guess whichever choice I make, which sucks. I don't want to have any regrets. On the one hand, I always wanted to live abroad and I have the perfect chance now. On the other hand, I'm curious about the West Coast as well and it would be less moving around (rather than spending a year there, I could potentially stay long-term). On the other-other hand, I have the rest of my life to live on the West Coast (or do I? Who knows? Maybe this is my only chance?)

And round and round we go :-) I know logically there probably is no "right" decision. Hoping opinions from unbiased strangers will be useful. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered flipping a coin?
posted by jon1270 at 6:41 AM on April 13, 2015

Have you considered flipping a coin?

…And then, before you look at the result of the coin flip, asking yourself which outcome you're secretly hoping for (and then listening to that)?
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:43 AM on April 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

Speaking as a grandmother here I would really be sad if my grandchildren lived on the other side of the planet. The other US coast would be ok.
posted by mareli at 6:50 AM on April 13, 2015

You want SF. Choose SF.
posted by devnull at 6:51 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you considered cost of living and your income? I can't speak for Sydney, but cost of living in SF is incredibly high now and difficult to live in unless you have a strong income.
posted by Karaage at 6:58 AM on April 13, 2015

It looks like you've been asking variations on this question for almost two years. There's doing your due diligence before making a big decision, and then there's dithering. I think you've crossed into dithering.

Not making a choice is also a choice. In this case, there is no one right answer - which means there's no wrong one, either. Pick one city for any random reason and just go already!
posted by rtha at 7:00 AM on April 13, 2015 [11 favorites]

Can you afford SF? The real estate market is crazy here, and unlike a few years ago, there is no longer really the easy option of just conceding to live across the bay in Oakland, because it's crazy in Oakland too now (at least in places near BART and/or fun places to live as a youngish single person.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:02 AM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sydney is not cheap either. Plus if you want to get married and have kids, think about the headache you'll get when you meet an Australian and then oh no, you're in love, but you can't move there forever, and neither does he with the US, and the visa issues, and oh my god.

Go with SF.

(I lived in Sydney for two years. Being so far from home was VERY hard, and I'm used to that stuff - I'm French and lived in Canada and the UK. You need a very good support system there, because one year isn't enough to feel like home and have great friends you can count on if stuff happens. YMMV).
posted by Sijeka at 7:10 AM on April 13, 2015

I lived in Sydney for a while, across the planet from my loved ones. I could never get over how sunny and warm it was, and how much more relaxed it was than the hectic city I came from. I moved home because I missed my friends and family too much. I found lots of lovely people in Sydney, and thought the lifestyle (going to the beach at the weekend?! amazing) was truly enviable. They do have a delicious quality of life there, and some of the areas - like Newtown, Darlinghurst, St Peters', St Kilda, etc, are just great. They did a fine, fine line in coffee, too...

But ultimately, it wasn't for me. Now I live somewhere far more gritty and exhausting, but it's more exciting, and I don't feel like I'm way out on the edge of the planet, about to fall off (like I did in Sydney...). I'd rather be here, but I can see the attractions of being there if it's a certain, laidback lifestyle you're after.

As for the men, I found it pretty tough going there. It might have just been me. I'm not sure. I didn't find that many who were into books and music and politics in a really intense way, and therefore who matched me intellectually (I hope that doesn't sound arrogant, it's really not meant to!). I did find a few, though, who became friends, as did their girlfriends. But it was a little dry on the man front, I must admit.

Personally, I'd pick SF in a heartbeat. Then again, I haven't spent much time there and I'm probably mythologising it! Still would, though :)
posted by considerthelilies at 7:21 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with the SF comments for all the practical reasons, but I will also say that if you really want the adventure of living abroad, you should go ahead and do it. It's always been a dream of mine to live abroad for awhile, and it would have been alot easier to make happen when I was younger/not married/not expecting a kid. (I still plan to do it, but the logistics will be harder now).

