Looking for cultures out of place in America
August 25, 2014 1:07 PM   Subscribe

So I'm trying to find examples of cultures/peoples/ethnicities/religions that are significantly dissimilar to the main city/culture/groups that surround them. Like finding a group of Amish people in Detroit. Or the one someone gave me of the significant Hasidic population in the scantily clad nightlife world of South Beach. What other current examples are there in the USA and Canada of unexpected groups in unexpected places?
posted by rileyray3000 to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Hutterites in Western Canada -- they are other places too but I frequent the colonies near here as a substitute teacher. They come into the city for medical appointments, limited shopping, and to sell produce at the local farmers' market.
posted by jeffmilner at 1:12 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Somali Bantus in Maine, particularly Lewiston|Auburn.

Hmong in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest.
posted by carmicha at 1:16 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Little Somalia in Minneapolis is home to a large Somali population. Maybe this link will help? The second largest population of Ethiopians outside of Addis Ababa is in Washington, D.C.
posted by kat518 at 1:16 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since leaving the Marshall Islands (where I lived as a rural volunteer for one year), I haven't met one single Marshallese person. Even in a village of ~200 with no electricity or running water, big parties meant Kings sometimes sent Tyson chicken on tiny planes to our coral runway.

Many Marshallese have migrated to Arkansas and work for Tyson.
posted by maya at 1:18 PM on August 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

There's a Hmong community in Milwaukee that pretty much fits that bill. There are also 'Travelers' in the Southern states who also hold themselves apart.
Maybe the Vietnamese shrimpers in Louisiana.
I also want to suggest all the French Canadians around Florida City/ Homestead.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:19 PM on August 25, 2014

There are a bunch of various Twelve Tribes communities that live in and around rural Vermont especially in Island Pond which is a super rural Northeast Kingdom community. They're both out of place and not out of place. There's also a large and thriving Sudanese community in and around Burlington Vermont which surprises people who think of us as a completely homogenous state. This article from my local paper discusses this somewhat. The deaf community on Martha's Vineyard was detailed in the (terrific) book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, not quite a current example.
posted by jessamyn at 1:19 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

French Canadians in Southern New England - these are Arcadians, part of the same exodus that gave rise to the Cajuns. Not really any french-speakers left, but the accent in Northwestern RI is very heavily influenced by it, as is a lot of the local cuisine.

Cape Verdeans are another interesting cultural group in the same area - they speak a creole Portuguese, and they actually have an elected MP representing the citizens residing in the greater Providence Metro area (including RI, Fall River and New Bedford) in the Cape Verde parliament. A very large presence for such a small country.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is a large Korean section in LA - Koreatown
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:25 PM on August 25, 2014

"The Hmong's pivotal role in the business of handmade quilts began when a small group, about 30 families, arrived during the late 1970s in the farmlands of Pennsylvania."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:26 PM on August 25, 2014

Maybe the Old Believers in Alaska? Although I think the point of that piece is that it's awfully hard for subcultures to remain separate from mainstream American society.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:27 PM on August 25, 2014

St. Louis has the largest population of Bosnians outside of Europe (around 70k). Here's an article from the Atlantic about them.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2014

There's a community of White Russians in the central Willamette Valley near Woodburn. They wear traditional clothing (featuring blindingly bright blues and magentas).

They always stood out when they attended the Oregon State Fair.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:31 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the late 1990s Dr. TM and I lived in south Evanston and discovered our neighbors were actually members of an urban Mennonite commune that had been there since before the Vietnam War.

I think it now exists only as a historical exhibit, but there is at least one Cornish settlement in SW Wisconsin (unusual, I think, because Wisconsin's heritage is predominantly German (along with the descendants of the French voyageurs and the native American Indian tribes).

And don't forget the Basque cowboys and ranchers (los vascos) of the Great Plains.
posted by tully_monster at 1:33 PM on August 25, 2014

Idahoan Basque for sure! So many of them kicking around up there that their national festival (used to? still does?) switches from Idaho to the Basque nation every other year.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:36 PM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

The first time I traveled to Santa Fe, NM, I was pretty surprised to see a very visible Sikh community there.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:42 PM on August 25, 2014

Also: it's not just the Hmong who first came through rural south central Pennsylvania in the 1970s. After the Vietnam War ended, there was an actual SE Asian refugee camp in Ft. Indiantown Gap that processed about 130,000 Vietnamese and later Cambodian and Laotian refugees. I grew up in very Pennsylvania Dutch SE PA. Very white, very rural, very homogenous...except for the small, thriving Vietnamese community in the middle of it all. Now that development has spread south from Allentown and north from Philadelphia, the area is a lot more diverse, but at that time it was really unusual (and kind of nifty). In areas like Lancaster and Harrisburg, which are still relatively homogenous, it's probably still kind of unique.
posted by tully_monster at 1:46 PM on August 25, 2014

There are often large immigrant communities in many rural parts of the U.S. in association with meat-packing plants: Hispanics, yes (for example, Siler City, NC), but also Vietnamese, Somalis, Filipinos, etc.

Vietnamese fishermen make up about 1/3 of the population of Bayou La Batre, AL, the shrimp fishing village featured in Forest Gump.

