Cambridge = Berkeley?

As someone who has lived in Berkeley and has now chosen to move to Cambridge one topic naturally keeps coming up: Cambridge is like the East Coast version of Berkeley (or vice versa, depending on where you are from).

I would like to keep track of ways that this is true, and not true, so here’s the start of my observations:

*NOTE: These are generalizations and really based only on my personal experience – I may be wrong and I may be leaving individuals out, I know, but take it for what it is.


  • Both are college towns and are very academically-oriented cities thanks to the world-class institutions that occupy them;
  • Both seem to have liberal populations;
  • People in both cities love farmers markets, drive Prii (apparently that’s the proper pluralization of Prius), ride bikes (while ignoring traffic rules), eat organic, own iPhones, etc…;
  • Both are separated by a body of water from a larger city;
  • The larger city that they are close to is not that large (compared to New York and other truly big cities);
  • Both regions that the two cities occupy are home to a lot of start-ups and tech companies.


  • Not to state the obvious, but Berkeley has only one very large and well-known institution whereas Cambridge has two slightly smaller, but equally (okay maybe more) famous institutions;
  • I’m pretty sure that the Boston area also just has more universities and colleges in general;
  • The big famous school in Berkeley – University of California, Berkeley – is a public institution, which comes with a whole set of differences in population, problems, ideas, and attitudes as compared to the private universities in Cambridge – Harvard and MIT;
  • Generally people dress more formally and conservatively in Cambridge and Boston than in Berkeley and San Francisco;
  • There are more homeless people on the streets in Berkeley than in Cambridge (I know, I know, Central Square… but trust me there are more in Berkeley);
  • Boston is closer to Cambridge than San Francisco is to Berkeley;
  • Cambridge and Boston have more historic buildings, and older buildings, than Berkeley and San Francisco.

Do these things mean anything? Since I have only been here a short time I admit I am looking at the surface aspects more than at the deep down differences between the two. I will keep thinking about it and add to this list when I have had more time to get to know Cambridge and this area.

I found this article interesting as a more scientific way to understand the psyche of people living in each location:

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