Getting a Hair Cut Around the World

There is a hairdresser’s chair standing in my nook of the internet. As a travel blogger, I’m getting a hair cut in basically every country I visit in the world.

Hairdresser chair at Salon Correo in Havana, 7 Teniente Rey, La Habana, Cuba
Hairdresser chair at Salon Correo in Havana

Ever since I’ve been blogging, I’m amazed at how difficult it became to have a unique niche.
Until recently, I didn’t know there were people who had visited every country in the world.
Meanwhile, I’ve learned that this endeavor actually isn’t unique at all.
Obviously, you have to add more unique to it – like being the first female traveller who visited every country in the world.
Or even the first female traveller under 30 visiting.
Or visiting without taking a plane.
Only this aspect, by the way, I find really praiseworthy!

Anyway, since for a couple of years now, I’ve got the travel habit to pay some local hairdresser a visit, I might become the first traveller who got a hair cut in every country in the world.
And the first female traveller, too.
Also, far over 30.

Vietnamese Haircut

My most exciting haircutting experience was in Đà Lạt in Viet Nam.

I walked into the most humble shop in a street full of hair salons. Two chairs in front of a mirror and some sort of stretcher with a sink at the end – 50 square feet of modesty.

Xin chào, I’m your next customer and your answer to tonight’s question “How was work today? Anything unusual?”.
A skinny lady and a chubby girl and their customer stopped in their tracks and looked at me with undisguised irritation.

“Can you cut my hair?” I asked this question using my fingers to simulate cutting scissors.
“Ya.”
“How much is it?” I asked this question using my fingers to simulate rubbing money.
Why do we rub money when mimicking, anyway?

Anyway, the lady hesitated, exchanged a conspiratorial glance with the chubby girl. Then she quoted a figure which was probably three times higher than the regular price.
Equivalent of 4 $.
“Ok, fine. Do you have pictures?” I asked this question without simulating anything. 

Read My Lips Fingers

Going to the hairdresser, notably one that doesn’t understand what you are saying, is always a bit hazardous. Thus, I didn’t want to give my luck any extra push. I wanted to point at pictures.

The women exchanged a glance – this time a rather confused one – and then looked quizzically back at me. “Pictures. Pictures!” They had no clue what I was talking about.
There – a pile of fashion magazines! I grabbed one and pointed at a picture of a lady whose hairdo was not a good example of what I wanted.
“Pictures. Pictures!”

Aaah, the chubby girl got it. Ignoring the old fashioned paper in my hand, she took a tablet from a sideboard and opened a page with probably thousands of hairstyles on Asian ladies. I scrolled a little up and down and pointed at one. “Like this – okay?”
Nodding. Then gesturing.

Let the Show Begin

What? I was supposed to lay down on the stretcher?!
Oh-kay.
Laying on my back while the chubby girl washed my hair, I had the choice between looking at the ceiling =boring, in the girl’s face =awkward, or just closing my eyes. I picked the latter.
Everything I felt her doing seemed to be the usual procedure: after rubbing my scalp with shampoo, the girl rinsed my hair and poured some sort of slimy, nice smelling conditioner on.

And then she started to wash my face with lukewarm water. Not the usual hairdressing procedure at all. It’s difficult to ask questions while getting your face washed.
So I wondered and held still.

After the washing, she rinsed my hair again. I hesitantly opened my eyes. So that was it?
I tried to roll on one side to get up. The girl gestured by pressing me gently back on the stretcher that we were still not done.

After she smeared some other conditioner on my hair so that it squeaked while she was rubbing it in, she slapped something on my cheeks that turned out to be some sort of peeling. She began to rub my face with it.

Slowly it dawned on me. This was not this European ‘we cut, you blow-dry – and then get lost’-treatment.
This was, obviously, an entire package. Supposed to make me feel good.

Getting the Whole Package

I tried hard to relax and enjoy all the slapping and rubbing – which I hadn’t come here for, after all.
However, it’s a bit of a challenge to relax and feel good when someone does inadvertently things to you – even when it’s good things.

Next came a neck massage – very enjoyable, more washing – less enjoyable. And finally she started to blow dry my hair.

At a hairdresser in Viet Nam
Travellers – even when they only get their hair cut like everybody else at the salon –
are always also a special attraction for the local customers. Just look at the girl peeping on the right.

Um – wait a minute…how about the hair cutting I initially came here for?! More fingers simulating cutting scissors.
She nodded yes and kept on blowing.
I was confused.

When my hair was almost dry, I was allowed to roll off the stretcher.

With a towel wrapped around my head and another one stuffed between my neck and the plastic cape, I was seated in front of the mirror where the tiny lady wetted my freshly dried hair.
She quickly cut it in the exact fashion the picture has shown.

My hair looked great. And it felt soft and silky like never before.

Cuban Haircut

Months later, in Havana, I walked into a salon because the owner had plastered the shop windows with her cutting an Asian gentleman’s hair. Obviously, this had happened on the sidewalk, surrounded by a big cheering crowd of people.
If this is not good marketing, I don’t know what is.
Nonetheless, these images convinced me.

We agreed on a price of 5 CUC – which is still about five times what her Cuban customers have to pay – and she put a cape over my shoulders. Then, she got out a pair of scissors that looked like some sort of hedge trimmer.

She began trimming.
In a chair diagonally behind me was a lady chilling and observing.
Trying to make conversation, obviously, I asked the trimming lady about the gentleman in the pictures.
Quick like a shot, she answered: “Obama!”
Yes, Mr. Obama had been to Cuba some time ago.
But no matter which rumors the republicans spread about him, I know for sure that Mr. Obama is not an Asian gentleman.

“Ban Ki Moon” prompted the observer from diagonally behind me.
“Oh, nononono”, stood the trimming lady corrected, “Ban Ki Moon!”
Aaah, now we’re talking.

So the lady had used the hedge trimmer already on Ban Ki Moon – wow, I’m definitely in with the in-crowd.

Keep Cutting On

Since then, I’ve been to all sorts of more or less quirky hairdressers in Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia,….I mean, I cannot write down the entire alphabet.

Hairdresser in Rio de Janeiro
Hairdresser in Rio de Janeiro.

Yes, it is kinda courageous to give services such as tattoo studios, piercers, or hairdressers that hardly understand what you are saying a try. At the hairdresser, however, I can hardly catch hepatitis – and if I’m not happy with the result, time heals all…haircuts.

Tell me, is there something unusual – or, like in my case, über-usual – you are doing in every country you visit? Share it with me in the comment section below!

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