Nepal flag

Nepali Identity Shines in the Heart of New York City


The Nepali community is emerging as one of the fastest-growing groups in New York City. Their deep economic and cultural values have helped in keeping their identity alive.

Nepali immigrants are quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing groups in New York City, with around 16,699 community members in 2020. Their numbers increased nearly five times between 2010 and 2020. The primary reasons driving this population growth are job opportunities and access to better education.

Nepali immigration to the United States dates back to the 1940s when it was initially categorized as part of the “other Asian” ethnic group. In 1957, it gained recognition as a distinct and unique community. Currently, New York City hosts the second-largest Nepali population in the country, after Dallas, Texas.

As of 2021, approximately 74% of Nepali immigrants in New York City are engaged in the workforce, primarily in service and sales occupations. This participation rate exceeds the overall labor force participation rate of the Asian and Pacific Islanders (API) community in New York City, which stands at 63%.

According to Prash Bajracharya, a Research Staffer at the Embassy of Nepal in Washington DC, the migration patterns of Nepali in the US has been shifting from larger cities like New York and California to suburban areas, for example, Texas, North Carolina, and the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia) region. This shift is attributed to the desire of new immigrants to be closer to a larger Nepali community, allowing them to find a supportive network for raising their families.

Nepali Community in Queens

The center of the Nepali community’s growth is in Northwestern Queens, with Jackson Heights emerging as a hub for thriving Nepali businesses. As of 2009, Queens has over 50 Nepali-owned establishments, including grocery stores and restaurants. The first Nepali restaurant “Himalayan Yak” opened in 2004. It serves traditional Nepali food, including momos (a steamed-meat or vegetable-filled dumpling popular in South Asia).

Reflecting the vibrant culture of the community, the Nepali diaspora also actively organizes cultural events. In the last two years, community members have hosted the Nepal American Music Festival and Nepal Day Parade which were both attended by the mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.

New York City holds a special place in the hearts of Nepali, with its dreamy allure reminiscent of the vibes in Kathmandu, the Himalayan nation’s capital. The city is seen as an aspirational destination, home to renowned figures like Prabal Gurung, a famous Nepali fashion designer. He is admired for his philanthropic efforts in Nepal and his inspirational advocacy for minorities, people of color, and the Asian community in the US, with his broader message on the American dream.

Recognition and Achievements

The Nepali community has achieved significant recognition in the city. For example, the first Nepali-origin legislator, Sarahana Shrestha won a seat in the New York State Assembly in 2022. Additionally, the Nepali community celebrated a historic moment with an inaugural flag-raising ceremony between the US and Nepal by New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, in September 2023. This event marked a strong message of unity which was not only symbolic but also drew the attention of the government towards addressing the community’s need.

A Nepali non-profit organization called the Minority Empowerment Network played an important role in the flag-raising event. Shreeya Tuladhar, the executive director of the organization, is known as a rising youth leader who actively advocates the concerns of the Nepali community to state officials.

US – Nepal Relations

The US is an important partner for Nepal given its strategic position as a country sandwiched between China and India. The Nepali Embassy sees numerous opportunities to further enhance the relationship, especially in trade and investment in various sectors, including the IT sector, agriculture, and tourism. The emphasis on Nepal’s potential in hydropower as a source of clean energy presents an appealing option for investors. This strategic approach is particularly significant, aligning with Nepal commitment to clean and green energy from its abundant hydropower resources. Investment in the IT sector is highlighted due to the country’s abundant IT manpower. Additionally, the mountaineering community is one of the instruments used to enhance US – Nepal relations, forming a connection for Nepalis to embrace the western world.

Note: We have used “Nepali” instead of "Nepalese." Nepali refers to the language, culture, or ethnicity related to Nepal, while “Nepalese” refers to the nationality of people from Nepal.

Arrizka Faida is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. She received her master’s degree from Cornell University, Brooks School of Public Policy, studying MPA in Science, Technology, and Infrastructure Policy.