Friday, October 29, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: What is the Best City for Asian Americans?

Dear Korean,

Now that I have some financial freedom to move relatively wherever I want, where is the best place for Asian Americans to live? New York City has been my home for 30 years and I have never liked the attitude towards Asians here.

Sam


Dear Sam,

Very interesting question. The Korean's personal pick would be a tie between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Both cities are heavily Asian, which means no more dumb statements like "Your English is so good!" or "No, where are you really from?" It also means that Asian Americans run major businesses, which means less potential discrimination (intentional or otherwise) in the course of your job. Both cities have very good and real Asian food, although San Francisco leans more Chinese and Los Angeles more Korean/Vietnamese. But they do have slight differences, which ends up being a matter of preference. (It should be obvious that this is all generalization and individual experience may differ.)


San Francisco is where Asian Americans can go in America to feel "normal". The Asian American population there is so old that it is essentially mainstream. Even 80-year-old Asian American grandmothers speak perfect English. Even the white people in San Francisco have gotten so used to Asians that it does not even really register that Asians are supposed to be different somehow. No one has to apologize for the fact that the lunch that he packed for the office smells like Asian food, for example. In San Francisco, an Asian American can live while being oblivious to the fact that she is a minority.



Los Angeles is where Asian Americans can go in America to feel "special". Angelenos want to be hip, and being Asian in 2010 is hip. It is sometimes annoying that people constantly remind your Asian-ness, but that attention is generally positive -- it feels nice that people are curious about your culture and want to learn about it. Asians in Los Angeles tend to be more recent immigrants, which means you tend to be closer to the goings-on of your country of origin (e.g. the latest K-pop), if you care about that type of thing. But that can also mean that Asians in Los Angeles are farther removed from the mainstream.

Since this is a Wiki, let's hear from everyone. Asian American readers, where do you like? If you like your city, make a case for it even if it might not be exactly the "best". For example, the Korean has been curious for some time about what it's like to live in Montgomery, Alabama, where Hyundai is a major employer. Would the locals lovingly embrace Asian Americans who brought them jobs, or secretly resent their presence? Don't limit yourself to American cities either -- let's hear them all.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

41 comments:

  1. Depends on your stage in life. If you're a Korean-American parent, I think it'll be hard to keep your kids away from the LA K-town (or other S.Cal) party scene. For Korean-Americans with kids, my vote goes to the Wash. DC metro area (esp. Fairfax County). Enough Korean culture to feel "special," but without a lot of the unwholesome habits and values that sometimes come with it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have lived in the heart KTown, LA for 6 years and can say that there is definitely a strong community amongst Koreans. Not being Korean myself, I would still have to agree with Huggleberry and Co. and say that if you are concerned with bad influences or temptations with the party scene I would consider not moving there. But as a single person there is a lively nightlife and the food is really fantastic. I've recently moved to South Carolina and I am still pining over the loss of good Korean food!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Northern Virginia is a nice suburban area. I like it a lot. It's overwhelmingly Korean, with a bit of Vietnamese closer to DC. Not a lot of Chinese. Koreans love churches...but the DC nightlife is nice (though not geared towards Asians).

    Houston is a great city for Asian Americans. Larger Vietnamese and Chinese presence there. Good grocery with H Mart, Ranch 99, and about twenty other large grocery stores (more seem to be opening everyday). COL is superb when compared to other Asian-American cities. Weather takes some getting used to. The Bellaire area is the new Chinatown and a great place to hang out. Most of the Asians live in the suburbs. Party scene is OK for young adults.

    Dallas, Texas (mainly suburbs) has a growing Korean population and a low COL like Houston. H-Mart, a brand new Korean Spa, and a decent selection of Asian restaurants. Not the best nightlife for young Asian-Americans though.

    SF city for young adults is probably one of the most exciting places to live. That is, if you make enough money to pay the ridicilous rent.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lots of Asian-Americans generally-dunno specifically Korean- around Cambridge/Boston, if only because of the general university feel to it. Not that many Indians though (I'm Indian, so I felt that quite strongly.)

