Choosing Oakland or NYC?
August 12, 2019 7:05 PM   Subscribe

I was just offered a job in Oakland. I'm currently in NYC. Would taking this job be a terrible idea? Or a really great one?

I'm from the Bay Area, I've lived away from it for 14 years. I still have family and close friends there, and I visit several times a year.

I live in New York City. I love this city, and I'm so pleased to call it home. I love my neighborhood, and I love the museums and the subway and the art and the culture and the walkability of New York. I love how, for the most part, I feel very safe here. I love my job. I'm doing good in the world and it's interesting and it pays reasonably well and I adore my coworkers.

However! All of my best friends in this city have moved away in a mass exodus. My last friend here just told me she is interviewing for a job out of state. My relationship is dying slowly. My past few weekends have been incredibly lonely. As in, no plans, spending it alone, craving human connections. I miss my family dearly (we're very close) and I miss my childhood friends. If I got hit by a truck tomorrow, I don't know who I would call to help get me home from the hospital (I don't know why this is a fear, but there it is.) In the Bay Area, I have about ten loved ones who would come immediately.

The new job pays about $20k less. It's sort of a lateral move, with a lot of travel. It seems like a decent job - I'm not particularly excited about it, but I'm not adverse. The office is small, and the coworkers seem nice, but not friend-potential. I'm not super excited about living in Oakland the way I was to live in New York. I would rather live in San Francisco, and I have a good friend who lives in the city, but the commute seems soul-sucking. Although the salary is less, I could afford a small apartment, but money would be tighter than in New York.

I'm in my late-30s, not super driven to have kids (though I have frozen my eggs, so the window is possibly open a little longer). I would like to find a very good partner, so I do have concerns about dating in the smaller pool of the east bay (I have found dating in new york to be easier than I was told it would be).

What say you, good people of metafilter? I'm on the fence about this decision, and the clock is ticking for a reply. I've gone through so many mental gymnastics with the decision process that my brain has fried. Would you stay or would you go? Is there something I am overlooking?

(I asked a similar question five years ago, but there is no longer a fiance, a CO home, or a pining for children, and there is a job offer for me in hand. I have zero regrets about not moving to CA then.)
posted by umwhat to Work & Money (19 answers total)
I wouldn't move somewhere unless I was pretty sure I wanted to move there. It doesn't seem like this is the case for you.
posted by so fucking future at 7:21 PM on August 12

It sounds to me like you should turn this job down and keep looking for other jobs on the west coast. If you wanna hang out in NYC in the meantime, send me a memail! I too find myself with some weekend downtime.
posted by ferret branca at 7:38 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]

Seems like you're in one of those godawful periods in life when you have to refresh the pool of friends a bit, more than one where you have to move (to another place where people get fed up and leave if they don't make it...).

Sounds like there's more than one NYC lady Mefite you could try hanging out with...?
posted by praemunire at 7:41 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't move in your situation. Speaking of mass exoduses, everyone I know is leaving the Bay Area...maybe that won't be the case for your connections, but it keeps getting harder for people to afford living here. Like you, I love NYC. Don't move unless you find a job (and salary) you're really, really excited about...maybe a job in SF if you really want to live in SF.
posted by pinochiette at 7:43 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]

I'm planning to move to the Bay Area from NYC in the near future. I'm sure you know from your visits that the Bay Area can be breathtakingly expensive, even compared to prices in New York. Unless you make a lot of money--like over $200k--I wouldn't take a 20k pay cut to live in the Bay Area from NYC. Can you see if this job offer will offer you at least what you are making in NYC?

(You can look up which percentile your current salary falls into in NYC versus SF/Oakland here or here.)

I would hold out for a better offer, it sounds like they are lowballing you.
posted by Lycaste at 7:50 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

It doesn't have to be either/or, right? I'd start looking seriously for a good-paying job in the Bay Area and see what happens. It does't HAVE to be this job for you to move home, right? (It sounds like this just landed in your lap?)

