Earlier this week, I got my first haircut in China. I'm always a bit scared getting my hair cut in foreign countries since I barely understand what I'm asking for in English, let alone another language. I have all sorts of anxiety about miscommunication or misunderstanding (i.e. what if their clippers are metric?)
I've had exactly three other haircuts in other countries in my life,: Taiwan in 1980, Taiwan in 1986, and Belgium in 1996. While I survived all of these cuts, this wasn't exactly a huge base of experience to work from. Worse, looking at the Chinese guys walking on the street here, it is apparently very easy to get a bad cut. But, since we're going to live here a few years, this was clearly something I had to master.
So, although you can get a cut for a few kuai here (< US$1) I fell back on Michelle's favorite strategy of paying more with the hope and expectation of getting a better result. I went to Bangs Hair Salon, a higher end salon in our complex with Japanese hair stylists that some of our new friends recommended (Michelle had a cut and color there recently with much success as well). After doing my pantomime and English explanation of what I wanted to the very nice Japanese-speaking stylist, I settled back for a very thorough and pleasant hair washing and said a little prayer during my cut.
The result was quite nice, I think. It's a little longer on top than I usually have, but I like it. Perhaps more importantly, Michelle likes it, so I guess it passes the test.
We took Andrew (11) and Michael (8) there for their cuts a few days later. Michael wasn't sure about the whole thing and was especially unsettled by the hair washing. However, within a few minutes he discovered he quite liked to have his hair washed and is now dying to go back again.
We had to talk Andrew out of getting a queue; he had seen it in a kung-fu movie and wanted to whip it around during his wushu classes. Both boys got the best cuts of their lives and are looking especially dashing now.
Anyway, it feels good to have gotten this monkey off my back. Of course, Michael is already asking when he can go back, so I think we'll have no more problems getting his hair cut.