Global Cities: Los Angeles

Global Cities: Los Angeles

Few cities epitomise multiculturalism better than Los Angeles. The city is home to one of the most diverse array of immigrant populations in the world. From its Spanish roots, the city emerged as a major attraction to various immigrants from across the world in the 20th Century, something which is evident today. The city is filled with neighbourhoods, which reflect the diasporas which inhabit them such as Koreatown, Little Armenia and Thai Town, whilst fostering an inclusive atmosphere.

Koreatown

Los Angeles’ Korean population, at the time of its last census in 2008 numbered at over 120,000. The city boasts the largest Korean diaspora in the world, most of which is entered on the eponymous Central Los Angeles neighbourhood Koreatown. The Korean community of Los Angeles is one of the most significant immigrant populations in the city and has contributed significantly to its cuisine, culture and economy.

History

Korean immigration to the United States began at the end of the 19th Century following the United States-Korea Treaty of 1882. This brought centuries of Korean isolationism to a close and saw waves of Korean immigration to the United States, particularly Hawaii due to its relative proximity. A significant Korean population remains in the state’s capital Honolulu. However, immigration continued into the United States, principally Los Angeles, as one of the major urban hubs on the West Coast. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Korean communities began to pop up around the city, mainly centered in the Downtown neighbourhood of Bunker Hill. These communities developed and grew until the Immigration Act of 1924 put a halt to further immigration by barring “undesirable” immigrant populations from the “Asia-Pacific Triangle”, which included Koreans. While the population remained stagnant over the next few decades due to these immigration restrictions, it nonetheless continued to develop and move around, settling in the Downtown area near the University of Southern California, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Old Koreatown’.

A renewed surge of Korean immigration occurred in the 1950’s following the Korean War. This proved to be significant turning point in the history of the Korean diaspora. Following an ideological conflict, which saw Korea split into two separate nations-one Communist and the other capitalist-the United States established close bonds with the latter, South Korea. Indeed, the United States military played a major role in the conflict. The conflict caused a significant population displacement amongst Koreans. Thousands of refugees were in need of new homes, as were war brides of American servicemen and many orphaned children. The close ties between the US and South Korea facilitated easy immigration to the former country from the latter. Subsequently, Korean immigration to the US increased throughout the decade. Over the course of the 1960’s, the Korean population in the United States tripled from 11,200 to 38,700. These Korean settlers were heavily centred in Los Angeles, in part due to the pre-existing communities there. The population spread out throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs, prompted somewhat by the 1965 Watts Riots. However, a large Korean community began to develop around Olympic Boulevard, in the area which is now known as Koreatown.

This neighbourhood was known for its glamorous history with several prominent Art Deco buildings such as the Ambassador Hotel and the Wiltern Theatre. It boasted a small Korean community, who were shunted into the smaller, low-income parts of the neighbourhood. A major economic downturn at the end of the 1960’s saw the area’s celebrity-associated glamour decline and a vacuum open up. These grandiose, empty buildings’ value declined massively and were quickly bought up by the wealthier Korean entrepreneurs and businessmen. This saw the Koreatown neighbourhood rapidly develop into what it is today. Over the course of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Korean population grew significantly in this area as Korean-owned businesses expanded and grew increasingly popular. The area assumed a distinctly Korean identity as restaurants, community and media organisations all began to crop up. The burgeoning Korean community quickly cemented itself as the world’s foremost ‘Koreatown’, its first sign commemorating this being installed in 1982. This gave the community a sense of officialness, which allowed it to flourish.

A dark chapter in the history of the Korean community occurred during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, the culmination of rising racial tensions triggered by the Rodney King case. Many Korean businesses were badly hit during this time. One Korean American was killed while 2000 Korean businesses were affected by the destruction. This event prompted a mixed response. There was an effort at solidarity with a number of community and political organisations such as the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance being established to fight racial oppression against the community. Despite this, divisions within the community became clear between the more progressive, liberal Korean Americans who advocated inclusion and an end to oppression and the more conservative wing who emphasised their differences to other minorities. The ultimate result was the dispersion of the Korean community. While a significant base remains in Koreatown, the Korean diaspora has expanded throughout the region. Some have resettled as far as the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California while others have gone closer, mainly in Orange County as well as Inland Empire areas such as Riverside.

The area still retains its distinct Korean identity today even if the population has shrunk. Indeed, the area’s population is comprised of a majority Latino population. The majority of the businesses and restaurants remain Korean. It has fostered a cultural closeness between the two populations within the area, with fusion cuisine emerging in recent years. A number of major Korean companies have their American offices in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, signifying the area’s importance to the Korean American community.

Restaurants

Korean food is a notably distinct type of cuisine, with an emphasis on simple preparation. Major ingredients are meats, rice and the near-ubiquitous pickled vegetable of kimchi. It is a multi-faceted cuisine with a variety of different sub-categories and specialisations. The sheer size of the Korean community in Los Angeles has seen a wealth of amazing Korean eateries open up throughout the city, mainly entered in Koreatown but dotted throughout the urban sprawl. These range from bimbimbap to Korean Barbecue to more experimental fusion restaurants. Here are five of the best to check out.

  1. Jun Won Restaurant

Address: 4191, 414 S Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Opening Hours: 11am-2.45pm, 5.30pm-8.45pm

Having recently reopened in a new location, Jun Won is considered to be the pre-eminent Korean seafood restaurant in Los Angeles. Initially opened in 1994, the restaurant has been one of the area’s culinary cornerstones, known for its hearty portions, fresh ingredients and expert, well-honed cooking.

  1. Mapo Kkak Doo Gee

Address: 3611 W 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Opening Hours: 10.30am-9pm (Closed Sundays)

Los Angeles is well-known for its plethora of unassuming neighbourhood restaurants, which at first glance seem like innocuous places, often blending into backgrounds such as strip malls but in actuality conceal some of the finest food one can find. Mapo Kkak is one of these places. No-frills but as authentically Korean as one can get There are a diverse range of dishes reflecting the rich variety on offer with Korean cuisine.

  1. Park’s Barbecue

Address: 955 S Vermont Avenue

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Sunday-Thursday), 11am-12pm (Friday-Saturday)

Los Angeles, and especially Koreatown, has no shortage of Korean BBQ joints, but if there was one place to visit over anywhere else, it would be Park’s. Known for its immense menu and high-quality meats, Park’s is a cut above the stiff competition. For those looking to experience Korean BBQ for the first time, Park’s is the place to go.

  1. Seong Buk Dong

Address: 3303 W 6th Street 90020

Opening Hours: 9am-12am

Another low-key destination, Seong Buk Dong is one of Koreatown’s finest hidden gems. Known for its top-notch bimbimbap, the restaurant has a varied menu with a focus on more traditonal, tried-and-tested dishes. It is named for a neighbourhood in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul.

  1. Kogi Taqueria

Address: 3500 Overland Avenue #100 90034

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Tuesday-Saturday), 11am-9pm (Sunday), Closed (Monday)

Staunch traditionalists may turn up their noses at celebrity chef Roy Choi’s venture, but perhaps no place is a better reflection of the multiculturalism of Los Angeles than here. Kogi Taqueria is the most iconic Korean-Mexican fusion establishment in town. The casual food is sublime and reflects the closeness between Korean and Latino communities within Los Angeles and the subsequent cultural exchange.

Things To Do
  1. The Wiltern
    Poppy at The Wiltern, Justin Higuchi, Flickr Creative Commons

    Poppy at The Wiltern, Justin Higuchi, Flickr Creative Commons

One of Koreatown’s most iconic sites, The Wiltern Theatre is one of Los Angeles’ most impressive Art Deco buildings (of which there are many. Known for its distinct turquoise exterior, it is a hugely impressive site for architectural aficionados. Dating back to 1931, the building is a relic of the neighbourhood prior to the arrival of Korean settlers. It is also one of the city’s premier cultural institutions, with several famous musicians having played there.

  1. Korean American National Museum

So significant is Los Angeles’ Korean community that the city is home to the Korean American National Museum. Established just prior to the riots in 1991, it is the only museum in the country dedicated to the documentation of the history and culture of the Korean diaspora in the United States.

  1. Chapman Market

A historic building encompassing 50,000 square feet of space. The building dates back to 1928 and is known for its distinct Spanish Revival design, making it a unique oddity within the city. Currently, it plays host to a number of hotels and restaurants.

  1. Shatto 39 Lanes

A cultural institution within Koreatown, Shatto 39 Lanes is a bowling alley, bar and arcade, which locals and visitors flock to in the evenings. Known for its cheap prices and throwback atmosphere, Shatto’s is a place with enormous appeal.

  1. Karaoke

One of the most popular social activities in South Korea is karaoke or ‘noraebang’. A highly popular activity, Karaoke venues consist of sound-proof rooms, an interactive video system and microphones. Koreatown is full of different venues offering this activity, with Pharoah Karaoke and Star Karaoke ranking amongst the best. A quintessentially Korean experience.

Tehrangeles

Los Angeles is home to the largest Iranian diaspora in the world, with estimates varying between 500,000 and 1.5 million. It is the clear hub of the Persian expatriate community with Iranians of all different religions and backgrounds co-existing peacefully. The community

History

Iranian emigration to the United States can be traced back several centuries. The first recorded Iranian immigrant to the United States, a tobacco farmer, arrived in the mid-17th Century. Despite this, Iranian emigration to the United States did not begin in earnest until the 20th Century. Prior to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, several Iranians emigrated to the United States enticed by the opportunities at universities. The Iranian Revolution was a significant turning point in the history of the Iranian diaspora. Many Iranians who lived abroad decided not to return due to the oppressive Islamic regime while many more Iranians fled following its rise to power.

Los Angeles quickly emerged as a major centre for Iranian emigration. There are a number of reasons for this. Political scientist Reza Aslan observed that on a superficial level, the environment, climate and culture reminded immigrants of their homeland. While there are accounts of Iranian immigrants settling in Los Angeles prior to the Revolution of 1979, this proved to be a catalysing event in the rapid increase of Iranian settlers.

The Iranian expatriate community initially settled in the affluent areas of Westwood and Beverly Hills, both of which remain significant population hubs today. Indeed, the population is such a significant part of this region of Los Angeles that the district of ‘Tehrangeles’ has emerged. Otherwise known as Little Persia, the district has been an officially recognised neighbourhood in Los Angeles for just over five years, but its importance to the city’s Iranian community has been evident for decades. There are a wealth of top-tier Persian restaurants, supermarkets and other cultural sites in this area, which is very much the bastion of the Iranian-American community.

Despite the centrality of Tehrangeles to the Iranian population in Southern California, it has since spread throughout the region. Major epicentres include Orange County, Irvine, the San Fernando Valley and Inland Empire counties such as Riverside. The Iranian diaspora is one of the most significant foreign communities in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, playing a vital role in the city’s global community.

The Iranian diaspora in Los Angeles contains a variety of sub-categories. Iranian Armenians are particularly prominent within the city but perhaps the most notable category of Iranian emigres to Los Angeles are Iranian Jews. Due to Iran being taken over by an Islamic Republic after the Revolution, Jewish emigration increased significantly. While the majority of Persian Jews currently live in Israel, a significant amount emigrated to the United States, specifically Los Angeles due to its flourishing Jewish and Iranian communities. Iranian Jews have played a major role in the city’s economic and cultural life. Recently, Iranian Jew Jimmy Delshad was elected the Mayor of Beverly Hills on two separate occasions.

Top Five Restaurants

Persian cuisine shares many of the same principles as nearby Levantine and Turkish cuisines albeit with its own distinct character. Persian dishes are often based around meat dishes with accompaniments of rice and vegetables. It is known for its time-consuming, pain-staking recipes, many of which are often closely-guarded family secrets. Persian desserts are also very well-known. Los Angeles is home to some of the finest Persian restaurants outside of Iran, which reflect the cuisine’s diversity and traditions.

  1. Shaherzad

Address: 1422 Westwood Blvd, 90024

Opening Hours: 11.30am-11pm (Monday-Sunday)

The best gateway Persian restaurant in town for newcomers to the cuisine, Shaherzad has a casual and friendly atmosphere. The restaurant offers a range of authentic Persian dishes including kebab and stews amongst many others. Known for its hearty portions and reasonable prices, there are few better places in town to experience Persian cooking. Another reason to go is the Tochal Market right next door, which is one of the finest places in town to get Persian ingredients and delicacies for home cooking.

  1. Taste of Tehran

Address: 1915 Westwood Blvd, 90025

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm (Monday-Sunday)

Another Tehrangeles institution, Taste of Tehran is a small, no-frills Persian restaurant with what is arguably the best kebab in town. Recently renovated, its modern design contrasts with its utterly delicious traditional food. Known for its very reasonable prices, Taste of Tehran is without a doubt one of the finest Persian restaurants in LA.

  1. Attari Sandwich Shop

Address: 1388 Westwood Blvd, 90024

Opening Hours: 11am-10pm (Tuesday-Friday) 8 am-10pm (Saturday-Sunday)

One of the more unique Persian restaurants in Tehrangeles, Attari Sandwich Shop is, as its name suggests, a premier sandwiching destination in LA. One of the finest sandwich shops in town, Attari Sandwich Shop is a refreshing change from standard Persian dishes. Particularly popular are the mortadella and tongue sandwiches, but it is pretty hard to go wrong here with so many great options.

  1. Flame Persian Cuisine

Address: 1442 Westwood Blvd, 90024

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Monday-Sunday)

One of the finest Persian restaurants in Los Angeles, Flame is known for its refined, traditional atmosphere. The decor, which harkens back to Persia’s illustrious past, is matched by its emphasis on traditional Persian cuisine. The menu includes such staples as kebab and tadig.

  1. Shamshiri
    Persian-Style Rice, Shamshiri, Ron Dolette, Flickr Creative Commons

    Persian-Style Rice, Shamshiri, Ron Dolette, Flickr Creative Commons

    Address: 1712 Westwood Blvd, 90024

One of the most popular Persian restaurants in Tehrangeles, Shamshiri is known for its more sophisticated, high-end atmosphere as well as its extensive and mouth-watering menu. Shamshiri offers a diverse range of Persian dishes made to the highest quality. A perfect place for gatherings and an even better place to experience the finest Persian food in Los Angeles.

 

 

Jewish Los Angeles

Few immigrant populations are as deeply embedded within the social fabric of Los Angeles as those of Jewish descent. The Jewish population of Los Angeles is diverse and vast, numbering at 662,450, the fifth highest of any city in the world. The Jewish population plays a major role in the city’s historical and cultural identity.

History

Jewish emigration to Los Angeles can be traced back to as early as the mid-19th Century. Jacob Frankfort bears the distinction as being the first Jew to arrive in Los Angeles, doing so in 1841. The Jewish population rose slowly and steadily thereafter. Less than a decade later in 1850, Morris L. Goldman was elected as the city’s first Jewish councilman, marking the beginning of a long-time tradition of Jewish politicians in Los Angeles. The first religious service was conducted in 1854. As the population slowly grew, a number of organisations and communities were established.

In the early 20th Century, Joseph Newmark established the Hebrew Benevolent Society, which sought to create a sense of solidarity amongst the burgeoning population. The Jewish population remained fairly stagnant until a major boom in the 1920’s as Los Angeles gradually emerged as a major economic hub on the West Coast of the United States. With businesses in a number of different areas thriving such as the entertainment industry and the oil industry. At this point, the Jewish population had no major centre or district. However, following the massive influx of Jewish immigrants, Boyle Heights emerged as the heart of the city’s Jewish community, containing the largest population west of Chicago. Boyle Heights’ Jewish grew to nearly 80,000 people as schools, synagogues and community centres emerged. This growth was curtailed in 1924 upon the inaction of the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, which saw efforts to curb ‘undesirable’ immigration. This saw the number of Eastern European Jews fall significantly. Despite this, many Jews who had already settled elsewhere in the United States began to migrate towards Los Angeles due to its burgeoning Jewish community.

The Jewish population grew significantly in the aftermath of the Second World War. Following the major population displacement caused by the Holocaust, Jewish immigration to the United States increased massively. Los Angeles, as one of the major Jewish hubs in the country, saw its Jewish population increase by extension. By the end of the 1950’s, 400,000 Jews lived in Los Angeles, encompassing 20% of the city’s total population. As the population grew, it spread out from its roots in East Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights.

Boyle Heights’ Jewish identity began to decline thereafter and it became a major hub of the Latin American communtiy. However, signs of its Jewish past do remain intact and the area is home to two major Jewish cemeteries-Mount Zion and Home of Peace. Several famous Jews are buried there including the eponymous founders of major film studio Warner Bros.

In the latter half of the 20th Century, the Jewish population of Los Angeles continued to grow and flourish, settling throughout the city. The Jewish population of the city is incredibly diverse. Orthodox Jews settled around the affluent neighbourhood of Hancock Park in Central Los Angeles while other major Jewish communities emerged in areas such as Beverly Hills and Westwood, which are home to a large Iranian Jewish population. The San Fernando Valley is another major epicentre of the Jewish community in Los Angeles.

There are around 120 synagogues throughout Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, illustrating the prevalence of the Jewish population. The most notable of these is the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, built in 1928. The temple is among get to the largest in Los Angeles and is known for the many celebrity members of its congregation. The building is known for its Byzantine-Revival architectural design, which gives it an almost regal appearance.

In a cultural sense, the Jewish contribution is evident in Los Angeles in a wealth of different industries. The wealth of restaurants and delicatessens throughout the city are evidence of the Jewish population’s importance to the city’s cultural identity. Jews from Los Angeles have been hugely successful in a number of different fields such as the entertainment industry, local politics and industry. The Jewish LA story is one of the greatest immigration tales in history.

Top Five Restaurants

Jewish cuisine is notably versatile and difficult to define. It varies throughout the world. However, a few common strands between Jewish foods remain. Notably, the Kosher diet is observed by most strict Jews. This forbids foods such as shellfish and pork while animals must be slaughtered in a particular ritualistic fashion. Jewish American food takes inspiration from the dietary traditions of Eastern European Jewish immigrants who arrived in the country at the beginning of the 20th Century. Notable staples include matzah ball soup, challah bread, kishke sausage and most notably corned beef and pastrami sandwiches. The best places to find these are at delicatessens. Los Angeles, with one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, is a premier destination for Jewish American food.

  1. Canter’s Deli

Address: 419 N Fairfax Ave 90036

Opening Hours: 24/7

One of Los Angeles’ most iconic delis, Canter’s has been a staple within the city’s Jewish community since opening in 1931. Established in Boyle Heights, the deli has long since been based in the city’s Fairfax District, a major hub of the Jewish population. Canter’s attracts a number of celebrity visitors, most notably former US President Barack Obama. Specialising in Jewish deli food, it is one of the finest and most historic Jewish restaurants in town.

  1. Langer’s Deli

Address: 704 S Alvarado St, 90057

Opening Hours: 8am-4pm (Closed Sundays)

Another titan of Jewish Deli cuisine, Langer’s has been open since 1947 and is located in the city’s Westlake neighbourhood. Following the Second World War, Jewish immigration to Los Angeles increased significantly, creating a surge in demand for the cuisine. Langer’s signature dish is its ‘Pastrami on Rye’ sandwich, which some consider to be the finest of its kind in the world.

  1. Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory

Address: 8930 Pico Blvd, 90035

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Sunday-Thursday), 9.30am-2pm (Friday)

One of Los Angeles’ finest kosher restaurants. Jeff’s, as its name implies, specialises in top-tier Kosher sausages, which come in a number of different varieties. While it offers a number of the standard Jewish American classics, its distinct, home-made sausages make Jeff’s a standout food spot.

  1. Ta-eem Grill

Address: 7422 Melrose Ave, 90046

Opening Hours:  11am-10pm (Sunday-Thursday) 11am-3pm (Friday)

Showcasing another aspect of Jewish cuisine is Ta-eem Grill. A Kosher restaurant specialising in Meditaranean-inspired dishes, Ta-eem Grill is a Hollywood icon. Attracting a wealth of celebrity clientele, Ta-eem Grill is a unique destination for Jewish cuisine in Los Angeles that shows just how multi-faceted it is.

  1. Pico Kosher Deli

Address: 8826 Pico Bldvd, 90035

Opening Hours: 11am-8pm (Sunday-Thursday) 9am-2pm (Friday)

One of the finest Jewish delis in town, Pico Kosher Deli has been a staple of the Pico neighbourhood for over 50 years. Considered by some to be the city’s first Kosher Deli, it is a no-frills establishment and one of the best places to get the staples of Jewish American food.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries

There is a wealth of Jewish cemeteries in Los Angeles given the large Jewish population in the city. Mount Sinai is the largest and most well-known of these. Located in the Hollywood Hills, the cemetery was established in 1953, becoming exclusively Jewish shortly afterwards in 1959. It is the burial ground of several famous Jews, most of whom were associated with the entertainment industry. The cemetery is also well-known for its many artworks, the most famous of which being the Heritage Mosaic.

  1. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Established in 1961 by the Los Angeles branch of Holocaust Survivors, the LAMOTH is the oldest museum of its kind in the country. Located in Pan Pacific Park in the Fairfax District of Central Los Angeles, the museum receives over 250,000 visitors per year. It has a number of state-of-the-art exhibitions, which retell one of the most harrowing experiences of the 20th Century. An emotionally intense yet culturally significant experience.

  1. Breed Street Shul

While little remains of the original Jewish community in East Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighbourhood, the Breed Street Shul provides an insightful window into a bygone era. Built as early as 1915, it was the largest synagogue west of Chicago for nearly 40 years and served as the religious and cultural epicentre of Boyle Heights’ Jewish community. Having fallen into disrepair following the dispersion of the Jewish Community throughout the city, it has since been listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places with proposals being developed to regenerate the synagogue.

  1. Museum of Tolerance

One of the city’s most unique and innovative museums, the Museum of Tolerance was established  by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in 1993 with the intention of educating children and young adults about the issues of racism. While it is not explicitly a Jewish institution, the Museum of Tolerance focuses significantly on the Holocaust, thus making it an important Jewish cultural centre.

  1. The Skirball Cultural Centre
Skirball Cultural Centre, Tracey Hall, Flickr Creative Commons

Skirball Cultural Centre, Tracey Hall, Flickr Creative Commons

Established in 1996, the Skirball Cultural Centre is a celebration of Jewish American culture and combines a variety of different media to educate people on the history of the Jewish people. The museum, named for the philanthropic Skirball family, is known for its distinct architectural design and its appeal to children. Its Noah’s Ark exhibition is highly popular with young people. Indeed, the museum receives over 60,000 schoolchildren visitors per year.

Thai Town

The Thai population in Los Angeles is the highest in any city outside of Asia. The total Thai population of the United States is over 300,000. 80,000 live in Los Angeles or surrounding areas, equating to over a quarter of the total Thai diaspora in the United States. Indeed, so significant is the Thai population of Los Angeles that the city is home to the country’s only ‘Thai Town’. This enclave is located in the East Hollywood neighbourhood of the city and is one of the most vibrant cultural centres in Los Angeles.

History

The history of Thai immigration to Los Angeles is fairly recent despite the large size of the Thai diaspora in Southern California. The first wave of Thai migration arrived in the 1950’s and 1960’s, mainly entailing skilled workers and students. Settlement in the modern-day ‘Thai Town’ began in the 1960’s. The East Hollywood neighbourhood was known for its predominantly Armenian and Latino communities prior to Thai settlement. Indeed, studies suggest that the majority of the neighbourhood is owned by Armenian-Americans.

Over the last 50 years, the neighbourhood has assumed a distinctly Thai character. As the city’s Thai population increased, Thai Town gradually consolidated itself as a vibrant hub of the diaspora. The area, which encompasses around six blocks, is full of authentic restaurants, bookstores and supermarkets.

Thai Town, Frederick Dennstedt, Flickr Creative Commons

Thai Town, Frederick Dennstedt, Flickr Creative Commons

Despite the prevalence of the Thai and Thai-American population in East Hollywood, ‘Thai Town’ itself was not recognised until 2000. This was an economic decision, not dissimilar to what happened in Orange County’s ‘Little Saigon’ neighbourhood. The area is clearly marked by large signs and is officially recognised by the city. The first and only designated ‘Thai Town’ in the United States, it is a crowning achievement of the Thai American community.

While the neighbourhood suffers from poverty and remains one of the more impoverished parts of the city, Thai Town is nonetheless one of the city’s most unique and colourful neighbourhoods. No time of year better reflects this than Songkran-Thai New Year, which sees the neighbourhood transform into a festival-like atmosphere.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Night + Market Song

Address: 3322 Sunset Blvd, 90026

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5-11pm (Monday-Friday), 5pm-11pm (Saturday)

While not exactly a Thai Town staple, Night + Market has quickly cemented itself as one of the city’s premier eating destinations. The brainchild of young Thai American chef Kris Yenbamroong, the restaurant chain (there are three locations) focuses primarily on Northern Thai dishes with a contemporary twist. The massive success of Night + Market reflects the flourishing Thai American community of Los Angeles.

  1. Sapp Coffee Shop

Address: 5183 Hollywood Blvd. 90027

Opening Hours: 8am-7.45pm (Closed Wednesday)

One of the most iconic Thai restaurants in Los Angeles, Sapp Coffee Shop is a Thai Town institution. Revered by the late restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, it is a small, unassuming place that attracts locals and visitors alike. Its signature dish is the Sukhothai noodle soup, but the whole menu is superb.

  1. Ruen Pair

Address: 5257 Hollywood Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 11am-3am

One of Thai Town’s most popular and enduring restaurants, Ruen Pair is an unassuming, strip mall institution at the heart of the neighbourhood. Having recently opened a second location in the City of Industry suburb in East Los Angeles, Ruen Pair is one of the city’s major Thai culinary institutions.

  1. Jitlada Restaurant

Address: 5233 1/2 West Sunset Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-10.30pm (Closed Monday)

Another of Los Angeles’ iconic Thai Town institutions, Jitlada Restaurant showcases Southern Thai cuisine. Recognised by the late Jonathan Gold as one of the city’s 100 finest restaurant,. It is not difficult to see why. It boasts some of the finest, spiciest and most authentic Thai cuisine outside of Thailand.

  1. Hollywood Thai Restaurant

Address: 5341 Hollywood Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 11am-4am

Despite the off-putting name, Hollywood Thai Restaurant is one of the finest restaurants of its kind in the city. Open until the early hours of the morning, Hollywood Thai specialises in the region-specific Thai Chinese cuisine. A unique and delicious option amongst an embarrassment of riches in Thai Town.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Songkran

Celebrated on either the 13th or the 14th of April, Songkran refers to the Thai New Years celebration. The festivity is also celebrated across a number of other South East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. It is the best time of year to visit Thai Town as the entire neighbourhood transforms into a major festival. There are stalls selling Thai food as well as a range of entertainment. An unmissable event.

  1. Thai Sabai

Thai massage is a unique cultural export that has become popular throughout the Western world. The Siam Classic Thai Massage in Thai Town is the best place in town to experience this relaxing and distinctly Thai pleasure.

  1. Buddhist Monks at Wat Thai Temple

The largest Thai Buddhist temple in the city, Wat Thai Temple is a major spiritual and cultural hub of the Thai community in Los Angeles. With a history stretching back to 1971, the temple plays a major role in religious and cultural activities of Thai and Thai Americans in Los Angeles. While the temple itself is located in North Hollywood, a 15 minute drive away from Thai Town, the temple’s monks visit the community once a week.

  1. Thai Cultural Day

Held in the nearby Barnsdall Art Park, this free festival happens every September and is a major festivity amongst the Thai community that readily welcomes outsiders. It is a celebration of all things Thai, featuring several food stalls, massages, dances and kickboxing demonstrations. One of the most exciting cultural events in the city.

  1. Dokya LA Bookstore

Right in the heart of Thai Town is Dokya Bookstore, one of the most valuable cultural institutions in the neighbourhood. An American outpost of a major Thai bookstore chain, this is the best place in town to get your hands on Thai literature.

Historic Filipino Town

Los Angeles is home to the largest community of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. The population of Filipinos in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area was recently estimated at around 607,000. The total population of Filipino Americans based in California numbers at around  1.2 million, while the total population of Filipinos in the United States is around 3.2 million. It is clear that Los Angeles and the surrounding regions function as a major hub for the Filipino American community. No place illustrates this better than the recently-designated Historic Filipinotown district in East Los Angeles.

History

Filipino immigration to the United States has an extensive history stretching back centuries. However, the immigration settlements were scattered throughout the country with few substantial communities emerging. Filipino enclaves emerged in California at the beginning of the 20th Century, particularly centred around Los Angeles due to its major ports. The city initially functioned as a ‘half-way house’ for Filipino migrants looking for work throughout the country in regions as far as Alaska. With the Philippines having been ceded to the United States by Spain following the Spanish-American War, immigration, unlike many other Asian countries, was unrestricted.

As Filipino immigration to the United States increased, communities began to expand and develop within Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. The area now known as ‘Historic Filipinotown’, near Echo Park, became a major hub but there were many other centres of the Filipino community throughout the city, including Bunker Hill, Eagle Rock and Carson. The first major wave of Filipino immigration occurred in the aftermath of the First World War in the early 1920’s. A precursor to ‘Historic Filipinotown’ emerged adjacent to the Japanese enclave of Little Tokyo and was known as ‘Little Manila’. This area was a major hub up until the Second World War when the community drifted towards the area now known as ‘Historic Filipinotown’.

