The last time I got my hair cut in a foreign country I was studying abroad between junior and senior year of college in Florence, Italy. My short shaggy ‘do needed some serious attention, so I just popped into what looked like a reputable hair salon (I remember they had to buzz me in, oo-la-la) and made an appointment with the English-speaking receptionist. But when I came back the next day, it appeared all the English-speakers were on their day off. Undeterred, I flipped through a hair book to find a photo I could show the stylist. Of course I couldn’t find anything quite right, so I tried to communicate that I wanted my haircut like this photo, only a little longer in front. A woman getting her hair cut next to me attempted to translate. My stylist nodded and smiled. Then out came the straight razor and away went the bangs…gah! I tried not to panic as my look got shorter and shorter. Outside the salon I bumped into another girl from my trip, and she gushed over my hair. That was all the convincing I needed not to break into tears over the mistranslation.
This time around I was armed with a recommendation from our host family. The place was only three blocks from my house, and both the receptionist and the owner spoke very good English. Whew! When I arrived they offered me coffee while I waited for Kostandinos to consult with me. (I love these Greek names!) I perused through books and found a look that was almost what I wanted. But this time my stylist understood my modifications. Double whew!
I had an armada of people working on my hair — one girl rinsed it, then K meticulously cut it (I’ve never had a hairdresser cut so slowly and methodically. Quite nice, actually), then Georges colored it, then another guy rinsed it, then K came back to cut it some more, then another guy blow dried it and another girl styled it. It took nearly three hours! When it came time to pay the bill, I was seriously worried this would break the bank. I was pleasantly surprised to see the bill no more than I used to pay in Kansas, which was quite affordable compared to Florida and Maryland. Nice!
The staff were incredibly friendly and chatty. Georges, the 20-something colorist with multiple face piercings, amused me with his attempts at English. He actually did quite well, but when he’d get stuck, he’d lean over to someone else and speak in rapid-fire Greek until he knew how to say what he wanted to say. He was a very funny guy, a real delight to chat with. I learned a lot of new words (which I’ve mostly forgotten now), and some interesting facts about Athens and the Greek Islands. He told me the soccer stadiums in Athens only allow one team’s fans to attend each match because of the past violence that would erupt. The receptionist was also very friendly and chatty, and her English was much better. I told her about how the old ladies just LOVE Violet, and they fawn over and spit on her just like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That got a big laugh from everyone. She tried to teach me a few Greek expressions…something like, “Goo goo,” means something like, “Gosh, really?” She had a hard time finding an English translation for it.
I told Georges next time I come I’ll hopefully know a few more Greek words. I plan to start taking Greek classes at the Embassy if they’ll let me bring Violet along. I made a friend at Violet’s play date last week, and she’s bringing her infant son to her class. I’m hoping I can tag along with her in the next week or so.