Which Coast is Your Coast? A Comparison between NorCal and DC

November 18, 2015

In the past few months, a lot of my peers at the UCDC program and myself included have been debating between staying in the Bay Area after graduation, soaking under the glorious year-around sun and eating 99-cent avocados, or moving to the East Coast, experiencing actual seasons and living a more fast-paced life.

Alas, I thought I would write about something different this month. Since I have been in DC for almost three months, that makes me a semi-expert, right? Here is my comparison of DC and NorCal that might offer some suggestions if you ever consider living in DC!


Washington, DC: While DC certainly does not lack good food, it lacks diverse, reasonably-priced, and unpaid-intern-friendly good food compared to Berkeley. Moreover, most restaurants close pretty early, so if you ever get hungry at 2am, depending on where you live in DC, it might be difficult to satisfy your gastronomic cravings. On the bright side, eating after 10pm is not good for your health anyway.

Berkeley/Bay Area: Hands-down wins in this category. Berkeley offers a lot more selections and diversity when it comes to food without absolutely breaking your bank. Moreover, some of the restaurants are open pretty late to suit the college lifestyle, which makes for well-fed and happy students. I'm sure this is the case in other parts of the Bay Area as well. Organic foods and farmers' markets are also a lot easier to find in the Bay Area.


Washington, DC: DC is actually not as cold as I had anticipated. While many Californians despise cold weather, it sometimes is nice to experience different seasons and to see snow. You might get used to it. In fact, you might even like the different seasons and find winter to be quite romantic. It makes hot chocolate that much more enjoyable.

Crisp East Coast fall weather and pretty firefly lights in front of the Wilson Center!

Berkeley/Bay Area: Yes, stepping outside without having to worry about putting on thick boots and an extra coat, or taking a nap outdoors in Memorial Glade is quite a privilege. But sometimes having the relatively same weather all the time is kind of boring. So ultimately, it is a toss-up, depending on your preferences.

Throwback to May when my friend and I went to Indian Rock Park after finals week. Nothing beats the view of the Bay Area.


Washington, DC: The metro system is pretty extensive and reasonably-priced. But some lines can be really slow, especially on the weekends.

Berkeley/Bay Area: The BART isn't bad--it can take you from Berkeley to San Francisco in 20 minutes. But it is not as efficient as the DC Metro System--if you miss one train, you have to wait a pretty long time for the next one.


Washington, DC: A lot of people describe DC as "transactional." I think it is a pretty true observation, depending on what kind of internship/work you are involved with. You can feel it on the streets--people are always rushing to places (ie. jaywalking and bumping into you while looking at their phones), always trying to make new connections, always applying to jobs, and always in formal attires. It can get overwhelming at times, but this kind of lifestyle doesn't really have to become yours if you don't want it to.

Berkeley/Bay Area: People are definitely more laissez-faire. But that doesn't mean we are less productive! At Berkeley, I would feel perfectly comfortable to show up to class or in public in sweatpants and a hoodie. I wouldn't say the same about DC for the most part. The tech and innovation definitely feels stronger in the Bay Area than in DC, which I think contributes to a more creative vibe in the Bay Area.

Music/Arts Scene

Washington, DC: The Smithsonian is here and should keep you preoccupied for a considerable amount of time. Like I mentioned in my previous blog post, music venues like the 9:30 Club and Black Cat are also pretty hip.

Berkeley/Bay Area: Ditto! I feel like the two places are tied in this respect. There are probably more outdoor concerts and shows given how much more outdoor-friendly the Bay Area weather is.

I hope this comparison has been insightful. Maybe I am just easily impressed, but I pretty much fell in love with both coasts.

Til next time,


headshot of Lucy Song

Lucy Song is a third-year history major and public policy minor. She is particularly interested in East Asian history, diplomacy, and the workings of supranational organizations that facilitate more effective international cooperation. Lucy is also the Senior California Editor of the Berkeley Political Review. Through UCDC, the semester-long UC Washington program, she hopes to intern at a think tank and learn about how academic research can be applied to solve contemporary social and political challenges. She would like to thank the Matsui Center so much for providing her with such an amazing opportunity!