Are there any Americatowns?
May 8, 2007 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Are there any "Americatowns" or "Little New Yorks"? I mean, are there any neighborhoods outside the U.S. that are known for having a sizable American expatriate/emigrant population and culture? I'm not talking about tourist ghettos in popular vacation spots. Nor am I interested in discussing the many American businesses and aspects of American culture that have spread outside the U.S. I just want to know if there are neighborhoods of non-American cities where a sizable, cohesive community of Americans live and work.
posted by mahamandarava to Travel & Transportation (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In Brazil, there's Americana
which was founded by Conferedates after the US Civil War, its American culture is definitely on the decline, though.
posted by The Giant Squid at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2007

Most people just lived on base, but ISTR that Kaiserslautern proper had neighborhoods where Americans were common.

ISTR that Lakenheath and Mildenhall in the UK had off-base areas that were largely American.

NB: To whatever extent these existed, they were probably a result of DoD rental-housing policies, not anything social.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:29 AM on May 8, 2007

I would put London and maybe Moscow in that class.
posted by parmanparman at 8:29 AM on May 8, 2007

I’m pretty sure given the number of US retirees in Mexico, that some of them have established neigbourhoods where they’re in the majority. Don’t have any examples to hand, but Google™ing retirement haven Mexico suggests a few places to start.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 8:33 AM on May 8, 2007

I ran into an expat community of a few thousand Americans and Canadians in Chapala, which is near Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico. I think a lot of them were snowbirds, though.
posted by jamaro at 8:34 AM on May 8, 2007

I used to know a woman who lived in Panama with her family. When I said something like, "That must be interesting, to be exposed to a different culture" she said that, on the contrary, there were so many Americans there that it was possible to both work and socialize almost entirely with Americans, and that she and her family had had to make an effort to get outside that community to feel like they were really living abroad.

Second-hand anecdotal with forgotten details! The very best kind of evidence there is!
posted by not that girl at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Many foreigners work in high level positions for the Saudi oil company - not entirely American, but from what I've read it seems like the majority are, and they live in a company town. Wikipedia.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2007

There are villages in Costa Rica that have large American retiree components.
posted by luriete at 8:38 AM on May 8, 2007

I assume these are rare because nationality-specific neighborhoods tend to emerge when economically disadvantaged immigrant groups find advantages in sticking together. Americans are essentially never an economically disadvantaged immigrant group. (Nor are Brits, which is one of many reasons why the absurd campaign to rename part of the West Village in NYC "Little Britain" grates so much.) Instead, both groups tend to congregate in wealthier, internationalist areas of big cities that are just more generally "ex-pat" rather than specifically American or British. See: parts of Prague, Moscow, and of many African capitals.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2007

It's complicated because the English speaking ex-pats tent to mix together, at least in my experience in Asia. It's hard to find a neighborhood with an American influence distinct from their British and Aussie counterparts.

In addition, there haven't been any big waves of American emigration so those that do leave are fairly spread out and don't have the critical mass to have their own neighborhood.

The exception would be enclaves of American workers employed by an international branch of an American company. There are several of these in Manila, but they tend to be more building based rather than an entire neighborhood.
posted by Alison at 8:46 AM on May 8, 2007

Many foreigners work in high level positions for the Saudi oil company

I have many friends whose parents worked for Saudi Aramco and its subsidiaries. They lived in mini-American villages/towns, were taught by Americans, etc. Check out the AramcoBrats website ("AramcoBrats are the folks who grew up in the oil camps of the Arabian-American Oil Company [now known as Saudi Aramco] in Saudi Arabia. AramcoBrats, Inc. (ABI) was formed in 1996 as a means to help us stay in touch with one another."). There's also the Aramco ExPats website.
posted by ericb at 8:52 AM on May 8, 2007

Check out the trailer for the upcoming Brat movie,
"Home, the Aramco Brats Story."
posted by ericb at 8:55 AM on May 8, 2007

In Israel, there are a few towns where the (generally wealthier) Americans who have emigrated there are known to settle. These are usually very suburban and residential areas where you can pretty much get by on zero hebrew, all english. Ra'nana and Efrat are probably the most prolific of these types of places, but some areas of Jerusalem (German Colony), as well as various other upscale residential areas in Israel attract loads of Americans.
posted by milestogo at 9:00 AM on May 8, 2007

Americans in Israel question answered here.
posted by jourman2 at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2007

Itaewon in Seoul comes close. It isn't only Americans- besides huge numbers of our military, it's also home to Korea's muslim and lgbt communities.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:02 AM on May 8, 2007

There are villages in Costa Rica that have large American retiree components.

There are also also groups of Quakers living in Costa Rica who emigrated there during WWII. When I went to Monteverde there was a biggish community of Quakers from Alabama who had set up some businesses there.
posted by jessamyn at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2007

Seconding Panama, specifically the town of Boquete on the slopes of Volcan Barú. Almost entirely comprised of American retirees and ex-pats.

