Where to live: Seattle or San Diego?
December 18, 2007 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me decide where to live: Mid 20s in San Diego or Seattle? The factors of importance are within. But any unique perspective will help.

I've been in Seattle for a year, but may move to San Diego for more pay in the short term (job in Seattle is better career-wise, in the long term). Either job provides enough to make me happy.

If you live in Seattle or San Diego, what do you like about either place? San Diegans, would you move to Seattle? Seattleites, would you move to San Diego? Have you lived in both cities? Which did you prefer?

I am most interested in the following factors:
1. Sunshine, weather. San Diego wins landslide.
2. Ease of meeting people. Undecided.
3. Cost of living? Don't know.
4. Which place is more relaxed? Don't know.
5. Public transportation: Seattle wins.

A little about myself for context:
I am active, love outdoor activities (ski, bike, surf, run). I have been having a hard time meeting my "type" of people in Seattle (despite joining many activity groups, of which there are many), but I've only been there for a year. I am from Northern California, where I find people more open and outgoing. In Seattle, people are "nice" but it's hard to break into deeper more meaningful relationships without extreme effort. I find Seattle to be very cliquey and exclusive (it's feels like I need to pick a group). In California there is more open socializing, which is more of my style.

Anyway, any factors that I am overlooking can be explored as well. Thanks!
posted by |n$eCur3 to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Seattle's definitely the cheaper place to live.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:28 PM on December 18, 2007

San Diego. Not even a choice. You need a car in both places and San Diego is a million times nicer. Plus: better surf!
posted by dame at 7:45 PM on December 18, 2007

posted by wfc123 at 8:01 PM on December 18, 2007

My days in San Diego were the best ever. It's a great city, but also with very expensive housing. Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, La Jolla - they all hold some special memories and you would love it liking the outdoor activities. Seattle is very different and to be honest, much more like Northern California than San Diego is. Northern and Southern California just as well be different planets. Both great places - but in very different ways.

Good luck!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:04 PM on December 18, 2007

This has nothing to do with Seattle or San Diego, but I would definitely say that in your mid-20s, you should err on the side of picking the better-for-your-career job over the well-paying job. You 20s are for learning, your 30s are for earning.
posted by lunasol at 8:07 PM on December 18, 2007

San Diego is expensive. Expect that raise to be completely absorbed by the cost of living here. Here is a cost comparison of the two cities.

That said, you couldn't get me to leave San Diego. It's a beautiful city with wonderful people. Seattle is nice too, but I'd never select it over San Diego. Every single day I'm happy that I live here.
posted by 26.2 at 8:15 PM on December 18, 2007

to slightly amend my earlier answer: if you feel like a Californian at heart, then that may temper the importance of the job.
posted by lunasol at 8:26 PM on December 18, 2007

3. Cost of living? Don't know.

Ahem. The earnings from that better-paying job in San Diego will certainly be swallowed up in higher real estate prices or rent; higher car insurance; high gas prices from that long commute, etc, etc. This is a huge disparity with many, many inobvious costs (e.g. California has a state income tax, Washington doesn't).

5. Public transportation: Seattle wins.

Seattle wins ... by a fucking country mile. There is no effective public transportation in San Diego. Anyone who tells you different is just batshit crazy.

In California there is more open socializing, which is more of my style.

Speaking as a Californian now living in Seattle, I couldn't disagree more. In fact, I'd say it was the exact opposite -- Seattle is waaay friendlier. California is Balkanized to the extreme by socio-economics.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:00 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seattle wins ... by a fucking country mile. There is no effective public transportation in San Diego. Anyone who tells you different is just batshit crazy.

Ya know, I hear this a lot from people here in San Diego. It really depends on which part of the city you live. I take public transportation to work everyday, and it's great! If you live in the northern part of the county, the coaster provides a great link to the city for work. The San Diego public transportation people even provide free bussing from the train station to our jobs, which many people take advantage of.

And if you live in South Bay or along the 8 freeway, you have the option of taking the trolley to work. This connects through to the train system as well, so you have access to large chuncks of the city through rail alone.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 9:38 PM on December 18, 2007

There is no effective public transportation in San Diego. Anyone who tells you different is just batshit crazy.

