Monday, March 2, 2009

Experiencing Many Different Cultures

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago, Illinois in hopes of moving there once I graduate from the University of Arizona in May.  I had been to Chicago nearly two years ago, but this trip was entirely different, mostly because it was snowing and 20 degrees most of the  time.  However, during this trip, my goal was to pay close attention to the different ethnicities and cultures that surround the entire city of Chicago.  

During my three day visit, I visited and ate at five different ethnic restaurants, including Japanese, Irish, Greek, Spanish, and Italian.  My sister, who lives in Chicago, asked my friend and I if we wanted to try Mexican food, Turkish food, Lithuanian food, and many other different styles of food during our stay.  I thought to myself, not only is there every type of food possible in this city, but each different ethnicity has their own small section of the city.  

For example, on Saturday we took the brown line train to Greek town.  As we excited the train, the street was lined with Greek restaurants on either side as far as I could see.  Greek children and families swarmed the streets, and in the restaurant we ate at, we appeared to be the only non-Greeks, and I began to feel a little out of place.  I asked our waitress if everyone who worked in the restaurant was from Greece, and she replied "yes."  When I asked her why she left Greece, she replied that "It is a beautiful country, but I knew there was  so much more opportunity for me in America."  

Later in the evening we visited a Spanish tapas restaurant called Cafe Ba Ba Reeba.  This experience was much different from my time in Greek town because everyone who worked at the restaurant was Spanish, I asked our waiter, but the people who were enjoying the fabulous food did not appear ethnic at all.     

Nearly 75 percent of Chicago's population is Latino, and according to the Chicago U.S. census bureau other prominent ethnic groups include, Irish (201,836), German (200,392), Polish (179,868), Italian (96,599), and English (60,307).

As for a little history of why the city of Chicago has such a large ethnic population, it started in the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, where 39 million people visited Chicago for the "International wonderland of innovative architecture, science and industry." 

Chicago still remains one of the largest diverse culture places in the world.  Even the cab drivers I met during the weekend were of all different cultures and ethnicities.

Upon coming home, I sat down on the plane next to a man from South Africa.  He was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Upon graduating from high school, he had the opportunity to come to the United States and study nuclear physics.  He told me there were several cultural differences between his life in South Africa and in America.  He said although he misses his home town, he loves America and plans to reside here.  

I learned during my visit that I am not the only person who has dreamed of moving to Chicago in hopes for a different life, but people from all over the world have thought the same thing.  I was able to experience many different cultures during my visit, and I look forward to experiencing many more when I move. Please read next week when I talked about an interesting individual by  the name of George Nachich who lives in Chicago but was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia and was captured by  the Germans during World War I.   

This video gives a better understanding of the Mexican culture in Chicago.    

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