A number of churches were set up while Filipino American businesses and community organisations began to flourish. The Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) was set up in 1945, the oldest non-profit organisation in the United States. Filipino Americans became increasingly assimilated into the city’s life, often hired as labourers. The population remained very male-dominated due to the majority of residents being labourers. However, the Second World War proved to be a major turning point. Filipino immigration to the United States increased substantially as many Filipino soldiers had enlisted in the US Army and took up the option offered to them to become American citizens. Many of these migrants brought their wives with them.

This turning point coincided with the expansion of the burgeoning Filipino community in Los Angeles. The population established a sense of community with a wealth of Filipino-owned businesses and community organisations ad

ding to this atmosphere. It was all based around ‘Historic Filipinotown’. In the 1950’s, when laws allowed Filipino immigrants the right to buy property in the United States, the community’s Filipino identity increased significantly.

Despite this, the population eventually dispersed throughout the city. Many Filipino-Americans moved into more suburban areas away from the city centre. There are major Filipino populations in areas such as Glendale, Eagle Rock, Orange County and increasingly so in South Bay regions such as Long Beach. As the Filipino population has decentralised, ‘Historic Filipinotown’ has become a far less homogenous area. Indeed, recent estimates note that the area now boasts a majority Latino population although Filipinos do still count for around 25% of the area’s population.

Despite this, ‘Historic Filipinotown’ remains an area of considerable cultural importance to its namesake population. Indeed, at the turn of the 21st Century, a political campaign to assign the neighbourhood the designation of cultural and historical importance was successfully implemented. The neighbourhood was officially christened ‘Historic Filipinotown’ in 2002 and, while it is only home to around 2% of Los Angeles’ Filipino population (est. 10,000 out of 600,000), it remains hugely culturally and historically significant.

Top Five Restaurants

Filipino cuisine is perhaps one of the most diverse and difficult to define cooking styles in the world. Representing a cultural flashpoint, Filipino cuisine varies throughout the country. Influences include that of the native populations as well as Chinese, Indian, Spanish and American ones. A Spanish colony for centuries and an American colony until the mid-20th Century, the Philippines is amongst the most unique cultural oddities in the world. Its cooking very much represents a synthesis of Eastern and Western styles unlike any other and one that feels uniquely authentic.

  1. Bahay Kubo Restaurant

Address: 2330 W Temple St, 90026

Opening Hours: 7.30am-9pm

Considered by some to be the most iconic and authentic Filipino restaurant in Los Angeles, Bahay Kubo (named after a distinct Filipino stilt-house found most often in rural regions), is known for its top-notch home-cooked dishes, no-frills atmosphere and bargain prices. A real treasure of ‘Historic Filipinotown’.

  1. Max’s of Manila

Address: 313 W Broadway, Glendale, 91204

Opening Hours: Monday-Friday (10.30am-10pm), Saturday (9.30am-11pm), Sunday (8.30am-10pm)

Glendale has become an increasingly important hub for the Los Angeles Filipino population and as a result a number of Filipino restaurants have popped up. None are more popular than Max’s, the LA outpost of a major chain in Manila. Most popular for its distinct fried chicken, Max’s is a cult favourite amongst the Filipino-American population and foodies.

  1. Bamboo Bistro

Address: 8516 Van Buys Blvd, Panorama City 91402

Opening Hours: Various (Closed Tuesdays)

In the neighbourhood of Panorama City is one of the most indulgent Filipino restaurants in Southern California. Known for its massive portions, reasonable prices, the restaurant also hosts karaoke and comedy nights, the pairing of delicious food and entertainment making it a major Filipino standout.

  1. Jollibee

Address: 3821 Beverly Blvd, 90004

Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday (8am-10pm), Friday-Saturday (7am-11pm)

One of the Philippines’ most notable fast food chains, Joillibee has become somewhat of a cult icon in Los Angeles. Located on the outskirts of ‘Historic Filipinotown’, Jollibee is one of the Philippines’ most notable and visible cultural exports in the city. Its most well-known dishes are the seemingly incongruous yet delicious combination of fried chicken and spaghetti.

  1. Little Ongpin

Address: 1700 Beverly Blvd, 90026

Opening Hours: 10am-6.45pm (Monday-Friday), 9.30am-5.45pm (Saturday), 9.30am-2.45pm (Sunday)

One of the finest Filipino restaurants in ‘Historic Filipinotown’, Little Ongpin is best known for its specialty of loom noodle soup as well as the astoundingly reasonable prices.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana Mural

The largest Filipino-American mural in the country. The mural was painted by esteemed artist and activist Eliseo Art Silva in 1995. Known for its immense size (it measures at 25 ft by 145 ft), the  mural depicts the major events and figures from the extensive timeline of Filipino-American history. A major artistic and cultural relic of the Filipino community in America which reflects its importance to the city of Los Angeles.

  1. Filipino American Library

Established in 1985 by local Filipino-American activist Helen Agcaoili Summers Brown, the Filipino American Library is both the oldest and largest Filipino library in the United States. Containing over 6,000 separate books, the FAL is one of the most significant cultural milestones of the Filipino community in Los Angeles.

  1. Filipino American WWII Veterans Monument

The story of Filipino soldiers’ service in the Second World War has been grossly under-portrayed. Indeed, as a colony of the United States, the Philippines became a major theatre of conflict during World War II. 57,000 Filipino soldiers were killed while over 900,000 civilians were killed during the Japanese Occupation. This memorial, in ‘Historic Filipinotown’s’ Lake Park, memorialises the many soldiers who gave their lives during the war.

  1. Temple Seafood Market

‘Historic Filipinotown’ is full of several family-owned Filipino stores and restaurants. The best market to buy local produce however has to be the Temple Seafood Market. Well-stocked with all kinds of Filipino culinary staples, this is the place to go if you want to cook up local delicacies yourself.

  1. Pilipino Workers’ Centre

A major community organisation, the PWC offers tours of ‘Historic Filipinotown’ by local experts. A highly enriching experience, visitors can learn about the area’s rich and extensive cultural history. The PWC is a major social activist organisation within the area which acts for positive change amongst disadvantaged workers and families.

Little Armenia

The Armenian diaspora is a sizeable population with a presence throughout the world. Los Angeles, by some distance, contains the largest Armenian population in the United States. Estimates range from as low as 215,000 to as high as 500,000. Only Moscow and the Krasnodar region of Russia boast larger Armenian diaspora populations. The Armenian diaspora is one of the most significant immigrant communities in Los Angeles, with the designated neighbourhood of ‘Little Armenia’ being one of the city’s most distinct neighbourhoods. The community has dispersed throughout the city and is one of the city’s most visible immigrant populations.

History

Armenian migration to Los Angeles has a long history stretching back to the end of the 19th Century. There are reports of Armenian presence in the city as early as 1889 although most of these were isolated businessmen. The Armenian community’s real beginnings, as is the case with most variations of the Armenian diapsora, can be traced back to the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. Significant numbers of immigrants from Western Armenia, on the border of Turkey, fled en masse from rampant oppression and genocide in the political upheaval caused by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Within a few years of the Armenian Genoicde, around 3,000 Western Armenian immigrants had settled in Los Angeles, with a community emerging in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles. The Armenian community in Los Angeles steadily grew over the following decades, its main base moving from Pasadena to East Hollywood, forming the community that eventually became known as ‘Little Armenia’. The Californian city of Fresno had been a popular destination for Armenian migrants due to its many agricultural employment opportunities, but this population increasingly gravitated towards Los Angeles as a sizeable community began to develop.

‘Little Armenia’ was a melting pot of Armenian immigrants from all over the country. This included Armenians from the Russian Empire and Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. Several restaurants, churches, schools and community organisations were established, many of which remain intact today. Much of the property in East Hollywood is owned by Armenians while several profitable businesses traced their origins to the area. The most notable example of this is the Armenian-American fast food chain Zankou’s Chicken. The Armenian community in Los Angeles is also well-known for its association with the city’s automotive industry.

Armenian migration increased following the loosening of restrictions associated with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The city attracted more and more Armenian Americans from major pre-existing communities such as Fresno due to the growing size and success of the community.

Resurgence, Amenian Mural, IKI's World Trip, Flickr Creative Commons

Resurgence, Amenian Mural, IKI’s World Trip, Flickr Creative Commons

In recent decades, Armenian immigrants have settled throughout the city, with many leaving ‘Little Armenia’. While it remains a major Armenian community and retains its cultural signifcance, Burbank, Montobello and Pasadena have equally large Armenian populations. The majority however settled in the area of Glendale, which currently boasts the largest Armenian population in the Greater Los Angeles Area. A more peaceful, suburban environment to the frantic energy of East Hollywood’s ‘Little Armenia’, many Armenians observed that it was a conducive backdrop to their culture, steeped in tradition.

Despite the population dispersion, ‘Little Armenia’ retains its historic identity and is inarguably the city’s most significant cultural centre.

Top Five Restaurants

Armenian food is notably difficult to define. Given the displacement of the Armenian people over several millennia, the food draws upon influences from regions as diverse as the Mediterranean, Russia and Central Asia. It often varies depending on what part of Armenia the cooks hail from.

  1. Falafel Arax

Address: 5101 Santa Monica Blvd Suite 2, 90029

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-6pm (Sunday)

Now a small chain due to the growing and expanding Armenian diaspora, Falafel Araz is one of the finest places to sample Armenian food. The ‘Little Armenia’ location is a no-frills hidden gem in an unassuming strip mall. Despite this, it offers some of the finest kebab and shawarma in town.

  1. Carousel

Address: 5112 Hollywood Boulevard #107, 90027

Opening Hours: Closed Mondays

One of the most long-lasting Armenian restaurants, Carousel has attracted popularity recently due to it being a regular of the Armenian-American Kardashian family. Known for its authentic, no-frills Lebanese-inspired food, Carousel is one of the best places for the classics Armenian dishes such as falafel and kebab. A second location has opened in Glendale to accommodate the large Armenian community.

  1. Raffi’s Place

Address: 211 E Broadway, 91205

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm (Monday-Saturday), 11.30am-9pm (Sunday)

One of Glendale’s finest Armenian restaurants, Raffi’s Place has been a staple of the community since its opening in 1993. Known for its top-notch, home-cooked Armenian dishes, Raffi’s Place is set in the backdrop of a quiet courtyard which offers a throwback to the surroundings of old restaurants in Armenia itself. Authentic and delicious.

  1. Sahag’s Bastırma Sandwich Shop

Address: 5183 Sunset Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours:  8am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 8am-3pm (Sunday)

A cult favourite in Little Armenia, Sahags Basturma is an iconic sandwich shop serving Armenian delicacies such as the eponymous Basturma and Soujouk sandwiches. It has a attracted a wealth of celebrity clientele and remains one of the best places in town for local comfort food.

  1. Taron Bakery

Address: 4950 Hollywood Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 7.30am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 7.30am-4.30pm (Sunday)

Having expanded into North Hollywood and Glendale, this is one of the best Armenian bakeries in the city. With its incredibly reasonable prices and diverse wealth of options, this is the best place to experience a specific variant of Armenian cuisine.

Little Tokyo

The Japanese American experience, especially that in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California, is mired in controversy and oppression. Despite this, the Japanese community in Los Angeles is highly prevalent and significant. The cultural legacy is clear through the wealth of restaurants, businesses and community organisations. Los Angeles’ Japanese population is estimated at around 36,000, the 2nd largest after Honolulu (86,000). Major population hubs within the city are Sawtelle and Little Tokyo as well as more suburban regions such as Torrance, Palmdale, Montebello and Irvine.

History

The first documented incidence of Japanese immigration to Los Angeles occurred towards the end of the 19th Century around 1890, in line with the first wave of Japanese immigration to America. The population had mainly centered in Honolulu and San Francisco prior to this. While the Honolulu Japanese population grew, the San Francisco Japanese population splintered significantly due to racial oppression as well as the damage caused by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

The Japanese population initially settled throughout the city, with communities popping up in close proximity to the San Pedro harbour. However, the major population centre emerged in East Los Angeles, particularly in the Boyle Heights and ‘Little Tokyo’ neighbourhoods. These communities developed into sizeable enclaves. It is believed that upon the outbreak of the Second World War, the ethnic Japanese population of Los Angeles numbered at around 37,000, indicating significant growth. This was stymied significantly by the implementation of the Exclusion Act of 1924 and, more significantly, the escalation of tensions between Japan and the United States in the Second World War.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066, which allowed for the forced evacuation and imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese American families on the West Coast. Many were forced into concentration camps, their lives and livelihoods uprooted entirely. The burgeoning East Los Angeles region suffered considerable economic disruption due to the internment of the large Japanese population. This stabilised following the release of the prisoners and their return to their homes. However, the Japanese diaspora, previously highly concentrated within ‘Little Tokyo’, expanded throughout East Los Angeles and beyond. African-American and Latin American migrants had arrived in ‘Little Tokyo’ during the Japanese absence in search of new work opportunities, thus causing a sense of displacement.

‘Little Tokyo’ remains one of the most unusual enclaves in Los Angeles in that there are in fact very few Japanese residents there whatsoever. The displacement caused by the fallout of the Second World War caused the population to resettle in new enclaves such as Sawtelle in West Los Angeles and more suburban regions such as Irvine and Torrance in the South Bay Region, where communities had already developed due to the lack of restrictions with immigrants buying property. Despite this, it remains a focal part of the Japanese American community in Los Angeles. The atrocities committed during the internment caused the population to become highly politicised. As a result, the neighbourhood retains its distinct Japanese identity, with a wealth of restaurants and community organisations being present there. Additionally, a number of Japanese companies chose the area, due to its proximity to the Downtown neighbourhood and Japanese history, as their American bases. Despite its small Japanese population, ‘Little Tokyo’ is very much a bastion of Los Angeles’ Japanese community.

Top Five Restaurants

Perhaps the most significant and popular Japanese export has been its cuisine. Diverse, multi-faceted and thoroughly unique, Japanese food has been immensely popular throughout the world for years, even if regions without a substantial Japanese community. It is a far more wide-ranging cuisine than people think, and Los Angeles is one of the best cities outside of Japan to experience it in all its glory. There are a plethora of Japanese restaurants here, ranging from sushi specialists to ramen joints to everything in between, at noticeably affordable prices and of the highest quality.

  1. Sushi Gen

Address: 422 E 2nd St, 90012

Opening Hours: 11.15am-2pm, 5.30pm-9.30pm (Tuesday-Friday), 5pm-9.30pm (Saturday)

One of the most popular sushi restaurants in the city, Sushi Gen has been a staple of ‘Little Tokyo’ since 1980. Known for its authentic and high-quality sushi, it is one of the finest eateries of its kind in Los Angeles. With reasonable prices without sacrificing the quality, its lunchtime deals are a particularly mouth-watering bargain. There are often long queues outside this Downtown mainstay, and for good and ample reason.

  1. Yabu

Address: 11820 Pico Blvd, 90064

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 6pm-10pm (Sunday)

One of Los Angeles’ more versatile Japanese restaurants, Yabu is particularly well-known for its Yabu Soba noodles, a delicious and well-honed speciality. Its sushi and sashimi are also of an exceptional standard. It is one of the finest restaurants in the Sawtelle neighbourhood, a major Japanese enclave.

  1. Daikokuya

Address: 327 E 1st St, 90012

Opening Hours: 11am-12am (Monday-Thursday), 11am-1am (Friday-Saturday), 11am-11pm (Sunday)

Although it has expanded in recent years to locations in Sawtelle, West Hollywood and El Monte, the original Little Tokyo outpost remains one of the finest ramen restaurants in the city, regularly drawing substantial queues at lunch and dinner.

  1. Yamashiro | Hollywood

Address: 1999 N Sycamore, 90068

Opening Hours: 5pm-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 5pm-12am (Friday-Saturday), 11am-3pm, 5-10pm (Sunday)

While it is one of the less authentic and traditional Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles, Yamashiro is well-worth visiting, both for the food and the surreal experience.  Located in a Japanese-style castle in the Hollywood hills, it houses a wealth of Japanese and Asian artefacts and reflects the significant cultural impact of Japan and its population upon the West Coast.

  1. Marugame Monzo

Address: 329 E 1st St, 90012

Opening Hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-10pm (Monday-Friday), 11.30am-10pm (Saturday-Sunday)

Celebrated by the esteemed late Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, Marugame Monzo is a ‘Little Tokyo’ mainstay known for its traditional udon dishes, the noodles of which are hand-pulled on-site. One of the finest and most authentic restaurants in the area, it recently opened a second location in the nearby Chinatown neighbourhood.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Japanese American National Museum

Probably the most significant Japanese cultural site in the city, the Japanese American National Museum was established in 1992 and is based in ‘Little Tokyo’. The museum was started upon the initiative of Japanese American activist Bruce Kaji, commemorating the significant injustices perpetrated against the Japanese American community in the 1940’s. The museum charts the history and culture of Japanese Americans over the course of over a century and features a rotating series of exhibitions.

  1. Japanese American Cultural and Community Centre

Another hugely significant Japanese cultural site, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Centre was established in 1971 and was the first and largest site of its kind in the country. The centre places emphasis on artistic and cultural activities, fostering a sense of community and creativity amongst the city’s Japanese population.

  1. Njiya Market

With three locations across the city’s three major Japanese hubs (‘Little Tokyo’, Sawtelle and Torrance), Njiya Market is generally considered to be the most authentic and least-touristy of the many Japanese supermarkets in Los Angeles. The best place to find Japanese food items and produce.

  1. Nisei Week Japanese Festival
    A Monument, Nisei Week, djjewels, Flickr Creative Commons

    A Monument, Nisei Week, djjewels, Flickr Creative Commons

One of the most significant cultural events within Los Angeles’ Japanese community, the Nisei Week festival has been a milestone for over 75 years. It is a celebration of Japanese American culture, with a wealth of different festivities occurring, including a major parade, a fashion show and a food festival, amongst many more. Despite its name referring to 2nd generation Japanese immigrants, it is a highly inclusive festival.

  1. MAX Karaoke Studio

Karaoke is one of Japan’s most significant and widely-accepted cultural exports throughout the world. With locations in ‘Little Tokyo’, Sawtelle and Torrance, MAX Karaoke Studio is one of the most fun and unique late-night activities in the city, open into the early hours of the morning.

Chinatown

While the Chinese population of Los Angeles is not amongst the largest ethnic minorities within the city, its history is rich and extensive. The total Chinese or Chinese American population in Los Angeles numbers at around 67,000 within the city of Los Angeles and around 393,000 in Los Angeles County. While the population has expanded throughout the region, its historic epicentre of Chinatown remains one of the city’s most historically and culturally rich neighbourhoods.

History

Chinese immigration to Los Angeles, as with the rest of the United States, can be traced back to the mid-19th Century. Many Chinese labourers were attracted to the United States by the employment opportunities presented by the country’s industrial expansion. Many worked on the extensive railways project undertaken by the Central Pacific Railroad Company. Chinese labourers were hired in large numbers due to their comparative affordability. Many of these labourers settled in Californian cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Chinese population encountered considerable prejudice and oppression as racial tensions developed. The first culmination of tensions in Los Angele occurred with the Chinese Massacre of 1871, a race riot which saw 20 Chinese immigrants brutally murdered by an angry mob of white and Latino residents. They were killed after being blamed for the accidental murder of a white policeman but this reason was a mere catalyst for years of simmering racial tensions. These tensions didn’t ease after this atrocity, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 curbed Chinese migration to the United States for a number of years, a sign of significant anti-Chinese sentiment within California and the rest of the country.

Despite these racial tensions, the Chinese community in Los Angeles remained intact and expanded over the following decades. The city’s first Chinatown, in the Downtown area was established in 1880 and peaked at the turn of the 20th Century. A number of Chinese-style buildings were constructed including an opera theatre and temples. The Chinatown began a rapid decline due to anti-immigration laws preventing the Chinese population from buying property. The area became associated with criminal activities as opium dens popped up. The area met an ignominious end as the majority of the Chinese population was evicted to make way for the construction of the state-of-the-art Union Station.

The Chinese community found itself in a state of flux for several years, dispersing throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs. However, a core contingent remained within the heart of the city as plans for a new Chinatown were met with continued obstacles. The ‘China City’ project was established in 1938 under the oversight of councilwoman Christine Sterling, the architect behind the successful tourist street Olvera Street. This was met with a polarised reception, with some Chinese residents supportive of the economic benefits whilst others felt it reinforced racist stereotypes. It only lasted a decade and was destroyed in an arson attack in 1949.

The second Chinatown fared more successfully than the ill-fated ‘China City’ project and remains intact in modern times. While it functioned as a tourist destination, it remains a major cultural hub of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles. A number of major cultural institutions are based there, most notably the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and the Chinese American Museum. In addition, a wealth of restaurants remains in the area.

Entrance to Chinatown, Los Angeles, Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons

Entrance to Chinatown, Los Angeles, Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons

Despite this, Chinatown is very much a symbolic cultural centre of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles rather than a literal one. It is a highly multi-cultural part of Downtown Los Angeles that has attracted a wealth of young creatives in recent years. The Chinese community meanwhile has dispersed throughout the city and its suburbs. The San Gabriel Valley is a major hub of the Chinese community, particularly members from Taiwan and Hong Kong, as are areas such as Monterey Park, Arcadia and Palmdale.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Yang Chow Restaurant

Address: 819 N Broadway, 90012

Opening Hours: 11.30am-9.30pm (Sunday-Thursday), 11.30am-10.30pm (Friday-Saturday)

One of the most iconic and enduring culinary staples of LA’s Chinatown, Yang Chow has been a mainstay of the neighbourhood for over 40 years. Known for its relatively unchanged menu, its most popular dish is the ‘Slippery Shrimp’, which attracts many visitors in its own right. Having recently expanded to Long Beach, it is one of Southern California’s most significant Chinese culinary institutions.

  1. Sichuan Impression

Address: 1900 W Valley Blvd, 91803

Opening Hours: 11.30am-2.45pm, 5pm-9.45pm (Monday-Thursday), 11.30am-3.15pm, 5pm-10.15pm (Friday-Saturday), 11.30am-3.15pm, 5pm-9.45pm (Sunday)

San Gabriel Valley is particularly well-known for its Sichuan cuisine, a spicy and highly popular regional Chinese cuisine. No place is better or more popular than Sichuan Impression, one of the city’s finest Chinese restaurants. With a no-frills atmosphere, emphasis is solely placed on the food here and it is absolutely phenomenal.

  1. Omar Restaurant

Address: 1718 New Avenue, 91776

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9.30pm (Monday-Sunday)

Another fine restaurant showcasing the sheer range of Chinese cuisine in Los Angeles, Omar Restaurant specialises in Xinjiang food. This is a spicy variant of cooking from the country’s Northeastern region near the Mongolian border. This is far from your usual Cantonese-style food, and boasts a distinctly Middle Eastern influence whilst being thoroughly unique.

  1. Ruiji Sichuan Cuisine

Address: 1949 Pacific Coast Highway, 90717

Opening Hours: 11am-9pm

Another icon of Sichuan cooking, Ruiji Sichuan Cuisine is located in the South Bay city of Lomita. Few outside the know are aware of the plethora of top-tier Chinese restaurants in the South Bay and this might be the finest of them all. Cheap and no-frills in an unassuming strip mall setting, this is still one of LA’s finest Chinese restaurants.

  1. Mama Lu’s Dumpling House

Address: 501 W Garvey Ave, 91754

Opening Hours: 10am-9.30pm (Monday-Thursday), 10am-10pm (Friday-Sunday)

Located in the Chinese enclave of Monterrey Park, Mama Lu’s Dumpling House, as its name suggests, is the premier Taiwanese dumpling specialist in the city. While it offers a wealth of other dishes, it is these succulent pork dumplings that make it such an unmissable culinary destination.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Chinese Historical Society of Southern California

Established over 40 years ago in 1975, the CHSSC is one of the Chinese community of Los Angeles’ most significant cultural organisations. One of the most notable historical societies in the state, it organises a number of activities and meetings as well as academic projects researching Chinese and Chinese American culture and history.

  1. Chinese American Museum

Having finally opened in 2003 after nearly two decades of planning, the Chinese American Museum is a major cultural institution celebrating and recording the history of Chinese Americans in California. With a rich, extensive and often tragic history, the museum presents a number of rotating exhibitions whilst hosting an annual Chinese New Year Lantern Festival celebration.

  1. Central Plaza

Very much the hub of modern-day Chinatown, Central Plaza may appear tacky and inauthentic to some visitors, but it remains the main social hub of the neighbourhood. It has a wealth of top-tier restaurants (Chinese and otherwise) and bars, as well as hosting a number of festivals throughout the year. It’s success represents the successful culmination of years of the Chinese American struggle for cultural recognition within Los Angeles.

  1. General Lee’s

While Chinatown, like much of Downtown Los Angeles, has gentrified significantly in recent years and seen its cultural identity somewhat diluted, a number of new establishments pay tribute to the area’s history. This is apparent in popular bar and club General Lee’s, which boasts a modern Chinese-style aesthetic.

  1. Chinese Celestial Dragon Mural

Dating back to 1941, this mural by Tyrus Wong is one of the most iconic and enduring relics of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles. Having been restored in the 1980’s, it remains a visible symbol of the Chinatown community.

Little Saigon

The United States is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam at 2.1 million. While Vietnamese populations are found throughout the country, it is significantly centred in California. The bay area city of San Jose has the largest Vietnamese population with 107,000 people. The Los Angeles metropolitan area also boasts a significant Vietnamese population, both in the city itself but more importantly in the outer region, specifically Orange County. Indeed, Orange County’s ‘Little Saigon’ in the suburbs of Garden Grove, Westminster and Santa Ana, is one of the most significant Vietnamese American cultural centres in the country. Indeed, Orange County has a massive population of 189,000 Vietnamese Americans, the largest epicentre in the country.

History

Vietnamese immigration to the United States is a recent phenomenon, beginning in the wake of the Vietnam War. The conflict had caused significant population displacement and many residents of the formerly capitalist South Vietnam were forced to flee their homes out of fear of political oppression. The first generation of Vietnamese immigrants was generally well-educated. Immigration restrictions were lifted in 1980, which caused Vietnamese migration to the United States to increase considerably.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area quickly emerged as a major hub for the burgeoning Vietnamese community. Some settled in the city itself, but many flocked to the suburbs due to affordability and space. The first epicentre of the Vietnamese American community in Orange County was in the city of Westminster, a suburban city on hard economic times. Given that many of the initial Vietnamese settlers were fairly affluent, a number of businesses were quickly set up to great success.

The Vietnamese community quickly grew and spread throughout the region into the neighbouring suburbs of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove. All these neighbourhoods retain a distinctly Vietnamese character in the present day as the community has expanded and the population has grown. The area is defined by its wealth of indoor shopping centres and strip malls such as the Asian Garden Mall and Little Saigon Plaza, all of which host traditional Vietnamese restaurants and stores.

‘Little Saigon’ is one of the most distinct cultural neighbourhoods in Southern California, with an identity that is thoroughly its own. The Vietnamese community have achieved significant success, as illustrated by the wealth of independent businesses in the region.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Tan Cang Newport Seafood

Address: 4411 W 1st St, Santa Ana, 92703

Opening Hours: 10am-9.30pm (Monday-Thursday), 10am-10pm (Friday-Saturday), 10am-9om (Sunday)

One of the most iconic and popular Vietnamese restaurants in ‘Little Saigon’, Tan Can Nepwort Seafood has been a staple of the community for over 30 years. Known for its signature lobster dishes, it is one of the most distinct and authentic Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California.

  1. Bun Nha Trang

Address: 9240 Garden Grove Blvd #11, Garden Grove, 92844

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm (Monday-Wednesday), 10am-10pm (Friday-Sunday)

One of the finest Vietnamese restaurants in Garden Grove, Bun Nha Trang is known for its many noodle soups. Immensely popular with local residents, it is a cash only hole in the wall. Despite its no frills atmosphere, the food is amongst the best in ‘Little Saigon’.

  1. Song Long Restaurant

Address: 9361 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, 92683

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the original restaurants along Westminster’s Bolsa Avenue-very much the ground zero of ‘Little Saigon’, Song Long is known for its distinct hybrid of Vietnamese and French cuisine. Signature dishes include ‘Cha cha thang long’, escargot and a Vietnamese variant of steak-frites. Thoroughly unique and delicious.

  1. Nem Nuon Khanh Hoa

Address:  1700 W Valley Blvd C, Alhambra 91803

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm (Closed Tuesday)

Celebrated by the late Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, Net Nuong Khanh Hoa specialises in Central Vietnamese cuisine. Known for its no-frills decor, low prices and signature grilled meat dishes, it is one of the best value for money meals in ‘Little Saigon.’

  1. Pho Quang Trung Restaurant

Address: 9211 Bolsa Ave #101, Westminster, 92683

Opening Hours: 8.30am-12am

Another staple of Westminster’s Bolsa Avenue, Pho Quang Trung is best known for its eponymous  bowls of pho. Boasting some of the best pho in ‘Little Saigon’, the restaurant is also known for its specialty fried doughnuts. Open all day everyday, it is an essential food destination in ‘Little Saigon.’

