Old Home, New Home

“This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful, it breaks the heart again and again.”

— Alexander McCall Smith

A little over two weeks ago, I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland.  The city is breathtaking and the job is fantastic.  But it’s been a pretty sudden change; the first time I ever stepped foot in Edinburgh was on June 6th, for my job interview.  Now that I’ve accepted a permanent post here, the question is, how does one make an unfamiliar place start to feel like home?  One thing I think we all do is quickly latch on to similarities between the new home and the old home.  And on that note, I’d like to present:

The Top 10 Similarities Between Edinburgh & San Francisco

National Archives of Scotland

10.    Similar population size… sort of.  Edinburgh proper is not quite 449,000, but if you include the surrounding areas, it’s 778,000.  San Francisco, not including the surrounding areas, is just over 800,000.  Of course the rest of the Bay Area contributes to the feel of San Francisco, and that is much different than the feel of Edinburgh.  But one might argue (in fact, I’m arguing in a paper right now) that San Franciscans do strongly orient to and identify with their city borders, seeing the rest of the Bay Area as something quite distinct.  I’m not sure what the average Edinburgh resident thinks about the surrounding areas, but until I find out, I’m sticking by this as reason number 10.

9.    Yoga studios, Tibetan gift shops, and even a barber specializing in dreadlock maintenance!  Maybe I’ve been living in Oxford too long, but I haven’t seen, um, ‘granola’ icons like these in quite awhile, and they definitely remind me of San Francisco.  Scotland is well-known to be more liberal than England, and though it’s not at all a fair comparison, some NorCal/SoCal parallels are suggested here.  In any case, something to pursue further with ethnographic goggles on.

8.     There’s a big, beautiful garden in the middle of the city.  Not that anything compares to Golden Gate Park, and of course Princes Street Gardens is much smaller (although Holyrood Park is also nearby, and huge).  But both are iconic of their city, both drawing millions of tourists every year.

Princes Street Gardens

7.     The first question one local asks another is “what school did you go to?”  This is something San Francisco old timers and youngsters alike have told me, and I’ve already heard it about Edinburgh, too.  In both places, one’s social position and even one’s accent are at least associated, if not actually correlated, with where one went to school.  This is true in a lot of cities, of course, but arguably not to the same extent.

6.    It’s a cosmopolitan city that people say is still “like a small town”.

Edinburgh New Town, looking north

5.     Edinburgh sits on a kind of bay, the Firth of Forth.

Firth of Forth

4.     There’s fog & drizzle, even in the summer.  But it’s got fairly temperate weather year-round.  (This is not to say that it doesn’t get darn cold here in the winter.  But the average temperature is never below freezing.)

3.     They both have crazy hilly streets!!  (And the hills don’t all have stairs!)

steps in Edinburgh Old Town

2.     Both San Francisco and Edinburgh are known for their gorgeous views.

Edinburgh view

1.     Edinburgh is obviously way cooler than the much bigger city that’s roughly 6 hours to the south…  😉


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8 Responses to Old Home, New Home

  1. Alan A. Lew says:

    What about Mission burritos? Any correlations there? 🙂

  2. elinor says:

    ahem.. “Scotland is well-known to be more liberal than England”… do you have some refs for that?… sounds like a bit of scottish mythology to me! (another thing in common with San Fran????? 🙂 🙂 🙂

    any road up, england misses ya!

    • vocalised says:

      haha, yes, well, clearly it does depend on the particular political issue. 🙂 but i think you might be on to something there with the parallel mythologies! just one more thing to throw into my analytic grab-bag, some day…

      miss you too!!

  3. Mary says:

    Does the epigraph mean you’ve read all those books? I’ve read most, will finish the most recent ones this week and was thinking you should read them too.

    • vocalised says:

      hardly, being that i’m a painfully slow reader of fiction. it’s just the quote that’s on the last photo in this post. i don’t even own any of the books, yet! but it’s definitely one of my projects!

  4. Sven says:

    With regard to 2. — sorry, but San Francisco has nothing on Edinburgh.

    I do miss the firth. And the Meadows. And everything. Be sure to be on Calton Hill for Beltane!

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