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    In a Battle for Best City, San Francisco Beats Out Boston

    By Tabitha Parent–

    At a college where most of the students hail from Massachusetts, New York, or New Jersey, being a girl from the Golden State is bound to earn you a few double takes. For starters, you’re probably going to be one of the only (natural) blondes on campus. And when the snow comes, you’ll surprisingly have the best winter gear because any true New Englander won’t be caught dead admitting that the weather is bothering them. But even native Bostonians want to know what made you “ship up to Boston” for this next chapter of your life—because why would you ever leave sunshine and In-N-Out behind?

    In truth, Boston and San Francisco are well-matched in the Battle for Best City. Boston has “baconeggandcheeses” and San Francisco has avocado toast. Boston has an (over)abundance of college students and San Francisco has tech bros. Boston has Dunkin’ Donuts and San Francisco has boba tea. Boston has clam chowder and San Francisco has sushi. Boston has colonial attractions for miles and San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. Boston has all four seasons and San Francisco has Karl the Fog. You get the picture. 

    And yet, despite their relatively even matchups in matters of food, drink, and notable landmarks, San Francisco has a very specific edge over Boston. It is by far the more accepting out of the two, if not in the whole nation.  

    Even in my very first few weeks at school, it was abundantly clear that San Franciscans had the whole “welcoming” thing down, way more than Bostonians. More people smiled at me on the street at home, more people picked up their trash and threw it away (in the right bin) at home, and more people were just slightly less aggressive/bad drivers at home. But why is that? For the answer, we need to take it back to colonial times.

    Boston, as we know, was first shaped by its Puritan Pilgrim founders. The arrival of Irish-Catholics during the Great Irish Famine in the 19th century, however, shook things up a bit and helped to form the canonically Irish-Catholic (think Celtics) city that we are all familiar with today. It’s partially here that we also get the idea of Boston’s distinct, almost cliquey neighborhoods. That, and the fact that Boston is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. But I digress. Bostonians seem to take after the Irish clans that so many of them are descended from and tend to be fiercely loyal to their own—and steadfastly wary of the unknown.

    Cliquey was certainly something I felt during my first year of college. Many of the students I encountered were from New England and were quick to stick with their other New England counterparts. They shied away from outsiders and preferred discussing the Patriots and what their favorite Dunkin’ Donuts drink was amongst themselves, rather than including those of us who were lost on what “wicked pissah” meant in the conversation.

    It wasn’t just a general sense of standoffishness that I received from my new classmates. At home, I felt like most San Franciscans made the extra effort to ensure that anyone they interacted with felt safe and welcomed, regardless of their gender identity, sexuality, or race. But at school in Boston, I’d never encountered more casual homophobia, sexism, or racism. I’d hear off-the-cuff f-slurs amongst groups at parties, watch white kids call each other “my n-word,” and listen to boys dominate the classroom conversations with their blatant sexism. Suddenly, this Bostonian “fear of outsiders” had taken on a whole new meaning. 

    San Francisco is not perfect. It is not some haven of unadulterated peace and love. There is much that I think that our city can do to improve and become an even more welcoming, safe place for all people who desire to come here. We’ve barely scratched the surface of that potential. But at the end of the day, what makes a city so great is not the number of Revolutionary War battle sites it has or how many rainbow flags fly from its rooftops, but the character of its citizens. I’m not saying that homophobia, racism, and sexism don’t exist in San Francisco at all—because they certainly do. But, as a whole, San Franciscans take pride in the diversity of their city and its inhabitants and strive to uphold those values of inclusion as much as they can.

    Boston would do well to take a few pages out of San Francisco’s very colorful book. 

    Tabitha Parent was born and raised in San Francisco and has just completed her first year of college at Boston College. In the fall, she will be a sophomore at Northwestern University studying journalism at the Medill School of Journalism. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry and running on trails in the Presidio. 

    Published on June 23, 2022