San Francisco vs New York (1 of 2)
when you’re done, check out part 2 for more SF vs NY comparisons.
Ah, San Francisco and New York. The City by the Bay and the Big Apple. Frisco and Gotham. Karl the Fog’s stomping grounds and that place Woody Allen keeps going on about.
People hold strong allegiances on either side, and the list of potential points of comparison is long: the Golden Gate Bridge vs. the Brooklyn Bridge, In-n-Out vs. Shake Shack, the Giants vs. the Giants, sourdough vs. rye, the set of Full House vs. the set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Others aren’t quite as close: the Pacific Ocean vs the East River; Civic Center BART vs Grand Central)
Most of us have heard the conversation before—someone starts talking about bars’ closing times, proximity to nature, or one of any number of things, and next thing you know, the old ‘San Francisco vs New York’ conversation is in full swing. After the initial round of stereotypes — kale-fueled hippie-techies in hoodies and Vibrams, bankers running on espresso and bagels in tailored jackets and wingtips — more amorphous terms make their way in. The “energy” of each city, the feel and the culture, the buzz in the air—and that’s when things start to get interesting.
We all likely have some anecdotal sense of how people in each city live, how do locals really spend their time in each city— does New York really never sleep? Do San Franciscans wake up early to do yoga with the sunrise every day? We had to know, so we dug into a bunch of chronos data to figure out answers to these and more.
1. Is New York really the city that never sleeps? SF vs NYC, as people wake up in each city on weekdays
Those are two heat maps of wake up times on weekdays in SF and NYC, divided into 10 minute buckets from 5:00am to 11:00am (local time for each).
There’s a lot going on here, so what to take away from this? As you might expect, people set alarms on the half hour, so you see the biggest spikes at 6:00am, again at 6:30, 7:00, and a steady stream from 7:30 onwards. San Francisco builds a small early lead and extends it beginning right before 7:00am, and New York never catches up until the very end. So it appears here that SF rises before NY (remember, local time for each), and sure enough, SF’s average wake up time is right at 7:30am, whereas New York sleeps in on weekdays until 7:47am.
But that’s not the whole story — just because New York sleeps in a little more doesn’t mean they’re necessarily sleeping as much.
1 (part b). Are New Yorkers sleeping in because they’re staying out ‘til the wee hours every night? Bedtimes in SF vs NYC
To an extent, yes, actually — the thin blue line is NYC’s weeknight bedtime, which, at an average of 12:44am, is 37 minutes later than SF’s average weeknight (and maybe more impressive, later than SF’s average weekend bedtime).
Conclusion: While New York may not be a city that never sleeps, New Yorkers do tend to sleep less than San Franciscans on the whole.
2. Where are people going when they go out?
So New York is sleeping less and hitting the hay later, but where are people going when they go out? Well, a whole lot of different places, actually: Top 40 places of where people go out—red is drinking, blue is eating, orange is cultural experience, and green is other.
Right off the bat: San Francisco, aggressively casual as always, loves its Dive Bars, while New York, with its phone-booth-accessible speakeasies, leans towards Cocktail Lounges (each went to their preferred place at near double the rate of the other city). SF also has a spike in interest in Wine Bars (perhaps Napa Valley having slightly more influence than the fine wines of Poughkeepsie).
Looking past drinking to eating, New Yorkers find themselves at restaurants about 10% more than San Franciscans. Cuisine-wise, they opt for Italian much more often, and also tend towards Steakhouses, Greek restaurants and Diners at a higher rate, too. On the other coast, San Franciscans show substantially higher likelihood of heading to a Latin restaurant or taqueria, along with a higher tendency towards Indian restaurants.
That stereotype of San Franciscans being nature-loving hippies? Well, they are more likely to spend time in the early evening at Outdoor Areas and Parks, whereas New York don’t tend to head there as much after dark. Friend’s Homes are also a more popular destination in SF—perhaps it is easier to entertain when your 1 bedroom has more than 200 sq ft.
On the culture front, San Francisco locals go to concerts and sporting events at a higher clip than New Yorkers, who, as New York rapper 50 Cent prophesied in 2003, “you can find [them] in the club” at a higher rate than San Franciscans.
Conclusion: San Franciscans love their Dive Bars, New Yorkers their Cocktail Lounges; SF has their Latin and Indian cuisine, NY their Italian, Greek, and Diners. SF heads to the park and friends homes on evenings out, along with concerts and sporting events, whereas NY is more likely to be found in the club.