Little Ethiopia

The United States is home to the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia with 460,000 people. While an overwhelming majority live in Washington, DC (350,000), Los Angeles boasts a significant community of 96,000. The majority of this population is centred in the eponymous neighbourhood of ‘Little Ethiopia’ in Central Los Angeles’ Mid-Wilshire District. It is believed that roughly 1/3 of the Ethiopian population lives in ‘Little Ethiopia’, giving it a distinct character.

History

Ethiopian immigration to Los Angeles has been a fairly recent phenomenon compared to other racial minorities in the city. Generally speaking, African immigration to the United States has occurred at a much lower rate compared to diasporas from Asian, European and Latin American countries. Ethiopians however constitute for a large minority within Los Angeles. Ethiopian migration stemmed from the political turmoil which gripped the country during the 1970’s. Los Angeles quickly emerged as a major destination for Ethiopian migrants.

Ethiopian migration to the United States began in large numbers following the 1980 Immigration Act, which lifted restrictions on African immigration to the United States. With ongoing political turmoil at home, many immigrants moved to major cities in the US. The Ethiopian population of Los Angeles grew throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, with the population settling in the Mid-Wilshire District. The modern-day ‘Little Ethiopia’ was established in 1994 as the community expanded. It was initially named ‘Little Addis’ for Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. The neighbourhood was officially designated ‘Little Ethiopia’ in 2002.

While political factors were an initial motivation for Ethiopian immigration to Los Angeles, the burgeoning Ethiopian community created a number of economic factors for migration to the city. Today, the neighbourhood is one of the most unique and exciting in the city, full of amazing Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants and independent businesses.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Awash

Address: 5990 Pico Blvd, 90035

Opening Hours: 12pm-9pm

One of the most popular and authentic Ethiopian restaurants in the city, very popular amongst locals.

  1. Lalibela

Address: 1025 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 11am-10pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 11am-11pm (Friday-Saturday)

A contender for the finest restaurant in ‘Little Ethiopia’, Lalibela is known for its authentic, subtle home-cooked recipes.

  1. Meals by Genet

Address: 1053 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 5.30pm-10pm (Thursday-Saturday), 5.30-9pm (Sunday

A staple of the neighbourhood, Meals by Genet is one of the best restaurants in ‘Little Ethiopia’, known for its traditional recipes.

  1. Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant

Address: 1041 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm

Another iconic Ethiopian restaurant known for its plethora of vegan options.

  1. Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant & Market

Address: 1036 1/2 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 11am-2am

One of the oldest ‘Little Ethiopia’ institutions, this market and restaurant not only offers some of the neighbourhood’s finest food but also a wealth of Ethiopian and Eritrean esoterica.

Cambodiatown

The South Bay city of Long Beach is home to the largest Cambodian population outside of Cambodia. Around 4% of the city’s population is Cambodian, numbering at around 20,000. The majority of the Cambodian community settled in the city’s Eastside, with the eponymous neighbourhood of ‘Cambodia Town’ forming as it became increasingly integrated.

History

Cambodian migration to the United States is a fairly recent occurrence. Prior to the 1970’s, there was very little migration to speak of and only occurred amongst wealthier families. The rise of the communist Khmer Rouge and the carnage from the Vietnam War created an atmosphere of political turmoil within Cambodia and caused significant population displacement.

Initial Cambodian settlers in Long Beach were students and wealthy families. As tensions escalated in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia during the 1970’s, many of these immigrants decided to remain in the United States. The pre-existing Cambodian community in Long Beach attracted many political refugees to the city following the political discord at home. The sense of familiarity and community proved to be a major motivational factor behind the settling in Long Beach.

There was a clear, cohesive mission statement amongst the Cambodian community of Long Beach to rebuild the cultural identity that had been so brutally damaged by the conflict at home. This contributed to a sense of solidarity and community within the Cambodian population, fostering a strong sense of closeness. A number of charitable and community organisations were set up to help refugees with issues of housing and food.

Despite racial tensions emerging between the Cambodian community and the much larger Latino population of Long Beach, there has been successful integration. ‘Cambodia Town’ was registered as an official neighbourhood in 2007 and is a major cultural pillar of the city.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Phnom Penh Noodle Shack

Address: 1644 Cherry Ave, Long Beach, 90813

Opening Hours: 7am-3pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

One of the most esteemed Cambodian restaurants in Long Beach, this is a no-frills and authentic food spot specialising in noodle soups for amazingly cheap prices.

  1. Hak Heang Restaurant

Address: 2041 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, 90804

Opening Hours: 7am-9pm (Monday-Thursday), 7am-12am (Friday-Sunday)

For those looking for a less intimate and more bombastic experience, this is definitely the place to go. Known for its authentic food, banquet-style atmosphere and live music, this is an unmissable and quintessentially Cambodian experience.

  1. Monoram Cambodian Restaurants

Address: 2150 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, 90804

Opening Hours: 9.30am-8.30pm

One of the best neighbourhood restaurants in Long Beach, Monoram has an emphasis on traditional Cambodian dishes.

  1. Sophy’s Fine Thai & Cambodian Restaurant

Address: 3240 E Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, 90804

Opening Hours: 8am-10pm

Despite the name, this is about as authentic as a Cambodian restaurant as one could get. One of the finest neighbourhood restaurants in Long Beach, this is a cultural institution.

  1. Crystal Thai and Cambodian Cuisine

Address: 1165 E 10th St, Long Beach, 90813

Opening Hours: 8am-8pm

Another misleadingly named institution, Crystal is one of the best Khmer restaurants in Long Beach. A stone’s throw away from Cambodia Town, it is a low-key yet essential Cambodian restaurant that ranks amongst the city’s best.

 

The Portuguese Diaspora

The Portuguese Diaspora

The Portuguese diaspora is very difficult to estimate in terms of size due to its extensive history. As one of the largest empires of the colonial period, Portugal’s territorial reach stretched widely throughout the world, particularly dominant in Latin America and Southeast Asia. As a result, many of these countries boast substantial populations of Portuguese descent. However, these populations have deeply assimilated over the centuries and are distinct from the more contemporary Portuguese diaspora. Brazil boasts the largest Portuguese population and a significant cultural legacy. It has a population of up to 85 million of Portuguese descent. France (1.7 million), the United States (1.4 million), Venezuela (455,000), Canada (430,000), South Africa (300,000) and the United Kingdom (140,000) all have large Portuguese populations. The Portuguese diaspora comprises well over 100 million but due to this size must be broken down into distinct categories.

The Portuguese population of Brazil reflects the country’s former colonial dominance. Portugal began to exert its influence on Brazil in the 16th Century, settling in large numbers at the mid-point of the century, establishing major outposts with Salvador, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, which remain major cities today. The population gradually increased, exploding in the 18th Century as the lucrativeness of the large colony became increasingly apparent. More and more wealthy Portuguese settlers arrived in the territory. Brazil’s independence from Portugal in 1822 only caused immigration to increase significantly. Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro saw their Portuguese communities increase significantly as Portugal became choked by political and economic instability throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The Portuguese constitute one of, if not the, most important cultural influences on Brazil. This is evident in the country’s language, strict adherence to Roman Catholicism as well as cuisine and other cultural practices. It is the largest and most culturally significant Portuguese diaspora in the world.

Paraty, Rodrigo Soldon, Flickr Creative Commons

Paraty, Rodrigo Soldon, Flickr Creative Commons

Portuguese influence elsewhere in the Americas is evident. The United States’ large Portuguese population is not one of the country’s most significant immigrant demographics, but is still of note. Dating back to the 17th Century, a large number of Portuguese settled in the country during the Age of Discovery. Portugal was also the first neutral country to recognise the United States’ independence, establishing positive bilateral ties between the two countries. The 19th Century saw a large number of Portuguese immigrants arrive in the United States, particularly on the East Coast in New England. Rhode Island continues to retain a large Portuguese community, many the descendants of whalers from the Azores who arrived in the mid-19th Century. Portuguese immigration continued in the 20th Century and remained centred around the East Coast. Other countries in the Americas with large Portuguese communities include Venezuela. The second-largest Portuguese community in the Americas, Portuguese constitute one of the country’s largest ethnic groups.

The Portuguese diaspora is evident in parts of Africa, where the country formerly held a large colonial stake. The population is most evident in countries such as South Africa and Mozambique.  South Africa, under British and Dutch control, saw large swathes of Portuguese immigrants from Angola and Mozambique following their independence in 1975. South Africa, as the largest economy in the region, saw a large number of Portuguese and black African settlers arrive. Portuguese constitute 0.6% of the country’s population, a fairly significant minority. The influence on the country’s cuisine is evident, with major international South African food chain ‘Nandos’ inspired by Portuguese cooking.

A street on Ilha de Moçambique, Cornelius Kibelka, Flickr Creative Commons

A street on Ilha de Moçambique, Cornelius Kibelka, Flickr Creative Commons

Closer to home, the Portuguese diaspora is widespread throughout Europe. France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom all have significant Portuguese populations. While these have existed for centuries due to the transient borders between the countries over the years, it is also easy to discern modern patterns of immigration. The modern Portuguese community of France has existed in its current incarnation since the mid-to-late-20th Century, influenced by political unrest in Portugal. Portugal’s diaspora in Luxembourg is very unique. The country’s largest minority community, Portuguese constitute 16.1% of the country’s total population, having been a major demographic since the end of the mid-20th Century. Large swathes of Portuguese settlers arrived to fill a labour vacancy left by the country’s former Italian population, upon whom the service industry was reliant upon. Coinciding with political instability in Portugal, a large community was quickly established, further supported by a treaty in 1970 which allowed family reunification. With both countries now members of the European Union, the Portuguese population of Luxembourg remains large and intact today. The United Kingdom also has a large Portuguese community, which is heavily centred in London. Major hubs in the capital include Lambeth and Ladbroke Grove, which have large Portuguese populations as well as a wealth of businesses and restaurants which reflect this. Similar to other European countries, this population has existed in some form for centuries but exploded in the mid-20th Century with the advent of the guest worker phenomenon. Political instability and economic distress in Portugal during the 20th Century were also important external factors behind immigration.

The Portuguese diaspora due to its immense size and extensive history is difficult to fully analyse. However, it is one of the most wide-reaching and culturally significant in the world. It has left an impact of varying size throughout the world, ranging from relatively small in countries such as France to absolutely massive in countries such as Brazil.

The Malaysian Diaspora

The Malaysian Diaspora

The Malaysian diaspora is a relatively small one, numbering around 1 million people, a small number considering its population of over 32 million. It is also generally confined to nearby countries such as Singapore (686,000) and Brunei (70,000). Other major centres include Australia (138,000) and the United Kingdom (63,000). The spread of the diaspora to the far reaches of the world was prompted by a variety of factors rather than major singular events.

Singapore is, by some distance, home to the largest Malaysian diaspora population. This is due to the close proximity between the two countries, cultural similarities and mutual relationship to the British Empire as former colonies. The majority of Singapore’s Malaysian population are ethnically Chinese, a major demographic in Malaysia itself. The cultural impact of the Malaysian population in Singapore is abundantly clear, particular regarding the country’s culinary identity, which draws heavily from Malaysian cuisine. If one breaks down the demographics of Singapore, its population is 74% Chinese, many of whom are ethnically-Chinese Malays and 13% Malay, which reflects the large size of Singapore’s Malaysian population. As Singapore does not, in technical terms, have a native population as a wholly British creation, its population is influenced by a diverse range of cultures. The Malaysian influence however is hugely significant, demonstrated by their population and cultural impact in the country.

The Malaysian population of Australia is amongst the most substantial in the world and one of the oldest immigrant communities in the country. Malaysian labourers were recruited by the British government, due to their skillset in sugar cane plantations and pearl diving. They were deployed throughout the country, particularly in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Due to Malay workers’ unique skill-set, the demand for their labour was very high in the country. There was steady stream of Malaysian immigration into Australia up until the implementation of the Immigration Restriction Act-or the ‘White Australia Policy’, which brought it to a standstill. Malaysian immigration rates resumed in the wake of the Second World War, which caused considerable upheaval and population displacement in Malaysia. Many settled in Australia due to relative proximity, shared links to the British Commonwealth and the pre-existing Malaysian community there. The population increased in the 1970’s following the dissolution of the Immigration Restriction Act. A large number of Malaysian Australians are ethnically Chinese and Christian. The population is widely dispersed throughout the country, with major hubs in large urban centres such as Sydney and Melbourne. Additionally, the Malaysian population is a majority in the Australian external territory of Christmas Island, accounting for over 90% of the general population.

The Malaysian population of the United Kingdom is another major diaspora community. Overwhelmingly centred in Greater London and the surrounding South East England, it has existed in some form since Malaysia’s beginnings as a British colony. The population increased significantly following the Second World War, particularly following Malaysia’s independence in 1957. The links to the British Empire have ensured Malaysian immigration to the UK has been fairly constant, albeit at a lower rate.

City Hall Penang, Dan, Flickr Creative Commons

Given Malaysia’s status as a highly multicultural country in its own right, different facets of its population have expanded throughout the world, leaving a slightly different cultural imprint in each destination. Despite this, the unified Malaysian culture is clear.

Main Image: Malaysia, Bruno Kehrli, Flickr Creative Commons

Global Cities: New York

Global Cities: New York

New York City is one of the most global metropolises on the planet, practically synonymous with the virtues of immigration. For centuries, the city has been an entry point for immigrants seeking out better lives and a pursuit of the ‘American Dream’. The city is a vibrant melting pot of different cultures from all corners of the world and one of the most essential cities in the world regarding the immigrant experience.

Jewish NYC

New York City has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, with 1.1 million residents, encompassing 13% of the city’s total population. Consequently, Jewish New Yorkers hold a significant cultural contribution to the city’s identity. 

History

Jewish immigration to New York City has a long and extensive history stretching back several hundred years to the city’s time under Dutch rule. The first Jew to settle in the city was Jacob Barsimon, an emissary of the Dutch West Indies Company. Conflict between the Portuguese and the Dutch in Brazil prompted the Dutch Jews of these colonies to flee, with many settling in New Amsterdam over Amsterdam due to the closer proximity. The population, despite dealing with oppressive laws, slowly grew in the city with the first synagogue opening in 1682.

While the initial Jewish population was predominantly comprised of Sephardi Jews (of Iberian origin), the city soon attracted a significant influx of Ashkenazim Jews (of Eastern European origin). Ashkenazim Jews quickly outnumbered the Sephardi Jewish population and became the dominant Jewish diaspora within the city. This population increased significantly following the major displacement in Germany and Poland caused by the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th Century. It was at this point in time when the Jewish population of the city began to significantly increase, as indicated by the establishment of a number of synagogues of the various denominations.

The Jewish population, with a strong foundation now in place, grew considerably towards the end of the 19th Century. This immigration was mainly comprised of Eastern European Jews, particularly those under the rule of the Russian Empire. The assassination of Tsar Alexander II catalysed a flare-up in tensions between ethnic minorities and stirred up nationalistic sentiments. The Jewish population in particular were singled out and subjected to brutal pogroms. Far from acts of spontaneous violent anti-Semitism, these were often sanctioned and supported by the government. This hostile atmosphere encouraged significant waves of Jewish emigration from the territories of the Russian Empire, including modern-day Russia, Poland and Ukraine. 

Over one million Eastern European Jews arrived in New York at the end of the 19th Century and at the beginning of the 20th Century, in part due to the pre-existing Ashkenazim Jewish population as well as due to the more general global trend of immigration to the United States. The Jewish community continued to grow and thrive thereafter and many Jewish businesses, restaurants and community organisations were set up. 

The Jewish population largely settled around the Lower East Side region of the city, particularly in the neighbourhoods of Greenwich Village. While the Jewish population of New York City is dispersed throughout the city in modern times, the Lower East Side retains some of its former cultural identity. There are a wealth of Jewish cultural sites and buildings which have been protected and preserved from the rampant gentrification of the area.

Despite this dispersion, the Jewish community of New York City is one of its most significant cultural minorities, having carved out a unique, new identity of its own. The city is a haven for a population, which has been met with considerable oppression and mistreatment for millennia and is without a doubt the most important Jewish cultural centre outside of Israel.

Top Five Restaurants

Jewish cuisine is notably diverse and difficult to define. It ranges from Middle Eastern to Eastern European in its stylistic interpretations. Given the overwhelming Ashkenazim majority of the Jewish population, the Jewish cuisine of New York is heavily rooted in Eastern European traditions although alternative styles also exist. 

  1. Russ & Daughters

Address: 179 E Houston St, 10002

Opening Hours: 8am-6pm, 8am-7pm (Thursday)

One of New York City’s most iconic and enduring Jewish food emporiums, Russ & Daughters has been a staple of the Jewish community for over a century. Established in 1994, the emporium specialises in cured meats and fish, but offers a host of other options. The original shop remains open today, with two cafes being established in recent years.

  1. Katz’s Delicatessen
Katz's Pastrami, City Foodsters, Flickr Creative Commons

Katz’s Pastrami, City Foodsters, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: 205 E Houston St, 10002

Opening Hours: 8am-10.45pm (Monday-Wednesday), 8am-2.45am (Thursday), 8am-12am (Friday) 24 Hours (Saturday), 12am-10.45pm (Sunday)

One of the most well-known and well-regarded Jewish delis in the world, Katz’s is best known for its sandwiches, particularly its pastrami-on-rye variant, which is considered to be the best in the country. In business since 1888, it is one of the most long-lasting and popular Jewish restaurants in the world.

  1. Zabar’s

Address: 2245 Broadway, 10024

Opening Hours: 8am-7.30pm (Monday-Friday), 8am-8pm (Saturday), 9am-6pm (Sunday)

One of the Upper West Side’s most notable Jewish food icons, Zabar’s was established in the early 20th Century and remains one of the most popular Jewish culinary experiences in the city, an enduring outlier from the historic hub of the Lower East Side. 

  1. Mile End Deli

Address: 97 Hoyt St, Brooklyn, 11217

Opening Hours: 8am-4pm (Monday), 8am-10pm (Tuesday-Thursday), 8am-11pm (Friday), 10am-11pm (Saturday), 10am-10pm (Sunday)

One of the more recent Jewish delis, Mile End Delicatessen has quickly earned considerable popularity and acclaim since its establishment in 2010. Known for its specialised focus on Montreal-style Jewish cuisine, it is a bold and unique newcomer to New York’s Jewish food scene.

  1. Taim

Address: 45 Spring St 10012

Opening Hours: 11am-10pm

While the majority of New York’s Jewish restaurants and delicatessens focus on kosher food from the city’s Ashkenazi population, Taim showcases a different side to Jewish cuisine, focusing on Middle Eastern dishes such as falafel.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Jewish Museum

Address: 1109 5th Ave & E 92nd St, New York, NY 10128

Opening Hours: 11am-5.45pm (Monday-Tuesday, Friday-Sunday), 11am-8pm (Thursday) 

One of the city’s most notable museums, the Jewish Museum is amongst the oldest and richest of its kind. Filled to the brim with a wealth of Jewish artworks and artefacts, the Jewish Museum focuses on the long and extensive history of Jewish culture throughout the world. In one of the most important Jewish centres on the planet, this is an essential cultural institution.

  1. Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Address: 103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Opening Hours: 10am-6.30pm (Monday-Friday, Sunday), 10am-8.30pm (Thursday)

Located in the heart of the historically Jewish Lower East Side neighbourhood of Manhattan, the Tenement Museum is one of the most unique and insightful museums in the country. The museum’s mission statement is to offer an informative, positive perspective on immigration and to promote the ideals of tolerance. 

  1. The Museum at Eldridge Street

Address: 12 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

Opening Hours: 10am-5pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 10am-3pm (Friday)

Located in a renovated former synagogue, the Museum at Eldridge Street is one of the most spectacular religious buildings in the city. Formerly one of the oldest and most important synagogues in the city, it was established by the city’s Ashkenazim community. It fell into disrepair in the mid-20th Century but was revitalised following an extensive and expensive restoration project, which was completed in 2007. The museum open inside the building offers insightful tours into the building’s history as well as into the wider history of the Jewish American community.

  1. Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum

Address: 260 Broome St, New York, NY 10002

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most unique and important synagogues in the city, Kehila Kedosha Janina is the Western Hemisphere’s only Romaniote synagogue. Romaniote Jews are those hailing from the Eastern Mediterranean region, particularly Greece. The population was significantly decimated during the Second World War. As a result, this synagogue is of considerable cultural importance.

  1. Angel Orensanz Centre

The oldest surviving synagogue in the city, the building formerly known as the Anshe Chesed Synagogue dates back to 1849. The building is known for its distinct Gothic Revival architecture. It functioned as an Orthodox synagogue for nearly a century before falling into disrepair and becoming a target of vandalism. It was purchased by Jewish Spanish artist. Angel Orensanz, who renovated the building and turned it into a cultural centre. Additionally, it functions as the shul of a liberal Reform synagogue.

Puerto Rico 

The Puerto Rican community of New York is one of the most sizeable immigrant populations in the city, encompassing 9% of the city’s total population. With a long and extensive past, Puerto Rican immigration to New York City is a rich historical narrative, which coincided with some of the most significant events of the 20th Century.

History

Puerto Rican immigration to New York City can be traced back to as early as the mid-19th Century when the island was still a Spanish province. A major trading network opened between Puerto Rico and the cities of the United States’ East Coast. This caused immigration patterns to slowly form between the two. Many Puerto Rican freedom fighters found themselves turning to the United States upon being exiled by the Spanish government, mainly settling in New York.

The Spanish-American War saw Puerto Rico fall under the dominion of the United States, which initially curbed political immigration. However, the turn of the 20th Century saw many new developments. Despite now being effectively under American rule, Puerto Ricans were labeled foreigners by the United States Treasury Department. It was not until 20 years later in 1917 upon the implementation of the Jones-Shafroth Act that Puerto Ricans were finally recognised as American citizens. This encouraged a renewed wave of immigration to New York City and other American cities. Many arrived in search of better employment opportunities or to escape the rampant natural disasters and political unease plaguing Puerto Rico.

Despite facing numerous issues in the city such as discrimination, cultural and language barriers and technical difficulties, a large and close-knit community formed in East Harlem. Unrest emerged during the Great Depression as job opportunities grew increasingly scarce, culminating in the ‘Harlem Riots’ of 1926.

The aftermath of the Second World War saw the most significant wave of Puerto Rican immigration in history. A combination of factors, including the advent of air travel, the Great Depression and the Second World War, contributed to a significant population movement. The Great Depression had effectively crippled Puerto Rico’s economy due to the island’s financial dependance on the United States. The major job shortage saw many Puerto Ricans flee for better opportunities in the United States. This was further enabled by the emergence of affordable air travel. The Second World War meanwhile, served as a major outlet for Puerto Rican immigrants who struggled to secure employment amid the economic depression. In addition to the demand for soldiers, there was a major employment vacuum in the United States due to the majority of males fighting abroad. Thus, several Puerto Rican immigrants were employed across the manufacturing industry as well as a number of other fields. 

This period has been dubbed as ‘the Great Migration’, and saw a significant community of Puerto Ricans emerge within New York City as well as in other major American cities. In New York City, Puerto Rican immigrants became known as ‘Nuyoricans’, such was their prevalence throughout the city. Distinct neighbourhoods began to form around enclaves of Puerto Rican migrants such as ‘Spanish Harlem’ and ‘Loisada’. Solidarity movements developed as the population continued to settle within the city and sought to combat oppression and prejudice. A failed Puerto Rican assassination plot against President Harry Truman intensified anti-Puerto Rican sentiments within the United States.

Mural In Spanish Harlem, Steve Mays, Flickr Creative Commons

Mural In Spanish Harlem, Steve Mays, Flickr Creative Commons

In the aftermath of the Second World War, another significant wave of Puerto Rican immigrants arrived in New York City, with around 100,000 arriving in the decade following World War II. Despite continued oppression, positive signs emerged within the burgeoning ‘Nuyorican’ movement, which formed in the Loisada neighbourhood. A major intellectual subculture began to develop amongst Puerto Ricans, the nexus of which being the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a historically preserved landmark.

With the Puerto Rican population now a significant ethnic minority within the city, a dispersion began in the 1960’s as the immigrants began to experience increased financial prosperity. Many left the barrios of the city for more suburban regions of New York such as Long Island and Westchester County. There was a major influx of Latinx immigrants from other countries such as Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The remainder of the 20th Century saw a reduction in Puerto Rican immigration to the United States. However, this has increased significantly since the beginning of the 21st Century due to economic considerations. 

Spanish Harlem remains a major population stronghold of the Puerto Rican communtiy, but it has expanded throughout the city. Bushwick is a major hub in Brooklyn, as our other neighbourhoods such as Williamsburg, Red Hook, Staten Island, South Bronx and Ridgewood. The total population of Puerto Ricans in the city is estimated at nearly 750,000, representing an important and essential part of the city’s cultural character.

Top Five Restaurants

Puerto Rican cuisine is a thoroughly unique style of cooking that differs significantly from other Latin American countries. It is notable for its diverse range of influences which include Spanish, African, native Taino and American. It is not dissimilar from the cuisine of other Spanish-speaking islands of the Caribbean but carves out a thoroughly unique identity. Dishes are often meat-heavy and crammed with a delicious array of spices. The country’s most iconic dish is Mogongo, a mound of mashed, fried plantains served in an array of condiments such as pork crackling. Few dishes better exemplify the combination of Spanish, Caribbean and African influences than this.

  1. The Freakin Rican Restaurant

Address: 4306 34th Ave, Astoria, NY 11101

Opening Hours: 12pm-9pm (Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday), 12pm-10pm (Friday-Saturday)

One of the most authentic and reasonably priced Puerto Rican restaurants in the city, ‘The Freakin Rican Restaurant’ is a labour of love. Established by a group of Puerto Rican immigrants from South Bronx, this is the best place to sample Puerto Rican food in the borough of Queens. 

  1. Casa Adela

Address: 66 Avenue C, New York, 10009

Opening Hours: 8am-10pm

A true Puerto Rican institution, Casa Adela is one of the finest neighbourhood restaurants in the former Nuyorican stronghold of the East Village. A family-run enterprise specialising in rotisserie chicken, it offers delicious food, great value-for-money and boasts a celebrity clientele.

  1. Pasteles Cristina

Address: 130-09 95th Ave, Jamaica, NY 11419

Opening Hours: 8am-8pm

Another Queens institution, Pasteles Cristina is a Puerto Rican restaurant and bakery specialising in the eponymous ‘Pasteles’, a delicious traditional Latin American savoury pastry. Common fillings include plantain, potato and various meats. There is no better place to try them in the city than Pasteles Cristina.

  1. Camaradas El Barrio

Address: 2241 1st Avenue, New York 10029

Opening Hours: 3pm-1am (Tuesday, Sunday), 3pm-3am (Wednesday-Saturday)

For those looking for a livelier Puerto Rican experience, this East Harlem restaurant is the place to go. In addition to delicious, authentic food, Camaradas El Barrio also features regular live music performances that go on into the late hours of the night. 

  1. La Fonda Boricua

Address: 169 E 106th St, New York 10029

Opening Hours: 10am-10pm

Another community staple of the El Barrio in East Harlem, La Food Boricua is located in a former diner and specialises in authentic, homemade Puerto Rican cuisine while also hosting live music nights every Thursday.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Puerto Rican Day Parade

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of New York City’s most distinct and celebratory cultural events, the Puerto Rican Day Parade has been held every year since 1958 as a celebration of the city’s Puerto Rican immigrant community. One of the city’s largest parades, it is believed to draw nearly 2 million spectators. While other ‘Puerto Rican Day’ parades occur throughout the country, this is by a considerable distance the biggest and the most culturally significant due to the size of the Puerto Rican population in New York City.

  1. El Museo del Barrio

Address: 1230 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029

Opening Hours: 11am-6pm (Wednesday-Saturday), 12pm-5pm (Sunday)

Established in 1969, El Museo is known for its focus on Latin American and Caribbean Art. Due to the significant Puerto Rican population in the city, much of the museum’s content is comprised of works from people of Puerto Rican descent. It has an extensive collection of nearly 9,000 pieces and hosts a regular rotation of exhibitions. Established to fill a vacuum in the lack of cultural diversity in the arts, it has emerged as one of the city’s most fascinating and informative cultural spaces.

  1. Caribbean Cultural Centre African Diaspora Institute

Address: 120 E 125th St, New York, NY 10035

Opening Hours: 11am-6pm (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday), 11am-8pm (Thursday), 11am-3pm (Saturday)

Despite being established over 40 years ago in 1976, the Caribbean Cultural Centre African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) opened its first permanent home in 2016.Located in the historic East Harlem Museum, it is a testament to the city’s Latinx and African American cultures, the former of which the city’s Puerto Rican community comprise a significant majority. 

  1. Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Address: 236 E 3rd St, New York, NY 10009

Opening Hours: N/A

The most quintessential cultural site of the ‘Nuyorican’ movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Poets Cafe was established in the East Village in 1973 and attracted a number of esteemed Puerto Rican intellectuals and artists. It played host to poetry readings and musical performances. It remains a major cultural institution today, hosting a range of different artistic showcases. 

  1. Casa Latina Music

Address: 151 E 116th #A, New York, NY 10029

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Saturday)

A real hidden gem, this is a family-owned establishment in Spanish Harlem which sells vintage Latin American records as well as a number of culturally-specific instruments such as Spanish guitars and the congos. 