    Btw, long-time lurker, first comment, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oakland has great Korean restaurants, relatively reasonable rents and is a short BART ride from SF and Berkeley. Also large Chinese, Vietnamese and Mongolian communities.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Now that I have some financial freedom to move relatively wherever I want, where is the best place for Asian Americans to live?"

    Remember that there are a lot of places in the US that would be awful places for just about anyone to live. You should probably discount these places immediately. Some have already been mentioned above.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Also, I wanted to write that the Korean gets SF and LA right. SF does have that feel to it. That's a big plus in its favor.
    ---
    "If you're a Korean-American parent, I think it'll be hard to keep your kids away from the LA K-town (or other S.Cal) party scene."

    I remember visiting some friends who live in Santa Monica when I was a young teenager. Every night, we went into K-town to do things our parents would strongly disapprove of with barely dressed ladies. It was awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I actually want to put in a good word for Lexington, Kentucky. It's better known as a Toyota plant town (DO NOT work there), but more than a few Asians found some good employment there. A tip: stay in the city proper - get outside of Lexington and the rednecks begin to appear.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What about Vancouver, boys and girl? I know its across the border, but I can't imagine a more friendly non-Asian Asian city.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Chris, true story -- the Korean was thisclose to living in London, KY for a year for a judicial clerkship.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @ramblingperfectionist: Boston does has a lot of younger Asian Americans--and some decent selections for Chinese food (and Indian food in Cambridge). However, if you want good Korean food or Japanese food, it's definitely not that great of a city to be in.

    Generally, of the cities I've lived in, the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area is probably the most Asian American friendly, since almost every ethnic group has an enclave that you can visit, with Koreatown and San Gabriel (for people of Chinese descent) being quite enormous.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Tokyo is nice if you are an Asian American and want to feel like you aren't a minority when you're walking around in public, as most everyone will assume you are Japanese. However, once you start actually meeting people and talking to them, the concept of "Asian-American" doesn't really register and people don't think you're a "real American". If for example you are a Korean-American or a Chinese-American, people will just think of you as Korean or Chinese, even if you explicitly state you are an American and grew up near DC.

    There are a few people who the idea will actually register with, but they are few and far between, and anything you say or do is not representative of Americans, but of other Asian ethnicities that you might be.

    If you are a Japanese-American, then they'll still consider you to be Japanese, but a little bit different.

    Seoul on the other hand is hard for me to gauge, as I don't have many Asian-American friends here, and I am ethnically Korean. For the most part people generally assume I am Korean and I don't get treated as a minority at all. I can't imagine what it might be like for Chinese or Japanese Americans here, but I'd have to assume that Koreans would not think of them as Americans, but rather as Chinese or Japanese.

    Baltimore is... well, an interesting place to live, but if you are an Asian-American, you might as well be a martian. (This is specifically talking about the city itself, not necessarily its suburbs.) In Baltimore you'll often find people putting their hands together and bowing to you when they say thank you for patronizing their store (which I guess is an effort to be nice, but it's incredibly patronizing). You'll also get people saying that your English is awesome. Most people will assume that you arent' an American, and if they assume you are, then they will probably assume you are from DC or the surrounding area, as it has a much larger Asian population, as no person in the U.S. would willingly travel to Baltimore unless it was really close and had something to offer that their own city didn't have (such as basball, though this has died down because DC got it's own team).

    ReplyDelete
  13. "In Baltimore you'll often find people putting their hands together and bowing to you when they say thank you for patronizing their store (which I guess is an effort to be nice, but it's incredibly patronizing)."

    Umm what?!?!?!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Re Baltimore:

    "With Baltimore you'll often find people putting their hands together and bowing to you when they say thank you for patronizing their store (which I guess is an effort to be nice, but it's incredibly patronizing)"

    ><. WHAT. I'm currently in Baltimore for school but I have never experienced this. I've gone around the city quite a bit but have never come across this type of treatment. Can you please tell me where I might go to find this sort of behavior?

    Koreans own like half the businesses here anyways...

    I agree with you that Baltimore probably isn't the best city for Asian-Americans as the population is mainly ghetto blacks, middle-class blacks, rich whites, hipsters, and working-class whites. Not much room for Asians, unfortunately.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Well I can tell you what city isn't the best for Asian Americans: Chicago. :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chicago is the best place within the Midwest for Asian Americans... if you want to feel normal, avoid the Midwest, in general. Definitely avoid Wisconsin, Minnesota... Michigan and Illinois are a little better.

