The United States has long advertised itself as something of a cultural melting pot. It’s certainly a fair label given that the U.S. was founded on, and grew forth from, mass migration from much of the world. Perhaps more than any other place on Earth its modern population is an amalgamation of different cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicities – which, really, is something we all ought to enjoy about America.
Granted, one travels to America at least in part to get a sense of America. But the important thing to realize is that multiculturalism is America, on some level. So with that in mind, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the most multicultural cities around the country (which is a vague distinction, but one that makes sense when looking at these particular places).
New York, NY
Perhaps the most famous example of the “melting pot” culture America claims to represent, New York is no surprise on this list. Indeed, United States travel aside, New York made Culture Trip’s list of the 10 most multicultural cities in the world (as did the next two cities on this list, incidentally). Visiting New York, you get a true sense of just how many people from different countries and backgrounds around the world call America home, and even in a single borough (the city is comprised of five) you might meet people from a dozen different places in the span of an hour. Indeed, the Culture Trip piece noted that it’s believed more languages are spoken in the borough of Queens than anywhere else in the world! It’s no coincidence that a trip to New York means a chance to see an incredible array of artistic expression and enjoy a greater variety of
food than just about anywhere.
Los Angeles, CA
Just as New York operates as a sort of East Coast gateway to the U.S. (or at least has historically), Los Angeles is situated geographically to be multicultural. It’s a natural place for immigrants from Mexico, Central, and South America to settle, particularly given California’s relatively liberal immigration policies. And it’s also a city with a fairly substantial Asian influence for those traveling across the Pacific. Los Angeles is a little bit like New York in that there are different neighborhoods devoted to different cultures and there are thought to be over 80 languages spoken. While the city itself is distinctly American in a number of ways, the population itself may feel less like a majority American population than in any other city in the country.
San Francisco, CA
We can repeat many of the points mentioned with regard to Los Angeles for San Francisco. It benefits from California’s stances on immigration and welcomes people from a broad range of countries and backgrounds – though where LA’s immigrant population leans hispanic, San Francisco can largely seem like a blend of Chinese, Japanese, and American cultures. And perhaps more than some other cities on this list, San Francisco has come to emphasize one non-American culture in particular. The city’s Chinatown area is somewhat legendary at this point, providing a real glimpse of Chinese lifestyle as opposed to just Americanized restaurants, like you’ll get in some towns. There are also a few different festival events – most notably the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade – that have come to be major events on the city’s calendar.
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans, or “The Big Easy” as it’s sometimes called, is truly unlike any other city in the U.S., and may just have the most vibrant character of any city on the list. It’s actually a difficult character to describe, though of all things an online casino game based on the city might have done the best job of it, in promising that the game encapsulates the character of New Orleans. Says the game’s description, its symbols include a plate of lobster, a glass of whiskey, the famous Bourbon Street sign, and various musical images. That actually says quite a lot! The city is known for seafood, a few famous streets, a cozy relationship with alcohol, and deep roots in music. All of this, however, stems from a very curious blend of cultures combining the American South, and both historical and modern French, African, and Caribbean influence.
Chicago is a little bit more surprising on this list, simply because its whereabouts make it a little more insulated. Coastal cities are naturally more likely to be multicultural, particularly in a country that occupies the width of a continent and is relatively “new” in world history. Chicago, on the other hand, is in the middle of the United States. However, it was once more of a frontier during what happened to be a major era of European immigration to the U.S., with the result that significant populations of Poles, Germans, and Irish ultimately provided a base for the modern European-American population of the city. Chicago also now boasts nearly even European- and African-American populations, as well as growing numbers of Hispanic and Asian citizens. Unlike New York or LA, which have neighborhoods devoted to certain cultures but are ultimately well-integrated, Chicago’s different racial and ethnic populations are seen as being somewhat more segregated. But when you visit,
you can still enjoy the artistic, culinary, and cultural influence the various groups have had on the development of the modern city. And this is only going to become more apparent thanks to an ongoing cultural plan that aims to grow the city through creative cultural innovations.