When my husband (then my fiancé), James, and I first moved to Brooklyn, one of the first stops that we made was into our neighborhood bookstore. I’ve always loved browsing in a good bookstore, and the one in our neighborhood is no exception. We were looking at books without a particular title in mind, but we ended up deciding on a small guide to our new borough. When we brought it to the register to purchase, the woman ringing it up asked us if we were visitors to the city. We answered that we’d actually just moved to the neighborhood and she smiled and whipped out a piece of paper. Across the top, she scrawled, “Emma’s Favorites.” Emma proceeded to make us a list of all of her favorite neighborhood haunts. Her list ranged from her favorite yoga studio to her favorite spot to buy dried fruits and nuts. The whole list took her only about a minute to compile, but it proved incredibly useful to two neighborhood newbies. Yes, even more useful than that guidebook we bought. Emma’s list was one of the warmest welcomes we received to our new city, and happily it’s one that’s also incredibly easy to replicate.
I like the idea of giving new neighbors a list of favorite local businesses mostly because it’s so useful. It can take a while to find the spot that makes the best pizza, let alone the more pressing task of finding the hardware store that sells the particular kind of spackle you’re after. To be sure, some of this exploration is fun. It’s exciting to finally stumble upon the perfect cup of coffee or the best neighborhood bagel. But when you’re still in the throes of unpacking, it’s also nice to get a little nudge in the right direction. I’d tie my list to a bit of ribbon so that I could leave it behind on a new neighbor’s door knob as a surprise. And adding my own contact information can help the neighbors know where to find me once the dust has settled, if they feel so inclined. One of the best parts of giving someone a list of favorites is that it doesn’t come with strings attached. It takes up hardly any space and it doesn’t disrupt an afternoon of unpacking the way an invitation for tea might. After all, there’s plenty of time for tea after those boxes get unpacked.