At least along the coast, thats just not true. My parents in North County take the Coaster down to San Diego and the Trolley all the way to the Mexican border for a day of shopping in Tijuana.

As regards the question, I think your interests are better suited to San Diego. The bike rides along the north coast are awesome - riding right along the ocean.
posted by vacapinta at 9:48 PM on December 18, 2007

I'd never live in San Diego. You're paying more to live near the beach, basically. If you're okay with that, and you like the beach enough to pay more for it than the skiing/hiking/kayaking/whatever you'll have around Seattle, go for it.

As some of the aboves have said, there are lots of hidden costs to living in CA. Transit is a bigger deal than you'd think. Everyone drives in southern California and it's akin to driving in hell. When you're on public transit, you can always read a book, watch something on your video iPod, takes notes, just zone out. When you're on a CA freeway, which you almost certainly be a lot, all you'll be able to do is stare at the car in front of you and maybe listen to something on the radio or your iPod. I'm extremely bias, but a driving commute feels like murder directed at my very soul. I'm currently a 10 minute walk from my work and while I know I'm going to have to go (slightly) further someday, either due to different job or housing, I don't look forward to it.

The few times I've been in southern California, I hated it. The climate is basically the same every day, with a +/- 5 degree variant if it's winter or summer. That kind of stagnant also drives me insane. But then again, the Pacific Northwest rain and general grey from October through April isn't the favourite of a lot of people.

I'm in Vancouver, but it's quite similar to Seattle, only the mountains are closer and there are more hobos. I wouldn't trade it for anywhere else in North America (except maybe for Seattle).
posted by Nelsormensch at 10:00 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

San Diego is good for lizards. You can find a nice, flat, hot rock down there. Then again I like rain.
posted by Sukiari at 11:54 PM on December 18, 2007

I live near Seattle. The county just shot down another transportation initiative. Housing increases in price even though the national papers fret about a bubble. Neither of those points bode well for a mid-20s resident (which I am as well). I agree its difficult to make friends here (I had more friends in 3 months in Manhattan); however, I've heard from other residents that taking classes and volunteering (there are plenty of opportunities) help a lot.

So, my advice as someone who's lived around Seattle 22 years: neither.
Instead try these. They meet your criteria better.
Bellingham -- more clouds but much tighter community. Costs less. Lots of outdoors within biking distance (according to my friends who love it there) and more within driving. Way more relaxed.

Portland -- similar climate and cost of living to Seattle; much easier to meet people -- damn those people are nice; more relaxed and the best public transit on the west coast (which isn't saying much... but its a solid system).

Colorado -- 300 days of sun... what? You live outdoors for similar costs to Seattle. I know a lot of great people from the state (Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder), but I've not been there, so I don't know if its easy to meet such great people when you live there. My friends there swear by it (a huge majority returned home after college). I don't know anything about the public transportation, but the people are very laid back.

You're young. Explore.

Personally, I'm moving to east Europe in February.
posted by Galen at 12:11 AM on December 19, 2007

Well, I come at you from the reverse angle: I'm a San Diegan born and bred, and I'm a mid-20s thinking of moving up to Seattle.

But....here's why I haven't moved (points for you to think about):

As mentioned, the weather (SD really is 70F a good chunk of the year...'course it's raining right now, but there you go)

People....are friendlier in SD. But then, I thought NorCal was unfriendly. Seattle wasn't too bad but I've never fully lived there.

Great outdoors is a wash: both have the beach, both have mountains, both have whatever you may be looking for (the skiing is crappier in SD if you're not willing to drive a bit further, so keep that in mind).

Cost of living is INSANE in SD (one reason I'm contemplating a move to the Pac NW). You find yourself paying quite a bit to live in a crappy place. Then again, you can get lucky: North County, as several others mentioned for various reasons, is perhaps more reasonable housing prices-wise. But then, I never got the impression living in Seattle was cheap, either...

I think SD is more relaxed, but then I think SD is more relaxed than anywhere I've ever lived. People are just chill, and not nearly as crazy as a lot of big cities can make them.