Little Italy 

One of Manhattan’s most culturally significant neighbourhoods, ‘Little Italy’ is the historical hub of the city’s Italian community. New York City boasts the highest concentration of Italian Americans in the country and is home to the third largest Italian population outside of Italy, outnumbered only by those in Sao Paolo in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina. At the turn of the 21st Century, there were over 680,000 people in the city of Italian ancestry, the largest European enclave in New York. Italian Americans form a major part of the city’s culture and history and are without a doubt one of its most notable immigrant populations.

History

Italian immigration to New York City is one of America’s most definitive and successful immigration stories. It began towards the end of the 19th Century, peaking at the beginning of the 20th Century. Indeed, between 1900 and 1915 it was estimated that 3 million Italians immigrated to the United States, often through New York City where many settled. Initially, the majority of Italian immigrants hailed from the South of the country, most often Sicily. Many of these were from working class backgrounds, specialising in labor and craftsmanship.

Many Italians arrived in New York City due to deteriorating conditions in Italy. The agricultural industry was suffering due to rampant droughts and disease. The ongoing industrial revolution in the United States presented valuable opportunities to increase one’s fortune and encouraged waves of Italian immigration. This increased as the 20th Century progressed and the Italian political situation intensified with the rise of fascism. Many families who moved temporarily to make money quickly instead decided to stay permanently.

As Italian immigration to New York City and the United States increased, people from throughou the country began to arrive, including from the North. Italian immigrants in New York were illiterate and hailed from more rural, agricultural backgrounds, which at first glance made them ill-suited to the increasingly frantic pace of urban life in New York City but this was not the case.

As the Italian population increased, reaching nearly 400,000 by the 1920’s, burgeoning communities began to develop around East Harlem and notably the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where the now-famous ‘Little Italy’ was established. ‘Little Italy’ blossomed into a rich tapestry of Italian cultures, divided into regions of origin. For instance, the Sicilian migrants stuck together ion Elizabeth Street while the Genovese made Baxter Street their home. The neighbourhood replicated the experience of Italy on a small and intimate yet authentic scale.

Italians quickly became one of New York City’s most ubiquitous and prevalent immigrant populations and made an increasingly significant cultural contribution to the city’s burgeoning multicultural identity. Italian cuisine quickly became synonymous with the city’s multi-faceted culinary culture. 

‘Little Italy’ was very much ground zero for the thriving Italian American community in the early 20th Century, but the population dispersed throughout the city as the century progressed and the community became increasingly assimilated. Many Italian American families made new homes in the city’s other boroughs such as Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, particularly the latter which is 55% Italian American. Major Italian American communities include Arthur Avenue, East Bronx (The Bronx), Bay Ridge, Cobble Hill (Brooklyn), Corona Heights, Forest Hills (Queens), Grasmere and South Beach (Staten Island). 

While ‘Little Italy’ is no longer the nucleus of the Italian American community of New York as it was a century ago, it remains a vital aspect of the city’s history and still retains its distinct identity, as its wealth of Italian restaurants and businesses show.

Top Five Restaurants

Italian cuisine is amongst the most ubiquitous and popular cooking styles on the planet, prevalent throughout the world even in areas with no major Italian population. Italian food is best known for its simplicity and emphasis on fresh ingredients and produce rather than elaborate preparation. It is this accessibility in addition to its tastiness which has made it so popular throughout the world. New York is home to some of the finest Italian food out of Italy and a hub of culinary innovation and ingenuity. The Italian American population in the city is well-known for its strict adherence to the culinary traditions of its forefathers.

  1. Da Nico

Address: 164 Mulberry St, New York 10013

Opening Hours: 12pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday, Sunday), 12pm-11.30pm (Saturday)

Arguably the definitive Italian restaurant of ‘Little Italy’, Da Nico is known for its vast array of traditional dishes and bustling, authentic atmosphere. An added bonus is its large garden which provides an al fresco dining experience in the warmer months of the year.

  1. Emilio’s Ballato

Address: 55 E Houston St, New York 10012

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 12pm-12am (Friday-Saturday)

One of the city’s finest Italian culinary institutions (of which there are many), this restaurant is notably difficult to get a table at and attracts a wealth of celebrity guests such as Barack Obama and Rihanna. It offers some of the finest Italian food in the city and has a low-key, authentic atmosphere.

  1. Rubirosa

Address: 235 Mulberry St, New York 10012

Opening Hours: 11.30am-11pm (Monday-Wednesday, Sunday), 11.30am-12am (Thursday-Saturday)

Technically in the Nolita neighbourhood, Rubirosa is one of the city’s finest family0run Italian restaurants, known for its simple, traditional dishes. Established by an esteemed Staten Island Italian-American family, it is one of the city’s best.

  1. Lombardi’s

Address: 32 Spring St New York 10012

Opening Hours: 11.30am-11pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 11.30am-12am (Thursday-Friday)

The first pizzeria in the country, this is one of the city’s most legendary Italian restaurants. Over 100 years old, the restaurant was set up in 1905 and remains one of the most enduring and iconic pizzerias in the world.

  1. Il Cortile

Address: 4603, 125 Mulberry St, New York 10013

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

Specialising in the cuisine of Northern Italy, this is one of Manhattan’s most unique Italian restaurants. In addition to its brilliant and authentic food, it is also known for its idyllic garden setting.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Italian American Museum

Address: 155 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: N/A

Opened in 2001, the Italian American Museum is located in the historic heart of ‘Little Italy’ and despite its small size is a hugely informative insight into the history of Italian immigration to New York City. One of the major cultural highlights of the neighbourhood.

  1. E. Rossi and Company

Address: 3717, 193 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: 2pm-9pm (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-9pm (Sunday)

An enduring staple of the neighbourhood, E. Rossi & Company was established in 1910 and remains a major tourism attraction of ‘Little Italy’, selling a variety of Italian goods and gifts. A cultural treasure trove of all things Italian.

  1. Di Palo’s Fine Foods

Address: 200 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: 9am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 9am-5pm (Sunday)

One of the city’s finest specialty food stores, there is no better place in town to get your hands on the highest quality Italian ingredients, including cheeses, cured meats and hand-made pastas. An eye-watering delight.

  1. Alleva Dairy

Address: 188 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: 9am-7pm

Another iconic specialty food store in ‘Little Italy’, Alleva Dairy offers a wide range of different foods but its speciality is important Italian cheeses. There are few, if any better places in the city for this.

  1. Ferrara’s Bakery and Cafe

Address: 195 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: 9am-11pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 9am-12am (Friday-Saturday)

One of ‘Little Italy’s’ most enduring outposts, the Ferrara Bakery and Cafe has been in business since the early days of Italian immigration in 1892 and remains an essential part of the community. Still family-owned-and-operated to this day, it offers the finest Italian baked goods in the city. 

Chinatown

New York City is home to the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. The city’s Chinese population is estimated at around 812,000. The city itself is home to six distinct Chinatowns and six more exist in the greater metropolitan area. The city and the surrounding area is amongst the most vital and vibrant Chinese cultural centres in the world. 

History

Chinese immigration to New York City began in as early as the mid-18th Century. However, this population was known for its transience, with very few Chinese immigrants settling in one place, often moving towards the best working opportunities. As most of the Chinese immigrants in the United States were labourers, many were drawn westwards to major opportunities such as the Californian Gold Rush and the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. 

As the opportunities on the West Coast dried up and the pioneering industry began to decline, more permanent communities were established throughout the globe. In the West Coast, Chinese immigrants were met with considerable hostility and oppression. The establishment of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, a racist law prohibiting Chinese immigration had a significant effect on the communities in America, particularly on the West Coast which saw a major decline in Chinese immigration. 

Despite this knock-on effect, which significantly reduced Chinese immigration to the United States, significant enclaves had already formed in major urban centres such as New York City. The Five Points neighbourhood emerged as a major Chinese hub in the city by the 1870’s and continued to slowly grow despite the implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act. 

The first permanent Chinese settler in New York City is thought to be Ah Ken, a Cantonese businessman, who established a cigar shop in Park Row, modern-day Chinatown. Following his arrival, a community developed in Five Points, facilitating the establishment of Chinese restaurants and businesses to cater to the influx of immigration. 

In the decade prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act, the population had increased significantly from little more than 200 to over 2000. Despite this rapid growth, there was a major gender disparity and the population was overwhelmingly male due to many of the immigrants being labourers. 

Despite the escalation of racial tensions following the Chinese Exclusion Act, a sense of solidarity emerged within the Chinese population in New York, as several community organisations formed to combat unrest. Chinatown became synonymous with ‘tongs’, a variety of community associations both (clan associations) legitimate and illegitimate (crime syndicates). Tensions emerged between numbers of gangs, which culminated in all-out gang war. 

The next major development in New York’s Chinese community occurred in the aftermath of the Second World War when the Chinese Exclusion Act was finally lifted. This encouraged a resurgence of Chinese immigration to the United States and pre-existing communities such as that in New York slowly expanded. China’s immigration quota was however very small, which prevented significant growth. That being said, the population did grow and businesses expanded. Particularly prominent were Chinese laundromats, restaurants and garment-manufacturers. The majority of Chinese immigrants in the city at this point hailed from the mainland as opposed to wealthier regions such as Taiwan. 

The Chinese population in the city, and by extension in the rest of the country, exploded following the implementation of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which finally put an end to the various racially-charged American immigration policies. Wave after wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in New York City and the pre-existing community of Manhattan’s Chinatown grew considerably. The initial wave were predominantly Cantonese speakers hailing from Guandong and Hong Kong. The community grew increasingly complex as more and more Chinese immigrants arrived in the city. The population dispersed throughout the city and new communities began to form.

Within the limits of Chinatown itself, Little Fuzhou was formed in the 1980’s as Chinese immigration diversified. Mainly consisting of Mandarin-speaking immigrants from the Fuzhou region, this community differs significantly in a cultural and linguistic sense from the Cantonese-dominated Chinatown, something which hampered integration. This signified the increasing diversity of the Chinese community within New York as well as its rapidly growing size. 

The latter half of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century saw New York’s Chinese population establish a number of additional enclaves outside of the original Chinatown in Lower Manhattan. The neighbourhood became increasingly gentrified, which saw major populations shift towards the outer boroughs. Queens in particular emerged as a major hub of the city’s Chinese population. The neighbourhood of Flushing is home to one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing Chinatowns in the world, home to over 30,000 people of Chinese birth. Initially a predominantly Taiwanese community, it became a haven for non-Cantonese Chinese people and developed into a major Mandarin hotspot in the city. Additional enclaves in Queens include Corona, Whitestone and Elmhurst, which continue to grow. While they are all Mandarin-dominated, they are home to a number of other Chinese minorities.

Brooklyn also became a major hotspot for the growing Chinese population. With gentrification increasing in Manhattan, the Fuzhou population came under increasing economic pressure and eventually relocated en masse to the burgeoning Brooklyn Chinatown. Freed from the confines of the expensive and Cantonese-dominated Chinatown in Manhattan, the Fuzhou community grew and developed at an increased rate in the Sunset Park neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Additional hubs emerged in nearby neighbourhoods such as Bay Ridge and Coney Island.

In modern times, Queens is the main centre for the Chinese community with a total population of 237,000. Brooklyn has 206,000 and Manhattan has 108,000. Smaller communities exist in Staten Island (14,000) and The Bronx (7,000). This demonstrates the sheer prevalence of the Chinese community in the city and its integration. Despite there being a number of Chinese ethnic enclaves, these are dotted throughout the city and illustrate their importance to the city’s cultural identity.

Top Five Restaurants

Chinese cuisine is amongst the most diverse on the planet, varying significantly from region to region. Given the sheer size of the country, there is a wide range of different cultures and peoples, something which is reflected through its cuisine. Given the prevalence of the Chinese diaspora, the country’s cuisine has become hugely popular throughout the world and is a major success in Chinese assimilation abroad. The predominant style of cooking known to those outside of China is Cantonese cuisine, which is mainly focused on small dishes known as dim sum. Sichuan cuisine is also highly popular, known for its bold flavours and heavy reliance on chili and garlic. The other members of the ‘Eight Great Traditions’ are Fujian, Hunan, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Anhui. There is a wealth of lesser-known cuisines such as Xinjiang, a Middle-Eastern-influenced cuisine from the country’s Northeast and Tibetan. It is impossible and ignorant to simply categorise Chinese food given its depth, but New York City is one of the best places to experience the cuisine in all its forms.

  1. DaXi Sichuan

Address: 136-20 Roosevelt Ave #2R, Flushing, NY, 11354

Opening Hours: 11am-2am

A hugely popular Sichuan restaurant in the Queens Chinatown in Flushing. Popular dishes include pork ribs and kung pao shrimp.

  1. Mission Chinese

Address: 171 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

Opening Hours: 5.30pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-4pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Saturday-Sunday)

One of the most unique Chinese restaurants in the city. Known for its experimental dishes. 

  1. Great NY Noodle Town

Address: 28 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: 9am-4am

A no-frills mainstay of Manhattan’s Chinatown best-known for its hand-pulled noodles, soups and seafood dishes.

  1. Lan Sheng

Address: 128 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018

Opening Hours: 11am-10pm (Monday-Friday), 11.30am-10pm (Saturdday-Sunday)

A highly-renowned Sichuan restaurant with an extensive menu and one Michelin star.

  1. Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen

Address: 401 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014

Opening Hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-10pm (Friday-Sunday)

One of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Manhattan, specialising in regional dishes.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Museum of Chinese in America

Address: 215 Centre St, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: 11am-6pm (Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 11am-9pm (Thursday)

One of the most important cultural centres for the Chinese community in New York. The museum specialises in Chinese American history and features a rotating series of exhibitions.

  1. Aji Ichiban

Address: 37 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Opening Hours: 10am-7pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-8pm (Saturday-Sunday)

A major confectionary chain from Hong Kong, there is a New York location in the Manhattan Chinatown’s Mott Street. 

  1. Mahayana Temple Buddhist Association

Address: 133 Canal St, New York, NY 10002

Opening Hours: 8.30am-6pm

Located in Manhattan Chinatown’s heart of Canal Street, this Buddhist temple is a major religious centre for the Chinese community.

  1. Ten Ren Tea & Ginseng

Address: 135-18 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm

The New York location of the major Chinese tea producer, this is the best place in the city to buy tea products.

  1. Fei Long Market

Address: 6301 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

Opening Hours: 8am-9pm

A staple of Brooklyn’s Chinatown, Fei Long Market is a large grocery store specialising in Chinese foods unlikely to be found elsewhere. 

Filipinos

New York City is home to one of the largest Filipino populations outside of the Philippines. The New York metropolitan area is home to over 260,000 Filipinos. The city has a thriving Filipino community as reflected by the many businesses and restaurants.

History

Filipino immigration to New York City can be traced back to as early as the turn of the 20th Century in the wake of the Spanish-American War, which saw the country ceded to the United States after centuries of Spanish rule. Following this, many Filipinos immigrated to the United States, particularly to Hawaii and the West Coast due to proximity and the burgeoning agricultural industry. Major communities began to form in these states but many Filipinos settled in New York City, albeit to a lesser extent. Another major wave of Filipino immigration to the United States occurred in the wake of the Second World War, although few settled in as far as the East Coast.

It was not until the aftermath of the 1965 Immigration Act, which removed the racially-motivated restrictions on immigration to the United States. This saw a renewed influx of Filipino immigration to the United States, far beyond the major population centres in California and Hawaii. To put in perspective the extent of Filipino immigration to New York City during this period, the population numbered at around 2,800 in 1960 and increased to over 14,000 by 1970.

The majority of initial Filipino immigrants in New York City and the surrounding areas were from more affluent backgrounds and were predominantly in the field of healthcare. Following short periods of successful integration they were able to sponsor their families to relocate to the city permanently. As a result, New York’s Filipino population is of a higher socioeconomic status than those elsewhere in the United States and throughout the western world. 

There are a number of Filipino enclaves throughout the city and its surrounding areas. New Jersey is known for its particularly large Filipino population, particularly in Jersey City. In the city itself however, Queens is home to a large community, mainly clustered in the ‘Little Manila’ of the Woodside neighbourhood. The area is dominated by an array of Filipino restaurants and businesses. The population is known for its successful integration. There is no single dominant profession or industry associated with the Filipino population. While major enclaves do exist, as is the case of the ‘Little Manila’ in Queens, the population is widely dispersed throughout the city and very visible, playing a vital role in a range of different industries.

Top Five Restaurants

Filipino cuisine is notably difficult to define. Amongst the most stylistically diverse varieties of cuisine in the world, it combines the hundreds of different cultures of native Filipinos in addition to drawing upon Spanish, Chinese, Indian and American influences. Many dishes are defined by their simplicity and unusual flavour combinations. The Spanish and American colonial influence on the Philippines is reflected through the country’s cuisine, which is very much a collision of Eastern and Western cooking styles.

  1. Tito Rad’s Grill

Address: 49-10 Queens Blvd, Woodside, NY 11377

Opening Hours: 11am-10pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-10pm (Saturday-Sunday)

Authentic Filipino restaurant in the heart of Woodside’s ‘Little Manila’ Signature dish as the ‘Inihaw na Panga’-Grilled Tuna Jaw.

  1. Jeepney

Address: 201 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

Opening Hours: 6pm-10.30pm (Monday-Thursday), 5pm-11.30pm (Friday), 11am-3.30pm, 5pm-11.30pm (Saturday), 11am-3.30pm, 5pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

Modern Filipino restaurant in the East Village with a tropical atmosphere. 

  1. Grill 21

Address: 346 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010

Opening Hours: 10am-10pm

Small and colourful traditional Filipino restaurant in Downtown Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighbourhood.

  1. Purple Yam

Address: 1314 Cortelyou Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11226

Opening Hours: 5.30pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-3.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Saturday), 11am-3.30pm, 5.30pm-10pm (Sunday)

A unique Brooklyn Pan-Asian restaurant with a strong emphasis on Filipino dishes.

  1. Papa’s Kitchen

Address: 65-40 Woodside Ave, Woodside, NY 11377 

Opening Hours: 1pm-10pm (Tuesday-Thursday), 1pm-11pm (Friday-Saturday), 1pm-7pm (Sunday)

Iconic Filipino restaurant in a ‘Little Manila’ townhouse serving homemade classics and offering karaoke.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Richard Mendoza’s Filthy Rich Barbershop

Address: 63-12 Roosevelt Ave, Woodside, NY 11377

Opening Hours: 11am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-6pm (Sunday)

One of the area’s finest barbershops, Filipino-American Richard Mendoza has seen his reputation skyrocket in recent years due to his popularity amongst rappers. His barbershop attracts an elite clientele and is well-worth seeking out if you can secure a booking. A second location has recently opened in Williamsburg.

  1. Krystal’s Cafe & Pastry Shop

Address: 6902 Roosevelt Ave, Woodside, Queens, NY 11377

Opening Hours: 8am-12pm

A staple of Little Manila, this authentic cafe is also well-known amongst locals for its rollicking karaoke nights in the upstairs section.

  1. Phil-Am Food Mart

Address: 4003 70th St, Woodside, Queens, NY 11377

Opening Hours: 9am-8pm

In the heart of ‘Little Manila’, this is the best specialist supermarket in the area, selling specialty foods and ingredients. A second location has opened in Staten Island.

  1. Jollibee’s

Address: 62-29 Roosevelt Ave, Woodside, Queens, NY 11377

Opening Hours: 7am-11pm

The iconic and immensely popular Filipino fast food chain has a widely-visited outpost in Queens’ ‘Little Manila.’

  1. D’Haven

Address: 58-02  37th Ave, Woodside, Queens, NY 11377

Opening Hours:  8pm-12am (Thursday), 8pm-3am (Friday-Saturday), 1pm-12am (Sunday)

An immensely popular entertainment venue in Queens that has drinking, dining and dancing all on offer. Most popular of all are the regular ballroom dancing events the venue provides.

Little India

Indian Americans comprise New York City’s second-largest immigrant population after Chinese Americans, numbering at 228,000. Furthermore, the New York City metropolitan area, which includes regions of New Jersey, the Indian population is considerable. The neighbourhood of Bombay, Jersey City is particularly notable, home to India Square. 

History

Indian immigration to the United States is fairly recent. The first Indian American citizen was Bhicaji Balsara, who arrived in the country in 1900. However, the Indian community in the United States was very minimal until mid-way through the 20th Century when immigration restrictions were gradually eased. 

Many Indian Americans did not travel directly from India, but rather from pre-existing diaspora communities around the world. Notable examples include Canada, the United Kingdom and Caribbean nations such as Trinidad and Tobago. Immigration skyrocketed in the 1960’s as Indian immigration quotas were removed and many displaced Indians travelled to the United States due to the better work opportunities. 

The United States already had a pre-existing Indian population, but this had no particular centre, and much like the Chinese and Japanese diasporas, worked mainly as labourers throughout the country. Following this major wave of Indian immigration however, the vast majority headed to New York City and the surrounding area. The initial immigrants were comprised of more educated professional figures in the fields of medicine, law and finance. 

Since the mid-20th Century, the Indian population of the New York City Metropolitan Area has gradually grown and expanded. In the city itself, there are few specific enclaves as there are with many other foreign-born populations, although the population is largely concentrated in the borough of Queens, which is home to well over half of the city’s Indian population. Manhattan and Brooklyn are also home to relatively substantial Indian populations, albeit far smaller than that in Queens.

The surrounding areas feature a far more substantial Indian population. This is particularly the case in New Jersey. Indeed, Jersey City is home to the largest concentration of Indians in the Western Hemisphere. The city’s population is 10% Indian, the majority of which is concentrated in ‘Little Bombay’ or India Square. This area is known for its large range of Indian restaurants and businesses. 

Other ‘Little Indias’ exist throughout the New York metropolitan area. New Jersey’s Middlesex County and Mercer County are home to substantial Indian populations. In New York, Long Island is a particularly notable population hub, while Flushing, Queens’ ‘Little India’ is particularly notable. The Manhattan neighbourhood of Rose Hill is fast emerging as a major Indian enclave, earning the nickname ‘Curry Hill’ due to the growing wealth of Indian restaurants. 

While Indian Americans are amongst the lesser-discussed immigration populations in the United States, their presence on the United States’ East Coast is considerable. 

Top Five Restaurants

Indian cuisine is amongst the most diverse and difficult to define cooking cultures. Varying significantly throughout the large country. There are an innumerable range of styles. Notable ones include Bengali, known for its subtlety and spiciness as well as its use of seafood, Tamil, known for its emphasis on vegetarian dishes and Punjab, known for its creamy and rich dishes. There is an endless range and characterising Indian food with tikka masala and chutney would be inaccurate and unfair to one of the richest culinary cultures in the world. 

  1. Malai Marke

Address: 318 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5pm-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-12am (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

One of the finest Indian restaurants in Manhattan. Reasonably priced and serves traditional classics such as chicken tikka masala. 

  1. The Masalawala

Address: 1547, 179 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am

Inventive Indian and South Asian street food restaurant in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

  1. Punjab Grocery and Deli

Address: 114 E 1st St, New York, NY 10009

Opening Hours: Open 24/7

Authentic and no-frills Punjabi take-out counter which also sells specialty snacks and goods such as Bollywood films. One of the best value-for-money meals in the city. 

  1. Pippali

Address: 129 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

Opening Hours: 11.30am-3pm, 5pm-10.15pm (Monday-Thursday), 11.30am-10.45pm (Friday), 12pm-3pm, 5pm-10.45pm (Saturday), 12pm-3pm, 5pm-10.15pm (Sunday)

High-end, experimental Indian bar and restaurant in Midtown. 

  1. Brick Lane Curry House

Address: 79 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

Named for the iconic London neighbourhood of the same name, Brick Lane Curry House offers British-Indian dishes in a no-frills, reasonably-priced environment. 

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Indian Independence Day Parade

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

The definitive cultural event for New York’s Indian community, the Indian Independence Day Parade is held annually on August 19 and brings together the city’s extensive Indian population to celebrate their country of origin’s independence.

  1. India Square

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

The epicentre of Jersey City’s substantial Indian population, India Square is a bustling neighbourhood filled to the brim with authentic Indian restaurants, businesses and temples. 

  1. Curry Hill

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

While there is little to see per se in this unassuming Lower East Side neighbourhood, the newly-named ‘Curry Hill’ is the heart of a rapidly growing Manhattan Indian community, which already boasts some of the city’s finest specialist restaurants. 

  1. Hindu Temple Society of North America

Address: 45-57 Browne St, Flushing, NY 11355

Opening Hours: N/A

With a claim to being the first Hindu temple in the country, this is one of the most essential sites to Indian Americans in the United States. This is very much the epicentre of Queens’ Indian community, nearby a range of other, smaller temples as well as a number of restaurants. Of particular note is the South Indian vegetarian restaurant in its basement-the Temple Canteen.

Irish

The Irish immigration story is one of New York City’s most essential and notable. New York City is home to the largest Irish population in the country. While claims are difficult to verify, it is believed that 12.9% of the city’s population is of Irish descent, making it the largest white ethnic group in the city. The Irish contribution to the city’s culture and history cannot be understated.

History

Irish immigration to New York City began as early as the late 19th Century, but began to a large degree in the 1820’s. This coincided with a deterioration of conditions in Ireland, which caused major waves of immigration to occur. The East Coast of the United States in particular emerged as a major destination, with Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia also emerging as major population hotspots in the following decades. These early immigrants were generally English-speaking Protestants, who quickly assimilated to life in New York City.

As the 19th Century progressed, more and more Irish immigrants began to settle in New York from a wide range of regions and backgrounds. Notably, a much larger number of Catholic, Gaelic-speaking Irish immigrants arrived. Their attempt at assimilation was much more difficult as they were confronted with language barriers and poverty. As a result, monocultural Irish communities began to form throughout the city, mainly in the borough of Brooklyn. 

A major turning point in the history of Irish immigration to the United States was the Great Famine of 1845, which caused significant population displacement. Ireland’s population declined by as much as 25% as one million perished and a further million fled the country. Many of these emigres settled in the United States, motivated by new opportunities as well as the pre-existing Irish communities on the Eastern Seaboard’s major cities, particularly New York City. 

By the mid-20th Century, New York’s Irish population had increased significantly and had spread throughout the city, establishing a number of major enclaves across the five boroughs. In Manhattan, the notorious Five Points neighbourhood and Hell’s Kitchen in the Downtown area of the city, became major hubs for Irish communities. Major communities also emerged throughout The Bronx (Woodlawn, City Island), Brooklyn (Bay Ridge, Windsor Terrace) and Queens (Rockaway Beach, Woodside), many of which retain their distinctly Irish character in modern times.

In part due to a comparatively insubstantial language barrier, the Irish Americans are amongst the most successfully assimilated immigrant populations in the city. This is also a result of their considerable size and lengthy history in the city, which has enabled a wide range of communities to emerge throughout the city, without being particular insular.

This is supported by the historic association of Irish Americans with aspects of public life in the city. The Irish are known for their association with unions and local politics as well as for their long-standing deep ties to the NYPD and NYFD.

Top Five Restaurants

Irish cuisine is one of the world’s lesser-known cooking styles. It bears a number of similarities to British cuisine and makes considerable use of the potato, due to the vegetable’s ubiquitousness within the country. It is generally composed of simple dishes consisting of meat, vegetables and potatoes, such as Irish stew. Irish cuisine was essentially displaced following the country’s conquest by the English and its development halted. However, modern chefs are attempting to revitalise and reinvent the country’s culinary identity.

  1. Lillie’s Victorian Establishment

Address: 13 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

Opening Hours: 11am-4pm

In the heart of Manhattan, this is a popular spot with Irish Americans and visitors alike. Serves classic Irish pub food against a Victorian backdrop.

  1. Cronin and Phelan’s

Address: 3814 Broadway, Astoria, Queens, NY 11103

Opening Hours: 8am-4am (Monday-Saturday), 11am-4am (Sunday)

Queens neighbourhood bar and restaurant specialising in hearty classics such as shepherd’s pie and hosting karaoke nights.

  1. The Wheeltapper Pub

Address: 141 E 44th St, New York, NY 10017

Opening Hours: 7am-2am

In the frantic Midtown neighbourhood of Manhattan, this is one of the city’s finest Irish pubs. A traditional Irish tavern with a spacious garden area.

  1. The Late Late

Address: 159 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

Opening Hours: 4pm-2am (Monday-Tuesday), 4pm-4am (Wednesday-Friday), 12pm-4am (Saturday), 12pm-2am (Sunday)

Trendy new gastropub serving brunch and high-end whisky with a retro, 1960’s influenced design.

  1. McSorley’s Ale House

Address: 15 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

Opening Hours: 11am-1pm (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-1am (Sunday)

An Irish institution. Open since the mid-19th Century, this is one of the most culturally significant Irish historical sites in the city. Notably traditional, it only opened to women in 1970, making it one of the last men’s-only pubs in the city. One of the most historical bars in the country. 

Top Five Things to Do
  1. St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Ireland’s most important national holiday is celebrated with complete gusto in New York City. The oldest and largest parade of its kind in the world, it was first held in the city in 1762, preceding American independence. It continues to draw millions of spectators and several participants, an illustration of the long history and great importance of the Irish community in the city.

