What is culture? Culture itself is not necessarily something tangible, but made up of many factors. Fundamentally though, culture is fuelled by the people who live there. Having a strong expatriate population, full of different ideas and backgrounds contributes to a buzz of culture. The attractiveness of these places to internationals, combined with the input they have in creating the culture, can mean that there are certain places in the world that have truly become cultural hubs. These hubs bring in and feed off the people who come and go.
If culture - be it music, art, literature or history – is important to you, then this should play a part in your decision-making process. While there will be great cultural discoveries in more rural or suburban areas, the scale and diversity that comes with cities lends itself to a buzzing culture. The large audiences of cities - both tourist and resident - fund and provide the need for cultural investment.
To help you make your decision, we have taken a look at some of the cities that have become true cultural hubs.
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London has a strong offer in many cultural senses. Last year, as host of the Olympics, the city got a chance to show off its offering to a global audience in the jam-packed and memorable cultural displays of the opening and closing ceremonies. As well as a clear and celebrated history, London has great cultural infrastructure with an endless number of theatres, concert halls, opera houses and museums to keep any type of expat amused on their days off. Due to this array of cultural opportunity as well as the city’s position on the world map, the city attracts huge numbers of visitors. The volume of diverse people descending on London, bringing with them their own country’s influences, has really contributed to the modern day buzz of London, with amazing world food markets popping up all over the city and international festivals, such as Notting Hill Carnival, Chinese New Year and the Holi Festival become staple activities in the cosmopolitan calendar.
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Istanbul is a great example of a cultural hub. It celebrates itself as an ancient and a modern city and - having been at the centre of the Greek, Roman and Ottoman culture - has not lost touch with any of its influences. Today, Instanbul is still a hybrid for culture. Its physical location on the river Bosphorus means that it stands as a bridge between Europe and Asia. This position is clearly represented in the architecture of the buildings with the Roman Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern and Column of Constantine all still standing strong. Perhaps the most notable historic site, and one that has developed with the nation, is the Hagia Sofia, which, for a thousand years was the world’s largest cathedral before being turned into a mosque under Ottoman rule, and now hosting a museum. Despite having a significant historical presence, Istanbul is still very much a modern city and in 2010 the city was named one of the European capitals of culture. This led to new festivals, events and exhibitions being held and a culture of modern creativity being nurtured. One great addition to the cultural landscape was the establishment of two new museums including one set up by the Nobel-Prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk looking at the development of Istanbul since the 1950s through the mediums of film and photography. This museum is an afternoon well spent for any expat wanting to get to grips with how Istanbul has changed over recent years.
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While Mumbai might lack some of the infrastructure that traditionally provides the backbone to a culture of creativity, the city is a true example of a nation celebrating its own unique offering and exporting it globally. Despite having been under Portuguese rule for more than a century, and then leased to the British East India company, Mumbai’s foreign-born population remains relatively small. Despite this, the range of ethnicities from all over India, who moved to Mumbai for its commercial potential created a hybrid and mixing of ideas that sparked the beginning of Bollywood. Mumbai has become the hub of Hindi film-making and is believed to make more films than any other city in the world. With significant revenue coming in from the industry, it is a great example of how culture can have real financial benefits.