The birthplace of California, San Diego is a city where history meets progress. Passing through Native American, Spanish and Mexican hands before becoming part of the United States, the city’s pioneer spirit can be felt blowing through the palm trees that line its streets and sun-baked beaches. San Diego is known for its pleasant climate, seemingly endless miles of sandy coastline and small-town atmosphere.
Living in San Diego as an expat
The city is the economic centre of San Diego County as well as the border-defying San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan area. There are many strong industries that newcomers might find work in, including international trade, telecommunications, software, electronics, tourism, military-related activities and manufacturing. The city has also gained a reputation for its world-class healthcare facilities and cutting-edge biotechnology industry.
With a comprehensive public transport system consisting of buses, trains and trolleys, as well as well-designed highways, new arrivals will have no problem getting around in San Diego. Owing to its unique geography, spreading from inland valleys to the coast, there is a wide range of accommodation available to suit just about every taste and budget. This ranges from oceanfront mansions and rural estates to first-time-buyer condominiums and bachelor apartments.
Cost of living in San Diego
San Diego's cost of living may be well below that of its Southern California neighbour Los Angeles, but it's still pretty high. It's above both the California state average and the national average. Fortunately, depending on which industry newcomers work in, salaries are generally high and most San Diegans live comfortably. Housing in outlying suburbs beyond the city limits are affordable for both renters and buyers and, as long as residents don't splurge too much on imported products, eating out and frequenting bars, they should be able to navigate the relatively high cost of living with ease.
Expat families and children
It is a great city for children, with many options for public and private schooling as well as a range of activities and attractions to keep the whole family entertained. This includes famous destinations such as the San Diego Zoo, Legoland California and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. There are also countless hiking trails in the hills around the city and plenty of weekend camping spots.
San Diego is also the home of exciting annual events such as the world-famous San Diego Comic-Con International.
Climate in San Diego
Some see San Diego's climate as one of the best in the world, with nearly year-round summer. Perfect for a city on the coast, it has a semi-arid climate with only slight variation in temperature between the seasons. Occasional heat waves are caused by the hot Santa Ana winds blowing in from the desert, making it significantly hotter, but the temperatures in peak summer, between June and August, average between 62°F (17°C) and 76°F (24°C).
Affording its residents a high quality of life in a family-friendly setting, plus many job opportunities in multiple industries, San Diego is gaining popularity among Americans and expats alike.
►For more about entertainment options, see Lifestyle in San Diego
"We settled in the suburbs of Carlsbad which is a beach town where the pace is very easy and slow. The air is clean, the landscape is beautiful and the people are friendly. Shopping and schools were all within walking distance. Our home was very much in the middle of suburbia where all the homes look and feel similar with many cul de sacs and immaculate sidewalks and parks. There is hardly any fencing except to keep dogs in backyards. This is very different from the city I grew up in, where all the houses are behind high walls and the sidewalks would not be called immaculate or groomed."
Read more about the experiences of Quinne, a South African expat who lived in San Diego for many years.
Are you an expat living in San Diego?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to San Diego. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance
With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider. Cigna is currently offering a 10% discount for seniors (over 60) on their Silver package.
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