  1. American Irish Historical Society

Address: 991 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

Opening Hours: 11am-12pm, 3pm-4pm (Monday-Friday)

A short walk from the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Irish Historical Society is a long-standing Irish cultural institution, established at the turn of the 19th Century in 1897. Maintaining a rich library and archive collection, the society also hosts a number of cultural events, which include theatrical and musical performances and film screenings. Notable former members include ex-US President Theodore Roosevelt.

  1. Gaelic Park

Address: 201 W 240th St, Bronx, NY 10463

Opening Hours: N/A

Located in the historically Irish neighbourhood of Riverdale, The Bronx, Gaelic Park has been a longtime hotspot of Irish sporting activity. Since its 1926 acquisition by the Gaelic Athletic Association of Greater New York, the park has hosted a wealth of hurling and football matches as well as traditional Irish musical and dance performances in the nearby music hall.

  1. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the city’s most recognisable religious landmarks, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in the latter half of the 19th Century. The seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, it is the hub of the city’s Catholic community. A stunning Neo-gothic building, it is one of the city’s most impressive and distinct buildings, often hosting the funeral processions of a number of notable figures. 

  1. Irish Hunger Memorial

Address: North End Ave & Vesey St, New York, NY 10280

Opening Hours: 11am-6.30pm

Located in Manhattan’s Battery Park neighbourhood, the Irish Hunger Memorial is a sobering reminder of the millions of deaths caused by the Great Famine of the mid-19th Century, something which also caused millions of Irish migrants to settle in the city and elsewhere in the country. Open since 2002, it is an essential cultural monument for the city’s Irish community.

Polish 

The Polish community of New York City often flies under the radar in comparison to other major immigrant enclaves. However, it is one of the most significant in the city, particularly in Brooklyn. The New York Metropolitan Area is home to the second-largest Polish population in the country after Chicago.

History

Polish immigration to the United States can be traced back to the 19th Century. Political turmoil in Poland, which culminated in the country’s partition, resulted in significant population displacement. Many of the immigrants fled for closer countries with few settling in the United States. Geneva and London were major centres, but communities did begin to form within cities such as Chicago and New York City, now the modern-day bastions of the Polish diaspora in the United States.

These immigrants were generally from more affluent and intellectual circles. Spikes of Polish immigration to the United States correlate with the partition as well as smaller insurrections in 1830 and 1863. Despite records being somewhat problematic, it is believed that around 2000 Poles immigrated to the US between 1800 and 1860.

The latter half of the 19th Century saw a far more significant wave of Polish immigration to the United States, mainly comprised of working-class labourers. The Mid-Atlantic states and the Rust Belt proved to be major settling points due to being the heart of the burgeoning industrial revolution in America. It is believed that around 2.5 million Poles immigrated to the United States between 1860 and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

The inter-war years initially saw a stagnation in Polish immigration abroad as the Polish state was reestablished. A dictatorship under the command of Josef Pilsudski lasted from 1926 to 1935. The Nazi occupation of Poland impacted its population significantly, decimating large swathes of the Jewish population in addition to intellectuals in a bid to eradicate Polish culture. It is believed that 20% of the population was killed during the war. Additionally, significant population displacement occurred as many fled overseas. 

It is difficult to estimate the immigration figures of Poles to the United States for much of the 20th Century. Despite stagnation induced by immigration restrictions and the Great Depression, the outbreak Second World War and the oppressiveness of Communist rule for much of the 20th Century renewed immigration drives. The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe triggered an additional major wave of Polish immigration to the United States in the 1980’s, something which is still underway today, albeit to a lesser degree. Polish immigration rates to the United States have steadily decreased since Poland’s admission into the European Union, which facilitated easier immigration to closer countries.

The Polish community of New York City is heavily centred in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Greenpoint. Similar to other major immigrant populations, Brooklyn was a haven for Poles. Polish presence in Greenpoint can be traced back to as early as the late 19th Century. Despite ongoing gentrification efforts within Greenpoint and surrounding areas, the neighbourhood still retains its distinctly Polish identity and is often nicknamed ‘Little Poland’ as a result. 

Top Five Restaurants

Despite being relatively little-known throughout most countries, Polish cuisine is amongst the most rich and multi-faceted in Europe. Known for its heavy emphasis on meat, particularly pork, as well as vegetables such as cabbage. It also uses different kinds of noodles and soups such as borcht. It is very much a melting pot of Central European and Eastern European influences whilst very much being its own individual style. 

  1. Karczma

Address: 136 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Opening Hours: 12pm-10.30pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-11.30pm (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-10pm (Sunday)

The neighbourhood’s definitive Polish restaurant, Karczma offers hearty classics against a traditional Polish backdrop. 

  1. Krolewskie Jadlo

Address: 694 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

Neighbourhood icon that serves Polish classic dishes in a medieval-themed environment.

  1. Little Poland

Address: 200 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Opening Hours: 7am-11pm

Popular Manhattan restaurant serving Polish staple dishes such as Pierogi in a diner setting.

  1. Dziupla

Address: 194 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm (Monday-Wednesday), 11.30am-11pm (Thursday-Friday), 9am-11pm (Saturday), 9am-10pm (Sunday)

Casual and popular Polish restaurant specialising in the classic staples such as borscht and goulash.

  1. Polonica

Address: 8303 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm (Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday), 12pm-10.30pm (Friday-Saturday)

Small neighbourhood restaurants serving a variety of dishes with a specialisation in soups.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Cafe Riviera

Address: 830 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Opening Hours: 8am-9pm

Local bakery specialising in Polish pastries and desserts along with more standard baked goods.

  1. ACME Smoked Fish

Address: 30 Gem St, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Opening Hours: 5.30am-6pm (Fridays Only)

Run by a local Polish American family, this is one of the best places in the city to get your hands on the highest quality fish around. Both a smokehouse and a retail outlet, it is cash only and open to the public on Fridays.

  1. Polish National Catholic Church of the Resurrection Parish

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/a

The hub of Greenpoint’s Polish Catholic community, this is one of the more distinct religious buildings in Brooklyn.

  1. Polish National Home

Address: 2611 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Opening Hours:  N/A

A concert hall that shows a variety of traditional Polish performances in addition to other fare.

  1. McCarren Park

Address: 776 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Opening Hours: 6am-1am

One of Brooklyn’s finest public parks. It is known for its swimming pool, athletic facilities and regular musical performances. 

Little Odessa/Brighton Beach

New York City’s Russian population is, by some distance, the largest in the United States as well as the Western Hemisphere. The city is home to 600,000 Russian-Americans, over a third of which are Russian Jews. In addition, a number of immigrants from nearby Eastern European and Central Asian countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyztsn, call the city their home. The Russian-American population is heavily centred in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Brighton Beach, one of the most culturally distinct parts of the city.

History

Russian immigration to the United States stretches back to the beginning of the 19th Century and is heavily centred around New York City. The first significant wave occurred in the latter half of the 19th Century following a combination of factors. The Homestead Act of 1862 saw millions of acres of American land become available to anyone who had never taken up arms against the country, encouraging significant European immigration. Russian mass immigration coincided with this as a result of the anti-Semitic pogroms enacted by the Russian Empire. The Russian-Jewish diaspora, were drawn to New York City in particular.

Russian immigration to New York City and the rest of the country coincided with major moments of political unrest in the Russian Empire and its successor the Soviet Union. The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw many flee the country as centuries of autocratic rule were replaced by a Communist system of rule. It was not until the latter half of the 20th Century when Russian immigration to New York City reached its peak. 

The 1970’s saw the beginning of major Russian and Eastern European settlement in Brookyln. The Brighton Beach neighbourhood, following the Second World War, had seen decades of economically decline, causing a massive drop in property value. This enabled newly-arrived immigrants to buy up property in the area. With a pre-existing Jewish population already settled in the neighbourhood, many Eastern European settlers from the Soviet Bloc began to arrive during the 1970’s, the numbers increasing to such a degree that the neighbourhood was renamed ‘Little Odessa’. 

The neighbourhood’s Eastern European population steadily increased in the following years and exploded following the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980’s. Soviet immigrants were drawn by the pre-existing Russian community in the area and the many economic opportunities the city presented. The 1990’s saw many Russian-owned restaurants and businesses open and the area slowly emerged from the poverty, which defined it for so much of the 20th Century. 

Brighton Beach remains a vibrant hub for the city’s Eastern European and Central Asian population. While it remains a major centre for Jewish and Russian immigrants, it has diversified considerably over the past few decades as major Uzbeki and Kyrgyzstani populations have settled in the neighbourhood. It is one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in the city, featuring representations from all aspects of the former Russian Empire’s diaspora. 

Top Five Restaurants

Given Russia’s immense size, it is difficult to pigeonhole its cuisine into a single, solitary style. It varies significantly throughout the country and exhibits influences from a wide range of countries and regions, including Eastern Europe, Central Asia and East Asia. Popular dishes include borcht, a beetroot soup and pelmeni, meat dumplings. 

  1. Cafe Kashkar

Address: 1141 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Opening Hours: 10am-11pm

One of the city’s few Uyghur restaurants, which specialises in food from the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang province of Northwestern China. Low-frills, BYOB and completely unique.

  1. Brighton Bazaar

Address: 1007 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Opening Hours: 8am-10pm

A supermarket specialising in a vast array of Eastern European delicacies. Also served prepared meals. 

  1. Tone Cafe

Address: 265 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Opening Hours: 7.30am-9pm (Monday-Thursday), 7.30am-10pm (Friday-Sunday)

A Georgian restaurant and bakery known for its reasonable prices and homely atmosphere.

  1. Gourmanoff

Address: 1029 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Opening Hours: 9am-9pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 9am-10pm (Friday-Saturday)

A high-end food emporium in a former theatre specialising in a diverse array of Eastern European food and produce. 

  1. Varenichnaya

Address: 3086 Brighton 2nd St, Brooklyn NY, 11235

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm

One of the city’s finest and most traditional Russian restaurants, featuring an array of Soviet relics.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Brighton Beach

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

The eponymous beach of the neighbourhood is one of the major draws for non-residents, drawing many visitors in the hot summer months. It is in close proximity to a number of bars, shops and restaurants as well as the iconic amusement park Coney Island.

  1. Russian Tea Room

Address: 150 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019

Opening Hours: 11.30am-11.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-11.30pm (Saturday), 11am-10pm (Sunday)

A Russian outlier in Manhattan, the Russian Tea Room is a high-end restaurant and ballroom established by a group of former Russian Imperial ballet dancers in 1927. It remains one of the city’s most high-end destinations, attracting a wide-ranging celebrity clientele but retains its distinctly Russian character. 

  1. Saint Petersburg Bookstore

Address: 230 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Opening Hours: N/A

The city’s premier destination for Russian literature and other goods. The Saint Petersburg Bookstore is a distinct neighbourhood staple, which also sells traditional Russian nesting dolls, otherwise known as matryoshka.

  1. Russian Baths of Brooklyn

Address: 1200 Gravesend Neck Road, Brooklyn, NY 11229

Opening Hours: 8am-11pm (Monday-Friday), 7am-11pm (Saturday-Sunday)

Brighton Beach is home to a wealth of traditional Russian public bathhouses. These are great places to soak in the neighbourhood’s culture as well as being a relaxing day out.

  1. Floor Show at The National Restaurant and Nightclub

Address: 273 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Opening Hours: 11am-9pm (Monday-Thursday), 11am-2am (Friday-Sunday)

A quintessentially Brighton Beach experience, this is a combined experience of dinner and entertainment which serves some of the finest Russian cuisine in the area accompanied by a glamorous cabaret show.

Global Cities: London

Global Cities: London

London is one of the most global cities on the planet, a real melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and religions. With many traces of the country’s former colonial reach still visible, the city has also opened up to a wealth of European cultures in the advent of the European Union. In addition, the city, with its rich history, vibrant culture and wealth of economic opportunities, has attracted immigrants from all over the world, providing an accepting atmosphere for those from all corners of the globe.

Indian

Indians comprise London’s largest ethnic minority population, encompassing 6.6% of the city’s total population, a large number of 542,900 people. British Indians form an essential part of the city’s cultural fabric. Due to the countries’ deep connections during the height of British imperialism, the entire country is home to a substantial Indian population, over a third of which is based in London. The British Indian population is overwhelmingly comprised of ethnic Punjabi Indians, who account for 45%. Other significant ethnic populations include Gujarati and Tamil Indians. The Indian community, while the most ubiquitous immigrant population in London, is highly concentrated in West London neighbourhoods such as Harrow, Hounslow and Brent.

History

Indian immigration to London dates back to the colonial era. The earliest incidence of Indian immigration to the city can be traced back to as early as the 18th Century. Early immigrants to the city were brought back from the recently-annexed Indian subcontinent along with modern-day Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans, as ‘lascars’, essentially seamen to fill in for British vacancies. Many of these displaced peoples were often left stranded in the United Kingdom, mainly London, with no means of returning home. They began to settle in large numbers of a result, many taking menial means of employment such as servants. The number of ‘lascars’ in the East India Company began to concern the hierarchy, who limited the quota with the Navigation Act of 1660. This only caused more Indians to settle in the United Kingdom, due to the lack of marine employment opportunities.

The population of Indian immigrants gradually grew over the course of the 19th Century, reaching around 4,000, the majority of which were based in London and port towns such as Southampton. London’s first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostan Coffee House was established in 1810 by Sake Dean Mahomed, a high-ranking seaman in the East India Company. By the early 20th Century, this number had increased more and although the population had professionally diversified, the bulk remained employed as ‘lascars’.

This changed following the end of the Second Work War, when the vast majority of British colonies were finally granted independence. India, amongst many other countries, were finally free from British rule. In one of the most important pieces of legislation in British history, the British Nationality Act 1948 allowed the subjects of the British Empire to freely emigrate to the UK without restrictions. At this point in time, this was a number of around 800 million people. Intended to cover up job vacancies in unskilled work sectors, this instead facilitated a significant wave of mass migration from throughout the British Empire’s former colonies. No country saw a greater increase in immigration than India. The majority of these were economic migrants looking for greater and better-paying work opportunities.

Since the end of the Second World War, Indian immigration to the United Kingdom and by extension London, has been continuous, albeit with notable high points. Prior to the onset of the Second World War, there around 7000 British Indians. In 1951, following the implementation of the British Nationality Act, this number had increased to 31,000. The 1950’s saw considerable immigration amongst the Punjabi and Gujarati populations, with many settling in industrial northern towns in the Midlands. In London, this period saw a large number of Sikh immigrants settle in the city’s West, particularly around Harrow and Hounslow, which were in close proximity to a number of factories as well as major employment hubs such as Heathrow Airport. Many Indians became eligible to work for the recently established NHS.

Southall, jo.sau, Flickr Creative Commons

Southall, jo.sau, Flickr Creative Commons

The Indian diaspora is now, by some distance, the largest within London and the United Kingdom as a whole. Within London, the population is highly visible throughout the city, although major enclaves have formed. In West London, Harrow, Ealing, Hounslow, Brent and Southall all boast substantial Indian communities. These are predominantly Sikh although the area is also home to a sizeable Hindu population. East London is also home to a large Indian population, mainly in the borough of Newham. East London Indians are predominantly Muslim and have close ties to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations in the area.

London’s Indian population is a major facet of the city’s cultural identity and is as diverse and vast as the country itself, acting as something of a microcosm of one of the world’s most culturally and historically rich countries.

Top Five Restaurants

To condense Indian food into a brief descriptor would be a pointless and unfair task. The country has a rich culinary culture encompassing a wealth of different styles, including Keralan, Punjabi, Tamil and Bengali. London is inarguably one of the finest cities in the world outside of India to sample this diverse range of food and is world-renowned for its high-quality Indian food. Furthermore, the centuries of cultural exchange between the two countries has seen Anglo-Indian cuisine develop into its own unique entity. Iconic dishes such as the Chicken Tikka Masala as well as condiments such as chutneys, have its origin traced to the UK. There are a wealth of different areas to sample the best Indian food in the city, including Brick Lane, Drummond Street and Southall, although a good curry house can be found in most neighbourhoods of the city, such is the quality of Indian food in London.

  1. Brilliant

Address: 72-75 Western Road, Southall UB2 5DZ

Opening Hours: 6pm-11pm (Tuesday-Friday), 6pm-11.30pm (Saturday-Sunday)

A Southall institution with a large seating capacity. This is one of the finest and most authentic Indian restaurants in London, known for its homemade chutneys.

  1. Dishoom
St Martin's Courtyard - Promoting Dishoom, EG Focus, Flickr Creative Commons

St Martin’s Courtyard – Promoting Dishoom, EG Focus, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9FB

Opening Hours: 8am-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 8am-12pm (Friday), 9am-12am (Saturday), 9am-11pm (Sunday)

A hugely-popular chain and an example of the ongoing cultural exchange between Britain and India. Serving street food against a vintage backdrop, the ‘bacon naan sandwich’ is particularly popular.

 

  1. Red Fort

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Currently relocating to a new venue, this is one of the finest Indian restaurants in London, known for its sleek interior and top-notch North Indian cuisine

4. Tamarind

Address: 20 Queen Street, Mayfair, London W1J 5PR

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.45pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-2.45pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

Notably the first Indian restaurant in the world to gain a Michelin star, this is a fine dining establishment a far cry from the curry houses of Brick Lane. It is also one of the finest restaurants in London.

  1. Veeraswamy

Address: Victory House, 99-101 Regent Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4RS

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.15pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Monday-Friday), 12.30pm-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Saturday), 12.30pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm (Sunday)

London’s oldest Indian restaurant still open. This is an essential piece of Indian history in the capital that offers some of the city’s finest Indian food amid a colourful and opulent backdrop.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Diwali

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

India is known for its wealth of festivities, celebrated across a variety of different religions and cultures. Diwali is arguably the most significant of all. The Festival of Lights, it is celebrated by the country’s Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh populations, which gives one a sense of its sheer scale. It is known for its huge cultural and spiritual significance and colourful celebrations. Trafalgar Square plays host to a major gathering during the festivities although a number of other celebrations exist elsewhere.

  1. Holi

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

The Hindu festival of colours, Holi is known for its message of positivity and high-energy celebrations. Holy is often marked by the ritual of people throwing coloured powders at one another in joy. Its celebration has grown increasingly prominent in London, with a number of different events being held throughout the city.

  1. Little Punjab
    Southall Station, PictureCapital, Flickr Creative Commons

    Southall Station, PictureCapital, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London has a number of large Indian population enclaves. Perhaps none are as notable as that in Southall, which has earned the nickname of ‘Little Punjab’. The neighbourhood has an extensive Indian cultural history stretching back to the early 20th Century, with the majority of its current population being of Indian or Pakistani origin. Although the Punjabi community has been diluted somewhat in recent years, it is still indelibly woven into the area’s cultural fabric, as evidenced by the wealth of Indian businesses and restaurants.

  1. Boleyn Cinema

Address: 7-11 Barking Road, London E6 1PW

Opening Hours: N/A

Filling the vacuum left by the demolished Dominion Cinema, Newham’s Boleyn Cinema is the city’s premier destination to see Bollywood films. The three-screen cinema shows an extensive program of old and new Bollywood releases.

  1. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London

Address: 105-119 Brentfield Road, London NW10 8LD

Opening Hours: N/a

The most significant Hindu temple in the country for a number of reasons. This Neasden landmark is considered to be the first authentic Hindu temple in the UK, as well as the biggest in the world outside of India. Opened in 1995, it is known for its immense size, authentic design and visual splendour.

Pakistani

Pakistani Britons encompass the second-largest ethnic minority in the country, numbering at nearly 1.2 million. The population is more widely dispersed throughout the country than the British Indian population. The largest Pakistani population in the country is in London, which numbers at around 224,000 or around 20% of the total population. However, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and North West England are also significant hubs with comparable population sizes. London’s Pakistani population is scattered throughout the city, with the main concentration being in East London districts such as Redbridge (31,000), Newham (30,000) and Waltham Forest (26,000) with major hubs being present in West London districts such as Ealing (15,000), Brent (14,000) and Hounslow (14,000).

History

Pakistani immigration to London, as with the case of other South Asian countries, began in earnest during the heyday of the East India Company. Many Pakistani seamen were recruited by the company as lascars and sailors. This caused a large number of Pakistanis to be displaced and stranded in the United Kingdom, with little means of returning home. Many remained in the country and intermarried, having families.

Some early Pakistani settlers overcame prejudice and achieved considerable success. A notable example of this is the modern-day country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who beams a successful barrister before becoming the leader of the successful Pakistani independence movement. He is considered to be the country’s definitive political icon whose legacy remains palpable in the country today.

Muhammed Ali Jinnah ,Sir Majid Ali, Wikimedia Commons

Muhammed Ali Jinnah ,Sir Majid Ali, Wikimedia Commons

The Pakistani population of the United Kingdom gradually increased throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries, albeit at a steady rate. The early 20th Century saw many relocate to the industrial Midlands, where a number of new jobs opened up following the onset of the Second World War.

The post-war years saw a considerable immigration boom for Pakistan following the implementation of the British Nationality Act of 1948. This facilitated the mass movement of Commonwealth immigrants, a significant portion of which were Pakistanis. Pakistani independence was an additional factor in the drastic increase of Pakistani immigration to the United Kingdom. Pre-existing communities in London and the Midlands expanded significantly. With the post-war economy riddled with issues such as labour shortages, there was no shortage of opportunities.

The Midlands were a popular immigration destination due to the pre-existing Pakistani communities as well as the plethora of industrial employment opportunities available. London offered similar qualities. Many of the Punjabi Pakistani immigrants settled in enclaves such as Southall.

London’s Pakistani community is known for its diversity. In addition to Punjabi Pakistanis, immigrant communities have also formed from regions such as Kashmir and Pashtun. Unlike in other regions, the city has a high-number of educated, professional immigrants who arrived in the 1960’s. As a result, London’s Pakistani population encompasses a wide range of ethnicities, cultures and classes.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is British Pakistani, Centre for London, Flickr Creative Commons

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is British Pakistani, Centre for London, Flickr Creative Commons

Major enclaves exist in Southall, Ilford and Walthamstow. All of which boast overwhelmingly large Pakistani populations. However, there is not a traditional ‘Little Pakistan’ neighbourhood. The Pakistani cultural impact on the city is highly visible. Several major figures in the city’s history are of Pakistani descent. In modern times, London’s current mayor Sadiq Khan is of Pakistani descent, an insight into the prevalence of the community.

Top Five Restaurants

Pakistani cuisine is notably diverse and difficult to define, varying throughout the country. Pakistani restaurants in London reflect the regions of the owners’ origin. Particularly popular is Punjabi cuisine, which is known for its spicy and intense seasonings. Other varieties include Kashmiri, which is known for its meat-dominant dishes.

  1. Tayyabs

Address: 83089 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1JU

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

A Whitechapel institution, Tayyabs is immensely popular amongst locals and visitors. It is best known for its reasonable prices and high-quality, spicy Punjabi dishes.

  1. Lahore Kebab House

Address: 2-10 Umberston Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1PY

Opening Hours: 12pm-1am

Another Whitechapel staple. This is a large, no-frills restaurant offering some of the best kebabs and curries in the city.

  1. Jalebi Junction

Address: 93 The Broadway, Southall UB1 1LN

Opening Hours: 10am-10pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-11pm (Saturday-Sunday)

In the heart of Southall, Jalebi Junction is best known for its delicious deserts which come at an all-too-reasonable price.

  1. Original Lahore Restaurant

Address: 2-4 Gateforth Street, Marylebone, London NW8 8EH

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of London’s oldest Pakistani restaurants, this BYOB hotspot is known for its top-quality grilled meats while also offering an extensive vegetarian menu.

  1. Raavi Kebab

Address: 175 Drummond Street, Regent’s Park, London NW1 2HL

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-10.15pm

A low-key Drummond Street institution this is one of the best places for classic, no-frills Punjabi food.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. The Pakistan Society

Address: 8 Harriet Walk, London DW1X 9JH

Opening Hours:

The oldest organisation of its kind in the country, the Pakistan Society was established in 1951 as a means of educating British and Pakistani people of the latter country’s cultural history. The organisation has over 400 members and hosts a number of cultural events, often at the Pakistan High Commission.

  1. Fazl Mosque 
    The Fazl Mosque, Southfields, stevekeiretsu, Flickr Creative Commons

    The Fazl Mosque, Southfields, stevekeiretsu, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: 16 Gressenhall Road, Southfields, London SW18 5QL

Opening Hours: N/A

London’s oldest purpose-built mosque, it is often nicknamed ‘The London Mosque’. This is a culturally significant site for a number of different reasons. In addition to being the city’s oldest mosque, it is also the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a denomination of Punjabi origin. Additionally, it functions as the residence of its caliph.

  1. Baitul Futuh Mosque

Address: 181 London Road, Morden SM4 5PT

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the largest mosques on the continent, this is another hub of the Ahmadi Muslim community. The mosque is known for its distinct and striking design as well as its community activism.

  1. Lahore Literary Festival

Address: 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Opening Hours: N/A

A recent cultural event, the Lahore Literary Festival has been held at London’s British Library for the last three years and features a series of talks and debates from a large number of Pakistani writers and intellectuals. There are few better opportunities to get a sense of the country’s rich cultural history than this.

  1. The Mehfil

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A
An organisation focusing on contemporary Pakistani culture, the Mehfil organises a number of different events whilst also offering community activities, such as teaching Urdu lessons.

Banglatown

London’s Bangladeshi community is one of the largest diasporas in the city, numbering at around 222,000, over half of the country’s total. Heavily concentrated in London’s inner city, the Bangladeshi community’s hub is in East London, particularly in the troughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham.

History

Early Bangladeshi immigration to the United Kingdom follows a similar pattern to that of Indian and Pakistani immigration. In the 19th Century, many Bangladeshi subjects were recruited as lascars by the East India Company. Displaced and without the means of returning home, many Bangladeshis settled in the UK, predominantly in London due to the superior economic opportunities.

The first significant wave of Bangladeshi immigration to the UK began before the state itself even existed. Prior to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the state was known as East Pakistan. In the 1950’s, a significant wave of Bangladeshis from the country’s Sylhet region settled in the UK. The partition of British India had caused significant unrest within the region and prompted population displacement. Many Bengali settlers were drawn to the United Kingdom due to better employment opportunities, higher standards of living and an absence of conflict. The borough of Tower Hamlets, specifically the Brick Lane neighbourhood, quickly emerged as a hotspot for this burgeoning immigrant population.

The next wave of Bangladeshi immigration occurred following the country’s declaration of independence in 1971. This, in conjunction with a relaxation in immigration laws, saw a significant wave of Bangladeshis arrive in the country. Many new immigrants sought employment in factory settings. In London particularly, many Bangladeshi settlers took advantage with the upsurge in popularity of Indian cuisine. Bangladeshi cuisine, synonymous with Bengali cuisine, soon became immensely popular with a clutch of restaurants opening in major population hubs such as Brick Lane, earning considerable attention.

The formerly Jewish neighbourhood of Brick Lane soon assumed a distinctly Bengali character, with the vast majority of the property falling under Bengali ownership. Restaurants, businesses and mosques soon began to become ubiquitous and reflected the changing demographics of the area. So central to the region’s cultural identity was the Bangladeshi population that the neighbourhood became nicknamed ‘Bangaltown.’

Despite this growing prosperity of the Bangladeshi community, racial tensions soon began to emerge. Violent attacks occurred while racist organisations such as the National Front began to have public outbursts. There were several incidences of violence against Bangladeshi people during this time, culminating in the murder of Altab Ali in 1978. This caused a series of demonstrations and intensified tensions between the community and racist factions of the right-wing.

Since this flashpoint of tensions in the 1970’s, things have generally settled down although issues do persist in some areas. The Bangladeshi community has dispersed throughout the city but retains its focal core in Tower Hamlets and Brick Lane. Many Bengali restaurants and businesses still thrive in the area, although recent gentrification efforts have seen its identity diluted somewhat by the arrival of big businesses.

Regardless, the Bangladeshi community remains one of the most vibrant and impactful in London, particularly in the city’s East.

Top Five Restaurants

Bangladeshi cuisine has a significant overlap with Bengali cuisine, which accounts for the vast majority of Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK. Bengali food is characterised by its spicy and well-seasoned curries, seafood dishes and Halal preparation. London’s Brick Lane is home to some of the finest Bengali restaurants outside of the Bay of Bengal but there are high-quality spots throughout the city worth seeking out as well.

  1. Aladdin Brick Lane

Address: 132 Brick Lane, London E1 6RU

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

A Brick Lane institution, Aladdin specialises in the staples of Bengali cuisine such as curries and baltis. It is no-frills and BYOB.

  1. Kolapata

Address: 222 Whitechapel Road, Shadwell, London E1 1BJ

Opening Hours: 1pm-11.30pm (Monday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday), 2pm-11.30pm (Friday)

In the heart of Whitechapel, Kolapata specialises in lesser-known regional dishes from Bangladesh whilst also serving classic staples such as curries and baltis.

  1. Taj Stores

Address: 112 Brick Lane, London E1 6RL

Opening Hours: 9am-9pm

An enduring staple of ‘Bangaltown’, Taj Stores has been open since 1936 and sells a wide range of Eastern foods and ingredients.

