We are in the high tourist season here in San Francisco, and it has made me think a lot about how we travel, and what we forget when we are on the road. It is easy to forget, while we’re on vacation, that people actually live and work in the places we are going. I mean, theoretically we know this, but in our quest to experience everything about a place, it is easy to forget that the locals are just that!
It is in this spirit that I pass on these tips. They are things I often forget myself, so this is in no way preachy.
1. Respect commute hours
Unless you must be somewhere early, wait until after the commute rush to use public transportation or hit the coffee shops in the business district. Locals are in a rush, and public transportation is crowded. I mean really crowded. And you know what makes it even moreso? People with their suitcases. It is a tough time of the day. I recently shoved myself, and a suitcase, on a metro at 8.30am on a work day…I had lost all sense of time while on vacation! The locals weren’t too happy with me!
2. Move to the side
We love that you admire our buildings. We love that you want to pull out your maps and figure out where you are. But if you’re in the business district during morning/afternoon commute, or lunchtime, please move to the side of the sidewalk.
3. Don’t gawk
Staring at the locals, just because they may be a little different than what you’re used to, is not recommended. There is a big controversy about this right now in San Francisco. There’s people watching, which I fully endorse, then there’s pointing and staring.
5. Know your rights
There is a homeless problem in San Francisco. It is unavoidable that you’ll see them…and chances are good that they’ll approach you to get money. It is against the law for them to be in any way aggressive while they are panhandling. This means lunging at you, harassing you, following you down the street/into the store/etc. I am not trying to scare you, just be prepared. Handle them however you’d like, but know if you feel threatened, it is within your rights to let them know that, loudly.
4. Get out of the tourist areas!
Wander off the beaten path a little bit. Here in SF, hit Noe Valley, Japantown, inner Richmond, or the inner Sunset (all easily accessible by Muni). These areas don’t see as many visitors, an you’ll get to experience a little more of the local flavor.