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11 Misconceptions About San Francisco

Don't put flowers in your hair, local dogs have probably peed on them.

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1. San Francisco is big.

Flickr: johnny4ever5

As one of America's "biggest" cities, people think San Francisco takes up a lot of land. It's actually only 7 miles by 7 miles. For comparison, Chicago is 234 square miles. This is a map of roughly what is considered to be the Bay Area. San Francisco makes up a very, very small part of it.

2. "San Fran" is an acceptable nickname.

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Don't call it that. Just don't. San Franciscans probably won't correct you, but you should avoid it at all costs. "SF" is a great alternative.

3. There are millions of people.

Flickr: adamjackson

There are actually only 800,000 residents in San Francisco, making it the 14th most populous city in the country. San Jose, Indianapolis, Austin, and Phoenix all have more residents. It's still hella dense, though.

5. Everyone rides a cable car to work.

Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Not likely. There are three cable car lines, two running north-south, and one running east-west. They're not great for getting around, but we can all admit they're pretty fun to ride once in a while.

6. It's sunny and warm all the time.

Flickr: danramarch

Telling someone you're from California often conjures up images of palm trees, perpetual sunny days, and sand in your shorts. This is true for a portion of the state, but San Francisco has an average temperature of 60 degrees most of the year. It has something to do with the marine layer, which gives us our awesome foggy landscapes.

When summer does come, it doesn't run on schedule.

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Never mind this quote usually misattributed to Mark Twain: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Summers are foggy, yes, but September-November are glorious. Afternoons are fog-free and hit 80 degrees, and most of the city congregates in parks and on patios.

7. There are major earthquakes all the time.

Flickr: efraserc

Big earthquakes are rare, but there sure are a lot of small quakes – 483 in the past year. The intensity usually ranges from "dump truck passing your window" to "knock your smartphone off your nightstand." However, most San Franciscans (should) have a plan for when the next Big One hits.

8. San Francisco is part of the Silicon Valley.

Flickr: davidyuweb

(Rough outline of the Sillicon Valley.)

At this point, the entire Bay Area is consumed by the tech industry. But the Silicon Valley refers to a specific area south of San Francisco, where most tech companies were headquartered during the tech boom of the '90s.

10. Everyone in San Francisco is gay or a hippie.

Flickr: sparker

There are all sorts of people in San Francisco. Identifying as either hippie or gay is fine, let's not get it twisted. LGBT people and hippies have been instrumental in creating San Francisco's utopian atmosphere. Anything goes in SF, and that's one of the most beautiful things about it. But when sports things happen or other big news stories come out of San Francisco, these labels are thrown around in a derogatory way, which is about as bullshit as it gets.

Actually, San Francisco is incredibly diverse.

Flickr: pov_steve

San Francisco is a fractal; it contains multitudes. The city has a minority-majority population, meaning less than half the residents are white. You can check out the 2010 census data here. (Disclaimer: The housing crisis has rapidly changed the city's demographics.)

11. The hills are why many people don't have cars.

Flickr: dahlstroms

Yes and no. Traffic is bad. Moving your car for street cleaning sucks. There aren't enough spots. Crime is high. It's really not that much faster to get from point A to point B. But having a car is great for getting out of the city on weekends.

Fun Fact: There are actually more dogs than children in San Francisco.

Flickr: brianstechschulte

As of 2012, only 13% of the city's population was under 18 years old. That's roughly 105,000 kids to the estimated 120,000 dogs. This wasn't always the case, but the city has grown increasingly expensive and inhospitable for many families.

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