As someone who recently moved back to be near her family, with whom I am also very close, it has been a wonderful decision for me, especially as we all get older. My parents have had some health issues -- they're doing well now! -- and it was a blessing for me to be able to be there. And likewise, it has been a blessing for ME to be able to have them around to do things like, for example, drive me home from a medical procedure. I really love being able to see them for like, an hour here or there throughout the week. If you miss them terribly, I suspect you would be very fulfilled by that portion of the lifestyle change.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:54 PM on August 12

Personally having lived in both SF and Oakland I'd be happier in Oakland nowadays, with San Francisco having become so pressurized. I'm very fortunate to live near family (not in either SF or Oakland though); it's great, and I'd move just for that.

In your shoes I'd take the chance to move to Oakland, and if the job didn't suit then I'd look for another in the area which would be easier being in the region. I wouldn't move if the result was a long commute however, I'd want to live near my work to avoid the soul-sucking of a commute; perhaps that's part of what makes NY good for you.
posted by anadem at 8:07 PM on August 12

My thought would be not to move back taking a pay cut. I know it can really depends on the industry among a lot of other factors, but I'd try if possible to get more money from this offer or find something that would be a bump. It's not cheap out here. I moved back to the Bay 5 years ago, having grown up here, and it still boggles my mind how much rent alone costs.
posted by Carillon at 8:32 PM on August 12

Does the 20K loss mean you're going 60->40, 100->80, 200->180 or 500->480?

It sounds like there's nothing so compelling about the new job that you absolutely have to take it right now. How about continuing to interview in the Bay area if that's something you're really interested in?
posted by ethand at 8:40 PM on August 12

Obviously this is subjective, but as a datapoint, I've also lived in both Oakland and SF recently and greatly prefer Oakland. SF has become so expensive that a lot of the interesting culture has been pushed out, and this is doubly true for many of the neighborhoods that are convenient to BART and thus the least soul-sucking for trans-bay commuting.

Also, it depends on the demographics of your dating pool, but for me (a queer lefty in my 30s who works in tech but is cynical about it) Oakland is just a good a dating pool as SF if not better. Also, cross-bay relationships are do-able -- I was in one for 4 years and it was sometime a pain, but sometimes nice because we had places to crash in both cities.

That said, I agree with others that it is ridiculously expensive here, and I'd price things out very carefully before agreeing to take a pay cut to move here.
posted by introcosm at 8:45 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]

I also am from the Bay Area and spent 8 years living far from home in a city I absolutely loved. But, my family, who I’m very close to, was still in the Bay Area and I moved back. I missed the life I left behind, but now I’m so thankful that I moved when I did. I got a bunch of great years with family and now that my parents are older, I’ve been here for major health crises that would have had me scrambling to move back under duress. I also made a great life here and am truly happy in a way I likely wouldn’t have been had I stayed in my old city.

I don’t think that taking a 20k pay cut is a reasonable offer. NYC and the Bay Area are quite similar WRT cost of living and this is a low offer for a lateral move. Ask for a match or keep looking, but think seriously about moving regardless of how this specific offer pans out. Also, it pains me to say this as a SF native, but SF is really not what it was and Oakland shouldn’t be discounted as a target city for your move.
posted by quince at 9:07 PM on August 12

I'm in my late 30s and I've lived in the Bay Area since 2005 and Oakland since 2011. I think Oakland is the very best! I just bought a house here last week so that I can stay forever! But for a pay cut combined with your general lack of enthusiasm for leaving NY, I don't think you should leave for Oakland, at least right now.

SF honestly, and sadly, kind of sucks now. It's just so ungodly expensive and techie that I hardly recognize it from when I first moved out here. It's a place people move from, not to, these days, and for generally very good reasons. Also, pay cut! Nope nope nope! It's hard to be content with a tighter budget in an expensive place.

Since your family and close friends are out here, in the fullness of time, this may be exactly where you'll be happy to end up. But as a general rule, I think if one moves out of desperation or loneliness rather than sincere desire to live somewhere, it's hard to end up happy there, no matter the place or how great it is. That combined with a pay cut and leaving a job you love has all my recipe for misery alarms going off.

As praemunire said, it sounds like it's time for a refresh of the the friend pool. That happens from time to time, especially when people are hitting important ages/meaningful life stages. It sucks, but I've found it sucks a little less when I can recognize it as a normal part of the waxing and waning of life and relationships.

