Being an expat in Germany comes with its fair share of well-known challenges – navigating the bureaucratic paperwork required to live here, learning to sort your recycling properly and mastering the art of light speed grocery bagging, to name a few.
Despite the initial obstacles and occasional culture shocks of living in Germany, one activity that I have not gotten more comfortable with over time is getting my hair cut. Now, I must add that I normally don’t care much for getting my hair cut in Canada in English, let alone anywhere else. I usually don’t know how I want to get my hair cut, how much a reasonable haircut should cost or the latest hair product trends. I always secretly wish that the hairdresser will be able to read my mind and transform my ‘do into something sleek, shiny and stylish. Sadly, more often than not, I’ve left the hair salon with crazy layers, uneven bangs or bad highlights because I didn’t know how to explain what I wanted.
My hairdo dilemmas have not lessened in Germany. In an attempt to put off getting my hair cut in Germany, I procrastinated for about 3 months before I finally made an appointment. I thought going to a salon with my husband for his-and-hers haircuts would at least lessen my anxiety and allow me to get some translation help. You see, my biggest worry was not being able to explain how I wanted to get my hair cut in German. When I first moved to Germany, I could only speak a lower-intermediate level of German. The thought of explaining my desired haircut in broken German induced stomach-churning anxiety.
So I did what I do before all stressful tasks – I researched, I studied, I rehearsed. I explained to my husband what I wanted so he could help me tell the hairdresser. Upon my request (aka desperate plea), he also told the hairdresser that I didn’t speak much German and that he could translate her questions for me.
Miracle of all miracles, my first German haircut turned out amazing – probably one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had. Our hairdresser even offered to trim my bangs for free. After that initial haircut, I popped in every few weeks and she cut my bangs just how I liked them.
Until one day she didn’t. Maybe she’d forgotten how I usually got my bangs cut or I didn’t elaborate enough on how little I wanted trimmed off (I’d said ‘ein bisschen’, which means ‘a little bit’). She cut my formerly long side bangs into baby doll bangs – short and straight across the forehead. After the decisive first snip, I knew it was too late and that there had already been a miscommunication. It took a few months for those bangs to grow out and even longer for me to want to get my hair cut again!
We’ve since tried out another hair salon in town with a really sweet young hairdresser. After the baby doll bang fiasco at the last salon, I’d learned that my haircut-describing skills were quite lacking so I brought in pictures instead. I wanted something a bit different, an angled long bob. In addition to showing her the pictures I’d brought, I also tried to explain that I didn’t want anything too crazy. She immediately caught on and said she wouldn’t give me a ‘Rihanna’ but more of an ‘Angela Merkel’. I had to laugh because the German Chancellor’s haircut wasn’t quite what I was going for but at least I wouldn’t be mistaken for a dance/electro pop star!
Here’s a bit of German hair vocabulary that I’ve learned (the hard way) to help you during your first haircut in Germany:
Der Friseur (m)/Die Friseurin (f): hairdresser
Der Pony: bangs
Der Pferdeschwanz: ponytail
Der Pagenkopf: bob
Der Haarspliss: split ends
Die Strähnchen: highlights
Der Föhn: hairdryer
Der Lockenstab: curling iron
Das Haarband: hairtie
schneiden (verb): cut
nachschneiden (verb): trim
föhnen (verb): blow dry
Have you ever gotten your hair cut in another country or in another language? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below!