  1. Shaad

Address: 13 Brick Lane, London E1 6PU

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

One of the finest Bangladeshi restaurants on Brick Lane best known for its top-quality curries and vegetarian options.

  1. The Bengal Indian Restaurant

Address: 62A Porchester Road, London W2 6ET

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday, Wednesday-Sunday), 12pm-2pm, 5pm-11pm (Tuesday)

A Bangladeshi outlier in West London, this is a top-tier curry restaurant specialising in the traditional classics of Bengali cuisine.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Brick Lane

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Even if it is a shadow of its former self, Brick Lane is an essential destination in London for those looking to get a sense of Bangladeshis’ cultural history within the capital. There are still a vast clutch of Bengali restaurants and businesses that are well-worth checking out.

  1. East London Mosque

Address: 82-92 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1JQ

Opening Hours: N/A

One of Europe’s largest mosques, the East London Mosque is a significant hub of the city’s Muslim population. Given its close proximity to major Bangladeshi population hubs in East London, the mosque is a hugely important cultural hotspot for the Bangladeshi population and a focal aspect of the community.

  1. Boishakhi Mela

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A major Bangladeshi celebration, Boishakhi Mela marks the commemoration of the Bangladeshi New Year. It is the country’s second-largest street festival after the Notting Hill Carnival, drawing crowds of over 80,000. A relatively recent phenomenon, it is the definitive cultural event for the Bengali community and a true sight to behold as Bangaltown falls into an ecstatic, celebratory thrall.

  1. Language Movement Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Another major celebration amongst the Bengali community, albeit for more sombre reasons, Language Movement Day is a commemoration of those who died and sacrificed themselves to protect the Bengali language.

  1. Museum of London Docklands

Address: No. 1 Warehouse, Hertsmere Road, Canary Wharf, London E14 4AL

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm

While this museum is not wholly dedicated to Bengali culture and history, these topics do form a significant role here. Furthermore, the museum hosts an annual Bengali cultural festival, coinciding with Boishakhi Mela.

Chinatown

London is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in the Western world. The city has a Chinese population of over 120,000, encompassing 1.5% of London’s total population. London is home to over a third of the Chinese British population. Given the large size and diversity of the Chinese community in London, it is spread throughout the city across a number of major hubs. Aside from the current Chinatown in Soho, Camden, Hackney, Islington, Barnet and Tower Hamlets are also major population centres.

History

Chinese immigration to London has occurred as far back as the late 18th Century. Ties between the United Kingdom and China were established due to the advent of trade, facilitated by the trading routes of the Silk Road. The first Chinese British citizen was a sailor named John Anthony, who achieved naturalisation in 1805. Despite the presence of Chinese sailors in the United Kingdom, immigration did not substantially increase until the end of the 19th Century.

By the end of the 19th Century, Chinese communities had begun to form around London’s East End in the Limehouse and Poplar neighbourhoods, within close proximity to the docklands. Tensions emerged as racially-motivated charges of gambling and opium dens were levelled against the gestating Chinese communities. London’s first ‘Chinatown’ remained intact for over half a century, albeit with a transient population. Many of the settlers were living in London temporarily and sought to return home.

Limehouse and Polar, throughout the first half of the 20th Century, were the focal points of the Chinese community in London. Many new businesses and restaurants opened, attracting many other transient foreign populations. They were met with hostile racist responses and sometimes violence. The city’s first recorded Chinese restaurant opened in 1907. The first ‘Chinatown’ peaked just prior to the Second World War as the Chinese population hit 5000. It retained its predominantly transient character, although there were far more permanent settlers than there were at the beginning of the century.

Following the Second World War, Chinatown and much of the surrounding East End were left completely devastated by the Blitz, prompting the bulk of the Chinese community to relocate to a more central location in Soho. This coincided with a considerable increase in Chinese emigration to the United Kingdom. By 1951, the population had more than doubled to over 12,500. The growing popularity of Chinese cuisine had seen more restaurants open as many former sailors instead opted to settle and open businesses.

The 1950’s saw a considerable population boom and by the end of the decade, the population had increased to nearly 40,000. Many of the new settlers hailed from the British colony of Hong Kong and the population grew increasingly diverse. The transition of the central Chinese hub from Limehouse to Soho was completed in the early 1960’s as many new organisations and festivities were established in the area. Soho became the heart of the Chinese New Year celebrations, while a clutch or restaurants and businesses popped up. By the 1970’s, a new ‘Chinatown’ had emerged.

The 1980’s saw another significant wave of Chinese emigration to London, prompted by two major factors. Firstly, the Chinese government relaxed long-standing emigration retrictions, which saw the diaspora increase significantly throughout the world, including London. More significantly to the case of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong was to be handed over to China, which prompted emigration to the United Kingdom. By this point, the population had assimilated far more deeply into British society. The 1990’s saw a major demographic shift in the Chinese immigration population. Whereas historically Chinese immigrants in the United Kingdom had been from poorer backgrounds, the major economic upsurge in China had seen wealthier immigrants begin relocating to London and sending their children to prestigious schools and universities in the United Kingdom. At the beginning of the 21st Century, it was estimated that there were over 80,000 Chinese students enrolled in British universities.

The Chinese community of London remains one of the most ubiquitous immigration populations in the city. While Soho’s Chinatown is arguably its cultural centre, the population is dispersed throughout the city. Ultimately, it would be reductive to characterise Chinatown as the heart of the Chinese community due to its sheer vastness.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. The Gold Mine

Address: 102 Queensway, London W2 3RR

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

Queensway is well-known for its wealth of Chinese restaurants. This is one of the best, a no-frills, BYOB Cantonese stalwart specialising in classic staples such as Peking duck.

  1. Silk Road

Address: 49 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, London SE5 8TR

Opening Hours: N/A

A Camberwell institution specialising in the lesser-known, Middle-Eastern Xinjiang cuisine. Fiery dishes at ridiculously reasonable prices.

  1. Baozi Inn

Address: 25 Newport Court, London WC2H 7JS

Opening Hours: 12pm-10.30pm

Chinatown’s restaurants are a mixed bag, but this is a clear standout. Known for its cheap prices and specialisation in Northern Chinese dishes, this is one of the city’s best.

  1. Royal China

Address: 13 Queensway, London W2 4QJ

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm, (Monday-Saturday), 11am-10pm (Sunday)

For those seeking out a more high-end dining experience, Royal China is the place to go. A Dim Sum specialist amid an opulent setting.

  1. Xi’an Impression

Address: 117 Benwell Road, London N7 7BW

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm

A North London neighbourhood staple specialising in Northern Chinese dishes at reasonable prices.

Five Things to Do
  1. Chinese New Year

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Given the massive size of London’s Chinese community, the city is one of the best places in the Western world to glimpse Chinese New Year celebrations. Central London is home to a major Chinese New Year parade, equipped with floats and performances. However, there are several other major performances and festivities around the city also worth checking out.

  1. Dragon Boat Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the oldest Chinese festivals in existence, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat festival is celebrated with considerable vigour along the river Thames. In addition to the exciting races, the festival also hosts food stalls, musical and costume performances and various ceremonies. One of the most exciting Chinese cultural festivals to see in London.

  1. Ming-Ai Institute

Address: 1 Cline Road, London N11 2LX

Opening Hours: 9am-5pm (Monday-Friday)

One of the most significant Chinese cultural institutions in London, the Mang-Ai Institiute was established in 1993 with the intention of preserving links between the two countries and cultures. The institute offers a variety of courses, including cookery, calligraphy and language. For those who seek to immerse themselves in Chinese culture and history, this is the pre-eminent place in the country to do so. The institute also hosts a number of talks and events about Chinese culture and history.

  1. Shaolin Temple UK

Address: 207A Junction Road, N19 5QA

Opening Hours: 4pm-9.30pm (Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday), 4pm-8.30pm (Wednesday), 10am-5pm (Saturday)

One of the most popular Chinese exports in the UK has been martial arts and the surrounding culture. This is the best place in the city if not the country to practice Chinese martial arts such as Kung Fu and Gong Fu, amongst other forms. The temple also offers Buddhist meditation classes.

  1. Karaoke in Chinatown

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Chinatown is often a hit-or-miss area for food, but it is home to a number of great karaoke bars. Royal Dragon and Plum Valley are two of the major standouts, both located on Gerrard Street. After a lovely Chinese meal, a night of karaoke with friends is one of the more memorable nights out one can have in London.

Caribbean/Jamaica

Britain’s Afro-Caribbean population refers to immigrants from the former colonial territories of Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, the Bahamas and Barbados, amongst numerous other smaller islands. Jamaicans comprise the most significant Afro-Caribbean population in London, with 250,000 people in the city being of Jamaican origin. Major Afro-Caribbean enclaves exist in Notting Hill, Brixton and Lewisham, but the population is widely dispersed throughout the city.

History

Jamaica has a long relationship with the United Kingdom, stretching back nearly 400 years. Annexed from the Spanish in 1655, Jamaica remained a British colony for over 300 years until its independence in 1962. Despite this long period under British rule, Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom only began in earnest at the beginning of the 20th Century. While there was evidence of a transient Jamaican population prior to this, the first Jamaicans to permanently settle in the country did so in the aftermath of the First World War, many of whom being war veterans.

Many Jamaicans and other Afro-Caribbean peoples served in the British West Indies Regiment, fighting in campaigns in the Middle East and East Africa. The majority of this wing of the military were Jamaican and many subsequently settled in the United Kingdom, particularly in London. Following the First World War, communities and enclaves began to form but growth was generally low. It was not until the 1940’s when Jamaican immigration reached its high point.

This was a major turning point in the history of the Afro-Caribbean community in the United Kingdom. The Second World War had left a major labour vacuum, which opened up a number of employment opportunities for immigrants, particularly those from the colonies. Jamaicans and other Afro-Caribbean immigrants were particularly drawn to the United Kingdom during this period. This group became known as the ‘Windrush Generation’, named for the HMS Windrush, the vessel which transported a large number of Jamaican immigrants in 1948.

The 1950’s and 1960’s saw an explosion in the Jamaican population of the UK, with 191,000 Jamaicans relocating to the United Kingdom, motivated primarily by economic opportunities. The pre-existing communities within major cities such as London expanded significantly and became focal points of the city’s cultural identity. Jamaican immigration continued throughout the rest of the century, but at a slower rate than the peak of the mid-20th Century.

The Jamaican community of London has been met with considerable difficulties during its lifetime and has found itself at the heart of racial tensions, which have reached a number of flashpoint over the course of the latter half of the 20th Century. Most famous were the Notting Hill Race Riots of 1958, which occurred at the high-point of Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom. This saw an escalation in tensions between white working-class gangs and local black families in West London’s Notting Hill neighbourhood. Black families were attacked in a wave of violence that lasted over a week. The Metropolitan Police were criticised for their poor treatment of the incident. Further incidents included the 1985 Brixton Riot, which was sparked in response to a case of police brutality against a Jamaican-British woman.

More recently, the ‘Windrush Scandal’ has illustrated the underlying hostility directed towards the Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean communities of the country. 63 individuals were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants despite having resided in the country since as early as the mid-20th Century. The scandal caused considerable outrage throughout the country and underlined the point that racial tensions are sadly still present within the country.

Despite these setbacks, the Jamaican community of London has cemented itself as a major cultural force within the city. The Notting Hill Carnival (discussed further below) illustrates the immense impact of Jamaican culture and music upon the city and the unifying force that it represents. Furthermore, the city has been a vital hotbed for Jamaican artists and musicians, while their influence resonates clearly amongst black Britons.

The Jamaican community is one of London’s most essential cultural minorities, having played an absolutely integral role to the city’s identity over the past 50 years.

Top Five Restaurants

Jamaican cuisine is a unique melting pot of different cultures, exhibiting a combination of indigenous, British, African, Indian and Spanish influences. Seafood is a particularly focal point of the country’s cooking style, as are ingredients such as plantains and ‘rice and peas’. Jerk cooking is integral to the country’s culinary identity, a unique, spice-heavy means of seasoning. Jamaican cuisine, given the major population in London, is hugely popular in the city, which is one of the best places outside of Jamaica to try it.

  1. Smoky Jerky 2 Ltd.

Address: 158 New Cross Road, London SE14 5BA

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-9pm (Sunday)

An unassuming, small restaurant in Southeast London’s New Cross neighbourhood, this is one of the finest Jamaican joints in the city, known for its cheap prices and top-notch jerk cooking.

  1. Negril

Address: 132 Brixton Hill, London SW2 1RS

Opening Hours: 5pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday), 12pm-10.30pm (Saturday-Sunday)

In the heart of the historically Jamaican Brixton neighbourhood, this is one of the finest Jamaican restaurants in the city. Specialising in classic, traditional dishes in a no-frills atmosphere.

  1. Cafe Caribbean

Address: Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA

Opening Hours: 10am-7.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-5pm (Saturday), 11am-4pm (Sunday)

One of the best Jamaican take-out joints in the city, Cafe Caribbean also offers a catering service.

  1. Fish, Wings & Tings

Address: Brixton Village and Market Row Markets, London SW9 8JL

Opening Hours: 4pm-10pm (Tuesday), 10am-11pm (Wednesday-Saturday), 10am-7pm (Sunday)

Another Brixton staple, this is a small yet top-notch Jamaican restaurant with a high reputation known for its classic dishes.

  1. Rudie’s

Address: 50 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XB

Opening Hours: 6pm-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-11pm (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-9pm (Sunday)

One of the more recent additions to London’s catalogue of Jamaican restaurants, Rudie’s is known for its quality ‘Jerk’ cooking and cocktail list.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Notting Hill Carnival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Without a doubt the definitive cultural event of London’s Afro-Caribbean community, the Notting Hill Carnival is by some distance London’s largest street festival. Drawing crowds of over one million spectators per year, the carnival is a major cornerstone of Black British culture and one of the most festive times of the year in the city.

  1. Caribbean Food Week Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A more recent cultural festival that turns a spotlight on the Caribbean community’s culinary identity, this is a small yet insightful gathering of the nation’s finest Caribbean-influenced chefs that also features live music.

  1. African & Caribbean War Memorial

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A recently erected monument in tribute to African and Caribbean servicemen during the First and Second World Wars, whose actions were shockingly never commemorated. In the heart of Brixton Village, this memorial pays tribute to the importance of the country’s African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to its history.

  1. Brixton Market

Address: 16B Electric Avenue, Brixton, London SW9 8JX

Opening Hours: 8am-11.30pm

While it is a shadow of its former glory amid ongoing gentrification efforts, Brixton Market is nonetheless a major hub of the city’s Jamaican population and still has a number of stalls specialising in Afro-Caribbean cooking and goods.

  1. Troy Bar

Address: 10 Hoxton Street, London N1 6NG

Opening Hours: 12pm-5pm (Monday), 12pm-5pm, 8.30pm-12.30am (Tuesday), 12pm-5pm, 8pm-1am (Wednesday-Thursday), 12pm-5pm, 8pm-3am (Friday), 8pm-3am (Saturday)

London is full of bars and music venues with a clear Afro-Caribbean influence. Perhaps none are more loved than Hoxton’s Troy Bar, a vibrant venue known for it’s open mic nights, happy hour and top-notch jerk cooking. A neighbourhood institution for many years, it remains one of the most important Afro-Caribbean cultural centres in the city.

Little Lagos

The United Kingdom has a large West African population, which comes from a number of different countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. The largest of these populations, by some distance, is Nigeria. There are over 200,000 Nigerian Britons in the UK, over half of which are based in London. The main hub in the city is the Southeast neighbourhood of Peckham, which boasts a wealth of Nigerian restaurants, businesses and places of worship.

History

Nigerian immigration to London can be traced back to the advent of the Transatlantic Slave trade. Nigeria was one of the major hotbeds of slavery during the 18th and early 19th Centuries, which caused significant population displacement. Prior to Britain’s banning of the slave trade in 1807, a number of Nigerians had ended up in the country as slaves, causing communities to slowly form.

Despite this, the slave trade continued unabated for several decades, causing the British Empire to intervene under suspicious motivations. The city of Lagos was annexed in 1861 and the colony of Nigeria was established in 1914, staying under British control until 1960. During this time, there was considerable population movement from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, and the pre-existing communities formed during the height of the slave trade expanded significantly.

It was during the latter half of the 20th Century when the Nigerian population in London and the UK significantly exploded. The 1960’s saw the country plagued by considerable political discord. Its declaration of independence in 1960 had led to a difficult transitionary period as many different parties vied for power, leading to corruption and inequality, ultimately culminating in a brutal civil war. This caused significant population displacement in addition to the millions of casualties caused by the conflict and its impact.

Many refugees settled in London due to the pre-existing communities and the historical links between the two countries. Immigration plateaued throughout the 1970’s as the country reaped the economic benefits of a major oil boom following its joining of OPEC. This economic prosperity was short-lived and the 1980’s saw an explosion in Nigerian emigration to the UK as military juntas solidified their grip on power and introduced a number of repressive measures. A wealth of new immigrants arrived in the UK seeking asylum and the Nigerian community in London and the rest of the country continued to grow.

The Nigerian community of London is dispersed throughout the city but its core hub remains in South London, particularly Peckham, which is sometimes nicknamed ‘Little Lagos’. One of the most ethnically can culturally diverse parts of the city, over 50% of its population is black and the majority being of Nigerian extraction.

‘Little Lagos’ is home to a high concentration of Nigerian restaurants and businesses, the community’s cultural impact on the neighbourhood being immediately clear to visitors. Despite recent gentrification efforts, the neighbourhood retains its distinctly Nigerian character.

Top Five Restaurants

Nigerian cuisine is incredibly rich and multi-faceted given the immense cultural diversity within the country itself. It is defined by its heavy use of spices, herbs and palm oil. It has strong flavours and is known for its striking colours. Yams and potatoes are major ingredients and the cuisine is also very meat-heavy. One of the national dishes is suya, a grilled meat heavily spiced. Given the large Nigerian community, Peckham is one of the best places outside of Nigeria to sample authentic cooking,

  1. Obalende Suya Express

Address: 43 Peckham High Street, Peckham, London SE15 5EB

Opening Hours: 12pm-1am

A stalwart of ‘Little Lagos’ since its establishment in 1991, Obalende Suya Express. Named for the Lagos neighbourhood of the same name, the restaurant, as its name implies, specialises in ‘suya’. Massively popular with locals and visitors alike, it opened a second location in the Dalston neighbourhood in East London recently.

  1. Cafe Spice

Address: 88 Rye Lane, Peckham, London SE15 4RZ

Opening Hours: 9am-9pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 9am-10pm (Friday-Saturday)

Another local institution, this is a no-frills take-away spot that specialises in a range of different Nigerian dishes including Suya and seafood at very reasonable prices.

  1. 805 Bar and Restaurant

Address: 805 Old Kent Road, London, SE15 1NX

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-12am (Sunday)

A more recent addition to Peckham’s canon of top-notch Nigerian restaurants, 805 Bar and Restaurant has a less-specialised oeuvre, offering a wealth of different West African dishes amid a contemporary backdrop.

  1. Enish

Address: 228 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6JU

Opening Hours: 1pm-12am

In the nearby suburb of Lewisham, Enish has emerged as one of the finest Nigerian restaurants in the city. Known for its contemporary decor and top-notch cooking, a second location opened recently in the Finchley Road neighbourhood.

  1. Ikoyi

Address: 1 St. James’s Market, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4AH

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-12am (Monday-Saturday)

The most recently opened restaurant on the list and certainly the most unique (and expensive). Ikoyi is a fine-dining establishment known for its Nigerian and West African-influenced dishes.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Peckham Library

Address: 122 Peckham Hill Street, Peckham, London SE15 5JR

Opening Hours: 9am-8pm (Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday), 10am-8pm (Wednesday), 10am-5pm (Saturday), 12pm-4pm (Sunday)

One of London’s most striking and celebrated public libraries, the Peckham Library won the Stirling Prize for architecture upon its opening in 2000. An innovative design and a vital hub for the community, the Peckham Library is one of the area’s major attractions.

  1. CLF Art Cafe

Address: 133 Rye Lane, London SE15 4ST

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Tueday-Wednesday), 5pm-2.30am (Thursday), 5pm-5am (Friday), 12pm-5am (Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of South London’s most important cultural institutions, the CLF Art Cafe is a warehouse space that functions as a theatre, nightclub and art gallery. The CLF Art Cafe is an important fixture in Peckham, promoting local artists while also offering a platform for more well-known cultural figures.

  1. African & Caribbean War Memorial

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A recently erected monument in tribute to African and Caribbean servicemen during the First and Second World Wars, whose actions were shockingly never commemorated. In the heart of Brixton Village, this memorial pays tribute to the importance of the country’s African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to its history.

  1. Ife’s Closet

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the best retailers in the city for West African clothing, this is a business owned and operated by two British-Nigerian sisters. The store offers a hugely colourful range of clothing, each individual piece a carefully considered tribute to Nigerian culture and fashion.

  1. Yinka Ilori

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A British-Nigerian furniture designer whose works reflect his heritage. His work is a great example of the cultural exchange between the two countries. His works are available to buy through appointments at his London studio.

Turkish

One of London’s largest and longest-lasting immigrant communities, the Turkish population of the city numbers at nearly 350,000. With ties to the city stretching back nearly 400 years, the Turkish population is one of the most notable and focal to London’s culture. The Turkish population of the UK is overwhelmingly based in London, with over 90% calling the city home. North London is the main population hub, with Wood Green, Haringey, Stoke Newington, Islington and Palmer’s Green being the major centres although South London is also home to a number of enclaves.

History

Turkish immigration to London can be traced back to as early as the 17th Century. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, an alliance was forged with the Ottoman Empire in order to overcome the increasingly dominant Spanish Empire. Many of the first Turks to settle in London were in fact freed slaves from defeated Spanish vessels, as a gesture of goodwill to the Ottomans by the British.

Ties between the two countries continued to develop over the course of the 17th Century and more Turkish immigrants began to settle in London, working in specialised areas such as tailoring. The advent of Turkish coffee and its subsequent popularity in the United Kingdom also caused a spike in Turkish emigration to London. The population steadily increased over the next few centuries.

The late 19th Century saw another major Turkish population boom in the city, this time specifically from Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus was annexed by the United Kingdom in 1878, which caused significant mass movement. This spiked again in the mid-20th Century following a period of civil and political unrest on the island nation. With tensions flaring between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, many of the latter fled for the United Kingdom due to its diplomatic links.

Conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots continued well into the 1970’s and spiraled dangerously out of control as nationalist Greek forces attempted to seize control. As a result, even more Turkish Cypriots fled the country as political refugees. As a result, a significant portion of London’s Turkish community is comprised of Turkish Cypriots.

Following this period of political instability, mainland Turkish emigration to the United Kingdom began in the late 20th Century. This included a diverse range of peoples, both working class and upper class, both rural and urban. Given the huge cultural diversity of the country, the London diasporas have assimilated with one another very well, with no tensions emerging between them.

In modern times, the Turkish diaspora in London is scattered throughout the city with a major hub being in North London, particularly in the borough of Haringey. The high street Haringey Green Lanes is known for its enormous wealth of Turkish restaurants and businesses, offering some of the finest Turkish cuisine in the country. Dalston is another major Turkish hub, with its own collection of top-notch restaurants. The Turkish community has assimilated well into the city’s cultural fabric and remains one of the most vibrant and rich immigrant communities in London.

Top Five Restaurants

Turkish cuisine is a successor to Ottoman cuisine and given the immense size of the former empire, is highly eclectic. It combines elements of Middle Eastern, Balkan, Eastern European and Central Asian styles whilst being its own distinct entity. Notable dishes include various forms of Kofte, a meatball-esque dish, Lahmacun, or as it’s colloquially known, a ‘Turkish Pizza’ and Pilaf, a seasoned rice. London is one of the finest places in the world outside of Turkey to sample the country’s cuisine in all its forms.

  1. Gokyuzu

Address: 26-27 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1AG

Opening Hours: 8am-1am

Probably the most well-known fixture in Harringay’s Turkish hub, Gokyuzu is known for its massive portions, family-friendly atmosphere and meat-heavy dishes.

  1. Cyprus House

Address: 630 Green Lanes, Harringay, London N8 0SD

Opening Hours: 9am-6pm (Monday-Thursday), 9am-11.45pm (Friday-Saturday)

One of the lesser-known restaurants in Green Lanes, Cyprus House is the best Cypriot specialty spot in the city, known for its broad menu and reasonable prices.

  1. Antepilier

Address: 45-46 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, Harringay, London N4 1AG

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

A major Turkish staple with another of specialities including meat grills, mezzo and Turkish pizza against a no-frills backdrop.

  1. Mangal 2 Restaurant

Address: 4 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8BH

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday, Wednesday, Sunday), 12pm-12am (Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday-Saturday)

The best of many Turkish restaurants in Dalston, this restaurant also lays claim to serving London’s best kebab, a lofty achievement indeed.

  1. Black Axe Mangal

Address: 156 Canonbury Road, London N1 2UP

Opening Hours: 6pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Saturday), 11am-3pm (Sunday)

For those seeking something different, this is the place to visit. Boasting a pedigree of modern British chefs, Black Ace Mangal is an experimental restaurant drawing influence from Turkish staples such as flatbreads and kebabs.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Pasha Spa & Turkish Moroccan Hammam Bath

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm (Monday-Friday), 9am-8pm (Saturday-Sunday)

London has plenty of great Turkish baths, but these Camberwell-based ones are a notch above the rest. Known for its affordability and its high quality, it is a quintessentially Turkish experience.

  1. Turkish Film Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural fixture celebrating Turkey’s rich cinematic heritage.

  1. Anatolian Cultural Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A striking cultural festival celebrating the rich heritage of the country’s Anatolian region. Points of interest include Turkish cuisine, an Ottoman Marching Band, theatrical performances and puppet shows.

  1. Republic Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Regularly drawing audiences as large as 50,000 people, the Turkish Day festivities are a major cultural event amongst the community, offering live musical and theatrical performances and featuring special guest speakers.

  1. Suleymaniye Mosque

Address: 212-216 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AX

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most notable mosques in the city, the Suleymaniye Mosque is known for its distinct Ottoman-inspired architecture and importance to the city’s Turkish community.

Moroccan

Morocco has one of the world’s largest diaspora communities, with 5.6 million living abroad. The United Kingdom is home to 70,000 people of Moroccan extraction. The Moroccan community is heavily centred in London and consists of one of the largest Arab populations in the country. Over 50% of the country’s Moroccan diaspora is based in London, where the community is dispersed throughout areas such as North Kensington, Hammersmith and Hackney.

Greek

The United Kingdom is home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Greece. It is home to over 400,000 ethnic Greeks, over 10% of which are first generation immigrants. The Greek community, as if often the case with most immigrant populations, is overwhelmingly centred in London. It is believed that up to 75% of the country’s Greek population resides in London, although it is difficult to specifically clarify these numbers. The population has a number of hubs throughout the city, including Bayswater and Chelsea in West London as well as Palmer’s Green, Wood Green and Edmonton in North London.

History

Greek emigration to the UK has lasted for several centuries, with early, albeit isolated and indirect contact occurring as early as the Roman invasion of the United Kingdom. Other instances of early Greek emigration to the United Kingdom occurred in the 17th Century. A number of Greek soldiers enlisted during the English Civil War, with many taking up long-term residence. Trade between the United Kingdom and Greece opened up during this period, which was an additional factor in Greeks settling in the UK. Small communities began to prop up throughout London and the foundations for a major diaspora began to form.

A second major population boom occurred in the 19th Century, prompted by major external factors. The Greek War of Independence saw a major wave of Greeks depart the country for opportunities overseas, many of which settled in the United Kingdom. Bayswater emerged as a major population hub for the nascent Greek community, with the Orthodox Church the Cathedral of Aghia Sophia opening in 1877.

The Greek community expanded significantly during the late 19th and 20th Centuries. Britain’s annexation of Cyprus in 1878 caused a significant number of Greek Cypriots to flee for the United Kingdom. The 1930’s marked the beginning of a major wave of Greek emigration to London and communities increased in size and sophistication as many institutions were set up such as Greek-language schools and more Orthodox churches.

The Greek population of London increased significantly throughout the 20th Century. As both countries joined the European Union, Greek emigration to the United Kingdom increased significantly due to the economic opportunities the latter country presented. More recently, a major spike in immigration occurred as recently as the last decade, with over 20,000 new Greeks settling, in part due to the ongoing economic distress in Greece.

The Greek population remains one of the lesser known immigrant communities despite its size. This being said, its contribution to the city’s cultural identity is clear throughout London.

Top Five Restaurants

Greek cuisine bears a number of similarities to other forms of Mediterranean cooking styles and places emphasis on simplicity and freshness of ingredients. A successor to forms of Ottoman cuisine, major ingredients include filo pastry, yoghurt, feta cheese and honey. Notable dishes include Spanakopita, a spinach and feta filo pastry, Tzatziki, a garlic and yoghurt dip and Souvlaki, a grilled meat dish accompanied with pitta bread or fried potatoes and various sauces. London is one of the best cities outside of Greece to sample the country’s cuisine due to the large diaspora presence.

  1. Lemonia

Address: 89 Regent’s Park Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8UY

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-3.30pm (Sunday)

One of London’s finest Greek restaurants, St. Johns’s Wood’s Lemonia handles the classic staples with panache against a beautiful Mediterranean-inspired scenic backdrop.