I say give it time. See about changing the things that are making you unhappy (the relationship and lack of friends). Job hunt out here and see if you get an offer for something that really knocks your socks off. Plan a visit and hang out like a local. Then you'll be able to decide what you really want to do with your next chapter rather than shrugging into a big, expensive life transition.
posted by mostlymartha at 9:25 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]

You love NYC but lonely weekends without friends are not going to make you happy. I'd give some serious thought to whether you're willing to put the required effort in to make new friends in NYC (meetups? etc.) It's worth thinking about how you made friends in NYC to begin with, though the methods may have changed a bit now that you're older. If you are willing to put some work in and make new friends, I'd stay. If that sounds like too much hassle to you, I'd go (but wait till you're offered more $ first, from this firm or another, so that you won't struggle so much in the Bay Area). If you decide to stick around NYC, drop me a note - I've recently returned myself.
posted by sunflower16 at 6:16 AM on August 13

I can't answer your question on whether or not to stay in NYC, but I understand not wanting to leave it. I've lived a few other places around the globe and there's nothing like it. I feel like you have to wait until you're seriously sick of the city to leave and not regret it, but that's just my take and I've always loved this place.

On another note, I just proposed a meetup in IRL for a cookout in my backyard in mid-September. I'm way out in far Brooklyn these days, but it might be worth the trip for you to meet some crazy cool mefites and round out your friend portfolio.
posted by newpotato at 8:47 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

I live in NYC, and work in tech, so I've had occasion to contemplate a move to the bay area. I would absolutely not do it for a pay cut, in fact, I would need a raise. The bay area is basically the only place in the US more expensive than NYC.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:37 AM on August 13

Unless that job is going to be a launchpad to a much better paying position, no way in hell I would move to the Bay Area with a pay cut (although as an outer-borough native, I love seeing Oakland and some other bay area towns steal SF's mojo slowly but surely, much as Brooklyn has usurped much of Manhattan's new, fun and cheap stuff). The only other thing I would consider is would putting the effort in to rebuild your social life emotionally/mentally break you right now? Personally I think you will be fine - you're having a rough stretch, but these things are in your favor -

1. You love it in NY, and not in the Stockholm Syndrome way a lot of people I've known do.
2. You are a woman who hasn't found dating to be a shitshow despite there being more single women than men here - I've noticed that my friends who didn't mind the scene here generally had their shit together in multiple aspects of life (job, happy platonic relationships, living arrangements, etc) that the multiple asshole guys they met didn't phase them.
3. You're not barely scraping by financially (a lot of people put up with this because of #1)

PS - I'm from here, and I've found a good chunk of my social circle turns over every few years (I 've only got 2 friends from the neighborhood I grew up in that I'm in regular contact with)- it's just the nature of the beast - lots of people here are from other places, and plenty of them will move on because NY was never meant to be home for them. You just gotta account for it like the seasons or the tide.
PPS- I generally avoid meetups because I want to keep my online persona separate from my real life, but you should absolutely take up some of the offers here to hang out.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 11:07 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

I'm a Bay Area native, but it sounds to me like you really enjoy NYC. Can you beat the bushes for some friends -- take a knitting class, visit the elderly, walk someone else's dog, ask your friends who left to point you to some other left behind friends?
posted by puddledork at 5:56 PM on August 13

I thought of something else. You mentioned that you have close friends in the Bay Area. Are these friends ones who would actually be available to hang out with you on weekends? Two issues come to mind: (a) at this age, I'm guessing a lot of your friends are coupled up and have kids, and (b) the Bay is huge as you know - if those friends live in San Jose you're not going to see them on weekends. It would suck to make the move only to find that your weekends are just as lonely there as in NYC.
posted by sunflower16 at 6:02 PM on August 13

Ah, you all have helped so much, so so much. I've shaken as much money as I can out of them for the offer, and they said they don't see the salary going up much in the next few years except for a bit of cost of living increases. I'm leaning towards staying put here, and asking my current job if I can be remote for a bit each quarter. Maybe that way I can have the best of both worlds? And also good to know about Oakland being a jewel - I shouldn't have discounted it.

newpotato, I would love to come to your meetup and meet new people! Hopefully I'll see ferret branca there and sunflower16?

Things are much clearer now - I have until Monday to decide for certain about this position, so I'll give it a few more sleeps, but thank you so much again.
posted by umwhat at 5:32 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]

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