Shanghai haircut

Shanghai haircut




took the plunge                     made a decision

fraught                                     filled with

glad wrap                                clear plastic film used to cover food

nah                                           slang for no

massage                                 rubbing muscles to relax them

succumb                                 give in, yield

shuffle                                      walk by sliding feet across the floor

sashay                                     a kind of dance step


‘Will I? Won’t I?  Will I?  Won’t I?  Which one?  The one on the right?  No, doesn’t look so good.  The one on the left looks better, busier, some young men in there with weird haircuts.  I think I’ll try this one.’

So ran my thoughts on a freezing cold December Shanghai night.  I needed a haircut, but getting your hair cut in this country is fraught with danger.  I have had my hair cut too short, too long, coloured too dark and too light.  When you don’t speak the language, well it’s all up to chance, a good deal of body language and good luck.

I took the plunge and walked in.

‘Welcome,’ they call out in Chinese.

‘Ni hao,’ I reply.  Then I ask, ‘Do you speak any English?’  This is followed by the girls giggling and going all goofy and shy.  ‘No English,’ I say to myself.  ‘Okay,’ I say out loud, and with my fingers do the sign of scissors cutting hair.

‘Oh…oh…oh…okay,’ one girl says.  She leads me to a chair and puts a piece of glad wrap around my collar.

‘No, No.’ I wave my hands in the air and say, ‘No shampoo.  Just water. Shui.  Shui. I don’t want a shampoo, just wet it with water.’  I do a spray action.  Nah, they don’t get it.

I shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Okay then shampoo it. Oh, how much?’ I ask in Chinese.

‘Twenty kuai.’

I ask her to repeat that, it sounds very cheap for Shanghai.  It is definitely twenty kuai. The girl brings out a calculator and shows me.

‘Okay,’ I say.  I do the scissors action again.  Then a girl comes over with a bottle.

‘No, no colour.  Just a cut!’  The girl walks back a bit and points to another man having a head massaged with a mountain of snowy soap atop. I smile.  ‘Okay okay.’  A head massage will be terrific.  I double check the price.  ‘Still 20 kuai?’ It seems so.

I succumb to a delightful ten minute head massage.  Then I shuffle to the washing bed.  The beds for hair washing in china are wonderful; you lie flat on your back to have your hair washed.  None of those neck breaking contraptions we have in Australia.

I shuffle back to the chair.  I mime the scissor cutting again.  The girl shakes her head and says something in Chinese.

‘Ting bu dong,’ I say.

She takes my arm and starts massaging my arm.  So now I have a massage round my neck, back, shoulders and both arms and hands.  They haven’t got the scissors out yet and I’ve been here nearly half an hour.

That girl left and a young man sashays over to me.  Now, here are the scissors.  He speaks no English either.  Through the other side of the mirror is a young lady who does speak English. I ask her to interpret for me.

‘Tell him to leave the back, just cut some off the top and sides please.’

The young man smiles and nods so I leave my unprotected hair in his hands.  And good hands they are too.  He does a really good cut, not too short, not too long. It is nicely styled and I am very happy.  I pay my 20 RMB, equal to about $4 Australian, and depart with a smile on my face.

Let’s hope I am as lucky next time.  It’s a game of Russian roulette getting my hair cut here in China.

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