Culture Shock 2: An American Attempts to Get a Haircut in Germany

On October 4th, 2012, I attempted to get a haircut here in Hannover, Germany. I was long overdue for a good shearing, and I wanted to clean up a little because we were about to see my wife’s entire family to celebrate her father’s birthday. I chose a place called ‘Fast Cuts,’ which appeared to be the German version of Supercuts. Anyway, none of the hair stylists at Fast Cuts spoke English and my wife could not translate for me because she was at work, so I did what any red-blooded American male would do; I swaggered into that chop shop like I owned the place and got my hair did.

Here’s how the conversation between me and the tattooed hair stylist girl went, if you were to translate everything directly into English:

ME: “Good day to you. I understand very little German.”

STYLIST: “Okay.”

ME: “I would gladly take a hair… a hair… a hair slice. Shit.”

STYLIST: “Yes. Would you like to hang up your coat?”

ME: “Oh. You said ‘coat.’ Yes. Perfect. Thank you very much.”

STYLIST: “How would you like your hair cut today?”

ME: “I have no idea what you are saying to me right now. Please, a half of one millimeter over, and then five millimeters to the left, to the right, and behind.”

STYLIST: “What?”

ME: “Centimeter. Dammit! I meant one half of one centimeter over.”

STYLIST: “We have attachments for 12, 8, 6 and 3 millimeters.”

ME: “Three. Three is perfect. I don’t know.”

STYLIST: “Wow. Okay.”

ME: “And please, make it very boring up high. Right here.”

STYLIST: “Faded? Near the top?”

ME: “Yes. Awesome. Perfect. Thank you very much.”

STYLIST: “Do you want me to use the electronic hair clipper?”

ME: “Yes. Everything.”

15 minutes later I was staring into the mirror, dazed and confused, getting to know my brand-new buzz cut. Let me tell you, this mother was short. I paid the girl, tipped her a Euro for some reason, then stumbled out of Fast Cuts a few inches shorter than when I arrived.

The first thing I said to my in-laws when I greeted them two days later was, “Hello. Good night, isn’t it? I am sorry for my skull. I know I am not a skinhead.”

Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”

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55 thoughts

      1. you bet.. slowly.. two hours per week, 5 years so far. I am headed to germany in december, and my family will be relying on me to do communication when english isn’t so reliable so that’s my motivation. plus i’m stubborn and can’t turn my back on the time invested already.

        i mean, it’s not japanese or arabic where I have to memorize a billion new characters or learn to read from right to left on a page, and there are no words in common with english.

        have you thought about doing one of the immersive courses?
        http://www.goethe.de/ins/de/ort/ham/kur/enindex.htm

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      2. That is fantastic! Great job man! Keep going for sure!

        Oh, I will be forced to take an immersion course here in the next month or so. I just have to gain my permanent resident status and then it’s on. Like 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. Holy smokes, that’s a lot of Deutsch!

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  1. Gaaaaah! I just read your post to my colleagues … laugh-out-loud hilarious! (With all due respect to your dearly departed hair, and the social misery than ensued.) Hope your Haare grows back schnell!

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      1. No, I’m in Australia but I want to travel to Stuttgart oneday. From what I’ve heard people say about it, it’s a lot like my hometown but better. lol I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.

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      2. Cool! :D

        The weather here…. to be quite honest, it’s bipolar. One moment it’s sunny and warm, next minute it’s windy and overcast. It can’t seem to make its mind up! Lol

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  2. Think nothing of it. German hairdressers are all bastards. Whenever I go there, they cut me a hole in my hair on the back of my head, because they think I dont see it. Gets bigger all the time.

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  3. I admire your chuzpah of going to the hairdresser in Germany at all. My German is nigh on perfect and even I have the greatest respect for Germans who wield a double set of sharp blades for a living. Maybe next time take a picture of yourself how you want to look like?

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    1. Thank you Sandra! I am nothing if not recklessly adventurous. I knew I would either end up with the greatest haircut of my life, or the absolute worst. Either way, it was gonna be noteworthy. :)

      Next time I will take a notecard with me, dictated by my wife.

      How goes the pregnancy?

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      1. Noteworthy… I’d say, hehe.

        Pregnancy is going smoothly, thanks for asking. The finish line is in sight, so beware of ever more Germans populating this crazy place.

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  4. This is hilarious. You’re a very brave man, indeed.

    Here was your red flag, just in case you didn’t catch it the first time:

    “…tattoed hair stylist girl…”, and “Stylist: Wow. Okay.”

    That was your cue to say “just kidding!”, er, “nur ein Scherz” (courtesy, Google translate)!

    Love your blog. It’s always funny. Good luck!

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  5. Hah. Had the best haircut I can remember in Prague, from a woman who spoke no English (I don’t speak Czech…). Mind you, I’m easy.

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