Skip to content

#96 Hair Cut Horror Stories

October 3, 2011

Submitted by Colleen 

Before venturing overseas, Expat Aid Workers are warned and advised to get a hair cut.  This is partly to appear presentable for your first day of work.  It is also to avoid the task of having to find a hair salon or barber shop that is able to cut expat hair.

Very few local barbers or hair dressers will admit to being unsure of how or where to start, but when you’re sitting in the chair with the razor poised above your head and the attendant has a worried and confused look on his or her face, you might start to wonder about the logic of your choice.  Some might at least be smart enough to provide the barber with some guidance or a photo of what they want, but there is no guarantee that will help.

You might experience this once.  Very few expats will be brave (or silly) enough to try it a second time.  Luckily, there are generally salons around in the capital cities to which one can retreat to fix the disaster or choose the second time around.  However, these fancier salons don’t facilitate the trading of war-stories about bad haircutting experiences that are a staple of expat conversation at some point or another.

So if you are not too concerned about the appearance or style of your hair (or by chance luck out and find a local salon that knows how to cut a variety of hair types), then by all means go find your closest barber or hair dresser.  The laughs and stories later will be well worth it.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 7:24 am

    I lived in Albania and had a barber who actually did a pretty good job in cutting my hair. (I am not really style aware so perhaps he really didn’t. But I liked it.) He started with a chair under a tree on the Lana River and graduated to a concrete block building. I went in once to get a haircut just before the pyramid schemes collapsed in March. 1997. I told him I wanted a good haircut because I was going to Bulgaria to do some training. The next day or so we were evacuated like all the other American Expat Aid Workers. Because of the situation in Albania I didn’t get back until October. I walked into the shop, more than 7 months later, and the barber, without missing a beat asked “how was Bulgaria?”

  2. Colonel Tusker permalink
    October 3, 2011 7:31 am

    Yay. Great post. I love the barbers on the sub-continent, who beat your back and shoulders afterwards, and adjust your neck chiropractically, as all part of the service. Then they rub your cheeks with a white stone, and pour half a bottle of Bay Rum onto the top of your head.

    I got an all over ‘number 2’ once under a tree in the marketplace in Africa. I asked him ‘Why don’t you leave some corners on it like we wazungu like?’ But he said, ‘Then my friends, the other barbers, would think that I don’t know how to cut hair.’

    One cut me on the ear with a razorblade once. I asked him if it was a new blade, and he assured me that it was. What with AIDS and all. They make a bit of a show of unwrapping it in front of you, but there is no guarantee that they don’t wrap it back up again once you leave. Happy to report I was paranoid to no avail. Still alive and HIV-negative. Yay!

  3. Francesca permalink
    October 3, 2011 7:48 am

    I had the worst haircut ever in Peru. I have been suggested that hairdresser by a German girl who had a decent haircut and I decided to go. When I went out I looked like the lost lesbian daughter of Bryan Adams in the 1980s, I wanted to cry. All my Peruvian friends were mocking me so much…luckly I was dating a very good guy who was a bit shocked at first but then coped well with it. Now I am in Kenya and I swear I will never get my hair touched outside of a western salon. I had a haircut back in Rome (my hometown) and I’ll keep my hair wild until I get back….

    • Melissa B permalink
      October 11, 2011 4:38 am

      there are several good salons for western hair in Nairobi..;. my favorite (and best haircut I ever had) is run by a Ukrainian woman – salon located in Nakumaat Junction next to the shoe store.

      • Adelie permalink
        December 27, 2012 6:09 am

        Hi Melissa

        Do you perhaps remember the name of the salon and/or the lady who cut your hair? Would love to start off on a ‘safe bet’ as I’ve had bad haircuts all over the world with one in Rotterdam topping the list…


      • Bonnie Jean permalink
        October 30, 2015 7:14 am

        The same ukrainian woman at Trendsetters in Junction Mall gave me an awesome haircut! She did exactly what I wanted. The salon has since relocated from Junction Mall in Nairobi to a new salon and spa located at Village Arcade just off Gitenga road. I plan on going to her this month again.