3. What about weekends vs weekdays — if people have 9-5 jobs, are they going crazy on the weekends or catching up on sleep?
We looked at where people spend their nights out across the whole week and what their weeknight sleep looks like, but what about the weekends —San Franciscans are going to dive bars, New Yorkers are staying out after 1am on average, and most don’t have to to wake up for work in the morning; how’s that affect their weekend wake up time? SF vs NYC, as people wake up in each city on weekends
As you might expect, pretty substantially—people in both places average about 1hr10m more sleep on weekends than on weekdays, meaning despite staying up later, people do tend to get more sleep on weekend nights.
One interesting thing to note is the long tail of wake up times here (the longer line of blue tiles in the bottom two rows) — the range is much larger on weekends than during the week, and almost 10% of New Yorkers are sleeping past 11 on weekends, despite the average (50th percentile) at just before 9:00.
Conclusion: Both cities sleep in late on the weekends, with New York really pushing things—almost 10% sleeping past 11.
4. When they wake up on weekends, does every New Yorker go to brunch like in Sex and the City? Do San Franciscans all go straight from bed to yoga and the kombucha bar? First stop after leaving the house on weekend mornings, SF vs NYC
San Franciscans are all about their coffee shops, with over a quarter of first stops of the day being at coffee shops, and nearing half if you include cafes. To our dismay, yoga studios and juice bars didn’t crack the top 10.
Fortunately, our intuition about New Yorkers and brunch does appear to hold true: whether a Samantha or a Charlotte, New Yorkers sure do enjoy their brunch, with restaurants as a category representing over half of their first stops of the day, and brunch-specific places being a substantial portion of those. And while New Yorkers didn’t head to coffee shops or bars as often as San Franciscans, anecdotally, it could be that their coffees or bottomless mimosas accompany their brunch, but that may be research for another day.
Conclusion: San Franciscans aren’t hitting the Kombucha Bar as hard as we thought, but New Yorkers definitely do love brunch.
5. Do San Franciscans all hop in shuttles down to tech companies on the Peninsula? Can New Yorkers take a subway ten minutes to get to work?
We were a little surprised to see the later weekday wakeup for New Yorkers, and one idea occurred to us: are New Yorkers waking up later because their weekday commutes are shorter? Spread of average weekday commute times, SF vs NYC
Work commute times in both places are actually fairly comparable—New Yorkers do have slightly more commutes in the sub-10 minute range, but with subway transfers and jobs in other burroughs/the tri-state area, they also tend to have more in the 50m+ range. San Franciscans don’t all work on the Peninsula, as it turns out, and the majority of commute times for both cities fall under the 30 minute mark.
Conclusion: Commutes look relatively similar: San Franciscans aren’t all riding corporate buses, and New Yorkers actually have a wider range of commute times.
So there it is — five questions we’ve had intuitions about but never quite been able to pin down. We’ll be back next week with part 2 of this series, looking more into how people move through and travel outside of each city.
Next time your friend’s friend is in town babbling on with some hyper-confident bar room conjecture, feel free to pull this up on your phone to knock the soapbox right out from underneath him. See you next week.
-charlie kubal, team chronos
Background & Methodology: I’m a founder of chronos, a mobile app we developed that uses sensor data on phones to help people understand how they’re spending their time—how much they sleep, work, commute, exercise, and more, and also where they spend their time doing these things. We do all this in the background without a user needing to manually input places they’ve been—they carry the phone with them, can make adjustments if we’re wrong, and we handle the rest. Chronos is a free download for iOS (optimized for iOS7) and Android.
I grew up outside San Francisco, my cofounder Dylan grew up outside New York, and we swapped coasts for college: I was in New York for four years, and Dylan was in the Bay Area. After college, we each spent a couple years back in our original locales (I was in SF, Dylan in NYC), and now we both reside in SF and regularly debate the merits of each place.
To conduct this research, we randomly selected thousands of people in each city who we deemed ‘locals’ based on their primary residence being in that city. While we did take a large, randomly-selected sample set, our research is biased by people who are chronos users (and smartphone users), which may not be representative of each city’s population. Any questions or comments, feel free to be in touch: charlie (at) getchronos (dot) com.