I’m somewhat pecuilar when it comes to haircuts. While some women get their hair cut every couple of months, or their ends trimmed even more frequently, I usually average about two haircuts a year. I keep my hair on the longer side for the most part and so I feel spending $25 or more to get 1/4 inch cut off every four to six weeks so that my ends are healthy and not split, seems wasteful.
When I studied abroad in Spain for the semester I decided to get my hair cut. It’s not that I needed it per se, but when walking the streets of Seville and seeing the ever chicly dressed Spanish women and their model worthy hair styles, I decided I needed a new look. One day after my morning classes I walked back across the Gudalquivir River to Triana, the neighborhood where I lived, and sought out a hair salon. I ended up finding one that was fairly packed; it seemed that the sevillanas (female residents of Spain) all were in a rush to get their hair done before they dined on the big meal of the day. But as I had classes late into the evening that night it seemed now or never.
Even though I was doing fairly excellent in understanding the rapid fire pace of my professors’ Andalusian accents during classes, my expansive vocabulary failed me when it came to explaining that I just wanted a haircut, simply a couple of inches taken off. What’s funny is that in the six and a half years I had been studying Spanish, my language books had never featured conversation dialog that had taken place at hair salons.
The receptionist had explained to me that the salon employed beauty school students and haircuts done by them cost just a fraction of what I would be charged if I had a full employee cutting my hair. I opted for that, as I much preferred my euros to go towards more serious caprichos (whims) such as movies and candy. (I saw about half a dozen movies when I lived in Spain and the best patr was that two of the theaters were a block from a candy store which I frequented and purchased a small bag’s worth before every film.)
After having my hair washed and parted, the young woman cutting my hair asked me something. I had no idea what it was so I simply responded with como? (what?). She said it again and I was still lost. Usually if there was a word I didn’t know I had enough confidence in my Spanish language abilities that I could infer what the person was asking me or saying through other means. However, at a hair salon I had nada (nothing). The woman started to briefly giigle and then motioned over to one of her co-workers for assistance. Faster than I could humanly process the co-worker asked in heavily accented English if I wanted layers or not. Capas or layers was a word I never knew in Spanish and probably would never have had any occasion to learn had I not decided to spur the moment get my hair cut so I could look quasi-stylish in Spanish society.
The woman who cut my hair did a marvellous job and I’m sure I was probably one of her most memorable clients due to not only my nationality but also my natural hair color. (Red hair is extremely popular in Spain and throughout Latin America; however, it’s fake.) I was complemented on my haircut by everyone including my host mom, classmates, and even some professores. The best part about getting my hair cut, though, was being able to bring it up in my Spanish usage class, perhaps one of my favorite clases in Spain. While technically it was a grammar class, it was more appropriately a class for conversational Spanish, not one filled with verb conjugations and past participles. We listened to Spanish songs which we then translated the lyrics, watched Spanish movies and television shows (it was in this class where I saw Pedro Almodovar’s Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios-Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown), and also had frank discussions about everyday life in Spain and its many nuances. Shortly after my haircut adventure, I relayed the story in class. My profesora Pepa proceeded to give a mini vocabulary lesson involving cruical words (at least for females) when getting their hair cut in a Spanish speaking country.
After my most memorable haircut incident in Spain, I never tried getting my hair cut again when abroad. Although excluding the English speaking world, I know that if I had enough difficulty getting my hair cut when I was almost fluent in a language, trying in French, Portuguese, or worse language wise, an Asian language, would probably result in a most drastic and likely unwanted new look. Getting your hair cut in a country where you don’t speak the language and where there is no one who speaks your native tongue is not necessarily something I would recommend trying. Experiemtn with a new food and not with your hair.