And I can't say I blame them. Amazing scenery, mild weather and tropical beaches a drive away.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:27 AM on May 8, 2007

Back when Bonn was the capital of Germany (before 1989) there was an American quarter (Amerikanisches Viertel) in Bonn-Bad Godesberg, not far from the government buildings and the foreign embassies.

I moved to Bonn in 1997 when the government - and the American embassy - had moved to Berlin, but there used to be at least some shops, a school and a movie theater which showed the original versions of American films at the time they were released in the US (as opposed to normal movie theaters in Germany, where dubbed versions are shown months later usually).

Until a few years ago there were larger-than-average English sections at the local bookstores and the public library (outside the American quarter) as well.

However, the American quarter is no more, and I don't know if there is one in Berlin now.
posted by amf at 9:31 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, almost every country has some kind of expat community, although more British & Australians tend to live the expat life than we do. As far as there being a "Little America" neighborhood filled with people eating hamburgers & apple pies? I'm thinking that our culture has filtered into every country on this Earth in such a way that I wonder if anyone would even notice a "Little America" area to be different enough to actually demand a name. Where Italians may need to go to Little Italy to find canolli, or you might have to go to Chinatown for egg drop soup, there's a Starbucks & a Subway Sandwich right across from the Vienna Opera House. Hell, there's a KFC within walking distance from the sphinx in Egypt. To them, that's America.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:38 AM on May 8, 2007

BTW, to many other countries, one of the most American things ever is jazz music. But frankly, the form is dying here due to lack of appreciation so a jazz club in an "Americantown" would probably attract more people from that country than Americans. They have a better jazz scene in Paris than in most American cities.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:41 AM on May 8, 2007

I went to that American neighborhood in Bonn in 1996, and amf describes it well. It was very strange to walk through Bonn and suddenly find myself in a neighborhood where the streets, homes, everything looked the same as in Anytown USA. At something resembling a strip mall, I ate a fantastic burger and paid in dollars for it. The school looked like a U.S. school, and all the cars were Toyota Camrys with North Carolina plates.

Today, in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende is home to thousands of expats and is considered to have become something of an Americatown.
posted by donpedro at 9:43 AM on May 8, 2007

Yeah, definitely Itaewon. It's full of creepy white English speakers whom the locals avoid. On a single morning there, I talked to a good number of alcoholic Engilsh teachers, sex tourists and losers.
posted by Kirklander at 10:14 AM on May 8, 2007

Approx 50% of the population of Todos Santos (home of the Hotel California) in Baja California is American.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2007

Also in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende has had an expatriate community going back decades.
posted by Robert Angelo at 10:24 AM on May 8, 2007

Lake Chapala was already mentioned -- it sits beside a community called Ajijic, home to tens of thousands of American expats.
posted by deern the headlice at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2007

Osaka, Japan has America mura, although it is more just American chic and a tourist novelty than an actual community of Americans.
posted by ken_zoan at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2007

There is an area around AUP that has lots of American and other international students. When I was a student there they even had a store called something like "American Dream" there where you could buy things like Miracle Whip and Kraft Mac & Cheese. You could also get an American-style turkey sandwich, which is strangely satisfying after months outside the US.
posted by charlesv at 11:09 AM on May 8, 2007

I am an Aramco brat, but I don't really think it counts, since it's not really a "natural" conglomeration, based on cultural similarities, as much as it is forced.

And also, it is quite a mix of expats. There are many Americans (or at least there were when I lived there for god, 16 years), but there are also many European and Asian employees who live on the compound, as well as many Saudi nationals.
posted by mckenney at 11:28 AM on May 8, 2007

The closest I've seen to "America-Towns" I've come across in Asia have really just been English Speaking burbs. (Though if you've ever been to a really large Chinatown, you'll notice they're broken up by language as well.)

Roppongi in Tokyo is largely centered around the English speaking community. English is de rigeur and it has "western style" condos (bigger, oven in the kitchen, no tatami room), but I believe that Americans are a minority there. Mostly British Isles/Australian. It's probably not what you're looking for though, since most of the street level businesses are Japanese owned.
posted by Ookseer at 11:33 AM on May 8, 2007

From, a description of some Prague districts with expat populations. I'm not expert on Prague or the Czech Republic by any stretch but the one I time I went on vacation I saw lots of expats. One large coffee shop I went to (can't remember the name but it had a vibrant night scene, live music, lots of internet terminals) was almost entirely expat Americans.

"Vinohrady, in Prague 2, is one of the most popular residential districts for expats. It’s similar to Prague 1 – an abundance of restaurants, bars, shops and public transportation – only without the masses of tourists. There are three major metro stations within walking distance of each other: Namesti Miru, I.P. Pavlova, and Jiriho z Podebrad (which borders Prague 3). For those without a car, this makes Vinohrady one of the most convenient places to live in outside of the centre. The area is safe, with many large parks around, making it a good choice for families. The residences are mostly limited to apartments, so those seeking houses will have to look elsewhere. Most of the flats are older but newly renovated, and the rents will reflect this; after Prague 1, Vinohrady is one of the more expensive places to live. Many restaurants and businesses here will cater to a more international crowd, making them somewhat more expensive as well.

