As I said in a previous article, one of the things that excites me most about big cities is the cultural opportunities. I have traveled to several different countries, and I absolutely love trying new foods, even when it’s risky (to date I have tried sushi, squid, corn flavored ice cream, and even dog!), and I adore simply watching people in a café and observing how the pace of life differs. One of the great things about bigger cities is that different cultures are so easily accessible. The food, shopping and even architecture can transport visitors to a whole new culture without even leaving the United States. San Francisco, for example is home to many different Asian populations. Here are some things to check out when visiting this city.
San Francisco is home to one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in America. Like many Chinatowns, its entrance is marked by a large archway and there are several banks and buildings built in more traditional Chinese fashion…even some of the street signs are in Chinese. This is also a great place to shop and eat. Authentic Chinese food is one of my favorites…Americanized dishes such as sesame chicken and crab Rangoon are good, but they just can’t compare to steamed dumplings, spicy meats, and desserts flavored with red beans. See if you can master chopsticks, bargain with a shop owner for imported goods, or try a boba tea. This drink comes in many flavors including fruit, coffee and coconut, and contains sticky balls of tapioca at the bottom of the cup. I’m a fan of bubble tea because it’s like a snack and a drink all at once. The presence of Chinese people in San Francisco has even caused some of their festivals, such as Chinese New Year, to become popular.
For more Asian culture, San Francisco also has a Japantown. For those who think Chinese and Japanese cultures are basically the same thing, think again: Both may be Asian cultures, but you will most certainly have a different experience visiting Japantown. Like Chinatown it has a fair amount of restaurants and shopping, but the foods served are much different. Japanese cuisine contains a greater quantity of uncooked meats and seafood’s (resulting in dishes such as sushi), as well as more noodle dishes. Be sure to check out the five tiered Peace Pagoda and, if your group is in town at the right time, the Cherry Blossom Festival.
There are several other areas that have cultural flairs. North Beach is an Italian-dominated neighborhood comparable to other cities Little Italy’s. In addition to Italian food, Thai, Russian, Korean and more can be found within San Francisco. Choosing to visit a cultural neighborhood is a good way to experience some new things, and can even be a good option for a student tour. Students can learn a little about immigration and the types of changes it brings, and then visit one of these neighborhoods for visual demonstration. Plus it’s just fun to try new foods. So when visiting San Francisco, make sure you stop at one of these neighborhoods and start experiencing new cultures!