Public transportation...oh, my San Diegan pride takes a hit there. To illustrate: I once had a tourist call me from downtown San Diego and ask me what stop the hotel I worked at was on. The hotel was about 35 miles from downtown, so no go on the trolley. Or the train. Or the bus. A taxi would have run about $100. So the guy hung up in exasperation. Distances are greater in SD, and you absolutely must have a car. ABSOLUTELY MUST.

In the end, I'm just really proud of my city. San Diego is an incredible place to live, and I am so glad I grew up there. So in the end, though I may move to Seattle at some point, my heart will always be with San Diego. You may find yourself moving here and falling in love with it too....or you may not. My opinion? It's worth a shot.
posted by librarylis at 12:30 AM on December 19, 2007

I am a native San Diegan. My theory is that because I grew up in such a sun-soaked place, I don't seek it out as much as makes sense to many other people. But you listed this as #1, so obviously this is a big deal to you. From what I know of Seattle (which is admittedly little), it kind of seems like the opposite of SD in this regard.

You might be able to get to work or a Padres game via public transportation in San Diego, but not a whole lot else. I am glad that people have posted that they use it, though. San Diego traffic seems to be more hellish every time I am back there, but I guess it is something you can get used to.

I do think San Diegans are pretty friendly, though you will probably run into the stereotypically superficial SoCal vibe more often than you'd like (the origin of the SoCal/NorCal "war"? I dunno). In this respect I view San Diego as "cliquey," but that could also be a symptom of our age group. A lot of this could depend on what community you end up living/playing in. Some places are a lot more relaxed than others (I personally really like Encinitas).

And as has already been noted, San Diego has great beaches for surfing, and generally good all-year-round weather to do your biking and running in.
posted by liverbisque at 12:50 AM on December 19, 2007

I grew up in San Francisco and then moved down to SD for college and stayed for 8 years (with a 6 month stint in LA). I've only been to Seattle once for a weekend with an ex.

Based on your criteria, I think you would have a lovely time in San Diego. It was great for 8 years although I don't know if I'd live there again (not that I'd cross it off either).

- As others have stated, the weather is awesome... but only if you don't mind that it's pretty darned constant all year around - mild with a slight breeze. If that sounds more heavenly than hellish to you then that's your spot. Some people say it's boring, but sheesh some people have nothing else to complain about. ;)

- It's so nicely located that you can participate in ANY type of activity you'd like. I used to take regular quick weekend trips to June Mountain (close to Big Bear) for snowboarding. Then there's surfing, which I never got into, but it's huge in San Diego. Biking and hiking are also quite popular. Plus golf, jogging, tennis, volleyball, sailing... there are also loads of gyms with diverse offerings of classes.

- I wouldn't say it's EASY to meet people, but I do believe the opportunity is there because there's so much TO DO! Downtown is thriving pretty much all year around and San Diego loves a party, especially for Halloween and Mardi Gras. And then then there's the yearly block party that's pretty damned good. Beer festivals, food festivals, film festivals. I joined a young adults social club (Vavi) and played dodgeball for two "seasons" and that was loads of fun. If you think you might be into knitting, send me a mefimail and I'll hook you up with my old knitting group. And then there's the Padres, Chargers, and I've heard that a Gulls game is not half bad (hockey).

- I worked in the wireless communication industry (quite popular field for SD) and I think I was paid reasonably well and had a good standard of living. I had a car, my own apartment, socialized regularly. It's not cheap, but it does depend on your job. If you are in a technical field (which I'm guessing if you are choosing between Seattle and SD) then you should do all right. (If you ever choose SD, I recommend you check out the South Park area which was my last and favourite place I lived (out of 8 different locations in SD))

- Everyone's right, you NEED a car. However, loads of co-workers took their bikes to work so that's an option.

- I can't say about Seattle, but I can't think of a more relaxed place than San Diego. At work it was normal to see people in shorts and flip flops. Depending on the area you can get some pretty obnoxious superficiality or annoying wannabes but isn't that everywhere? :)

Overall, you've been living in Seattle for a year and I think you gave it a shot. From your description I don't think you would be worse off in San Diego (and at least you have nicer weather) You're young so why not give San Diego a chance!

I just realized my friend from SD moved to Seattle over a year ago. Let me email him and see if he has any advice either.
posted by like_neon at 1:52 AM on December 19, 2007

I grew up in San Diego and would never again live there unless I just wanted some place warm to die.

