East Meets West

It was a pleasant surprise last week when I gathered some of my old high school friends for a Fourth of July barbecue in California that I was able to catch up with one of them who had recently moved to the Bay Area from Manhattan.  He and I have a special bond because we were among a very small group of graduates from my high school who headed to the East Coast for college (he to Carnegie Mellon and me to Penn).  In fact, I flew into Pittsburgh, with my dad, to see my aunt en route to driving to Philly for my freshman year, so my initiation into being on a college campus as a college student was actually with my friend in Pittsburgh.

Naturally, as we shot the breeze over barbecue, the conversation turned to the stark differences between East Coast living (which both of us know well) and West Coast living (which he is now getting reacclimated to).  It's more than just an east-west thing, since our reference points are not just California vs. Pennsylvania but suburbs vs. big northeastern cities.  Still, it was a fun string of thought.  Here's what we thought of, which is of course by no means an exhaustive list and is not intended to infer that one is inherently better than the other:

* Beautiful weather year-round vs. four distinct seasons

* Driving everywhere vs. getting around mostly by walking and transit

* Spread-out single uses vs. mixed uses mashed closely together

* A more collaborative spirit vs. a more confrontational spirit

* On a related note, a referendum-based, popular participation type of political culture vs. a top-down,
"leave politics to the professionals" type of political culture

* Certain circles dominated by Stanford and Berkeley alum vs. young talent drawn from a much broader pool of schools

* From a racial composition and civic power standpoint, Philly at least is much blacker, while the Bay Area at least is much more Asian and Latino

* Philly is pretty filthy and pothole-laden, while I don't recall seeing any sidewalk trash or road imperfections all last week in the Bay Area

I'd love to hear from others who have had experiences on both coasts (and/or in suburban and urban settings) if you agree with these items or have any others to add.  

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