San Francisco

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Living in San Francisco

Many expats dream of living in San Francisco, intrigued by its liberal spirit and welcoming atmosphere. Still, life in San Francisco has its ups and downs. Read all about San Francisco in our InterNations guide, and learn about education, health, and the much-dreaded apartment hunt.
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge will be a familiar sight to any expat.
  • San Francisco’s location between two tectonic plates causes earthquakes. Therefore, keep an eye on the earthquake warnings of the USGS.
  • There are many public schools in San Francisco where your children can get a good education. If you prefer them getting an international education, there are also various independent schools located in San Francisco.
  • There are various healthcare options available in San Francisco. Healthcare coverage through your employer is a usually a good idea.
  • Looking for an apartment in San Francisco is going to be a challenge. You also need to prepare your wallet, as the city can compete with New York in terms of rental prices.


In the 1950s, San Francisco first became known for its liberal character thanks in large part to people like Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who were living in San Francisco at the time. The Summer of Love cemented this image in the 1960s, and the civil rights movement followed closely after. But there is much more to the City by the Bay than this liberal lifestyle and the hippies of yore, or today’s "hipsters."

Between Tectonic Plates: Earthquakes in San Francisco

While living in San Francisco, you may occasionally experience earthquakes. They inevitably occur every now and then because of the city’s location just over the San Andreas Fault. Forming the boundary between two tectonic plates, this continental fault runs 800 miles (1,287 km) along the length of California, from Salton Sea in the south to the Mendocino coast in the north.

Several other faults are scattered around the Bay Area, all capable of causing significant earthquakes. In 1906, for instance, a major earthquake and subsequent fires devastated most of the city. Thousands of lives and homes were lost. Fortunately, earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, but as someone living in San Francisco it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and their fault map for the region. This is also the place to refer to for earthquake warnings.

Education for Expat Kids

Expat children living in San Francisco are part of the United States education system, which is administrated on three levels. The federal Department of Education delegates most authorities to the various State Departments. In turn, many State Departments leave much of the decision-making to elected Boards of Education on an even more local level.

Schooling is compulsory for all children living in San Francisco and elsewhere in the USA, but homeschooling is also an option. Aside from public schools for children between the ages of five and 21, there are no government-sponsored childcare facilities. Of course, private nurseries and preschools are available.

Public Schools in the San Francisco Area

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is the seventh-largest school district in California and hosts over 57,000 students each year. Visit the SFUSD’s website for a complete list of public schools. There, you can also find contact information for all administrative offices.

The interactive school selector is a useful tool to help you find a school for your children while living in San Francisco, based on your specific preferences. Additionally, you can find information on enrollment requirements. Of course, the SFUSD isn’t the only school district in the Bay Area. If you do not plan on living in San Francisco itself, your child can attend a school in a different district.

Looking for a Different Education? Independent Schools

There are also many independent schools for children living in San Francisco, including some international schools. This may be the right choice for your life in San Francisco if you want your child to receive schooling with an international flavor or to attend a school with a specific educational concept, such as a Waldorf school. The independent schools in San Francisco include:

Is sending your child to a public or international school the right choice? What about homeschooling? Our articles in the Family, Children, and Education section of the USA Extended Guide have helpful information on childcare in the US as well as the different types of schools and universities.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Raul Gonzales

"Thanks to InterNations, I quickly found useful tips of where to search for a flat. And I met great global minds at the same time."

Li Wang

"As I already connected with several Chinese women before moving to San Francisco, I quickly felt at home here."

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