Let’s get back to our neighborhood: Another important fact is that Noe Valley is very safe, which means that you can walk around at daytime as well as during the night without being afraid. At the moment it bothers me most that you have to think about whether it's safe or not before you can go anywhere. Sometimes that ends up in taking a detour instead of crossing an unsafe area. In this respect, San Francisco is a typical American city: absolutely peaceful residential neighborhoods change to totally scruffy areas just two streets away, and you should try hard to avoid those at nighttime. I’m afraid Michael has a talent to wander into these scruffy quarters. Like last Sunday on a public bus tour, we crossed a part of town we’d even avoid to get off at daytime. There were burned car wrecks on the sidewalk, piles of junk evergrowing, and no white person in sight. The busdriver didn’t open the doors in this area though people were waiting on the bus stops. We found that he was anxious about us because he kept on looking in the rear view mirror and kept eye-contact with us. That was kind of calming. In such situations I'm longing for safe cities like Munich.
I hope my description won’t keep you from visiting us. Don’t worry, Michael can highlight the scruffy areas on the map, and I swear there’s still enough places that don’t have to be highlighted because they are relatively safe.
What really is shocking to us, is the poverty that follows you all the time you’re walking through San Francisco. There are many homeless beggars. If you walk beyond a bridge you’ll always find two or three homeless people that sleep there looking for shelter from the weather. A big issue is that the conditions to receive social benefits have recently gotten worse. The government is planning to limit payment of social benefits to two years. If you don’t find a job by then, you won’t receive social benefits anymore. They say they are going to introduce support programs to help the unemployed find jobs, although there is debate in the liberal newspapers about this because they think that’s not enough. If you read the local newspapers, you'll find that they attribute the rise of violence and crime partly to bad education, especially in public schools. Nevertheless, there are no protests by the general population. The old-fashioned prejudice about America is still true indeed: In case you’re healthy, young, Caucasian and willing to take a risk, you can achieve anything in America. In case you’re poor, sick, black or old, you’d better not live in America.
I hope I haven't focussed too much on these horror scenarios but I think that you’re interested in a realistic image of America. Anyway, it’s different if you live in that country or are just traveling there as a tourist. Even as a tourist, you notice the social distress and the social unjustice, but you’re involved in a totally different way if you're living there.
Thanks to Boris Kleinbach, firstname.lastname@example.org for translating the original German text to English.