27th January 2016

I read on some blog somewhere about an American guy in China going for a haircut. As he spoke no Chinese he gestured with his thumb and forefinger to say just cut a little bit off. Unfortunately the barber thought he meant just leave a little bit on…..

I like to think I’m not vain, indeed those of you who know me will be aware that I have nothing to be vain about but I don’t want to be scalped, so for previous haircuts I’ve always taken a student along to translate. It’s the end of term here and there are no students I know well about, so I knew I had to do it myself. Knowing only the Chinese for *centre parting* I got the bus to the barbers. The guy who cut my hair had a hairstyle reminiscent of early Elvis Presley, impressive but not Er..my style. Years ago a hairdresser friend told me that if you see a hairdresser with a good haircut you don’t want HER to cut your hair, you want her best chum at the Salon to cut your hair. Thinking of this I lay down on the couch to have my hair washed. Even the most spit and sawdust places wash your hair. I like it but it’s always a bit weird when they put their fingers inside your ears. I always try not to make eye contact when my hair is being washed. They don’t either. I must re-read Goffman. 

After the wash I sat in the chair and  he got started. I tried for small talk but he wasn’t having any. I smiled but he didn’t smile back. So I contemplated my chins. He did get out a vast array of plastic clips though, and started snipping away. Only pausing to change scissors now and again he kept snipping. I don’t mean that he was taking too much off. After about 20 minutes I thought it was great but he obviously didn’t. Snip snippety snip, although now just cutting off tiny little bits. This man I thought was a perfectionist. Just as I was dozing off he whipped the plastic gown off me and said what I assume was the Chinese word for voila ! It was a great cut, it took 10 years off me. Yes yes I know, I only look 73 now. 

One of the nice things about my Chinese language ability now is that although it’s still appalling I know how to ask *how much* and I understand the answer ……usually. This haircut cost 27¥, a snip, sorry, which struck me as ludicrously cheap. If you read the guide books they usually say don’t tip, a hangover from the Communist Era maybe, you don’t tip comrades. But I like tipping, particularly if they look like they could use the money. I’ve had reactions ranging from extreme delight to a look that said, I think, go fuck yourself ! I gave a tip this time and I also gave him a cigarette, a common gesture of friendship in China. He seemed pleased. 

Interesting fact. Well I think it’s interesting. My hairdresser friend from all those years ago had spent £600 on her scissors. And that was pretty cheap apparently. 

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