Local Life and Lore in the San Francisco Bay Area

Before you visit San Francisco's Bay Area, brush up on these facts to fit in with the locals.
By: Ellen Lee


To get around the San Francisco Bay Area, learn these terms, abbreviations and location nicknames:

  • SoMa — San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood was the epicenter for the dot-com boom and bust. Though many of the failed Internet startups moved out, they've since been replaced by new up-and-coming Web companies, known as Web 2.0, including the San Francisco offices of MySpace.
  • Panhandle — The Panhandle is a long, skinny park that connects to Golden Gate Park and looks like the handle to Golden Gate Park's pan.
  • NoPa — NoPa is the neighborhood North of the Panhandle.
  • Tendernob — The area between the upscale Nob Hill and the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood is known as the Tendernob.
  • Dogpatch — A warehouse and industrial neighborhood on the city's eastern waterfront. It was named a historic district in 2003 because it contains some of the city's oldest houses, unscathed by the 1906 earthquake.
  • Berzerkley — Berkeley is often affectionately referred to as Berzerkley, reflecting its extreme left-wing politics.
  • Lamorinda — In the East Bay, the cluster of tony suburbs Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda is called Lamorinda.
  • Oaktown — One of Oakland's many nicknames.
  • BART — The Bay Area Rapid Transit takes commuters between San Francisco, the San Francisco International Airport and the Peninsula on one end and various parts of the East Bay on the other. That includes transporting them across the bay through an underwater tunnel.
  • Muni — Locals call the San Francisco Municipal Railway — the city's buses and streetcars — the Muni.


  • Being square. The city of San Francisco measures approximately 49 square miles — or 7 by 7, which is also the name of one of the city's glossy magazines.
  • Life in the fog. The fog rolls into San Francisco regularly, keeping temperatures cool even in the summer. It's easy to distinguish the tourists from the locals: The tourists wear T-shirts and shorts and look like they're freezing. Locals are in layers.
  • On shaky ground. One concern most residents have is for the next "big one" — that is, the next big earthquake. Some parts of the city are shakier than others; neighborhoods such as the Marina were built on landfill and susceptible to liquefaction during an earthquake.
  • Bitter rivalry. The Bay Area is home to two top universities, Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, and their rivalry is intense. Each year during football season, they face off in the Big Game, battling to claim the Stanford Axe, the trophy. The game that remains the most talked about is the 1982 face-off: Stanford was leading in the final minutes, but Berkeley had the ball. The Stanford marching band, mistakenly thinking the game had ended, rushed onto the field to celebrate. In what is now known as "The Play," Berkeley won the game when one of its players made the final touchdown by running through the band.
  • Gone to the dogs. San Franciscans love their dogs. Recent figures from the Census and the city found that dogs outnumber children in the city.
  • Misquoted. Mark Twain is often quoted as having said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." But that quote has never been verified and is not considered authentic.  

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