San Diego lacks reasonable public transportation, good restaurants, low housing costs, any variation in weather, and the population density which is necessary to support CULTURE of any kind.
posted by beerbajay at 3:39 AM on December 19, 2007

Lived in Seattle for a year, mother lives in San Diego.

I would live in Seattle (or as I eventually called it, 'The Land that Eye Contact Forgot') because I don't own or want a car, and have plenty of friends there. But I'm not you, and I did leave the city anyway for greener pastures.

It sounds like San Diego is more up your alley, especially with regards to your first two factors: epic sunlight, and people with whom you would jive. Seattle is relaxed in that it's the #1 place in the country where people go to work in wrinkled shirts, but I found people to be easily spooked, socially. It takes a really long time to establish yourself.

So yes, I suspect you'd be happier in San Diego. That may be enough to compensate for the delayed career path. But then again, I'm a big fan of happiness.
posted by laughinglikemad at 8:45 AM on December 19, 2007

San Diego is either a love it or hate it town. I love it.

Unless all you want to do is get to and from work, you'll need a car.

One thing I have noticed about SD is it tends to be a stopping place for a lot of people. People will come live here for a couple of years and then move somewhere else. I've been here for 6 years, and even discounting my friends who left right after graduation, I can think of 5 or 6 people off the top of my head who have left in the last 2 years.

Yes, you might have to go out looking for "CULTURE," but it's here. UCSD has a pretty decent theater department, there's several arenas for big concerts (Cox, Qualcomm, etc) and other venues (Cane's, the Casbah, Belly Up) for smaller shows. And you can't forget Balboa Park.

Do a little bit of research on where you want to live -- the neighborhoods all have completely different characteristics. If you make a good choice, you'll be happy. If not, you can try somewhere else at the end of your lease!

I feel like San Diego has a little bit of everything, and it's just a matter of finding it.
posted by natabat at 9:05 AM on December 19, 2007

San Diego lacks reasonable public transportation, good restaurants, low housing costs, any variation in weather, and the population density which is necessary to support CULTURE of any kind.

Oooooor.....maybe you just didn't know where to look for some things.

I grew up in the East County, and I thought San Diego was boring as hell too, so I left for school. When I came back and was actually able to do stuff and get around on my own, I found that there's quite a bit to do. Just don't limit yourself to the boonies.

I live within walking distance of a trolley line and use it quite frequently, especially to go downtown or the malls during the holidays, although it is quite limited in its usefulness. I wouldn't rely on public transportation.

We don't have so much in the way of world-class restaurants, but we have plenty of quirky little places and some of the best damn Mexican food north of the border--after eating it on a regular basis you'll suffer from withdrawal if you move away. The local modern art museum has two branches, one of which just more than doubled in size. They put on a free concert every month that includes seminars on their current exhibitions. The art galleries on Ray St. in North Park put on a free gathering once a month where they block off the street. We have an all-ages music venue that's the size of three movie theaters, in addition to the previously mentioned Casbah and Belly Up, as well as an outdoor concert theater and a House of Blues. New art galleries are popping up all the time. We've got all kinds of culture, we just don't brag about it.
posted by LionIndex at 11:06 AM on December 19, 2007

I've lived in both cities for periods of years (grew up in N. SD county--lived in HillCrest, North Park, PB--currently living in Seattle).

If you can deal with the weather, I'd vote Seattle. It's a very compact city which means that as you build a friend network you'll be constantly bumping into people--it feels like a small town in that way. And you do NOT need a car in Seattle depending on where you live/work--I spent my first 9 years in this city walking and busing. And our public transport is only getting better (new street car, light rail coming on line).

In terms of meeting people--there is really a divided sense about Seattle. I don't get all the talk about the "Seattle Freeze" and have found it easy to meet people in Seattle and also have found the friendships to be more solid than in SD where things seemed more superficial.

The difference in weather cannot be overstated--if you don't like rain/cold/grey then Seattle is a tough place to be for half the year.

Economically, the PNW continues to boom, which might be a factor.

