Ni hao at me?

I was walking down the street this morning to get a nice cup of coffee in an environment that’s more vibrant than my room, when I saw a man giving direction to a group of young men who left in hurry. The friendly looking man was wearing a flash orange uniform with his presumably cleaning materials in the cart he was pulling. When I was almost walking past him, he looked at me and said ni hao with his hands politely folded. His smile and polite gesture pleased me, and yet I said “Oh I’m not Chinese.” He didn’t seem to understand English, though. After a moment, I started thinking why I had to say that. I could have greeted him nicely because I kind of felt pleasant with his gesture somehow. I know that it can be often called racism in some context when people just assume who you are based on the look or inaccurate interpretation of the look. Saying ‘ni hao’ instead of ‘goede morgen’ when he obviously could do it can sound a bit wrong. Still, I hated that I had to say who I’m not or who I am at the genuinely-felt greeting.
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