Brooklyn, The Place Where People Say Hello

I have been in New York City for 2 weeks now, visiting friends and places I’ve missed in the past 9 months of living in Beijing.

As happy as I am to be surrounded by friends again, I can’t help but feel out of place here. Feeling out of place in the city I considered “home” is a truly shitty situation to be in when I only have 2 months to re-immerse. Perhaps it’s counter culture shock, or I feel lost because I can’t remember the name of every station and connecting line of every subway train, or maybe I’ve just changed a lot. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason for this strange feeling, but it better go away soon because I’d like to enjoy myself thoroughly this vacation.

Now how about the good stuff. Well as the title of this post says, Brooklyn is a place where people say hello and it’s awesome! I’ve done a lot of strolling these past few weeks, reacquainting with my old neighborhood. During these strolls, countless people said hi, waved, smiled, nodded, said hello in Chinese, cat called. One guy, middle-aged, waved hello and said hi to every single person he walked past, including people in cars. A little boy with long, curly blonde hair ran past an elderly man sitting on a lawn chair in front of his Park Slope apartment on a busy sidewalk yelling HELLLLOOO! These are just two instances of friendly greetings that put a gigantic smile on my face.

When I was walking up 2nd Ave. in Manhattan, I noticed a short, Latino man karate-chopping some scaffolds. I gave him a smile, acknowledging his Jackie Chan-equivalent skillz and continued on. Then I heard, “China (‘chee-na’), China, do you like to eat?” to which I responded, “YEAH I like to eat (duh!!!)” “You wanna get some lunch with me? Or some coffee? I’d like to buy you something to eat.” “Oh, no thank you, I just ate. Look at my leftovers! Maybe another time.” “Alright…another time baby.”

At the Delicate Steve show last night at Mercury Lounge, somebody mistook me for the Asian keyboardist of the opening band, People Get Ready. I was chatting about China with a bouncer I used to know from my days of frequenting bars. The bouncer had just said something about me wearing all red (haha, China, Communist, get it?), when another dude interrupted to ask me something. I thought he asked, “Are you a spy???” thinking maybe he was just chiming in on our China conversation, so I said, hahaha yes, I AM a spy! He was like, huh? Well, did you? Did I what? DID YOU JUST PLAY? I finally understood he thought I was the girl from People Get Ready. No siree, I know all of us Asians look exactly the same and I’m flattered you thought I was her because she was beautiful and hip, but unfortunately I am not her. I am Emily He, queen of all that is good and holy.

I’m sitting in a sunny cafe called Tiny Cup drinking delicious Counter Culture coffee (HOW IRONIC) and life is good. My mind is all over the place, likely from too much caffeine in one sitting. The brownstones on all the tree-lined streets and people hanging out on their stoops are so Brooklyn-y. Drinking coffee, listening to indie music and blogging on my Mac is so Brooklyn-y. Mommies pushing their babies around, mail-men and -women chatting with the locals and kids running through the streets after school is all so Brooklyn-y. Everything takes time. It’s going to take time for me to get back in the swing of what it means to be Brooklyn. But wait, I think what I loved most about Brooklyn is that everyone can be exactly who they are and still find their niche or niches or even complete isolation if that’s what they want.

So, I need to let down my hair (after I get my haircut tomorrow!) and just be myself and embrace every moment I have in this awesome city I once, and still can, call home. Oooooh, optimism is a good feeling. It’s good to be back.



21 Comments on “Brooklyn, The Place Where People Say Hello”

  1. occultoantonio says:

    Your name is Bond. Emily Bond. 😉

  2. michaeljones909 says:

    People also like to say hello in WP as HELLOOOO!! Emily haha :), It’s been a little while,jeez you do get about, your a regular globe trotter haha :)…

    I think one of the great things about traveling and immersing your self in different cultures is that you do change,you grow as a person, your perspective changes its a really good thing,really good :).

    New York in the summer sounds great,so yea let your hair down,relax and have a great time 🙂

    • Emily He says:


      I think you’re right about the changing perspectives and growing as a person. I’m confident that is what is happening to me, which makes realizing it a bit weird, but I’m glad to be growing. My hair is up right now, but after my new hairdo tomorrow it is for sure coming down! Letting loose WOOP WOOP! Hope you are well 🙂

  3. Michael says:

    Have not heard your voice for some time. Trust you are doing fine Emily. Take care and looking forward to hear more of you. Regards !!!

    • Emily He says:

      Michael! You’re right, I’ve been very blog-absent. I’m running around America for the meanwhile, but hopefully I’ll be blogging more. I miss you all. Hope you’re doing well 🙂

  4. annaamazhang says:

    Hey! I can’t believe you’re back already! I have about a month left of here in Beijing and I will probably be in the same boat as you are in right now after 10months of China. Life will be different I know for sure, but I’m excited to see how much it has changed, or how much I have changed. I love New York and I might be there this summer! Are things any different now? 🙂

    • Emily He says:

      Hey! I’m back for 2 months before going back to Beijing for another TWO YEARS (grad school at Tsinghua..eeeeks). NYC is still awesome, just a few changes, especially in my old Brooklyn neighborhood. I’m in boston for the week, but things seem to be same old here, too. Guess 9 months is pretty insignificant in the span of things eh?? haha, a person sure can change a lot though!! Hope China’s still treating you well 🙂

      • annaamazhang says:

        Oh wow really?? I’m actually at Tsinghua studying for my one year exchange! That is really cool. If you have any questions feel free to ask me!!! I will be outta here for good by the end of June but I’m considering coming back to Beijing (maybe go to BeiDa) and do some more language.

      • Emily He says:

        Cool! I’ll definitely reach out to you if I have questions about school. Can’t say I’m too excited though, haha. have an awesome last few weeks of China!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. eva626 says:

    Hello!!! ‘blogging on my mac is so brooklyn-y’ LOL you are so cute. new york is where to live….ive been living here all my life but once you bounce from borough to borough you get to learn and experience more about the people.

    • Emily He says:

      That’s what I loved about living in NYC, the drastic differences from neighborhood to neighborhood, even just within the borough of Brooklyn. Fascinating city that i’m trying to reacquaint myself with. How cool that you have always lived there! Must be a whole different perspective as a native.

  6. lostnchina says:

    How could I have missed this post? I’m back in Seattle, too. But I travel back and forth wayy more frequently than you do. Can’t believe you were in China 9 months straight; you must feel some disconnect and reverse culture shock? I remember staying in Taipei for about 6 months then going back to Vancouver. Did that feel weird. The most noticeable thing was the silence. I thought I’d gone deaf in Vancouver, compared to the noise of Taipei.

    • Emily He says:

      Yup, I definitely feel something similar to what wikipedia calls counter culture shock. I hate this feeling though because I don’t feel like myself, and time is ticking away before I might have to feel that sh*% again once I’m back in China in July. OY! How’s seattle? I hear it’s a lovely place with lots of rain!

  7. Dark says:

    Hi Emily,have a few questions for you.This include my creative concept which is not for public,i would like to talk to you out of this site,is that possible ?

  8. You’d love Hawaii. Out of all the places I’ve traveled to, the aloha spirit is friendliest, bar none–including a comparison to Brooklyn 🙂

  9. daterofboys says:

    I don’t know why I’m just seeing this now, but I am – welcome back! I’ll be nearby, tomorrow – never been to BK, but looking forward to it 🙂

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