London is officially the "most diverse city ever" according to today's Guardian.
The article, part of the paper's special What is Britain report, profiles the capital's non-indigenous communities (e.g. Poles in Hammersmith, West Africans in Southwark, Congolese in Tottenham, Koreans in New Malden, Portugese in Stockwell and, of course, Australians behind bars)and assesses the attitudes and tensions which arise within such diversity.
Some quick facts:
- Altogether, more than 300 languages are spoken by the people of London, and the city has at least 50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000 or more.
- According to the last census, in 2001, 30% of London residents had been born outside England - that's 2.2 million people.
- In London, one can dine on food from more than 70 different countries.
- In the 2001 census almost 16% of Londoners said they had "no religion" at all - more than all the Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists put together.
Some choice quotes:
- "Londoners are notable for their lack of warmth. Their city is a place of business; they have the fewest public holidays in Europe and work by far the longest hours."
- "Bilsen, a 40-year-old Turkish woman, couldn't understand the frosty atmosphere when she first arrived. 'When you're on the underground, people don't talk,' she explained with horror."
- ="The ubiquitous doner column, a respectable dinner in Istanbul reduced to little more than binge fuel in London, now scarcely registers as foreign."
- "If a Jamaican man says to you, 'Go suck your mama', you would get angry. It got me angry for many years until about six months ago, because I don't like nobody cussing my mum. But it's like with the English guy who says 'piss off' - he doesn't really mean that. You just have to know the culture."
- "After six years at university in Britain, the only job he could get was driving a bus, joining Transport for London's enormous Somali workforce. 'I know a lot of qualified doctors who are working as minicab drivers," says Hassan. 'Hundreds,' adds Farah."
- "Santos's cafe on South Lambeth Road is a shrine to football. He seems to have more Benfica shirts than Benfica, as well as Pele's autograph and a signed picture of Eusebio, who once honoured the cafe with a visit."
- "Across the road, past a parade of faded posters of far-eastern film stars, is Madigan's, a proper London boozer that fills up every weekend with Vietnamese men cheering on their team. 'They're armchair supporters," says Phan. "They'll support whichever team wins them money. Vietnamese people love a big punt.'"