“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
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.
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”.
5. Edinburgh sits on a kind of bay, the 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!)
2. Both San Francisco and Edinburgh are known for their gorgeous views.
1. Edinburgh is obviously way cooler than the much bigger city that’s roughly 6 hours to the south… 😉