Transported cultures

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 28.07.2021

Chinatown, San Francisco

Ethnic enclaves exist throughout the world, bringing a beguiling slice of foreign lands to many countries. The largest Asian community outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a bigger draw than the Golden Gate Bridge. Within the USA’s highest population density west of Manhattan, the district has had a big influence. The famous dim sum teahouses are popular for their bite-sized morsels, while moon-cakes, pastries filled with bean paste and egg, are a delicious staple of the district’s Autumn Moon Festival.

Chinatown in San Francisco © Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

Chinatown in San Francisco © Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Nothing says Gallic imperialism quite like a frog curry on the banks of the Mekong. Phnom Penh has been Cambodia's capital since French colonization. It's is a stark blend of Khmer and French architecture, with Riviera-style mansions lining the wide and manic boulevards. One great preserve of the French Protectorate are the boulangeries, where the fresh baguettes are a unique and welcome luxury in south-east Asia.

National Museum in Phnom Penh - Cambodia © weltreisendertj/Shutterstock

National Museum in Phnom Penh - Cambodia © weltreisendertj/Shutterstock

Colonia Tovar, Venezuela

Just an hour from Caracas, Colonia Tovar would look more at home beneath the Eiger than beside the Caribbean. This Black Forest village, founded by Bavarian immigrants in 1843, still speaks a colonial form of German and preserves Old Country traditions. Weekenders come to gawk at the bizarre spectacle and to sample the authentic sausage, strudel and locally-brewed beer, which receives extra attention during the annual Oktoberfest.


© Carol La Rosa/Shutterstock

Little Italy, New York

A six-block stretch along Mulberry St in Lower Manhattan, New York’s Little Italy is the cradle of Italian-American culture in the United States. Established by nineteenth century immigrants, by 1920 the district’s community was 400,000 strong. Visitors come for the food, particularly in mid-September, when the 11-day festival of San Gennaro, Sicily’s patron saint, sees parades, parties and the all-important cannoli-eating contest.

Liberdade, Sao Paolo

An influx of east asians at the turn of the twentieth century left São Paolo with the highest density of Japanese residents outside Japan. The district of Liberdade is the world’s biggest ‘Japantown’. A nine-metre high torii (shinto arch) marks the entrance to a cosplay and manga mecca, where a weekly street fair offers a unique hybrid cuisine, and a Japanese-language bookshop sells fish beside the fiction.


© Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

Little India, Singapore

Mixing the mutinous anarchy of India with the sterile order of Singapore has resulted in the best of both worlds on the humid island state. One of the city’s most attractive and colourful sectors, Little India is bursting with open-fronted sweet shops, chai houses and authentic curry restaurants, where you’ll be expected to make like the locals and eat with your hands in the traditional style.

Christiania, Denmark

A long-standing bastion of hippie ideology, central Copenhagen’s Christiania has been a counter-culture commune since the abandoned military barracks was occupied in 1971. The 35-acre area is home to a thousand-strong community, not strictly an ethnic enclave but a popular attraction for visitors during the long Scandinavian summer days, who come to enjoy the atmosphere, live music, and special herbs sold in the world’s only open cannabis market.

Christiania.The area occupied by hippies in Copenhagen © maisicon/Shutterstock

Christiania.The area occupied by hippies in Copenhagen © maisicon/Shutterstock

Thames Town, Shanghai

Having written the textbook on western knock-offs, China went one step further with its bizarre ‘One City, Nine Towns’ housing initiative. Local Shanghai government built Thames Town, a suburb of the country’s financial capital resembling an English village, replete with mock-Tudor, Victorian red-brick houses and red phone boxes. Only the mandarin script, intense humidity and suspiciously unfaded appearance suggest you aren’t in Blighty.

Simla, India

A summer capital built by the British in the Himalayan foothills of Himchal Pradesh to escape the heat of the plains below, Simla (or Shimla as it was then known), looks rather more like Chester than Chandigarh. Check out the Downton-esque Viceregal Lodge, wander the mock tudor-lined ‘Ridge’, and ride the toy train that ferried imperialists to and from this surreal monument to the British Raj.

Simla in India © GoodMan_Ekim/Shutterstock

Simla in India © GoodMan_Ekim/Shutterstock

Chubut, Argentina

“Patagonia seemed like the ideal place” to found an outpost of Welsh values, according to one of the original 153 settlers that stepped off the boat in Argentina’s Chubut province in 1865. Gaiman, the cultural centre of ‘Y Wladfa’ or ‘The Colony’, attracts tourists with its Welsh protestant chapels, tea rooms serving astronomically-priced cream teas and its annual cultural festival, ‘Eisteddfod de Chubut’, every October.

Tehuelche Monument, Puerto Madryn, The Welsh Settlement, Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina © Karol Kozlowski/Shutterstock

Tehuelche Monument, Puerto Madryn, The Welsh Settlement, Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina © Karol Kozlowski/Shutterstock

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