  1. The Life Goddess

Address: 29 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS

Opening Hours: 9.30am-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-10pm (Sunday)

A more recent Greek restaurant and deli known for its classic dishes in a contemporary, rustic space.

  1. Santorini

Address: 10 Moscow Raod, London W2 4BT

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-12am

In the heart of Bayswater’s Greek community is this traditional Greek restaurant, which offers a combination of the standard staples and more experimental dishes.

  1. Mazi

Address: 12-14 Hillgate Street, Kensington, London W8 7SR

Opening Hours: 6.30pm-10.30pm (Monday), 12pm-3pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

Another recent addition to London’s canon of Greek restaurants, Mazi offers an alternative experience, specialising in experimental takes on Greek classics against a luxurious yet rustic backdrop.

  1. Babinodas

Address: 598 Green Lanes, London N13 5RY

Opening Hours: 6pm-12am (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-10pm (Sunday)

One of the best Greek restaurants in Haringey, the Greek Cypriot hub of North Lonodn, Babinodas specialises in meze and grilled meats in an informal atmosphere.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Saint Sophia’s Cathedral

Address: Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 4LQ

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in London, this is the religious and cultural hub of Bayswater’s large Greek community. In traditional Orthodox fashion, Saint Sophia is a lavish and beautiful Byzantine Revivalist building with a recently opened museum in its basement focusing on British Greek culture and artefacts.

  1. Hellenic Centre

Address: 16-18 Paddington Street, Marylebone, London W1U 5AS

Opening Hours: N/A

The city’s definitive Greek cultural institution, which offers a wide range of programming encompassing musical and theatrical performances, art exhibitions, language courses and events.

  1. Athenian Grocery

Address: 16A Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 4BT

Opening Hours: 9am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-1pm (Sunday)

One of Bayswater’s many Greek restaurants and businesses, the Athenian Grocery is arguably the best place in the city to get your hands on Greek produce and products.

  1. Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies

Address: Senate House, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E &HU

Opening Hours: 9.30am-6pm (Monday-Friday)

Britain has a long-time academic interest in the Classical World, particularly Ancient Greece. Classics is a major subject at British universities and popular amongst younger school students. This institution was established in 1879 and has remained a major organisation in the promotion of study into Greek culture and history, living up to its name and missions statement.

  1. Floga Bouzoukia

Address: 47 Green Lanes, London, N13 4TD

Opening Hours: N/A

This Harringay mainstay is a restaurant and bar that puts on Greek musical performances. One of the best and lesser-known bastions of Greek culture in the city.

Polish

Poles constitute one of the largest European immigrant communities in the United Kingdom, constituting over 1 million of the country’s population. While Polish presence in the UK can be traced back to as early as the 16th Century, major immigration did not become commonplace until well into the 20th Century, during which time they became the most significant foreign-born nationality in the country. In London, Poles are dispersed throughout the city, with significant bases in the outer boroughs such as Ealing, Hounslow and Brent.

History

As mentioned above, Polish emigration to the United Kingdom began in some form in as early as the 16th Century when trading relations were established between the two countries. There is plentiful evidence of Polish merchants and diplomats visiting the United Kingdom. A number of upper-class Poles often visited and sometimes settled in the United Kingdom, but significant immigration did not begin for many years.

Political instability in Poland during the 19th Century saw the beginning of larger Polish population movement to the United Kingdom. The Uprising of November 1830 against the Russian Empire resulted in a number of insurgents being forced to flee their home, seeking refuge in the UK. The two countries had established a strong relationship fostered by centuries of trade and diplomatic relations. Tensions between Poland and the Russian Empire continued to simmer, with the January 1863 Uprising caused an additional wave of population displacement, with many Poles again turning towards the UK.

The political discord in Poland continued into the 20th Century and subsequently resulted in higher rates of emigration, with London emerging as a major centre due to the countries’ good relations and the pre-existing Polish communities there. The Russian Empire’s collapse in 1918 created an atmosphere of conflict and chaos but facilitated Poland’s return to independence. This proved to be short-lived as Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1939. The Second World War and the Holocaust devastated Poland, depleting the country’s population significantly and causing major displacement.

The aftermath of the Second World War saw the Polish population of the UK skyrocket. In 1931, the Polish population was recorded at over 44,000. 20 years later in 1951, the number increased significantly to 162,000, nearly quadrupling in size. Mainly settling in pre-existing Polish communities in areas such as Earls Court. The population gradually dispersed throughout the city, particularly in more suburban neighbourhoods such as Hammersmith, Hounslow and Ealing, the latter of which becoming a particularly notable hub.

The Polish community quickly became well-assimilated into London’s cultural fabric, with several restaurants and businesses popping up throughout the city. London soon became the main destination for Polish emigres, breaking the country’s historic association with Paris. The Polish population gradually increased throughout the latter half of the 20th Century up until the fall of Communism in 1989, which functioned as another major turning point in the history of Polish emigration to the United Kingdom.

As immigration restrictions were relaxed, there was a massive surge in Polish economic immigration, with many choosing London as their destination due to the opportunities as well as due to the large Polish community. Immigration increased again at the beginning of the 21st Century as Poland became a member of the European Union, which made immigration to other countries far easier. Since 2003, Polish employment in the United Kingdom has increased from 25,000 to over 400,000, indicative of the massive upsurge in immigration.

The Polish community has often found themselves the victims of persecution and racially-motivated violence in the UK, often shockingly scapegoated by nationalists for economic problems. Despite this, in more general terms, the population is one of the most well-assimilated into the country’s cultural identity.

Top Five Restaurants

Despite being relatively little-known throughout most countries, Polish cuisine is amongst the most rich and multi-faceted in Europe. Known for its heavy emphasis on meat, particularly pork, as well as vegetables such as cabbage. It also uses different kinds of noodles and soups such as borscht. It is very much a melting pot of Central European and Eastern European influences whilst very much being its own individual style.

  1. Baltic Restaurant

Address: 74 Blackfriars Road, South Bank, London SE1 8HA

Opening Hours: 5.30pm-11.15pm (Monday), 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-11.15pm (Tuesday-Saturday), 12pm-4.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

Polish cuisine features heavily into this Blackfriars institution, which offers a diverse range of top-notch dishes from throughout the Baltic region.

  1. Bar U Matulki

Address: 230 Streatham High Road, London SW16 1BB

Opening Hours: 11am-8pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-8pm (Sunday)

A neighbourhood restaurant with reasonable prices specialising in classic Polish dishes.

  1. The Polish Tavern Restaurant

Address: 62 Baring Road, London SE12 0PS

Opening Hours:  5pm-10pm (Tuesday-Thursday), 5pm-11pm (Friday), 12pm-11pm (Saturday), 12pm-9pm (Sunday)

A highly-popular and low-key Polish neighbourhood takeaway restaurant.

  1. Ognisko Restaurant

Address: 55 Exhibition Road, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2PN

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm

For those seeking a more upscale experience, this high-end Knightsbridge Polish fine dining restaurant is the place to go.

  1. Daquise Restaruant

Address: 20 Thurloe Street, Kensington, London SW7 2LT

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

A long-standing South Kensington staple, this is a unique and top-notch addition to the Polish restaurant canon.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. The Polish Institute & Sikorski Museum

Address: 20 Princes Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PT

Opening Hours: 2pm-4pm (Tuesday-Friday)

Arguably the most important Polish cultural institution in London, this venerable establishment was created in the aftermath of the Second World War and is in charge of a number of important cultural programs amongst the city’s Polish community. It is also home to a museum, which features a wealth of historical artefacts relating to Poland’s culture and history.

  1. Balham White Eagle Club

Address: 211 Balham High Road, Balham, London SW17 7BQ

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm (Monday-Friday), 12pm-9pm (Saturday), 11.30am-8pm (Sunday)

A major hub of Balham’s significant Polish community, the White Eagle Club serves top-notch Polish cuisine and hosts disco nights, often showcasing Polish music and artists. It is also available for hire.

  1. Polish War Memorial

Address: Western Avenue, Ruislip HA4 6QX

Opening Hours: N/A

Located in West London’s outer suburb of South Ruislip, the Polish War Memorial is a fitting and sombre tribute to the Polish airmen who died in service of the RAF during the Second World War.  Located amid a beautiful garden, it is a sobering experience and an important reminder of Britain and Poland’s close ties.

  1. Clement Danes

Address: Central Church of the Royal Air Force, Strand, London WC2R 1DH

Opening Hours: N/A

An Anglican church located along the Strand, St. Clement Danes has stood in its place since 1682, long before Polish emigration to the UK became common. It does have a long-standing association with the Polish community, featuring a Polish memorial within its interior.

  1. Days of Poland Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London’s most significant Polish festival, the Days of Poland Festival takes place every May in Potters Day Park, featuring Polish musical and theatrical performances as well as a large food market. It is a family-friendly event with a wide range of entertainment.

Italian

British Italians are one of the lesser-discussed immigrant communities in the country despite numbering as high as 600,000. The two countries have an extensive shared history stretching back to the height of the Roman Empire. In more modern times, British Italians have settled throughout the city and are one of the more understated if ubiquitous immigrant communities in the country, particularly in the capital city of London.

History

As mentioned above, a precursor to Italian emigration to London occurred with the Roman conquest of Britain. A number of ethnic Italians settled in Britain following this as the island underwent considerable modernisation and transformation. Over the next several centuries, there was continuous contact with Italy due to the presence of the Catholic Church in Britain. Trade between the two nations was also maintained. However, the rate of Italian settlers did not increase in any significant way.

With the onset of the Renaissance, many members of the Italian intelligentsia settled in the United Kingdom as well as members of the upper class. These numbers were relatively minimal in the grand scheme of things but nonetheless notable, indicative of London’s future as a hotbed of intellectual and economic innovation. The early 19th Century saw a major turning point in Italian emigration to the United Kingdom as Italy was devastated by the Napoleonic Wars. Over 4000 Italians fled the economic distress left at home and arrived in the UK, the majority of which settling in London due to the plethora of work opportunities there.

Over the course of the 19th Century, the Italian community of Britain grew and expanded throughout the country, with hubs emerging in as far as Scotland. The heart of the community remained in London, specifically in the neighbourhood of Clerkenwell, which was nicknamed ‘Little Italy’ as a result. The community became increasingly ingratiated into the local population whilst offering a significant cultural contribution, setting up a wealth of Italian restaurants and businesses.

Anti-Italian sentiment emerged during the flashpoint of the Second World War as the actions of Benito Mussolini affected Britons. A series of riots occurred in 1940, with much violence directed at the Italian community. Thousands of Italians, who were presumed to be associated with various fascist organisations, were arrested and detained in camps. Despite these racial tensions, the end of the war saw an easing of relations as Italians again became an important fixture of Britain’s multicultural identity.

Since the end of the Second World War, there has been a steady increase in Britain’s Italian population without a significant boom. The establishment of the European Union clearly facilitated easier migration between the two countries. The rates of immigration however have generally remained stagnant, and the pre-existing communities have simply grown. Despite its extensive history, the British Italian story is a relatively under-explored one, yet their influence on the country is abundantly clear.

Top Five Restaurants

Italian cuisine is one of the most popular and ubiquitous cooking styles throughout the world. Known for its simplicity and emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients, Italian food is rightly celebrated throughout the world. London, is one of the more unassuming hubs of Italian cuisine outside of Italy, its accomplishments going relatively unheralded. Despite this, the city is one of the finest sources of Italian food in the world.

  1. Ciao Bella

Address: 86-90 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3LZ

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

One of London’s best hidden gem restaurants. Ciao Bella is an authentic, no-nonsense traditional Italian restaurant known for as much for its reasonable prices and classic hospitality as well as its great food.

  1. Trullo

Address: 300-302 St. Paul’s Road, Highbury East, London N1 2LH

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-2.45pm, 6pm-10.15pm (Monday-Saturday), 12.30pm-2.45pm (Sunday)

One of London’s finest Italian restaurants, this is well-known for its fresh pasta and meat dishes. Set against a contemporary backdrop, Trullo is Italian fine-dining at its very best and offers a top bargain set menu at £12.

  1. Locanda Locatelli

Address: 8 Seymour Street, Marylebone, London W1H 7JZ

Opening Hours: N/A

For those looking for an alternative (and more expensive) experience, this is the place. An experimental, luxurious Italian restaurant.

  1. Cafe Italia Uno

Address: 91 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 5PX

Opening Hours: 8.30am-10pm

There are an abundance of small, family-run Italian cafes throughout London and this is one of the best there is. Serving pastas, lasagnes, panini and the signature melanzane with panache and at a highly affordable rate.

  1. The River Cafe

Address: Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9HA

Opening Hours: N/A

One of London’s most acclaimed restaurants, the River Cafe offers some of the finest Italian dishes in the country amid a beautiful, scenic backdrop overlooking the River Thames./

Five Things to Do
  1. Peter’s Italian Church

Address: 136 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5DL

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most important Italian cultural sites in the country, this Catholic Church dates back to 1863 and has served as the historic heart of London’s Italian community in Clerkenwell. Purpose-built for the then-nascent Italian community of the city, it is known for its distinct and subtle design, reminiscent of a basilica.

  1. Estorick Collection of Modern Art

Address: 39A Canonbury Square, London N1 2AN

Opening Hours: N/A

A short distance from the historically Italian Clerkwenwell is this unique modern art gallery specialising especially in 20th Century Italian art. The best place in the city to glimpse this particularly field of Italian art, including futurist and figurative paintings.

  1. The Italian Bookshop

Address: 123 Gloucester Road, Kensington, London SW7 4TE

Opening Hours: 9.30am-6.30pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-6.30pm (Saturday), 12pm-5pm (Sunday)

A sub-section of ‘The European Bookshop, ‘The Italian Bookshop’, as its name suggests, is the leading place in London to get your hands on works of Italian literature. The organisation also runs a number of Italian cultural and literary events.

  1. La Fiesta della Madonna del Carmine

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London is crammed with a wealth of Italian cultural festivals due to the large and prevalent community. This is one of the lesser known ones. A historic religious festival celebrated primarily in the Avigliano region of Italy, it has emerged as one of the Clerkenwell Italian community’s major annual celebrations, a time when the community bands together across all generations to celebrate their heritage.

  1. Italian Cultural Institute

Address: 39 Belgrave Square, Belgravis, London SW1X 8NX

Opening Hours: N/A

A government-sanctioned organisation which promotes Italian culture, history and language, organising a number of events and teaching courses.

Little Portugal

The Portuguese immigrant community of London, as is the case with many Western European countries, is relatively under-explored despite its size. London is home to 42,000 Portuguese, the majority of which are based in the South London neighbourhood of Stockwell. However, the population is widely dispersed throughout the city, with other major hubs including Ladbroke Grove.

History

Portugal and the United Kingdom have a long-standing relationship stretching back to the 14th Century. The two countries struck an alliance in the 1300’s to quell the rising influence of the Spanish Empire, a threat to both nations. Portuguese immigration to the United Kingdom has occurred in some form since this period, with positive relations facilitating easy trade as well as movement of people. That being said, it took many years for a Portuguese community to form. The first permanent settlers were Portuguese Jews, who fled the country due to Catholic persecution in the 16th Century. Many of these exiles settled permanently in the United Kingdom, introducing fried fish to the country, something which has become a ubiquitous aspect of British cuisine.

Despite this, a significant Portuguese community did not form in the United Kingdom until well into the 20th Century. While small pockets existed throughout London, the Portuguese did not represent an immigrant community of great significance. The mid-20th Century was a significant turning point in this narrative. A large number of Portuguese immigrants arrived in London during the 1950’s, prompted by economic distress in Portugal. This period saw a significant population movement away from Portugal, as workers sought better employment opportunities in the UK, France and Germany. This increased significantly during the 1960’s as Portugal’s economic decline continued. The Portuguese Colonial War was also a motivating factor in population movements as many young Portuguese men fled to avoid military service in the ongoing conflict.

The Portuguese population of London has steadily increased since the 1970’s and communities have formed throughout the city. Ladbroke Grove was the initial major Portuguese population hub, and traces of it remain intact today. There are a number of Portuguese restaurants, bars and businesses still present in the neighbourhood today. Despite this, rising property prices have driven much of the Portuguese community elsewhere. Today, the major hub is in the South London neighbourhood of Stockwell. Over 27,000 Portuguese call the neighbourhood home, nearly 75% of the city’s total population. There are a wealth of Portuguese bars and restaurants, which reflect the neighbourhood’s singular cultural character.

Top Five Restaurants

Portuguese cuisine is a unique culinary style, known placing high importance on seafood due to the abundant resources. Sardines are highly popular as is cod, which is utilised in a number of different ways. Meat is heavily used, particularly beef and pork. Portuguese food is known for its heavy use of olive oil, garlic and spices such as ‘piri piri’. Furthermore, it is known for its wide range of pastries and desserts. Chief among these is the iconic Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart that is highly popular in Portugal and throughout the world.

  1. Casa do Frango

Address: 1st Floor, 32 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TU

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5pm-12am (Monday-Friday), 12pm-12am (Saturday-Sunday)

Near London’s popular, bustling Borough Market, Cash do Frango is considered to be the city’s finest restaurant for the Portuguese speciality of Piri Piri chicken. A recently-opened restaurant run by a Portuguese family, it has already left a major impact.

  1. Lisboa Patisserie

Address: 57 Golborne Road, London W10 5NR

Opening Hours: 7am-7pm

Portugal is highly-regarded for its top-notch pastries and desserts. There are few places in London that serve these classic dishes as well as Golborne Road’s iconic Lisboa Patisseries.

  1. O Fumeiro

Address: 52-54 Wilcock Road, London SW8 2UX

Opening Hours: 7am-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 7am-11pm (Friday-Saturday), 9am-10pm (Sunday)

In the heart of Stockwell’s ‘Little Portugal’ is this top-notch Portuguese restaurant, which also houses a shop specialising in Portuguese goods.

  1. Pico Bar and Grill

Address: 74 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London SE1 7TL

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

Another Vauxhall staple, which offers classic Portuguese grilled dishes against a vibrant and modern backdrop.

  1. A Toca Restaurant

Address: 341 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2JH

Opening Hours: 9am-12am

Authentic Portuguese restaurant open until the early hours of the morning known for its tapas and mains.

Five Things to Do

  1. Sporting Clube de Londres

Address: 27 Elkstone Road, London W10 5NT

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Wednesday-Sunday)

An institution just a short walk from Golborne Road, the Sporting Clube de Londres is a Portuguese social club, often hosting musical performances and club nights. There is no better place in town to watch Portuguese football matches. It is also known for its high-quality Portuguese cooking.

  1. Casa Madeira

Address: 46B Albert Embankment, Lambeth, London SE1 7TL

Opening Hours: 6am-9pm

A vibrant Portuguese restaurant in the heart of ‘Little Portugal’ that functions as a bar and club in the later hours. A major cultural epicentre of London’s Portuguese community.

  1. UK Portuguese Film Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural fixture, which recently celebrated its 9th edition, the UK Portuguese FilMF Festival celebrates the very best of Portugal’s underappreciated cinema.

  1. Portugal Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural festival which unites the city’s Portuguese community to celebrate the country’s food, music and history.

  1. Supermercado Portugal

Address: 396 Harrow Road, London W9 2HU

Opening Hours: 9am-6pm (Monday-Saturday)

The best place in the city to get your hands on Portuguese food and goods.

 

Main Image: Pedro Szekely, London, Flickr Creative Commons

Global Cities: Berlin

Global Cities: Berlin
Daniel Grothe, #Berlin, Flickr Creative Commons

Daniel Grothe, #Berlin, Flickr Creative Commons

While historically overlooked in favour of more glamorous and traditionally beautiful European cities, Berlin has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years, cementing itself as the continent’s premier culture capital and trendsetting hotspot. The city has attracted a wealth of tourists and permanent settlers, attracted by its liberal attitudes, multiculturalism and accepting atmosphere. Berlin is one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities, embracing other cultures with an openness rarely seen throughout the world.

Turkish

Turks comprise the largest ethnic minority in Berlin, with a population estimated as low as 200,000 and as high as 500,000. The city is one of the largest Turkish population enclaves outside of Turkey. The community is an essential aspect of the city’s multicultural identity and have established a wealth of successful businesses. The Turkish population is ubiquitous throughout the city but has major centres in the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukolln.

History

The Turkish population of Germany has a long and rich history that can be traced back to as early as the 16th Century. The first Turkish settlers arrived as emissaries of the Ottoman Empire, who attempted to extend their territorial control into Western Europe. Following the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683, a number of Ottoman soldiers were left behind, many of whom captured as prisoners and forced to settle in the country.

Turkish Festival in Berlin (1909), Susanlenox, Flickr Creative Commons

Turkish Festival in Berlin (1909), Susanlenox, Flickr Creative Commons

Over the course of the next few centuries, a number of additional military conflicts occurred between the Ottoman Empire and various Germanic polities such as the Kingdom of Prussia. This inevitably caused significant population displacement on both sides, and caused the Turkish presence in Germany to slowly increase. While there were no major waves of immigration by modern standards, by the time of the early 20th Century, Germany was home to a sizeable Turkish population.

The mid-20th Century was the real turning point in Turkish immigration to Germany. In the 1960’s, Germany found itself divided physically by the Berlin Wall, which was constructed in 1961. Both a literal and figurative division between the Capitalist West and the Communist East, the division created a significant labour shortage in West Germany, which was now cut off from the flow of immigration from Eastern Europe. In order to compensate this shortage and stimulate the economy, West Germany struck an agreement with the Republic of Turkey, recruiting significant numbers of labourers. Initially settling in the country temporarily, many Turks stayed. A bill in 1974 allowed families to be reunified in West Germany, which removed incentive to return.

Since the mid-20th Century, the Turkish population of Germany has grown considerably, particularly centred in major urban centres such as Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. The population is concentrated mainly in West Germany. Despite the prevalence of Turks in Germany, tensions between the two ethnicities have been omnipresent since their arrival in the country. The population is very poorly integrated and has been subject to prejudice throughout their history in the country. Questions of nationality have plagued Germany’s Turkish population for several years.

Despite these issues, the Turkish population remains a focal aspect of Germany’s modern cultural identity, representative of the multicultural values the country champions. In Berlin especially, the Turkish population has thrived in a number of ways. One only needs to glance at the wealth of Turkish restaurants throughout the city to glimpse the Turkish community’s vast cultural impact upon the city.

Top Five Restaurants

Turkish cuisine is a successor to Ottoman cuisine and given the immense size of the former empire, is highly eclectic. It combines elements of Middle Eastern, Balkan, Eastern European and Central Asian styles whilst being its own distinct entity. Notable dishes include various forms of Kofte, a meatball-esque dish, Lahmacun, or as its colloquially known, a ‘Turkish Pizza’ and Pilaf, a seasoned rice. Berlin is arguably the best place in the world outside of Turkey to sample the country’s cuisine in all its forms due to the substantial diaspora.

  1. Fes Turkish BBQ

Address: Hasenheide 58, 10967 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

An iconic Kreuzberg institution known for its innovative approach to Turkish staples such as kebab.

  1. Defne Restaurant
Defne Restaurant, defne-restaurant.de

Defne Restaurant, defne-restaurant.de

Address: Planufer 92C, 10967 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-12am

One of Berlin’s finest Turkish restaurants. IN the heart of Kreuzberg, Defne offers a number of lesser-known dishes in addition to more iconic ones.

  1. Hasir

Address: Adalbertstrasse 12, 10999 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am

Founded by Mehmed Augun, believed by some circles to be the founder of the Doner kebab, this is one of the city’s finest and most iconic Turkish restaurants.

  1. Imren Grill

Address: Boppstrasse 10, 10967 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 8am-2am

Berlin is replete with numerous late-night kebab restaurants. This is one of the best, open deep into the night and serving some of the best and best-value kebab in the city.

  1. Cig Kofte Evi

Address: 37A Badstrasse, 13357 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

Another iconic Kebab restaurant known for its no-frills decor and reasonably-priced yet delicious food.

Things to Do
  1. The Turkish Market

Address: Maybachufer, 12047 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-6.30pm (Tuesday, Friday)

A highly important Turkish cultural icon in the city, this is a must-visit sight in the Turkish neighbourhood of Kreuzberg which features an enormous wealth of vendors selling a variety of produce, food and household items.

  1. Sehitlik Mosque
Şehitlik-Moschee Berlin, cosmonautirussi, Flickr Creative Commons

Şehitlik-Moschee Berlin, cosmonautirussi, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: Columbiadamm 128, 10965 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: N/A

The city’s most significant and spectacular mosques, it is also the most widely-attended. IT is known as a highly important cultural hub for the Turkish community, who comprise the vast majority of its congregation. It is known for its striking appearance, inspired by Ottoman architecture of the 16th Century. It also stands on the oldest muslim burial ground in Germany, having been inaugurated in circa 1860!

 

  1. Islamic Cemetery

Address: Columbiadamm 128, 10965 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 8am-5pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday), 8am-6pm (Thursday)

Adjacent to the magnificent Sehitlik Mosque is Berlin’s Islamic Cemetery. Built in 1866, the cemetery is amongst the oldest of its kind in Europe and a hugely important cultural site within the city’s Turkish and wider Muslim population.

  1. Museum of Islamic Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben 5, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s great museums, this cultural institution draws from a vast resource of art and artefacts from throughout Islam’s history. There are over 93,000 distinct works in this museum, spanning the immense geographical and historical breadth of Islamic culture.

  1. Museum of Byzantine Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s finest historical museums, the Museum of Byzantine Art has a vast collection of antiques and artworks from the Byzantine Empire, the successor state to the Roman Empire and the predecessor to the Ottoman Empire, with its centre in Istanbul.

Polish

Poles are amongst the largest diasporas in Germany, the population encompassing 2.9 million people. Germany is home to the largest Polish diaspora in Europe and the second-largest in the world after the United States. The population is widely dispersed throughout the country, with the state North Rhine-Westphalia being home to the largest centre with 786,000. Berlin is home to a sizeable Polish community, numbering at over 101,000.

History

Polish presence in Germany has existed for centuries, dating back to the late 18th Century. The Partitions of Poland caused Poland to become partially annexed by Prussia, which subsequently caused a portion of the population to fall under modern-day German control. This saw the beginnings of the Polish community in Germany, which slowly grew over the following centuries.

The next major turning point in the Polish community’s history in Germany came towards the end of the 19th Century with the advent of industrialisation. The Ruhr region in particular underwent considerable change and attracted over 300,000 Polish labourers, who were drawn to the region for the new wealth of employment opportunities. In addition to the Ruhr region, Poles settled in a number of other areas of the country, which were also undergoing rapid industrialisation. Despite this, this new wave of Poles experienced rising racial tensions upon their arrival. Following their arrival, they came under significant pressure to conform to ‘Germanisation’. A particular point of conflict between the Polish minority and Germans was the conflict between the former’s adherence to Catholicism and the latter’s adherence to Protestantism. A large number of high-ranking Polish Catholic officials were exiled and imprisoned, which heightened tensions between the two ethnic groups and stoked nationalistic sentiments.

The First World War saw another major turning point, as Polish-dominated territories were absorbed into the new Polish Republic. Despite this, a sizeable Polish minority remained in parts of Germany such as Upper Silesia and East Prussia. In the inter-war years, resentments from the brutal economic depression caused by wartime reparations, were stoked against the Poles by the ascendant Nazi Party. The Polish community in territories such as Upper Silesia were repressed and their community leaders arrested and executed, often at concentration camps. The outbreak of the Second World War saw Poland invaded and annexed by Nazi Germany and the Polish population undergo significant persecution and abuse.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, significant movement between the two countries occurred as Poland’s borders shifted westwards. Over 3.2 million Germans living in Poland were removed. The Polish community in Germany remained a sizeable one and steadily grew as the remainder of the 20th Century progressed. The late 20th Century saw large numbers of Poles migrate to East Berlin due to the economic opportunities there, whilst some fled for West Berlin to evade Communist rule.

Another major turning point occurred upon Poland’s admission into the European Union in 2004, which saw a renewed spike in emigration. Germany was, by some distance, the most popular destination, due to its close proximity and the wealth of economic opportunities. The Polish community remains a prevalent demographic throughout the country, with major hubs in urban centres, particularly Berlin. As the closest major city other than Warsaw, Berlin was a major draw for Poles leaving their homeland for economic or sometimes political reasons. The Polish community is not particularly centralised in a single neighbourhood but rather is widely dispersed throughout the city.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Tak Tak
    "Bigos" taktak-polishdeli.de

    “Bigos” taktak-polishdeli.de

Address: Brunnenstrasse 5, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

A much-loved Polish delicatessen in the Mitte district specialising in. Classic dishes such as dumplings.

  1. Restaurant Breslau

Address: Sredzkistrasse 67, 10405 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Monday-Friday), 3pm-11pm (Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of the city’s finest and more up-market Polish restaurants, specialising in the traditional staples.

  1. Maly Ksiaze

Address: Lilienthalstrasse 6, 10965 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm

A no-frills neighbourhood restaurant in Kreuzberg.

  1. Marjellchen

Address: Mommenstrasse 9, 10629 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-11.30pm

A popular Polish-German restaurants specialising in East Prussian cuisine.