One place Seattle completely falls down, though, is the quality of the Mexican food. Sometimes I think I should move south just to get a reliable supply of those hot carrots that you can find at every corner 'bertos in SD.
posted by donovan at 12:12 PM on December 19, 2007

My only gripe with Seattle is that there are no decent Mexican restaurants. Otherwise, it wins hands down in my book.
posted by Rubber Soul at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2007

Yeah, if you go to the big stupid overpriced Cohn Restaurant Group-type restaurants, you would think that food in SD sucks. (Warning: annoying talking ad)
BUT we have a lot of really amazing ethnic restaurants, especially Asian, if you know where to look.

I also grew up in a little town to the east of SD and I also thought it was kind of boring and moved away, but now that I've come back, in the last few years I think the city has become really fun and interesting.

I live in North Park, which is a pretty cool neighborhood with lots of neat restaurants and funny little shops. Also, since I live in the city and work in the suburbs, the traffic is not bad at all.
I would NOT recommend living in the suburbs and working in the city, both because the suburbs are dull and because of the traffic.

I find people here are pretty friendly, certainly moreso than in LA. I mean, you're not going to walk down the street and get a chorus of "Ya Really Ought To Give San Diego A Try", but it's fairly easy to meet people if you go to some kind of event with like-minded folk.

On the other hand, I've always really liked Seattle when I've visited, and I would absolutely live there if it wasn't for the weather. I don't mind rain like we have here--seldom, and a lot when it comes (it even rained today!)--but I can't deal with too many grey days.
posted by exceptinsects at 7:37 PM on December 19, 2007

I'm born and raised in phoenix, but have good friends from school in SD that I visit every month or two. Last spring, I met the san diegans in san fran and we road tripped up to seattle. As a non-native of the coastal states, here's my impression:

southern california: people very relaxed and lassiez-faire, friendly but perhaps superficial (SD less than LA, of course). Plenty to do, as long as you have a car. My dad lived in SD in his 20s and biked everywhere, but the city has grown a LOT in the decades since. One of my friends rides the trolley to work but needs a car for everything else. Stuff is spread out. Most of the really good stuff is close to the coast, and if you live further inland for cost reasons you lose a lot of what makes SD a contender. Good mexican food for sure. I think less cultural diversity than the rest of the coast's major cities and a fair amount of social/economic stratification. Expensive to live there, especially the closer you get to the desirable areas. The weather is wonderful compared to phoenix, but personally I like cooler weather, so I can enjoy the warm places on vacations.

northern california: people more reserved in the cities, but not terribly so (and eureka CA is rockin good times). great culture in SF, probably the best, but again you pay a huge premium to be in the middle of it all. weather was nothing to complain about.

seattle/PNW: people generally friendly but reserved; rained some, for sure, but the sun was nice when it was out. most compact city, most walkable & best transit, even moreso than san fran, I think. Economy is strong and growing, yet living expenses seem lower in relative terms than the rest of the coast. Great culture, almost to rival san fran, and honestly much better than san diego (although SD isn't really bad). Certainly not as relaxed as southern california, but from the people we talked to in each place, they seemed generally cordial and sincere. The girls were harder to hit on, though... :)

full disclosure: after perusing the major cities of the US, I've mostly decided to move to seattle after graduating school. I do worry about the "seattle freeze" but hope my charm and winning personality will make me irresistable (I'm modest, too!).

I guess I can't think of a good reason you wouldn't like san diego, but I agree that it is unlike northern california, so don't move there expecting it to feel like home.
posted by Chris4d at 5:43 PM on December 20, 2007

interesting. i was raised in san diego, but the weather, the commute and the people got to me, so i hung out in northern california for 8 years (seconding Chris4d on the wonderfulness of eureka). I'm in Portland now, trying to move to Seattle, need job. There's just so much more in terms of work for me in Seattle then in Portland or San Diego.

So, even though all my extended family is in SD, I can't stand the place. Maybe as an economically independent adult it would be better, but I dislike driving for 30 minutes to see my friends.

Still, I had plenty of good times in North Park, Oceanside, La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and of course, Ocean Beach neighborhoods.

If you're coming from northern california, I highly recommend you check out Ocean Beach (pricey living though) for a friendly introduction to southern california life. Visit The Black and have a fish taco or three.
posted by emptyinside at 11:18 PM on August 11, 2008

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