Getting a hair cut should be a fairly simple procedure and yet I have found it to be one of the lesser known, but very real challenges of expat life. Plenty of expat blogs cover all the obvious, big ticket hurdles to being a successful and happy expat: emotional resilience, repatriation, culture shock, depression, leaving well etc. But there are plenty of lesser known hurdles we face as we ricochet around the globe and getting a decent haircut is firmly on that list.
Whether I’ve asked for ‘a trim’ or ‘the same but shorter’ or shown a picture from a magazine or a photograph of my own hair I seem to have had more than my fair share of awful expat haircuts than I care to mention. Here are a few of my lowlights….
Hair raising experience abroad – The Wings
The Netherlands circa 1989
I asked in perfect Dutch for a trim. I came out feeling like a shorn sheep, my neat bob had been replaced with an unfortunate haircut almost identical to the one that had been recently been inflicted on my mother – yes, our terrible haircuts matched. It was quite a severe eighties do with weird little wings of hair that came to half way down our ears. Exactly half way down our ears. Why would a hairdresser inflict such a ‘do’ on an innocent child? Why?
Hair raising experience abroad – The Mullet
Nigeria circa 1994
I asked for a trim so that my hair would look nice at a New Years Eve party. The long straight hair I went in with was subsequently transformed into a freaking mullet. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever cried over a haircut. Later the same day my mum whisked me to a rough and ready barber who lopped the back off and made it look almost like an actual hairstyle rather than a weird rock-band throwback. Cinderella you shall go to the ball!
Hair raising experience abroad – The Dead Animal
Brussels circa 1998
I ventured to a recommended hair dresser with a fellow Brit student. They cut her long her beautifully – with actual scissors. Before I could reiterate that I was definitely going for a trim, not a messy dead animal style, the crazy stylist whipped out a pair of electric clippers and used them to massacre my long hair. I left looking exactly like I had a dead animal keeping my neck warm. It wasn’t QUITE as bad as the mullet, but it was a close second and similarly required a corrective cut.
Hair raising experience abroad – Hot Metal
Short hair for girls was the exception rather than the rule in Istanbul. Long hair was definitely the norm whether worn as cascading locks or neat up-dos. Despite going to a recommended salon with specific instructions typed up by my husband’s secretary, the stylist ignored said instructions and translated my complete lack of Turkish as licence to use me and my relatively short hair as a hairdressing experiment.
The end result was a very funky asymmetric cut. Shaved on one side and with a longer flicked out fringe* on the other. It’s a haircut I would never have thought to ask for but I actually quite liked it. Feeling surprised, but for once quite relieved that I appeared to have escaped the expat hairdo curse, I looked over at my 4 year old daughter who was bouncing excitedly in her chair and realised to my horror that her hairdresser was using red hot hair straighteners and she was at real risk of losing an eye or an earlobe. Gaaahhhhhhh.
I have often wondered why I seem to have had so many hair raising and hair razing experiences at the hairdresser. Do they think I look friendly or simple and will therefore accommodate experiments on my hair? Do they like to play tricks on foreigners? Do they give the duff stylists to the people that are unable to complain easily?
Tell me I’m not alone. Share your worst hair day. Please tell us about your most hair raising experience abroad. Photographic evidence is entirely optional.
…and there you have it, hair raising and hair razing salon experiences are one of the lesser recognised perils of expat life. Another lesser known challenge we expat gals face is buying underwear, a subject that I touched on in the post Hats for Twins. What other lesser known challenges of expat life should I write about?
Hair raising = is astonishing or frightening and by golly I’ve had some nightmarishly astonishing hair-cuts.
Hair razing is invention of my own (I think?). The verb to raze means to tear down or destroy (usually in the context of a building or city). It comes from raser – Old French for ‘to shave closely’. And in Turkey in particular I had a couple of close shaves.
*Americans, you call it bangs, we call it a fringe.