I’m somewhat of a haircut snob.
My cuts usually cost around $50, I never go to chain stores, and I always have a detailed description prepared for the stylist before she chops away. While I know this sounds pretentious and annoying, I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of a good haircut, so I’ve always felt my hair snobbiness is worth the time and money.
So when I decided to study abroad in Paris last semester, getting my haircut was something I worried about. Where would I go? How much would it cost? How would I explain the weird thing my hair does in the back if the layers are too long?
It turned out my new study abroad friends shared the same anxiety. One day, when I announced I was going to find somewhere to get my hair cut, they gasped and replied, “Are you sure?” “Do you think your French is good enough to do that?” “What will you do if it turns out bad?”
But I didn’t let their worries stop me. The whole purpose of studying abroad is to learn about new cultures outside of your comfort zone. Why should a haircut be any different?
Instead of stopping by a random salon, I asked my host mom for some help. She suggested a place two blocks away from our apartment. She also gave me a referral coupon, which saved me some money.
I made an appointment the next day, and the day after that I was in the chair. I was a little apprehensive because the salon was a French chain, and I usually stay away from chains. However, with my “I’ll-try-anything-because-I’m-in-a-foreign-country” attitude, I decided to stay.
The hair stylist introduced herself and started speaking to me in her fast French.
I n Paris, I encountered a lot of people who spoke both French and English. It came in handy when I was trying to explain something in my so-so French, but my point wasn’t coming out right. Many Parisians appreciate it when Americans make an effort in French first, even if the conversation ends in English.
So I expected this girl to know English, at least a little bit. I expected wrong. She looked confused about why I didn’t know French, so I explained I was an American studying abroad. She seemed a bit more sympathetic, but not much.
I explained I wanted a trim and wanted to keep my hair layered. Luckily, I looked up the French word for layered (degrade), so that was clear. The haircut went along similarly to an American haircut, so I felt comfortable. I read a magazine and sipped a free cup of tea.
The stylist asked me a couple questions as she cut, and I answered them as best I could, even though I forgot the words for curly and straight in French. (Frisé means tight curls, bouclé means loose curls, and raide means straight, FYI). To help with the language barrier, the stylist pointed to a picture of a model with curly hair and one with straight.
When the appointment was over, I thanked her for her patience with my intermediate French, and she smiled politely. My haircut came to 38 euros, after my coupon. I then gave her five euros for a tip (I learned later from my host mom that a tip isn’t necessary. The French don’t tip, unless the service is spectacular).
I was proud of myself for putting aside my haircut particulars and braving a French salon. The haircut wasn’t exactly what I would get in the U.S. when I can explain exactly what I want in my native tongue. But the cut soon grew on me, and it made for a good story when I returned to the States. A haircut in Paris? Très chic.
A few quick tips when getting your haircut in Paris
- Chain hair salons are everywhere. Try Jean-Claude Biguine or Franck Provost.
- You don’t need an appointment, but if you decide to make one, say Je voudrais prendre rendez-vous. (I would like to make an appointment).
- If you want to save some money, try a training studio. Just like in the U.S., those are cheaper because the stylists are students.
- Do some research before you go. Bring a photo of exactly what you want, or practice your description of the cut you want. Also, remember the metric system. If you typically get an inch off when getting a trim, that’s 2.5 centimeters.
- Be nice and open-minded. You’re in a foreign country, using a foreign language, so you’re going to stick out. Don’t let weird looks from the stylists bother you.
What would YOU like to say about getting your hair cut in a foreign locale?
Haley Adams is a Missouri-based writer who recently graduated from Indiana University after completing a semester in Paris. She blogged about her Parisian food adventures on her blog, The Picky Eater’s Guide to Paris. Follow her on Twitter!
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