Also in the last couple of decades or so, the immigration flow from Latin America has included a growing percentage of immigrants from indigenous communities in Central America (southern Mexico, esp. Zapotec and Mixtec from Oaxaca, and various Mayan communities from the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala), many of whom have limited proficiency in Spanish. Large numbers of these indigenous immigrants wind up in the usual places such as California, Texas, and Florida, but also less expected places such as small-town Georgia.
posted by drlith at 2:00 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Hasidic Jewish village of Kiryas Joel in suburban Monroe, NY.
posted by Corvid at 2:01 PM on August 25, 2014

A quarter of the Eritreans who have moved to the US are in Seattle, which historically has been white and Nordic.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:16 PM on August 25, 2014

You mentioned Amish, so you might like this investigation into what they are doing at Union Station in Chicago. The answer, traveling by train, may not surprise you.
posted by Xalf at 2:26 PM on August 25, 2014

There's a lot of zen in Iowa.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:28 PM on August 25, 2014

There's a Libyan community in Lexington, Kentucky.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 2:55 PM on August 25, 2014

Thera are lots of Koreatowns in the US but the one I know is in Annandale, VA, where there are a large number of businesses, many of which exist to service only Korean customers, i.e. signs, etc are only in Korean.
posted by TheRaven at 2:57 PM on August 25, 2014

Utah county has a significant Cambodian population.
posted by mecran01 at 3:24 PM on August 25, 2014

There actually is a community of Transcendental Meditation types in Fairfield, Iowa. They have a university and everything.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2014

Dearborn, Michigan has 40,000 Arab American residents. Among other cultural impacts, one Dearborn high school's football team practices at night during Ramadan.
posted by Carol Anne at 3:35 PM on August 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

In Greensboro, NC and the surrounding area, we have the largest Montagnard population in the world outside of Vietnam.
posted by joycehealy at 5:02 PM on August 25, 2014

Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood has a fairly large Roma population, although the numbers have fluctuated over the years due to changing immigration laws.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:17 PM on August 25, 2014

Mennonites in Belize
posted by cephalopodcast at 6:35 PM on August 25, 2014

The Confederados in Brazil, descendants of thousands of Confederate who left the U.S.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:10 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's also a Hasidic community called Kiryas Tosh in Boisbriand, north of Montreal.
posted by zadcat at 7:51 PM on August 25, 2014

The Twin Cities in Minnesota has a small but thriving Sami population.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:10 PM on August 25, 2014

There is a significant population of Sikhs in Whatcom County, the far northwestern corner of Washington State (and the continental U.S.). They have built an amazing, beautiful temple in the middle of farmland, which draws over 1,000 people to special events; many of these Sikhs live in Canada and cross the border for social and religious gatherings. (Whatcom County is the raspberry capital of the world -- yes, we are! -- and the raspberry farms are being sold by aging farmers almost exclusively to Sikhs, according to the local paper. It may become a monopoly, but we locals don't care, as long as we can still get punch drunk on all the dead ripe inexpensive raspberries we can eat during Raspberry Season. You'll just have to deal with the Raspberry monopoly yourselves.)
posted by kestralwing at 9:09 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came to mention Dearborn/Detroit, also. The largest mosque in the United States is in Dearborn. The greater Detroit area has 400,000 Arabs, more than any other region in the US. Also 120,000 Chaldeans, mostly from Iraq. (Probably the Chaldeans are lumped in with that 400K Arab population number.)
posted by BinGregory at 9:18 PM on August 25, 2014

There is enough of a Serbian community in Biddeford, Maine, to have a Serbian church.
posted by theora55 at 9:19 PM on August 25, 2014

There's a small posse of Tibetan monks living in Sydney's inner west. I was at MiddleTaff and LittleTaff's school beside a park two weeks ago (in the middle of the day) and a fully maroon robed monk jumped out of the tree the kids climb after school. This was after he'd had a bit of a swing on the swing set.

I always have a private giggle when I see non-Tibetan clergy at ATMs. It's more frequent than you'd expect.
posted by taff at 11:04 PM on August 25, 2014

After the Korean war, a significant enclave of Appalachian migrants (i.e. "hillbillies") sprang up on the north side of Chicago. They've pretty much entirely assimilated by now, but their influence lives on in the odd country bar and the city's robust alt-country music tradition.
posted by Iridic at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Lancaster PA, the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country: "In 2000, 24.34% of Lancaster residents were of Puerto Rican ancestry."
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2014

Traces of pre-prohibition Hungarian vineyard workers still exist in rural Georgia. There is an unexpected abundance of Catholic churches and swarthy complexions in the area around Carollton, GA.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:39 AM on August 26, 2014

Students and faculty at Maharishi University in tiny Fairfield, Iowa practice Transcendental Meditation twice daily.
posted by scottatdrake at 9:29 AM on August 26, 2014

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago History, the majority of Tanzanians who've emigrated to the United States since 1986 live in Chicago.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:23 PM on August 26, 2014

Response by poster: By the way these are ALL really good. Thanks.
posted by rileyray3000 at 12:04 PM on August 27, 2014

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