10/14/2014 12:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

New York vs. Silicon Valley: What Are the Cultural Differences?

What cultural differences exist between New York and Silicon Valley?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Melinda Byerley, 10 years in tech

Lived in NY and SF for 10 years each. I always say in brief: "New York is for the very young and very rich. When you are young you don't mind living in a rat infested 5th floor walk up with 5 other people because You. Are. In. New York. When you're rich, you can insulate yourself from the hardships of life there--noise, crowds, crime, weather."

To elaborate....

  1. Both cities are narcissistic, but in their own way. New Yorkers will brag about that club, that watch, that play, that dress, bank account etc. SFers will brag about their physical fitness (I hiked half dome, then stopped for a soy latte smoothie and walked back to SF on my hands). Ask someone in NY what they did last weekend, and it's usually about something intelligent and sophisticated. Ask an SF person and it's usually how many miles they ran.
  2. In NY, people at least pretend to read books. In SF in general in spite of the higher education I find that most people don't read as much. And I don't mean internet, blogs, quora, etc.
  3. The art galleries and art scene in NY is incredible, but much more expensive. Lots of great art in SF at a much lower cost but not as much of it will make you weep at its beauty.
  4. Fresh produce and eating healthfully--no question hands down SF has better food quality and restaurants serving healthy food; though food technique is more refined in NYC. Think Chez Panisse vs. WD-50. Friend of mine who moved to NY from SF went to Whole Foods in Columbus Circle in January and got a real shock at what was available -- i.e. pink tomatoes, and none of them local.
  5. There is little to no Orthodox Jewish culture in the bay area and Jews as a % of the population appear to have less or more secular influence on the culture. Less razor sharp comedy, less wit and sarcasm, etc (not to mention an absence of bagels). There are many more African Americans in NYC as a % of the culture -- NYC is in fact much more multicultural in general than SF, which is becoming more and more white and Asian only.
  6. I noticed in my last visit to NYC that the average person just isn't as technically savvy, less interested in iPad/iPhone for its beauty and usability than it as a status symbol. So technology there is a means to an end -- in SF of course it is the end.
  7. SF shuts down earlier. You eat here at 7-8pm, not 9-10pm.
  8. More people in SF own cars because our public transportation is awful. Muni, I hate you.
  9. More SF people are into Eastern philosophies and Yoga, and work life balance here is easier to achieve. Sure a lot of startup folks work long hours, but if one wants to cut back there's little judgment.
  10. New Yorkers do cocaine, SFers smoke pot. This explains a lot of the above.
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