  1. Gastatte Schaferstubchen

Address: Grindelwaldweg 2, 13407 Berlin, Germanu

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 4pm-12am (Friday-Saturday), 4pm-11pm (Sunday)

A top-quality Polish restaurant.

Things to Do
  1. Polish Institute Berlin

Address: Burgstrasse 27, 10178 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Tuesday-Friday)

The city’s most essential Polish cultural institution, which promotes the country’s rich culture through a number of different activities and programs, most notably the annual Polish Film Festival.

  1. Club of Polish Losers

Address: Ackerstrasse 168, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: N/A

A vital Polish cultural institution established in the 1990’s as a means of fostering cultural exchange between the two countries. The institution organises a vast array of programming, including concerts, plays and art exhibitions.

  1. Buch Bund

Address: Sanderstrasse 8, 12047 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-7pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-6pm (Saturday)

A Polish bookstore and one of the most important cultural sites for Polish expatriates in the city.

  1. No Wodka

Address: Pappelalle 10, 10437 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-7pm

A Polish design concept store, which hosts a number of exhibitions and pop-ups aiming to promote Polish artistry.

  1. Polish Thursday Dinners

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A popular Polish supper club modelled by the famous parties of Polish King Stanislaw II Augustus, known for their delicious food and celebratory atmosphere.

Syrian

A very recent demographic in Berlin, and Germany, is the Syrian diaspora. The country’s population experienced considerable displacement in the wake of the Syrian Civil War, which caused a major refugee crisis. Over 6 million people have been forced to flee their homes amid the carnage of war raging throughout the country. Germany is, by some distance, the largest base of the new Syrian diaspora, with nearly 700,000 relocating to the country following the outbreak of the civil war. Heavily based in urban centres such as Berlin, the Syrian population has faced a number of issues including problems concerning prejudice and assimilation. As the newest major diaspora in the country, its vast size and the traumatic origins of its displacement have made its adjustment to life in Germany a challenge.

History

As mentioned above, the Syrian diaspora is a very new immigrant population in Germany. Prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian population was fairly small and could be easily lumped together with other Arab diaspora populations in the country. The history of the Syrian population in Germany is very much divided into pre-Civil War and post-Civil War periods, and is very much a developing story, that continues to dominate cultural and political discourse in the country today.

Berlin "Refugees Welcome", Jeanne Menjoulet, Flickr Creative Commons

Berlin “Refugees Welcome”, Jeanne Menjoulet, Flickr Creative Commons

As the Syrian Civil War intensified and continued to wreak irreparable damage upon the country, a refugee crisis developed as a result. The European Migrant Crisis of 2014-15 was a major humanitarian crisis, which generated considerable political discord throughout the continent. Germany emerged as a major destination for Syrian refugees after a lengthy, protracted process. In part due to its economic status and subsequent comparative ability to support such a massive influx of immigration, Germany took on far more refugees than any other European country.

The Syrian population, despite its many struggles involving racism and integration, has found success in some cases. In major urban centres such as Berlin, which has a reputation for being open-minded and accepting of immigrant populations, a number of community organisations and cultural institutions have been established to help ease the often difficult process of adapting to a new society.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Yarok

Address: Torstrasse 195, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

One of the city’s finest Middle Eastern restaurants, known for its reasonable prices, authentic Syrian dishes and high popularity.

  1. Habibi

Address: Goltzstrasse 24, 10781 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-3am (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 11am-5am (Friday-Saturday)

One of the best Syrian restaurants in Berlin, well-known for its high-quality falafel and pastries. Reasonably priced and open deep into the night, it is immensely popular and has a few additional locations.

  1. Fatoush

Address: Simon-Dach-Strasse 41A, 10245 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm

Another Middle Eastern gem, known for its top-notch takes on signature dishes such as falafel, hummus and tabbouleh.

  1. Aldimashqi

Address: 28 Reuterstrasse, 12047 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-12am

A Neukolln institution known for its fantastic shawarma. Reasonably priced and authentic, it is one of the best Syrian restaurants in the city.

  1. Lawrence Berlin Mitte

Address: Oranienburger Str. 69, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-12am (Monday-Friday), 10am-12am (Saturday-Sunday)

A more upmarket experience. The prices are higher than most Syrian restaurants, but it makes up for it with some of the finest Middle Eastern cooking in all of Berlin.

Things to Do
  1. Syrian Storytelling Arena

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most essential cultural institutions for the nascent Syrian community, the Syrian Storytelling Arena was set up in 2015 as a means of Syrian immigrants from all walks of life sharing their experiences in the wake of a traumatic national tragedy. The series features discourse from intellectuals and public figures as well as musical performances.

  1. Museum of Islamic Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben 5, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s great museums, this cultural institution draws from a vast resource of art and artefacts from throughout Islam’s history. There are over 93,000 distinct works in this museum, spanning the immense geographical and historical breadth of Islamic culture.

  1. Museum of Byzantine Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s finest historical museums, the Museum of Byzantine Art has a vast collection of antiques and artworks from the Byzantine Empire, the successor state to the Roman Empire and the predecessor to the Ottoman Empire, with its centre in Istanbul.

  1. Vorderasiatisches Museum

Address: Bodestrasse 1-3, 10178 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

Another essential Berlin museum concerning the history of the Middle East, this features extensive artistic and archaeological items from throughout Syria’s history (in addition to many other countries).

  1. Syrian Heritage Archive Project

Address: Am Kupfergraben 5, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

A major initiative undertaken by the Museum of Islamic Art in response to the ongoing brutalities of the Syrian Civil War dedicated to carrying out important research on the damage to the country’s many surviving cultural relics.

Vietnamese

Berlin’s Vietnamese community is amongst the largest in the world, numbering around 40,000. The Vietnamese community is not only the city’s largest East Asian population, but also one of the city’s major immigrant populations. Berlin’s Vietnamese are widely dispersed throughout the city but with major hubs in Lichtenberg, Mitte and Neukolln.

History

Berlin’s Vietnamese population has a fairly recent history in the city, having arrived in large numbers following the Vietnam War. The history of the Vietnamese population in Berlin prior to this is almost non-existent. The population can be divided into two major groups. The first of which are refugees from the Vietnam War. This is, by some distance, the smaller of the Vietnamese populations, mainly hailing from capitalist South Vietnam. Following the end of the conflict and the Communist victory, many fled the ascendant regime. While mainly settling in the United States, Australia and France, a number of Vietnamese migrants settled in West Berlin, forming a small yet close-knit community.

The larger Vietnamese population arrived about a decade later, settling in East Berlin. This was a part of the country’s ‘economic miracle’, which lead to a major demand for labour. This in turn caused a massive influx of immigrants from countries such as Turkey, Italy and Greece to arrive in West Germany. The Communist Vietnam struck a labour agreement with the East German government, which saw large numbers of Vietnamese workers arrive in the country, mainly in East Berlin, a major industrial centre.

The collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East Germany and West Germany was a major turning point in the history of the Vietnamese population in the city. The industrial identity of East Berlin faded as jobs were outsourced to other countries, causing many Vietnamese immigrants to lose their jobs and return home. Despite this, the majority of the population remained in the city, and the divided population was slowly reunified. The divisions between the North and South Vietnamese was initially very clear, and the populations struggled to reconcile given the historical and geographical divisions between them.

A large number of Vietnamese settlers in other former industrial centres such as Leipzig soon arrived in Berlin due to the larger community having formed there and slowly the Vietnamese community of the city became a more unified entity.

Today, the population is fairly unified, as supported by institutions such as the Dong Xuan Centre, set up in the 1990’s. Predominantly based in East Berlin, remnants of the South Vietnamese population in West Berlin remain, with restaurants often named for its locales such as the former capital city of Saigon.

Top Five Restaurants

Vietnamese cuisine is amongst the most unique culinary styles in the world, easily distinguishable from other forms of Southeast Asian cooking. Known for its healthiness and wide variety of ingredients, it has become increasingly popular throughout the world as the diaspora has spread throughout the world. Major ingredients include lemongrass, ginger and birds eye chillies. Major dishes include pho, a noodle soup. Berlin is a premier destination for Vietnamese cuisine given the large diaspora population in the city.

  1. Si An

Address: Rykestrasse 36, 10405 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

One of Berlin’s most popular and authentic Vietnamese restaurants, known its novel approach to Vietnamese culinary classics at a reasonable price.

  1. Monsieur Vuong
Saigon Paradise @ Monsieur Vuong, thornet_, Flickr Creative Commons

Saigon Paradise @ Monsieur Vuong, thornet_, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: Alte Schonhauser Str. 46, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-12am (Friday-Sunday)

A classic, relaxed, banquet-style Vietnamese restaurant with a rotating selection of daily specials. Experience and explore the scent of curry, lemongrass and roasted sesame seeds in original Vietnamese recipes.

 

 

  1. Saigon and More

Address: Geisbergstrasse 12, 10777 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 6pm-11pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

One of Berlin’s finest and most authentic Vietnamese restaurants.

  1. District Mot

Address: Rosenthaler Str. 62, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am

A slick, modern Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin’s Mitte neighbourhood.

  1. Chen Che Tea House

Address: Rosenthaler Str. 13, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am

A unique treat amongst Berlin’s wealth of Vietnamese restaurants. A tea house and restaurant known for its authentic clay-pot dishes and desserts.

Things To Do
  1. Dong Xuan Centre

Address: Herzbergstrasse 128-139, 10465 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm (Monday, Wednesday-Sunday)

The cultural epicentre of Berlin’s Vietnamese community is by a large margin the Dong Xuan Centre. In the East Berlin neighbourhood of Lichtenberg, of which 10% of the population is Vietnamese, this market is a major cultural development consisting of a number of warehouse hangars. Inside are restaurants, hair salons and numerous vendors peddling a vast range of goods. A thoroughly unique cultural experience in Berlin where one can spend endless hours.

 

Main Image: Daniel Grothe, #Berlin, Flickr Creative Commons

The Greek Diaspora

The Greek Diaspora

The Greek diaspora, due to its sheer longevity, is one of the more difficult to categorise. It has existed since the days of antiquity and remains widespread in the present day. The major modern centres include the United States (over 1 million), Australia (400,000), Germany (443,000), Canada (270,000) and the United Kingdom (79,000).

Dating back to antiquity, Greek expatriates were widely common throughout the Balkans and Asia Minor. The Greek diaspora reached as far as regions such as Central Asia and North Africa during this period, giving one an idea of its sheer reach. The Greek diaspora continued to spread long after the end of the Hellenistic period. The Byzantine Empire saw a renewed emphasis on Greek culture, and Greeks subsequently enjoyed a privileged status during this period, moving throughout the Mediterranean and the Levant. Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks fled Constantinople and settled in Italy, contributing to the country’s historically Greek population. Greek migration in the following centuries was generally disparate and random, with no major trends emerging.

As the Ottoman Empire began to disintegrate in the 19th Century and Greece ceded from its control during the Greek War of Independence, many communities abroad returned home to help re-establish the state. Greek emigration renewed to a significant extent during the 20th Century prompted by a variety of different factors, including political and economic instability in Greece. The Greek Civil War saw large numbers of Communist Greeks flee for Eastern Europe while others fled the war and disruption for Western countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.

USA

The United States has the largest overseas Greek community in the world. Greek settlement in the United States dates back, in large numbers at least, to the mid-19th Century. The first of these settlements was in New Orleans and developed a large surrounding community including a Greek Orthodox Church and a consulate. This was not long after the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire and was influenced by a desire for a new beginning and the enticing economic benefits of settling in the United States. This trend increased over the following decades and exploded at the turn of the century, influenced by the many conflicts in Europe at the time. It is estimated that 450,000 Greeks arrived in the country between 1890 and 1917. Greeks settled mainly in the Northeastern United States, particularly in New York City and Boston. The initial settlers were overwhelmingly male, although this balanced out as rates continued. Greek immigrants contributed significantly to the spread of Orthodox Christianity throughout the country. New York City and Boston remain the major population hubs of the Greek community, although significant hubs also exist in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

Australia

The Greek population of Australia is one of the latter country’s most significant immigrant communities. It is heavily concentrated in the city of Melbourne, which boasts the largest Greek-speaking population outside of Athens. Greek immigration to Australia began in the early 19th Century, albeit in a scattered manner.

Ladies | An old toilet sign in port Melbourne from the 1950's or 60's, Gabriel White, Flickr Creative Commons

Ladies | An old toilet sign in port Melbourne from the 1950’s or 60’s, Gabriel White, Flickr Creative Commons

The first Greeks were convicted pirates imprisoned in the penal colony. Eventually pardoned, they opted to settle in Australia. The population increased at the end of the 19th Century, settling in major urban centres such as Sydney and Melbourne. The latter in particular grew into a major outpost for the diaspora, which was growing increasingly massive as internal discord ravaged Greece. The population increased in line with major upheavals in Greece such as the Greco-Turkish War and the Greek Civil War.

It was the aftermath of the Second World War when the country’s Greek population truly exploded. With considerable damage incurred during the Second World War, many Greeks relocated, something which was facilitated in Australia by the ‘Populate or Perish’ immigration scheme, allowing Greeks to migrate easily. With a thriving pre-existing community in Melbourne, this expanded significantly in the latter half of the 20th Century. It has since plateaued, but remains one of the most important in the world.

Great Britain

Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Michael - Golders Green Road, Golders Green, Elliott Brown, Flickr Creative Commons

Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Michael – Golders Green, London, Elliott Brown, Flickr Creative Commons

Britain has one of the largest Greek populations in Europe, with the diaspora having a long and extensive history in the country dating back to antiquity. The modern Greek community in the United Kingdom however had its roots in the 19th Century. This exodus was prompted by a wealth of political factors. The Greek War of Independence caused considerable political upheaval and subsequent population displacement, with many deciding to settle in Britain due to relative proximity and the potential for economic prosperity. London was the main destination, although communities developed in the large cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. In London, the neighbourhood of Bayswater developed into a major population enclave. Palmers Green in North London also became a major hub. The population is widely dispersed throughout the country, with a wealth of Greek-owned businesses and restaurants as well as Orthodox churches being present.

The Greek diaspora is, technically speaking, one of the oldest in the world, and one of the most widespread. The modern Greek diaspora has a wide reach throughout the world and has had relatively little trouble assimilating. Its integration in countries such as Australia and the United States has been highly successful whilst managing to preserve its many cultural traditions.

Main Image: Gerald Brazell, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Flickr Creative Commons

The Turkish Diaspora

The Turkish Diaspora

The Turkish diaspora is difficult to categorise due to there being so many disparate population groups as a result of the sheer territorial reach of the former Ottoman Empire. Thus, the definition of the Turkish diaspora is difficult to pin down due to the many different groups of Turks, which include Anatolian Turks, Bulgarian Turks and Cypriot Turks. However, generally speaking, when one refers to the modern Turkish diaspora, they are referring to the settlers in Western Europe, which generally constitutes Turks from the modern-day nation as well as Cypriot Turks. Modern day Turkish population centres include Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, as well as former Ottoman territories such as Bulgaria.

Turkish migration has occurred for several centuries due to the supremacy of the Ottoman Empire from Asia Minor to as far as Central Europe. This saw the native Turkish population move widely throughout Europe and Asia, and accounts for the Turkish minority populations throughout former Ottoman territories. These cannot be considered part of the contemporary Turkish diaspora. Their national identity is entirely different and they have few, if any ties to Turkish culture.

Turkish Cyprus

Turkish Cypriots are amongst the earliest Turkish diaspora populations. The island of Cyprus was annexed by the Ottoman Empire in 1571 and in the same year, over 30,000 Turkish settlers arrived on the island, endowing it with a Turkish cultural identity, which continues to resonate on the island nation today. The Turkish Cypriot population is often thought to be distinct from the Turkish population, with its own unique identity. It is also one of the earliest modern forms of the Turkish diaspora. Following Cyprus’ annexation by the United Kingdom at the beginning of the 20th Century, a large number of Turkish Cypriots fled the country, settling in the UK. This began shortly after the colony’s annexation in the 1920’s and exploded in the mid-20th Century as tensions between the Greek and Turkish populations of Cyprus reached a flashpoint. Further incidents of political upheaval in Cyprus such as the Greek coup d’etat of 1974, have influenced trends of Turkish Cypriot immigration to the United Kingdom.

Britain

David Holt, London Green Lanes N16, Flickr Creative Commons

David Holt, London Green Lanes N16, Flickr Creative Commons

In modern times, the United Kingdom boasts one of the largest Turkish communities in the world outside of Turkey. It is overwhelmingly based in the capital city of London and mainly clustered around the North London neighbourhoods of Haringey and Dalston. In these neighbourhoods, there are a large number of Turkish-owned restaurants and businesses, which give them a unique cosmopolitan identity. The Turkish population is far from confined in these areas and is widely dispersed throughout the city. The ubiquity of late-night kebab shops throughout the city is evidence of the breadth of the Turkish community and its cultural impact. The majority of the country’s Turkish population is Turkish Cypriot due to the former links between the two countries, but a large number of Turkish nationals and other Turkish minorities (i.e. Bulgarian and Romanian Turks) are also present in the country.

Germany

It is impossible to discuss the Turkish diaspora without mentioning its population in Germany, the largest in the world. The Turkish diaspora of Germany is immense in terms of both size and cultural impact. Turks have had some sort of presence in Germany going far back to the days of the Ottoman Empire. The Empire attempted to strengthen its foothold in Europe and in doing so laid siege to Vienna, putting it at odds with the Holy League, which included modern-day Germany. In the following centuries, the Ottoman and Prussian Empires were allied states, which facilitated the movement of people between the two regions. This helps account for historic Turkish presence in Germany. The two shared a strong trading relationship, and this alliance lasted well into the 20th Century. The Ottoman Empire provided military support for German campaigns in the First World War, by which point Germany had a large Turkish community, especially in major cities such as Berlin.

 

DSC_7422

Turkish immigration to Germany increased significantly as the 20th Century progressed, with a large number of Turks recruited during the ‘economic miracle’ for major construction projects. A labour crisis in West Germany developed as the Berlin Wall cut off the flow of Eastern European immigrants, facilitating a deal with the Republic of Turkey that allowed a large number of Turkish workers to enter the country. By the end of the century, the Turkish population were the largest immigrant population in the country. Their cultural influence on the country is clear, with Turkish cuisine highly popular and regarded throughout the country. The doner kebab is a particularly widespread delicacy in the country. Furthermore, the Turkish community overlaps significantly with the country’s Muslim population, having brought the religion to the country. Despite the Turkish community’s prevalence throughout the country and major cultural and economic contributions, it has been faced with repeated issues concerning nationality and prejudice. The success of the Turkish community in Germany is emblematic of the country’s growing cosmopolitanism, something that many far-right, xenophobic individuals take issue with. Attempts at reconciling Turkish identity with German nationality have been problematic and contributed to much cultural tension within the Turkish community of Germany.

The Turkish diaspora is one of the most complex in the world due to its range and longevity. Despite this, its cultural impact, particularly throughout Western Europe, is abundantly clear. Its influence on cuisine in particular is deeply resonant throughout the world.

Main Image: ptwo, 1345, Flickr Creative Commons

The Russian Diaspora

The Russian Diaspora

The Russian diaspora is one of the most considerable in the world. Due to the country’s former dominance of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, there are an exceptional number of ethnic Russians found throughout these regions. Particularly significant hubs include Ukraine (8.3 million), Kazakhstan (3.6 million) and Belarus (800,000). The remainder of the former Soviet Union also have exceptionally large Russian populations. Beyond this, the United States’ Russian diaspora numbers over 3 million while Germany (1.2 million), Israel (949,999) and Canada (550,000) also have significant populations, giving one an idea of just how widely dispersed this particular diaspora is.

The Russian diaspora has a fairly recent history, something which is surprising given its immense size. However, when one takes into account the sheer vastness of Russia’s geographic size and its former reach, this is fairly understandable. Notable exceptions to the rule included Russian Jews and other ethnic minorities such as Poles, who fled to escape the Russian Empire’s brutal pogroms. Russian emigration generally took place during its time under Communist control and is categorised in three separate phases.

The first of these took place in the wake of the 1917 Revolution, which saw centuries of Tsarist autocracy collapse and become bitterly replaced by a Communist regime. As a brutal civil war gripped the former Empire and the Bolsheviks consolidated their grip on power, a large number of Russians fled for abroad, particularly those with aristocratic roots or with close political ties to the deposed royal family. Furthermore, those fearing the incoming regime fled, including a large number of artists and writers. Those who fled in this first wave were termed ‘White Emigres’ due to their participation or connection to the White movement in the Russian Civil War. They mainly settled in the United States, the United Kingdom and France. This set of emigres were not united by a single ideological conviction, with many broadly anti-Communist and generally retaining an adherence to Russian Orthodoxy, something rejected entirely by the new Communist regime.

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Richard Mortel, Flickr Creative Commons

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Richard Mortel, Flickr Creative Commons

The Second Wave of Russian emigration occurred in the aftermath of the Second World War. In the inter-war period, as Stalin’s Communist regime reached the peak of its powers, emigration was severely restricted. The chaos of the Second World War provided a platform for several dissidents looking to escape the brutal regime. The majority of these included Prisoners of Wars and anti-communist forces, who seized the opportunity provided by the for of war to escape the Communist regime. These Russians settled throughout the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Canada. Following the establishment of the state of Israel, a large number of Russian Jews settled there, seeking a break from their anti-Semitic treatment during and prior to the Second World War.

The Third Wave of Russian emigration is a combination of those who left after the death of Stalin but prior to the collapse of the USSR, and those who left en masse afterwards in the 1990’s. Many of these people left during the 1970’s and mostly consisted of ethnic minorities such as Jews and Armenians. The collapses of the USSR and Communism in 1989 saw considerable population movement in Russia and throughout its surround territories as the borders were redrawn.

America

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Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York, Chad Husby, Flickr Creative Commons

The United States’ Russian community is the largest outside of Europe, exceeding 3 million. It has a long history pre-dating the traditional waves of Russian immigration. The first wave of Russian emigration to the United States coincided with that of most other European populations in the late 19th Century. The majority of these were Russian Jews escaping the brutal series of pogroms enacted by reactionary leader Tsar Alexander III. The majority settled in New York City and elsewhere on the country’s East Coast. Many more fled following the First World War as anti-Semitic sentiments intensified and the Bolsheviks rise to power. A large number of the ‘White Emigres’ settled in the United States, including esteemed composers Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff, novelist Vladimir Nabokov and former Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky. The immigration rate slowed during the Soviet era due to heavy restrictions but resumed during the Brezhnev era, which was defined mainly by economic stagnation, prompting mass immigration to the far wealthier United States. Perestroika and the collapse of Communism catalysed a huge wave of Russian immigration to the United States. Again this mainly consisted of Russian Jews. Major Russian enclaves in the Untied States include New York City, particularly the neighbourhood of Brighton Beach.

Russian Jews

A large number of Russian Jews, believed to be nearly one million, have relocated to Israel since the state’s establishment in the wake of the Second World War. This is in addition to Russian Subbotnik families, Russian Jews who settled in the Middle East in the 19th Century. A large number of Orthodox or non-religious Russians also live in Israel.

Europe

Eastern Europe is understandably the largest centre of the Russian diaspora due to its proximity and historical relationship. Ukraine is, by an overwhelming distance, home to the largest Russian diaspora population with over 8 million. The relationship between Russia and Ukraine is notably strained due to a history of conflict and issues of national identity. Other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia also have significant Russian populations due to the transient borders between the countries over the past few centuries.

The Russian diaspora is one of the most unique and vast in the world. The country’s own questions of national identity have been a major source of inner conflict for several centuries as the region’s borders have been regularly redrawn. The rise of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc in the 20th Century has only complicated this further.

Main Image: Andrew Milligan Sumo, M Kalinin Presenting Joseph Stalin with the Order of Victory 1944, Flickr Creative Commons

The Jamaican Diaspora

The Jamaican Diaspora

The Jamaican diaspora is a very large one in proportion to its overall population. The Caribbean island nation has a population of 4.4 million. Its diaspora population is over 2 million. The population is generally isolated to a select few enclaves, with the United Kingdom having the largest population (800,000), followed by the United States (780,000) and Canada (300,000). While the population is present in other countries, it is not to a significant degree.

Britain’s Jamaican population is the largest in the world outside of Jamaica. This is due to the country’s former colonial ties. Indeed, Jamaica was one of Britain’s oldest and longest-lasting colonies, falling under British rule in 1655 until its independence in 1962. The island’s racial and cultural complexion shifted considerably during this period, the original Taino and Arawak populations becoming almost entirely replaced by sub-Saharan African slaves.

Windrush generation - Jamaican diaspora

Windrush generation – Jamaican diaspora

The ancestors of this group comprise well over 90% of the country’s population today and very much encompass the contemporary definition of ‘Jamaican’. The relationship between the two countries remains close despite cultural tensions often emerging. Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom has occurred in some form since the beginnings of the island’s colonial subjugation by Britain but increased significantly at the onset of the 20th Century.

Indeed, a large number of Jamaicans fought in the First World War in the British West Indies Regiment, mainly in the East Africa Campaign and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. The veterans of these conflicts often settled permanently in the United Kingdom after the end of the war. This marked the beginning of the country’s Jamaican community, although its population remained fairly stagnant until the mid-20th Century.

The Second World War was very much a major turning point for the United Kingdom’s Jamaican population. A wealth of different factors contributed to this. Firstly, a hurricane in 1944 left the island devastated, causing significant infrastructural damage whilst also eviscerating the country’s agricultural industry and leaving many dead. This coincided with a significant labour shortage in the United Kingdom caused by the Second World War. This resulted in a large wave of Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom, where many gained employment in major national industries and services such as Transport for London and the National Health Service. This generation is often nicknamed the ‘Windrush Generation’, named for the HMT Empire Windrush, which arrived in the country in 1948 bringing a large number of immigrants seeking to begin new lives in the UK. Over 200,000 Jamaicans settled in the United Kingdom in the years following the Second World War, peaking in the 1950’s and 1960’s, remaining high in the following decades but at a reduced rate. Initially, the number of Jamaican migrants came from all social classes, but the demographics skewed heavily to the poorer migrants as the years progressed and Jamaica suffered a severe economic slump.

The Jamaican population has left a significant and widespread cultural imprint upon British society across a wealth of different areas. Jamaican cuisine is highly popular throughout the country, as is Jamaican music, which has been enormously influential on the evolution of British music. Reggae, ska and rocksteady are genres that are highly popular in Britain and the country has produced a large number of musicians in these genres. A large number of British athletes are of Jamaican descent including short-distance runner Linford Christie and footballers Raheem Sterling and Darren Bent.

Despite this cultural success, the Jamaican population has experienced a number of difficulties in its assimilation. Notably in the form of mistreatment by the police and systemic racism. This has led to a number of flashpoint over the past few decades. Notable flare-ups include the 1958 Notting Hill Race Riots, the Murder of Stephen Lawrence and the 2005 Birmingham Race Riots. Most recently, the ‘Windrush Scandal’ in 2018 saw over 60 people of Caribbean descent wrongly detained and threatened with deportation. Incidents such as these make it clear that the Jamaican (and the wider Caribbean) community continue to suffer issues of racial oppression. Despite the massive cultural impact of the Jamaican community on the UK-one only needs to look at the immense popularity of the Notting Hill Carnival to ascertain this-there are still a number of issues that are yet to be resolved. Demographically, the population is heavily centred in London, which is home to over 250,000 Jamaican people. Other major communities include Birmingham (35,000), Bristol (20,000), Nottingham (12,000) and Manchester (10,000). London is very much the hub of the Jamaican community, with major enclaves existing in East London boroughs such as Hackney and Haringey.

Breeze's Jamaican Bakery, Brooklyn, Chris Breeze, Flickr Creative Commons

Breeze’s Jamaican Bakery, Brooklyn, NY, Chris Breeze, Flickr Creative Commons

The United States’ Jamaican community, while similar to that of the United Kingdom in terms of size, is less significant in terms of overall cultural impact. Despite this, the East Coast has a sizeable Jamaican community, particularly centred around New York City. Jamaican immigration to the United States has its roots traced back to the early 19th Century when the slave trade was still thriving and the sugar industry was in need of large quantities of labour. As a result a large number of Jamaicans were recruited to plantations, with some staying on following the abolition of slavery. Jamaicans, along with immigrants from other Caribbean territories were often recruited to fill in labour vacancies in the wake of major conflicts, such as World War One and World War Two. The community did not develop significantly until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. The United States was a major source of emigration due to its geographical proximity and the wealth of economic opportunities there. New York remains the main hub with over 300,000. Florida, due to its close proximity also has a substantial population with 246,000.

Canada’s Jamaican community is also very significant. This is due to a combination of geographical proximity, economic benefit and the two countries’ shared colonial history. The community is predominantly based in Toronto, which has a Jamaican community of over 200,000. Jamaican cultural influence on the city is clear with its cuisine and music both hugely influential. Caribbean culture is celebrated with the annual Caribana event, which is a major festive event, bringing in an average of 1.3 million visitors.

The Jamaican diaspora, while not one of the most widespread diasporas in the world, is nonetheless hugely impactful. Jamaican culture, through its music, cuisine and festivals, can be felt throughout the world where there aren’t large populations. Where the diasporas are present, the impact is undeniably clear, the culture playing a major role in the various region’s multicultural identities.

Main image: The Windrush Generation.