Getting a haircut is usually a rather mundane part of everyday life. But when you’re an expat living in another country and you don’t speak the local language, it suddenly becomes a much more exciting and emotional experience. Every snip of the scissors and buzz of the clippers sends a rush of trepidation down your spine; because beyond uttering a few broken words of Konglish and showing the barber a picture of your desired style, there’s really not much you can do but sit back and watch in a state of helpless paralysis as he begins to sculpt your scalp. We all like to think “it’s only hair, it will grow back if I don’t like it,” but when we’re suddenly faced with having to practice what we preach and live with the consequences, our thinking drastically changes.
When I got my first haircut in Korea, I was extremely apprehensive and nervous. In hindsight, I wish I had brought a few pictures of myself (from multiple angles) from home of what I looked like right after getting a cut. It would’ve beat showing the stylist photos of random dudes on the internet whose hair roughly approximated what I was looking for. Since then I’ve gone about once a month and always to the same place (not only so they kind of remember me/the style I like, but also because it’s only $7!).
Like many other aspects of living abroad, getting a haircut is more of a process of “trial and error” than it is an event of “getting it right on the first try.” But with some patience and a little luck, I can assure you that things will more than likely turn out fine every time.
Below are some photos that I think pretty accurately depict the emotional rollercoaster I experienced on my first haircut excursion in Korea (to view captions for each picture, hover your cursor over each image).