The past month has been an amazing time to be a resident of Queens. We talk a lot about how the borough is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the world, and the World Cup has been a great vessel to highlight immigrants eager to sport their home nations’ colors and pack bars and restaurants to cheer for their team. What’s even more amazing is how welcoming these groups are of bandwagon fans, or curious onlookers who want to learn more about the culture of a country they may only know as a place on the map, or by the uniform the national football team wears.
The tournament may be over, but this general sentiment of acceptance of each other doesn’t need to end. In fact, we should learn from this tournament that our neighbors will gladly welcome others from different cultures into their restaurants and other establishments as long as you come with an open and interested mind. It’s easy to walk into a Croatian supporters’ bar for a World Cup game, knowing that people will be happy you are cheering along with them. But if you go back this week and enjoy a Karlovačko beer or a Plavac Mali wine, you will likely be treated just as warmly.
You’d likely find the same warm welcome if you stopped by a Korean karaoke bar in Flushing, a Guyanese cabana in Richmond Hill, a Mexican restaurant in Corona, or any one of the Asian or South American establishments that dot the streets, roads and avenues in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. If you are looking for ideas, websites like EattheworldNYC.com and ediblequeens.com have some great suggestions.
We live in a time of great division and constant worry over the future of our country. Under that cloud, the World Cup served as a shining light to celebrate our shared humanity and common interests, especially here in Queens, where we have always embraced an inclusive pluralistic society.
Let’s hope that the light doesn’t go out now that the tournament is over.