If this is the right time in your life for such an adventure, just do it! You can always move back - to SF or elsewhere.
posted by cabingirl at 7:30 AM on April 13, 2015

Depending on the flexibility of your job, could you try out SF for a shorter period of time? My guess is that it would not be particularly difficult to find someone to swap apartments with on Craigslist, or perhaps you could rent yours on Airbnb temporarily. If you went for a few months without making the actual move, you would have a lot better understanding if it's a place where you'd like to live long term. (Same goes for Sydney). With a shorter commitment, maybe it would be easier for you to make a decision. Or try both.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2015

If you have the means to do so, spend a little time in San Francisco before you make your decision. Rent a room with AirBNB or something similar in a neighborhood that interests you (I can recommend a couple good ones in my neck of the woods), as opposed to staying in a hotel downtown or in the Marina. Feel what it's like to live the neighborhood life, stroll a local commercial street, find Your Spot for coffee and quiet, climb a hill with a blanket and a sandwich, etc. That side of life, speaking personally, is how San Francisco completely won me over. I first visited California (and San Francisco) in 2005, and finally bought a house here in 2013 after spending what seems like every waking moment in between saving and plotting and daydreaming. And now that we're here, we haven't yet woken up from the idyll. I hope we never do.

Our counterpoint for San Francisco was Los Angeles, where we lived for six years before moving to San Francisco. Part of what makes San Francisco feel so much like home is that it is so very much not Los Angeles in many respects. We ended up in LA as a waystation before we could make SF happen, and... learned that we really, really dislike living in LA. Part of our knowing that SF is such a good fit is that we spent so many years before we got here living in a place that we constantly felt was not a good fit. So if you have a place like that that you can access physically or mentally, make that checklist of things that you don't want to live with and see if you can map out wheteher SF or Syd has fewer negatives for you.

Something to consider is that (although I don't know where you'd be coming from) water use is getting stricter here, with good reason. The entire state is in a veritable water crisis and if the thought of parting with long, luxuriant baths and hosing off your patch of sidewalk gives you heartburn, think twice. California's struggling to learn how to be the arid state it is, and no one really knows yet how we'll make the transition. We're a water-wise household, up for the challenge, but this will increasingly be a defining issue out west as time marches on.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:14 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sydney it is.

You seem to have been dithering over this issue for the past two years at least so maybe it’s time you took a decision and lived with it.

As someone who spent half of my adult years living abroad, I think the experience is invaluable and if you don’t do it now, you may regret it later.

As for wanting to get married, if you haven’t found a husband in New York yet and think the odds there are not very good for single straight women, then what have you got to lose by moving elsewhere? At least, here’s your chance to expand the men pool.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:32 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some people who move to CA from the East coast or Midwest find our weather boring and miss "having seasons". That is autumn is here not particularly cold, a few trees turn yellow and orange, but not that many, and naturally it doesn't snow at all, unless you go up in the mountains. The drought is alarming, but its just sort of sunny and maybe breezy and beautiful like all the time lately. (The last two summers were not particularly warm.) Spring started here about Valentine's day. To me, our weather seems like 4 months of Spring, 4 months of Summer, 2 months of cooler weather with clouds, and 2 months of dark weather. I should mention the ocean is too cold to swim in, much colder than you would expect, you won't be splashing in it long unless you are dedicated or have a wetsuit.

I think there are a lot of MeFites in the Bay Area. And if you like men who majored in Math or Computer Science, we've got lots of them on the peninsula.

Housing prices are worse than your wildest dream right now. Apartments are hard to get. This is a hot topic of conversation here. Rent control is pretty uncommon, so I hear people complaining about large rent increases, like "my rent went up $300."

