Home > Discussion Topics > Haircuts in other countries: What’s your strategy? Which language? What cost?

Haircuts in other countries: What’s your strategy? Which language? What cost?

How important is your hair to you?  For some, it is quite important!  Many of us, once we find a good hair stylist, we stay with that person for awhile.  Why take a chance on another salon and stylist and receive a potential “bad haircut?”  Others like the challenge of finding the perfect stylist to do the perfect haircut, so they hop around trying new ones every time they need a haircut.

In your home country, you can just make an appointment or walk-in to any hair cutting salon and get your haircut by a hairstylist who most likely will be able to speak to you in your home language; easier to avoid a bad haircut when you are able to communicate exactly what you would like. Well at times, it can though be a little bit challenging communicating what you would like in your home language too I suppose.

Now, living in another country, things can definitely be a challenge and quite different.  You maybe are now not able to go just anywhere to get your hair cut.  You may also be presented with some big challenges with communication.  Some big cities around the world would for sure have stylists that can speak your home language (English we will say for the purposes of this article), but paying the potential very high price for a stylist that can speak English may not be the best option for you.  In other cities you will just have to get your haircut speaking (or not speaking) in another language which can be quite the experience (and nerve-wreaking)!  If you are highly proficient in the host country language, then maybe it is not a big deal.  However if the host language is new to you or you lack the correct hair-cutting vocabulary, it is can be a challenging experience.

If you don’t know the language, you are left with two options: one is to just go into a salon, point to your hair and make lots of gestures, and just sit there…no talking.  Well there is talking going on, you are speaking English and stylist is speaking their language…but no listening comprehension though is happening.  Another option I suppose is to invite a friend or colleague with you that can speak the language to be your interpreter and hopefully stay the whole time that you are in the salon.

The trust factor has to be high when getting your haircut in another country, but I suppose that there is always a trust factor involved when you are getting your haircut disregarding whether you can speak the language or not.

Now on to price! 

Are you living in a country where haircuts are 1-2 USD, the same price you would pay in your home country or are you living in a country where an average haircut is way above what you would normally pay back home?  It is nice to pay hardly anything to get your haircut.  Some guys get their haircut every 3-4 weeks, so that can add up in some countries in the world.  In China, it is definitely possible for a guy to get their haircut for 1-2 U.S. Dollars. It may not be in the nicest salon on the planet, but it will get the job done.  Also in China if you pay a little bit more money, they will shampoo and wash your hair as well.  They have an interesting system devised for this.  Typically when you sit down one employee will put a little bit of shampoo on your hair (remember now you are still sitting in the normal chair that the hair stylist will give you your haircut in…with dry hair).  The system involves slowly adding water to the shampoo as they work it into your hair.  It all works very well actually as no water or shampoo falls down.  If you are luckily, the whole lathering part is actually a very nice head massage.  That same employee will then take you over to the sinks to wash out the shampoo.  When that employee brings you back to your chair, they move on to another client to shampoo their hair as another employee (the actual hairstylist) comes over to start cutting your hair.

This experience is all nice and wonderful, that is if you can get yourself in the door of the salon.  In a not so fond culture shock moment for you, it is possible you might be turned away when you don’t speak the language.  Sometimes to clear up any confusion on anyone’s part, it is always good to get a set price for your haircut before you sit down in the chair.  If you know how much haircuts are going for in your host city, then there is usually no problem with agreeing on a price for your haircut (usually a calculator is shown to you at this point).  However, if you don’t know what the going price is, sometimes you can feel like your a getting ripped off.  Even before there is a discussion about price, you might feel unwanted or turned away.  The reason is not always known, but the lack of communication is just too much for some people and even a smile doesn’t help.

Anyone else like to try getting their haircut during their travels?

I used to make that one goal of mine.  How many different countries can I get my haircut in?  One time in Botswana, I was in a rural location.  I saw a 3-walled wooden shack that had an image of some people and the words hair cut on a sign.  I went in to get my haircut with the help of my local tour guide.  He got a haircut first actually and then it was my turn.  My tour guide explained what I wanted, but that didn’t even matter.  The guy cutting hair said that he had never cut a white man’s hair before, so he didn’t know what to do!  I just told him to buzz it all off then, since he did have clippers.

It turned out to get a great buzz-cut and a fun, memorable cross-cultural experience.

Now it is not so bad to get your haircut in a shack, but what about just outside on a busy street?  While traveling in Delhi, I found that getting your haircut in the street to be quite commonplace.  How great to live in a country where you can give haircuts outside all year round? I’m sure the stylist will do their best work too as there are many eyes watching around him/her and they all could be potential future clients!

So what’s your strategy to get a haircut in the country you live in?  What language do you speak in?  How much money do you pay?  Share your cross-culture haircut stories!

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  1. dee
    1 December, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    My regular guy in Beirut ran a shop just a block from my apartment. He was so jazzed to have a foreign client, he would stop me every time I walked past his shop and drag me into the chair for a “touch up.” I’d be be stepping out for a grocery run, and come back an hour later with a bag of sundries and a very hip ‘do.

    Best haircut ever was a tiny village in the Mekong Delta near Can Tho. We had an hour or so to kill between buses so I stopped in for a trim. What I got was something quite more than a trim. I got a straight razor shave of my chin and neck, followed by my nose hair and ears. Something about a dude easing a wire hook into your ear to remove wax (and perhaps other things)… I still get chills thinking about it. Still, I’ve never felt so refreshed.

    • 29 December, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Awesome! How great to share about your “haircuts from abroad!” I think it is quite the interesting experience.

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