      Delete
    2. madison, wi has close to 20,000 asians in area. Demographics for madison,wi is 75% white, 8% asian, 7.5% black, 7.5 hispanic. Great diversity and I challenge anyone to find a Midwest city more diverse...other than Chicago.

      Delete
  16. Hawaii, although after being in NY I'd recommend Honolulu. Unless you really like that small town, everyone-knows-your-business feel.

    Actually as an Asian American I sometimes feel like I blend in too much.

    Take a trip and make sure not only do Hawaii tourist thing. Wander around Chinatown and then when you drive from one neighborhood to another count how many Pho restaurants there are on the way. It's quite extensive.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I second T. Jason's sentiment. While Chicago is far from being a terrible place for Asian-Americans to live, it's not exactly great either. I've lived here for seven years and have had a fair amount of offensive/interesting/hilarious experiences. The Chinese community is quite large. I don't know much about the Korean community as it's a bit on the outskirts of the main city. My parents are from the Philippines and I'm a first generation American who was born in northern NJ (that's a whole other world) who doesn't even look like a Filipina. What I do know is that despite Chicago being a large city with many different cultures and ethnicities, it is very segregated and a bit racist. Here are some comments/questions I've received since living here:
    - No, what are you really?
    - Don't you people like anal?
    - What's dog taste like?
    - So...are you really tighter?
    - Your boobs are way too big for an Asian. Are you a halfer?
    - You ain't Chinese? You on a bus that goes through Chinatown! Of course I'm gonna think you speak Chinese.
    - And many others (some worse, some just silly).

    Of course, things could be worse. I do love living in Chicago but it's definitely more geared towards Caucasians, then Hispanics and African-Americans, and Asians are expected to either blend in or keep quietly to themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  18. haha Oakland.....

    Ok lets be real a city witha high violence rate on Asians is not a "Best" City candidate. I live in The South Bay on the fringes of San Jose called Saratoga. This is a upscale neighborhood that is expensive but well worth it. I am a Giant white male that works in the legal Canabis industry here just to let you know. Last night on Halloween 40 kids came to my house and all where Korean children with there grandparents or a mother sometimes. They were so cute and it was lovely to see Korean families adopting the American heritage with open arms. I took Korean martial arts in this neighborhood most of my life and it there are huge Korean food markets and shops along El Camino down here. By far the South Bay is the best city for any nationality but for Koreans it extra special. Sorry no where in Hawaii is good for anyone other then natives. No work, lots of drugs, and lots of hate for outsiders.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The best city for Asian-Americans... or for second-generations of any kind... or for mixed couples of any kind... or for anyone who's vaguely either East or South Asian... would be Vancouver, BC.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Re - Baltimore.

    Yes, those types of interaction are few and far between, but they happened to me when I was with my dad.

    Once it happened at the concession stand at Camden Yards, another time it was in a 7-11 somewhere south of the Harbor.

    I am actually from DC, so I must admit that I don't go to Baltimore that often, but that only makes those incidents stand out more.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Honolulu - everyone talks and looks like you (except for the tourists from Asia)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Take a look at the Seattle metro area, particularly Bellevue or Redmond, especially if your work has anything even remotely to do with technology. There are multiple Asian groceries and restaurants, and not a day goes by that I don't hear someone speaking Korean, Japanese, or Chinese around me, both at work and just out shopping or at restaurants. There's plenty of nightlife and lots to do without as much of a big city feel as LA/SF.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I grew up in LA, went to schools in SF and Boston, and now live in Northern VA. Fairfax County is by far the best place to raise a family for Korean Americans. The schools are top rate, it's very safe, there are enough Korean markets, restaurants, churchs, etc, but it's not overwhelming as it is in LA. However if you are single, it's probably not the most exciting place to be.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I live in Los Angeles and I used to live in the city part of L.A.
    Seeing Korean writing on buildings became so common to me that I no loger noticed it. The student population at my old school was about 30% Korea, almost as much as the Caucasian population. Now I live in a suburb of LA which is very close to LA. My high school is 62% Chinese. They ARE the mainstream. There is a school-wide joke where is someone asks you a question like "Who is he?" and you answer "Oh, he's Asian, or he's the one with black hair" the classic response will be "Well that narrows it down" said in a scathingly sarcastic tone. I'm one of about 4 non-Asians n my honors math class of at least 30. Everybody at my school acts a little bit Asian, and knows how to use chopsticks. I watch Korean dramas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. May I know what suburb and high school was that called , I'm may be moving but I'm worried about the discrimination to Asians so I'm hoping to go to a place with larger Asian population