I can't tell you what will make your heartstrings sing. I can't tell you where the right life for you is or where you will find your tribe. (I grew up in the Bay Area and love it here, so I can't be fair, or even accurate.) Either lots of people in N. Cal are liberal or the conservatives here are just biting their tongues and biding their time.
posted by puddledork at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm just one person on the Internet, but I don't recommend moving for just a year. In my experience, it's not a great amount of time—you're not there long enough to get all settled and comfortable and have found your people and feel at home, but at the same time you have been there long enough for the initial novelty to wear off and for the experience of being there to feel less like a thrill-a-minute adventure and more like regular life with all the mundanity that that can entail (as Emerson said, "My giant goes with me wherever I go").

That's not to say that I'm against travel. But what about going to Sydney for 3-6 months on some kind of tourist visa and thinking of it as a long vacation rather than as a move? Then you could scratch that international travel itch and still come back to do the long-term settling-down thing you've also been wanting to do. I know you say you've been to Sydney already under terms like these, but maybe you could do a longer one this time. Otherwise, I think there could be something to be said for thinking of Sydney as a been-there-done-that (because it is)—as you say, "SF is starting to feel a little more intriguing since I've spent a few vacations and working trips in Sydney already"—and getting ready for a different adventure you haven't tried yet.

Just my two cents as someone who's in a similar place to you and hasn't gotten much out of one-year moves.
posted by honey wheat at 10:32 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've heard dating is easier for women on the West Coast than on the East Coast, which sounds appealing

I was living in the SF Bay Area when I started my divorce. There are over 100 cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had no problem finding men who were interested in me, even men on the other side of the planet were contacting me. I then moved back home to Georgia and I felt like I had dropped off the planet. I went from Candy Shop to desert.

The other thing I will comment on is that I grew up on the East Coast and I have lived overseas, in Germany. Being on the West Coast is different enough from the East Coast and also California is enough like Europe, in terms of population density and diversity and public transit, that it goes a long way towards calming my desire to move abroad. I haven't been abroad in over two decades and I was chafing at the bit about that until I got back to California. Now it's more of a "yeah, that would be a nice thing to do" and not "AAAAAUGHHHH, I am SUFFOCATING and my life is WASTING AWAY!!!!"

I will Nth "make sure you have visited both before you decide."
posted by Michele in California at 11:46 AM on April 13, 2015

You want San Francisco. At least that's how it reads to me. You can always go on vacation to Sydney.

Having known various Australian-Americans and American-Australians, the paperwork and both governments' red tape can be a huge annoying hassle.
posted by quincunx at 2:59 PM on April 13, 2015

If you don't want any regrets, then don't not-decide. The right decision is any decision. The wrong decision is to keep turning and turning in circles hoping that something is going to miraculously become the Obvious One True Answer.

Life is so short. Do what you need to do to overcome your fear of making a decision. Don't what-if your life away. You will be okay whatever you decide.

Good luck.
posted by stellathon at 7:51 PM on April 13, 2015

Just to point out one thing about San Francisco: a lot of people who have been here for a while are really beginning to resent newcomers to the City, especially if those newcomers are young affluent tech workers. Of course, most of the people who feel that way are being driven out by the unbelievably inflated cost of living, so it may not be much of an issue in the future. Just something to consider.
posted by trip and a half at 1:23 AM on April 14, 2015

Any decision you've been pondering for two years without settling one way or the other is actually a perfect candidate for a coin flip. Seriously, do that. There's a fifty-fifty chance that the coin will pick the wrong decision, but if you haven't been able to do better than that in two years, simply having a decision leaves you better off than you are right now.

The standard rules for coin-flip decision making say you're allowed to disagree with the coin's decision and pick the opposite choice instead, but if you do that, you're not allowed to revert it and you're also not allowed to consult the coin again. One flip per decision only.
posted by flabdablet at 6:27 AM on April 14, 2015

If you don't want any regrets, then don't not-decide.


In the two years you have been going in circles, you could have already spent a year in Sydney and a year in SF.

Make a decision. Go.
posted by Michele in California at 9:53 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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