Compare and contrast, San Francisco v London

A few people have asked me, now I’ve been here for a while, what are the differences between living in London versus San Francisco.

I don’t have the definitive list but here’s what I’ve found out so far.

Housing / Utilities Costs

My property tax, HOA and utilities are in total 55% less than my place on Valencia St.

Property tax is the big one, it’s 30% of what I was paying in SF. HOA dues are 60% of what I was paying but electricity costs are 2.5 times as much here. That’s partly because the rates are higher but also because I need to heat my home here versus not needing to in SF.

Home phone and broadband are 20% of US costs and I get much faster broadband speeds. I could pay more and be on the fiber network where my broadband speed would be 4-5 times as fast as in the Bay area. But the basic service I have is fast enough.

Television

Everyone who owns a TV set has to pay the license fee which funds the BBC. It’s about $35 per month. I could pay for cable on top but I’m not. I am paying for Netflix which costs virtually the same as in the states. I don’t have Amazon Prime but if I did, it would cost about $20 per year more than in the states.

The number of channels has really increased in the UK over the last few years. I get 60 channels over the air with what’s called Freeview which is built into the TV. Just as in the states, most are crap.

Cellphones

Phones are more expensive and they aren’t subsided. The new 32 gb Nexus 5x phone is $429 before tax (approx $465 after tax) in the states and $525 including tax in the UK. An iPhone 6s starts at $649 before tax in the states and $809 after tax in the UK.

The service cost is lower I’m paying $15 per month for the same service that would cost me $40-50 per month in the states.

Other Costs

TVs, appliances all cost more in the UK. Partly, it’s because the UK is 240v and so the manufacturing costs are a little higher and partly because the market is smaller. We also use a different TV standard to most of Europe.

Furniture costs are about the same for the same quality product.

Labour costs are lower in the UK. They’re not cheap but they are less than the Bay Area. It cost me 50% less to have 4 double glazed windows installed in my place versus what it cost me almost 15 years ago to have 4 double glazed windows installed.

Transport Costs

Provided I stay with the boundaries of London Transport. It doesn’t cost me anything to travel on the Tube, Buses and Docklands Light Railway. It covers about the same area as the subway system in New York.

Owning and running a car is about 1.5 times the cost in the Bay Area. I will not be getting a car !

The Rail systems (Amtrak) is very good and covers pretty much the whole country. It can cost you an arm and leg to travel on it but if you go at off peak times, you can travel fairly inexpensively. There’s also Eurostar which uses the chunnel and takes about 2.5 hours to travel from London to Paris.

There’s also National Express (Greyhound) that covers the country and is pretty cheap.

Airfares, there are budget airlines who have cutthroat prices. I can fly from the equivalent of San Jose / Oakland to Paris for $95 return. Distance wise, that’s probably SF to LA, maybe Palm Springs. If I wanted to fly from Heathrow, it would cost a lot more as Heathrow is at capacity.

Food Costs

They’re about the same.

Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are equivalent to Safeway. They do daily price comparisons so that you don’t pay more for brand goods between the three of them.

There’s Waitrose which is between Trader Joe’s and Whole Paycheck. When I was out today, I wanted some Sesame seed oil. It wasn’t in Sainsbury’s but it was in Waitrose.

Then there’s Aldi and Lidl. These are budget supermarkets. They don’t carry the same variety of products as the other supermarkets and are mainly own label items. You might get 2 varieties of Strawberry jam, not 22.

Weather

Big difference. There are 4 seasons. It can vary a lot between days. For example, yesterday we had light rain and it was chilly all day. Today, the sun is shining and is reasonably warm, especially if you’re in the sun.

Overall, it is worse that in the Bay Area but virtually no earth quakes.

Entertainment

Can’t compare. New York and London are comparable. London has over 200 theaters, 200 museums, 15 or so major art galleries and loads of small ones.

Eating Out

More expensive and smaller portions.

Just as in SF, there are all types of places from McDonalds, to family run to 5 star places. In the center of town are the tourist restaurants, average food for above average prices.

Lots more Indian restaurants, far fewer Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican. I was in town and saw a Mexican restaurant and thought I’d try it out to see how it compared. They did sell taco’s but not burritos, quesadillas or tamales. I didn’t go in. I was very disappointed.

Hope this gives you some idea of the comparisons between living in the Bay Area to London. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know about.

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