The Perils (and Perks) of Getting a Haircut in a Foreign Land
They might forget to cut one side
Maybe the guy had been having a few beers, or hairdressing wasn’t really his passion in life, but still, getting half a haircut for the price of 1 isn’t such a good deal. This was in Singapore, and arriving home for the customary post-haircut mirror check was a horrific experience. In his defence, the haircut did cost about $3, so I couldn’t complain too much, and it didn’t look as bad as the above photo, from the TV show Nathan Barley.
You never know what you’re going to get
Forest Gump seemed to think this was a good thing, and maybe in life it is, but the same rule doesn’t apply for haircuts. English in Taiwan was limited at the best of times, so trying to explain how I wanted them to cut my hair was always an uphill battle. I started taking photos in to show them, but they still couldn’t get it right.
“Not too short” sometimes translates to “really short”
When speaking to people with limited English it is always important to emphasise the important words. People are likely to miss at least half of any given sentence, and I obviously wasn’t saying the NOT loud enough, because I almost always ended up with it being too short (until I found a good hairdresser in Singapore).
Hairdressers sometimes run for the hills as soon as you enter
Living in a small city in a faraway land means most hairdressers in town won’t have cut the hair of a foreigner before. The reactions are sometimes quite funny; I actually saw some people hide so they didn’t end up being the chosen one.
You’ll get a lot of compliments
If you have hair that goes against the local tradition (my hair is wavy/curly while most Chinese people have straight hair) people will be extremely curious and complimentary about it. We all love to marvel at something new and weird, so I guess it’s a natural reaction. I also get a lot of compliments on my hair colour, something I don’t think I ever got (except for that time I dyed it red in high school) in New Zealand.
You have an excuse if it ends up looking shit
Nobody likes getting a bad haircut, but it’s a lot easier to explain it away when the person cutting it spoke no English. People will be much more understanding if they know that you didn’t actually choose that style, and they might even feel sorry for you.
If you are looking for a haircut and prostitute at the same time, you might be in luck
Apparently in Vietnam some salons double as brothels, so if you’re in the market for sex and a haircut, and you don’t want any travel time between the 2, then book your ticket to Vietnam now. I got 1 haircut in Vietnam, and looking back at it, there was something pretty shady about the place. The women were all wearing extremely revealing clothes, but I guess my hair was so messy and in need of a cut, and I’m about 30 years younger than their target market, that they rightly assumed I was just there for the hair.
Getting a haircut in a foreign land can be a dangerous game, especially if it happens to be in Asia. You could always just not cut it, but a more daring option would be to print out The Nicholas Cage Matrix below (from the awesome film blog theshizit.co.uk), and let your hairdresser choose a style, you’re bound to come out with something interesting.
Have you ever had a haircut abroad? Let me know how it went!
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