Chapter one: Did the earth move for you?

The first part in a series of guides for new British San Franciscans.

One word that you will probably have heard quite a lot in the build up to your move to San Francisco is the word Earthquake. People will say Oooh, where they have the earthquakes! or Wow, I heard theyre due a really big earthquake there sometime soon! or something equally as helpful and entertaining.

And youll look at the flats youre planning on renting from afar, and youll discount them with silly reasons like A flat on the 38th floor, are you insane? I dont even want to be up that high in a stable landscape and youll imagine all these buildings waving like tall reeds in a hurricane, and wonder why anyone would be so crazy as to build so tall anywhere so shaky to begin with.

But when you arrive, youll realise that earthquakes are not so much of a thing. In fact, the cooler you are about earthquakes, the more youll fit in here. And its not actually that hard, as it turns out. While the earthquakes of your imagination might be all 70s terror films, the real ones are well..

HOW TO TELL YOU ARE IN AN EARTHQUAKE

While sitting on the floor in your still sparsely-furnished flat, you might be talking about how you can hear the neighbours stomping about in the flat above, and then suddenly there might be a really BIG stomp. And you might be like Jesus, are they having a flamenco class up there?

And then the building might shake, and you might look at each other like perhaps something else might be happening here and then you might wonder whether something else might be happening, like a truck perhaps might have hit the building, but then you realise that there might have been big noises and not just the feeling of the whole building moving one way and then juddering back into place so

HOW TO REALLY TELL YOU ARE IN AN EARTHQUAKE

You look at one another and say What the fuck was that? Was that an earthquake?

And then the other person says I dont know, and then you, well

HOW TO REALLY PROPERLY TELL WHETHER IT WAS AN EARTHQUAKE

You check twitter.

And on searching, you discover that everyone else was reporting an earthquake as well. And that it was about 4 on the jesus christ theres a fucking earthquake scale or richter, as it might be called, and that that was your very first earth quake.

WHAT A MINI-EARTHQUAKE FEELS LIKE

Not much, at first – you have no warning of it, and then suddenly everything moves, and then moves back again. In a litte earthquake, which is what so many of them are, the earth moves. So what?

The crazy bit, for me, was the feeling that I didnt want to get up and walk across the room afterward because suddenly I couldnt trust it to be the one thing I had always relied on it to be: solid.

It had just proved itself to be illogical, movable, shifting. I couldnt stand up and walk across the room with the knowledge that the other side of the room was going to be in the same place when I got there.

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Nothing fell off the wall (nothing was on the wall, yet) nothing broke, no one was hurt, bothing was damaged.

So I feel fine in saying – from a personal perspective – YAY! My first earthquake went VERY well.

Which is good, because I have an emergency plan and package, I just havent had time to put them in place yet.

Still though – when the earth moves for you, let me advise you; it aint that impressive. Its just quite, quite freaky.