One of the more frustrating, yet interesting, things about expat life is trying to figure out and learn how things are done in one’s host country. Even something as mundane as getting a haircut can have its own “rules” and become a puzzling undertaking. For example, in Thailand, we were told that no one was allowed to get a haircut on Wednesdays because that was the day the now-deceased King would get his hair cut.
This past weekend, my son got his first haircut in Taiwan. What we thought would be an ordinary chore turned out to be an amusing little outing. We went to a barber shop recommended by a friend. Signs outside advertised haircuts for $199NT (approximately $6.50US). Obviously, that was cheap compared to a haircut in the United States, but it was more than double what we paid for haircuts for my son in Thailand!
When we stepped inside, there were three young, female hairdressers hanging about, with no customers. Sweet! I told them my son needed a haircut, expecting to be served immediately. One of the young women acknowledged what I said, but didn’t make a move to seat my son, so we stood around for a couple of seconds, looking at her and feeling a bit lost. Sensing our confusion, she then told us, in English, that we needed a ticket, pointing to a machine that looked like an ATM. Assuming the ticket would tell us what number we were, I was surprised and perplexed since no one else was there. Turned out that there was a “menu” on the screen of the machine to show the different services available. A simple haircut was $199NT, but a shampoo and haircut was only $1NT more at $200NT, so we opted for that. We also paid ahead of time by inserting money into the machine, after which the machine spit out a ticket. My son was number 25.
After going through this process, my son was finally ready for his shampoo and haircut. But, unlike hair salons in the U.S., where you get a shampoo before your haircut, the hairdresser cut his hair first. The woman who helped us purchase our haircut ticket translated while I explained what kind of cut to give my son. We sat and watched my son get his first haircut in Taiwan. The hairdresser’s technique was better than the Thai hairdressers’, and the haircut looked great, so it was money well spent.
While this was going on, the hairdresser who seemed to be the only one who knew some English explained to me that my son would get a shampoo after the haircut, and then I could blow dry his hair myself with blow dryers on a table next to the shampoo stations. Self-serve blow-drying! The shampoo took a few minutes, as the hairdresser was very thorough. She even gave my son a little scalp massage! From my son’s facial expressions, though, he didn’t seem to enjoy it.
I blow-dried his hair after the shampoo, after which we were free to be on our merry way. We didn’t have to tip anyone (there’s no expectation of a tip anywhere here–not at restaurants, hair salons, in a taxi….It’s great!). We left the salon with everyone in there thanking us and bidding us farewell. Very friendly, warm, and professional service. We will be going back for sure!