      Delete
  25. Seattle and Portland areas are good as well. There are good Asian food supermarkets as well as good restaurants. The neighborhood we live in is about 30% Asian. White people do not look at you twice because you are Asian. Most of the Asians here are Korean and Vietnamese and some Chinese.

    Portland is much cheaper to live in than Seattle, L.A., or San Fran. Any of the major west coast cities are good.

    I've also heard that Houston is good as well.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Atlanta. It's easily one of the fastest growing Korean population cities in the country.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I live in Houston but Ive met AAs from everywhere. I like Houston, its got so much urban sprawl and there's something everywhere. There's a bit of everything here. But, the major groups are Vietnamese, Chinese,Indian/Pakistani, Filipino, Indo/Thai, Korean, Indonesian. The Koreans are known for the area in and around Long Point and I go to Mass over at the local church there. But, the youth is very much into Vietnamese food( to my surprise). Not many Japanese people here and in Texas, Ive probably met by chance a handful.

    If you like less of a huge city feel(NYC) or more landscape than larger cities like Chi-Town and LA, try Houston. The people are friendly and we have a great food and entertainment scene.

    ReplyDelete
  28. how can you not like new york city?? born and raised here and have loved every minute of it...

    ReplyDelete
  29. West coast and east coast seem to provide lots of options for Asian-Americans that don't want to feel so isolated and stand out...If you do want to stand out and be a part of a very small minority, there is plenty of land in the midwest, mississippi valley region. Go live in places like Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio. definite small minority feel.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Why not like NYC? That's pretty much the general attitudes of NYers. My uncle (NJ/NYC residence) said that if you are not assertive here, they'll walk all over you!

    Grown up in LA so I take my Asian-ness for granted:) Sometime if I get Asian overload I like to visit Nashville and Midwest:)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Sam says he has financial stability now. If so, Honolulu or some place on Oahu. IMO stupid to move anywhere else.

    I lived in Georgia for a short period in late 1990's after living in LA. DEFINITELY racism/ignorant-about-Asians there.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I'm from Baltimore and its not diverse enough for me..like DC/VA or Prince Georges/Montgomery county in Maryland but I guess I have to travel to those areas to have variety..but I think it should be closer...

    ReplyDelete
  33. In my opinion, the best place for Asians to live is Honolulu or anywhere in Hawaii. The Hawaiians islands were heavily populated and influenced by Asians and Asian culture during the days of immigration to work the sugar plantations. Like MANY of the local born and raised islanders here, I am part Asian. If you want to blend in and feel at home, Hawaii is the place to be.

    ReplyDelete
  34. San Francisco/San Jose are great locations to live as an Asian American. With large Asian populations, a long history, a high sense of progressiveness and racial tolerance (and in CA in general) make these locations ideal. Also they are large economic and cultural hubs of America (can't say the same for Hawaii) and the weather is great. I never feel like an outsider here.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I know it isn't in the US but there's a Korea Town called New Malden where I live in London. According to Wikipedia: "it has one of the largest expatriate community of South Koreans in Europe, and is said to be one of the most densely populated area of Koreans outside South Korea.". I'm a British born Korean and I can't walk down the road without seeing someone that I went to Korean school with. So many Korean shops, restaurants, bakeries...etc Whenever I get a hankering for BBQ, I head there.

    ReplyDelete
  36. There are many Korean churches, mostly on the east side of Montgomery Alabama, along with Korean grocers and restaurants. Many of the Koreans have settled into the eastern side of Montgomery. There aren't many homes or businesses near the Hyundai plant.

    ReplyDelete

To prevent spam comments, comments left on posts older than 60 days are subject to moderation and will not appear immediately.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...