In 2018, the US Census Bureau estimated a population of 4.9 million Chinese living in the states, comprising one of the biggest ethnic Chinese populations living outside of China, and the largest Asian population in the United States. Cities across the country and major cities around the globe are home to Chinatowns that typically include three major components: Chinese-owned businesses including restaurants serving traditional cuisine; markets showcasing native products; and an environment to celebrate cultural roots.
Chinese neighborhoods are not complete without the customary Chinese New Year Festival. If you’ve ever visited any of the Chinatowns in the world, you may agree a sense of community is palpable.
New York’s Chinatown is widely visited because it is the biggest of its kind in the United States. Since 2000, census data reports show the Chinese population in New York City has risen 70% but Chinatown has also lost close to a quarter of its residents in the same time period. A one-time thriving community is shrinking today due to increases in rent deriving from gentrification, all the skyscrapers and residential buildings going up in The Big Apple.
Despite the change in the landscape, lower Manhattan’s Chinatown remains one of the city’s oldest must-see attractions. There is plenty to do in the area for the young and old, whether you are feeling adventurous enough to hop art galleries and karaoke bars or check out the local scene. Old school markets strike curiosity for the culture, as shoppers are intrigued by the immense amounts of Chinese merchandise on display. Restaurants that are known for their dim sums such as Jing Fong or Nom Wah Tea Parlor are widely frequented by tourists and native New Yorkers. If you are visiting the big city, it’s worth taking the trip to the south end of Manhattan. The visit provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in a neighborhood where people have been able to preserve customs, culture, and language while allowing us to take part in their world.
There are other well-known and popular Chinatowns around the world that you wouldn’t imagine. Cuba’s Barrio Chino de La Habana has a small area measuring less than two blocks that focuses on Chinese eateries and themed exteriors to help visitors get the feel of China. The Barrio Chino in Lima, Peru, has had a relatively recent revival, following a period in which immigration from China was banned. Other places that boast a rich and interesting Chinatown include Kolkata, India; Johannesburg, South Africa; and London, England.
Each destination has a unique selling point, making it easy for any of these to become a favorite, as each demonstrates its own style. Most cities around the world have their version of Chinatown reflecting the essence of this community and its people. Some of the best spots won’t require leaving the United States. The key factor in celebrating the Lunar New Year in a Barrio Chino is to visit one and keep an open mind. Seek a location that offers an authentic feel of the Chinese people, its food, and culture to make it most rewarding.