  4. Gerard permalink
    October 3, 2011 7:53 am

    1 more reason to get your haircut before arrival: The picture on the ID card that you will be in frontal view for the next few years will be taken on the first day and is usually not updated over time.

  5. HeyJo permalink
    October 3, 2011 2:14 pm

    50 pesos at a street-side salon or 1500 at the expensive expat establishment, they all end in the same near-mullet disaster.

  6. Haiti permalink
    October 4, 2011 2:43 pm

    If you are already shocked about the cut – don’t let me start talking about coulor!!!

  7. October 5, 2011 3:17 am

    Really it’s don’t get a haircut at all, or learn how to cut hair yourself. My roommate and I trim each other’s hair, and though we have never done it before, we trust each other more than the local salon.

  8. October 5, 2011 6:57 am

    Or go for a #2 cut as it is pretty safe – problem is that you are doomed to having the same haircut for the rest of your life. You’d still be surprised how many different ways it can be messed up. Best ever #2 haircut was in Honduras where they somehow made me look like a street gangster. Worst ever was in Myanmar, where 3 weeks before my wedding my usual barber’s father (who clearly has eyesight problems) cut my hair during a power cut and shaved off clean patches from the side of my head. Could hardly complain at 1000 kyat, and it managed to grow back sufficiently in time.

  9. Samantha Lim permalink
    October 10, 2011 11:03 am

    if you have to pay more than $50 for a hair cut it better be good and that’s how expensive it was when i was somewhere in West Africa … ended up having a fraction of the price with uneven hair length when i refused to pay that much good thing my hair was long enough to be tied and later i asked my house mate to level it :) …

    moral of the story: try the expensive next time LoL

  10. October 10, 2011 3:15 pm

    Very familiar stories – but my worst haircut was in New Jersey, with a local Korean barber. I went in and carefully explained how I wanted the cut. He took five minutes to give me a perfect side parting (not what was asked for), and before I knew it had stuck his comb through my eyebrow to trim that as well! I heard later that he also trims nostril and ear hair… he didn’t understand why i didn’t want anything else trimmed. As I paid he offered me the standard complementary Yakult yoghurt drink. My hair took a long time to recover from that one! Give me a Nairobi haircut any day…

  11. Kelti permalink
    October 10, 2011 5:25 pm

    Wow, I had the best, cheapest cuts lving overseas (once paid $3 for a Cambodian barber who didn’t speak English to cut my hair – and I’m a woman – and it turned out fine). So much so that I’m very reluctant to pay the $30 or more to get my haircut back in Canada when it will look exactly the same as when the Cambodian barber cut it…

  12. Sam Buchanan permalink
    October 17, 2011 9:47 pm

    Best haircut I ever had was in a backstreet in Kaifeng, China, for the equivalent of (US) 25 cents. Trimmed to perfection with a cut-throat razor.

  13. georgneu permalink
    October 19, 2011 12:10 pm

    Ever want to get a great hair cut in Rabat, Morocco, I recommend Abdel in Agdal. Trade mark:
    James Dean

  14. February 3, 2012 3:58 am

    I think that my favorite haircut ever was in Jakarta – yeah, it was in a fancy salon, but it was an Indonesian man who took three hours to give me the perfect haircut. I swear, it seemed like he cut each strand individually, but it was, hands down, the best EVER.

  15. February 6, 2012 9:38 pm

    I have just had my hair cut in Tuvalu by a shaky knife wielding alcoholic sat on a rusty chair on the sand between two palm trees (there are worse salon venues!) – the results are surprisingly alright, although I probably won’t be chancing any job interviews anytime soon!

    • May 22, 2012 2:41 pm

      Grandma Rosi – These pictures make me want to scoop her up and hug her (if she’d let me-lol). Could you pealse come over. It has been days since I have seen you all.She is so precious and I am glad she looks so much like her mommy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: