International communities have long made up the rich cultural diversity of the UK’s multicultural capital. Peter Orange finds out where the various communities are concentrated.
London’s cultural diversity didn’t happen overnight. The city has been a major settlement for migrants ever since it was founded by the Romans in 43AD. By the late 16th century London had become the administrative centre of a growing empire that at its peak in 1922 covered a quarter of the world’s land area.
As the BBC reports in their series “Short History of Migration”, Mass immigration first began in earnest during the 1950’s when the demand for labour increased throughout England at the end of the two World Wars. With decolonisation and the creation of the Commonwealth, many patriots from countries of the old British Empire came to London in search of jobs and a new life.
Today, the diverse international communities living throughout Greater London, often clustered in different areas, contributes significantly to the city’s vibrancy and economy. In 2005 The Guardian newspaper published a map of London’s multi-cultural communities; visit Diversity of London (opens a PDF file).
Expatriates coming to London will find support networks and services related to their homelands within these communities. Some of these areas have even become tourist havens, with exotic markets, shops and restaurants reflecting different cultures tastes and styles.
African London today can be seen predominantly in the street life of neighbourhoods such as Peckham, Hackney, the Elephant & Castle, Tottenham and Leytonstone.
Today, London’s Irish-born population is traditionally associated with areas such as Kilburn, Cricklewood, Willesden, Camden Town and Hammersmith.
In August expect the celebrated Notting Hill Carnival in Notting Hill. However, the hubs of residential areas tend to be Peckham, New Cross, Dalston, and Lewisham. You’ll find Europe’s largest concentration of Afro-Caribbean foodstuffs at Brixton Market.
Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot communities are spread around Lewisham, Lambeth, Southwark, Croydon, Haringey, Enfield, Islington and Hackney; specifically Stoke Newington High Street and Kingsland Road.
Middle Eastern London
London has become an ‘intellectual centre’ for the Arab world. It is home to several major Arabic newspapers and TV stations. Arabs from the Middle East live mostly around Edgware Road, Bayswater and Kensington. Communities from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the Lebanon have tended to settle in areas like Shepherd’s Bush.
People from and descendants of immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have brought much to London and the UK. Brick Lane is now a place for local Bangladeshis to congregate. Green Street is almost like being in India. South Indians, Sri Lankans and Somalis have flocked to Wembley, Kingsbury, Kenton and Harrow. Southall is home to the capital’s Punjabi, Sikh and Sindhi communities.
The Chinese community is spread all over London. Chinatown remains a major tourist attraction. Almost half of the Chinese population lives in inner London, with the rest of the Chinese community being concentrated across the three boroughs of Barnet, Southwark and Westminster.
You can find a bit of Greece in London if you check out Green Lanes and the stretch from Newington Green through Finsbury Park. Today some of the largest communities can be found in parts of North London such as Wood Green and Palmer’s Green
Most Japanese people resident in London are business people with their families, or students, which make the community particularly transient. Japanese communities tend to cluster in areas such as Barnet, North London – from Swiss Cottage up to North Finchley – and Golders Green.
North American London
The largest communities of Americans can be found in Kensington and Chelsea; 5.1 percent of the population are from the USA.
Latin American London
Restaurants and cyber-cafés are visible evidence of a sizeable presence of Brazilians in West London (from Notting Hill to Putney), Colombians and Ecuadoreans in Elephant & Castle, and Colombians in Finsbury Park.
South East Asian London
Vietnamese, Malaysians, Koreans, Thais and Indonesians live throughout London – South East Asian restaurants can be found on almost every high street across the city. There is a large Korean presence in New Malden.
Polish and Eastern European
The Polish community is currently the fastest growing international community in London. Supermarkets have announced that they intend to stock a selection of Polish dishes and delicacies. Areas such as Hammersmith, Ealing and Kensington have the most Polish residents in London.
North London (Stamford Hill in Hackney), has long been the home of the strictly orthodox Jewish community. Today the liveliest part of Jewish London is probably Golders Green.
London is also home to Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and other European communities. Stockwell and South Lambeth Roads house many Portuguese businesses. South Kensington is like a ’little France’ in London. Portobello Road area is home to a large Spanish community.
For more information on each community and area, visit the following links on the ’Visit London’ website.
Peter Orange / Editor Expatica UK