It’s been said before and it’s worth saying again: New York City is a rich melting pot of cultures and communities – an enduring legacy of its immigrant history. And although Chinatown and Little Italy spring first to mind when considering the Big Apple’s ethnic diversity, New York’s multifaceted character extends much further beyond these two communities. In fact, NYC is home to a whole smorgasbord of micro neighbourhoods and ethnic enclaves, most of which you’ve probably never heard of before. Here are five lesser known cultural neighbourhoods that are woven into New York’s diverse multicultural tapestry.
If it’s the intoxicating aroma of cumin, garam masala, and cayenne pepper you crave in the Big Apple, then riding the metro all the way to Jackson Heights in Queens, aka Little India, is guaranteed to hit the spot. A sizeable Indian population call this pocket of NYC home, and many of the women around here prefer a sari over a skirt, making this ethnic enclave just about as exotic and colourful as the subcontinent itself! Explore Little India’s main commercial street, Roosevelt Avenue, and peruse the specialty shops selling everything from spices, incense and Bollywood films, before sitting down for a meal of authentic Indian fare at the famous Jackson Diner.
There are over 800 languages spoken in New York City, and obviously English is one of them. But visit a particular part of the Big Apple – making sure you keep your ears open – and what you’ll hear is that familiar twang of the Aussie accent. Located within the buzzing district of Nolita in downtown Manhattan, Little Australia, as it’s come to be known, is home to more Australian-owned businesses than in any other part of the city, most of which are located along Mulberry and Mott Streets. This means you won’t struggle to find a decent flat white or smashed avo on toast at cafes in this hood, and you’ll be able to upgrade your wardrobe with iconic Aussie fashion labels, such as Ksubi, Aesop and Mambo, in less time it takes to say G’day.
Take a stroll down Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and it won’t be long before you notice the area’s distinct cultural flavour. After Chicago, this pocket of NYC is home to America’s second largest Polish community. Although it’s currently being transformed into a seat of hipster cool, Greenpoint has retained its strong Polish roots, evident in the specialty bakeries and restaurants that line the area’s streets and avenues. Yep, this is where you can tuck into an authentic babka whilst practicing your Polish.
Escape the madness of Times Square and ride the train to tranquil and family-friendly Brighton Beach at the southern end of Brooklyn. But be warned: you’re about to enter an alternative universe, a world where the locals speak Russian and the signage appears in Cyrillic – welcome to Little Odessa! Named in reference to the sizeable Russian-speaking community who immigrated here in pursuit of the American dream, many of whom hail originally from Ukraine, this beachside community has more Russian shops, restaurants, and bars than in any other part of NYC. Nastrovje!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the Guyanese are the second biggest immigrant community in Queens, and the fifth largest overall in the melting pot that is the Big Apple. After all, this South American country is used to embracing distinct cultures and making them their own. Indeed, African, Indian and Caribbean influences have all made their mark on Guyanese cuisine, customs and music, and then there’s the influence of the British – a legacy that lives on in the Guyanese obsession with cricket. Spanning Richmond Hill and Ozone Park in Queens, Little Guyana, as it’s affectionately known, is a delicious collection of Guyanese restaurants, bakeries, and specialty shops, all held together with that infectious Caribbean spirit that’s just begging to be explored.