Prague 3

Prague 3 contains parts of Vinohrady, but is mostly made up by Zizkov, Vinohrady’s little neighbor. Zizkov has a reputation – deserved or not – as being one of the ‘rougher’ parts of Prague. For the most part, it’s similar to Vinohrady but quite a bit cheaper – many of the buildings have not been recently renovated (though some apartments have, and can be quite nice). It’s also much more of a Czech neighborhood, with some expats, but not nearly as many as Vinohrady. Plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, etc., and many typical Czech pubs. Public transportation can be a problem, as there isn’t any metro station in the centre, though there are plenty of trams and buses. There’s also a lot of traffic on the main streets, and not many (but some) green areas. A matter of taste, but really not the most ideal place for families."
posted by The Straightener at 11:41 AM on May 8, 2007

I lived in Berlin and knew probably around fifty other Americans who were all within walking distance of my house. As was said before, though, it tended to focus more on English-speaking (primarily Americans and Brits) than being American, though we did have a 4th of July BBQ.
posted by atomly at 11:44 AM on May 8, 2007

There's Roppongi in Tokyo, known basically as the "American" district, though it's hardly where they live or do business--more like the spot where they all go to party. But that's all I can really come up with. I think this comment really hits at why these type of communities don't exist.
posted by dead_ at 11:50 AM on May 8, 2007

You're probably thinking of The Globe, The Straightener. Did they have books, too? When I lived in Prague, the prices downtown (Prague 1 & 2) had just started shooting up. I lived in a (non-posh) part of Prague 6, and all the Americans or Brits I knew had started moving farther out into the suburbs to survive on their freelance or Czech-level salary.

Expat life revolved around certain institutions (the Globe, the Mexican restaurant in Mala Strana, the Kotva grocery store downtown that sometimes had peanut butter and other American stuff, etc) more so than a single neighborhood itself.

And in Munich, American life revolved around consulate-provided housing for the staffers + shopping for American stuff at the nearby Army PX.

Wherever there are expat Americans, there will be freaks who crave Peter Pan, Jiffy, and Kraft Mac and Cheese, and there will be stores to fill that need... ;)
posted by at 12:43 PM on May 8, 2007

You're probably thinking of The Globe, The Straightener. Did they have books, too?

Yes, that's exactly the place I was thinking of. I loved that place, it was like 7 years ago now so maybe it's different today.
posted by The Straightener at 12:52 PM on May 8, 2007

I'm not sure if this is what you're after, but here's a Nation article about the ginormous fortified US Embassy compound being built in Baghdad:
"US officials here [in Baghdad] greet questions about the site with a curtness that borders on hostility. Reporters are referred to the State Department in Washington, which declined to answer questions for security reasons." Photographers attempting to get pictures of what the locals call "George W's Palace" are confined to using telephoto lenses on this, the largest construction project undertaken by Iraq's American visitors.
. . .
[T]here will soon be twenty-one buildings, 619 apartments with very fancy digs for the big shots, restaurants, shops, gym facilities, a swimming pool, a food court, a beauty salon, a movie theater (we can't say if it's a multiplex) and, as the Times of London reports, "a swish club for evening functions."
. . .
USA Today has learned that the "massive new embassy, being built on the banks of the Tigris River, is designed to be entirely self-sufficient and won't be dependent on Iraq's unreliable public utilities."
posted by rob511 at 6:06 PM on May 8, 2007

Tienmu in Taipei, Taiwan used to be the place where a lot of Americans lived and worked, and it's still the home of the American School and of a thriving expat community.

I don't think it is as much of an enclave anymore, though, as the spread of American culture is evident throughout the city these days.
posted by gemmy at 6:20 PM on May 8, 2007

Roppongi, Azabu and maybe Omotesando in Tokyo. Not really an Americatown, but there are a lot of foreigners in Omiya. They even sell English newspapers at the station kiosk.
posted by m3thod4 at 2:21 AM on May 9, 2007

Shunyi outside of Beijing is ex-pat central. Gated expat communities, exclusive private schools and wide aisled supermarkets line the streets there all catering to corporate executives on "Expat Packages". What you won't find much in Shunyi is traditional Chinese culture.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:15 AM on May 9, 2007

An ex-boyfriend grew up in American Quarter of Tehran during the 70s and 80s. Both of his parents worked for the US embassy; his upbringing was very American, although his dad was from Iran and his mother from Russia. Not sure if it still exists, although his mother still lived in the same house when he and I dated.
posted by Jaie at 3:40 PM on May 9, 2007

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