As you may already know, I’ve been having some trouble getting haircuts here in Germany. I’m still learning the metric system, and the fact that a centimeter in length is nowhere near as long as an inch. Also, I speak in broken German, so when I want a ‘high fade,’ it sounds like I’m asking for a ‘lofty shrivel.’
Out of frustration, I asked my wife to write a note describing, in perfect German, the kind of haircut I wanted. This note worked wonderfully at first; I walked into my usual ‘Fast Cuts,’ handed the note over to the goth chick with the bad forearm tattoos, and received a decent version of the haircut described. Unfortunately, because it involved scissors — in addition to the usual electric razor — the price jumped from €9 euros to €22 euros. I felt this was a bit extreme, so I vowed to try a different hairdresser.
A month later, with my hair so big and puffy I looked like a member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, I walked into a little hairdresser around the corner from our apartment. Now, this was a Turkish hairdresser, and it was full of burly Turkish men who were doing more horsing around and shit talking than actual hair cutting. You can imagine the blank stares I got when I handed my note to one of the three hairdressers. This particular gentleman chuckled, making it clear he could not read it. (To this day I am unsure if he truly was illiterate in German, or if he was just being a dick.) A young Turkish kid jumped up from the waiting area and proudly read my note aloud to the entire room. Everyone had a nice laugh about it. The hairdresser nodded his understanding, repeated “Funf miiILLLlliiimeters” to dramatic effect, and gestured for me to sit in the barber chair.
What followed was a scary clusterfuck of English, German and Turkish, if you were to translate everything directly into English:
HAIRDRESSER: “So, where you come from?” *Proceeding to attach the appropriate extension onto an electric razor and peel my scalp like a Doner kebab.*
ME: “I come from the ‘ooo-ess-ahh,’ uh, America… Portland, Oregon, correct? It is up, northwest…” *Gesturing upward and to the left with both hands in the air.*
HAIRDRESSER: *With a thick Turkish accent and a hint of mockery* “Ah, oooohkay, Mr. America.”
*Once the sides and back of my head were shaved, he attached a smaller extension and cut around my hairline. That’s when I noticed the straight razor on the counter. Close proximity to weapons any kind send me directly into fight-or-flight mode, so if someone were to menace me with one, I would either break that person’s wrist and stomp on their brain… or run screaming like a little girl in a tutu with a caterpillar on her arm.*
ME: “So, uh… from where come you, formally speaking? I mean, well then, from come you where?”
HAIRDRESSER: *Gesturing to one of the other hairdressers and speaking in Turkish* “I come from him.” *Everyone started laughing for some reason.*
ME: “I don’t understand… I mean, I understand not.”
*That was when the hairdresser picked up the straight razor, at which point I became visibly nervous, my complexion fading from ‘Ivory Apprehension’ to ‘Eggshell Uncomfortable.’*
HAIRDRESSER: *Smiling and bringing the razor close* “Don’t move, eh?”
ME: “Ha ha… ‘kay.”
*The hairdresser proceeded to shave around the perimeter of my hairline, focusing mostly on the back of my neck. He moved the razor in quick little strokes, handling its edge with feline grace. I made the mistake of picturing how easily he could take my eye out, or how quickly he might give me a Sweeney Todd, and it was then my complexion faded from ‘Eggshell Uncomfortable’ to ‘Chartreuse Sputum.’*
HAIRDRESSER: “You for which president, George Bush or Barack Obama?”
ME: *Thinking frantically, Which president is least likely to have messed with Turkey? My life is on the line here, and I’ve got a 50/50 chance of survival.* “…uh, Barack Obama.”
HAIRDRESSER: *Shouting* “MOTHER FUCKER!”
ME: *Oh my God, I am going to die.* “What? I don’t know! Who do you like?” *Thinking, Did the President bomb Turkey lately? Why don’t I follow the news back home more closely? Please put the razor down, please put the razor down…*
HAIRDRESSER: *After rattling off some particularly guttural Turkish and gesturing toward the TV in the corner, I understood this man was mostly kidding, but did, in fact, prefer George Bush.* “So, it is ‘Fuck Bush’ then, eh, Mr. America?”
ME: “I… I really don’t know man.” *Now more mystified than terrified, thinking, Why in the sweet fires of hell would a Turkish man support George W. Bush?*
*The haircut concluded in merciful silence, with me in no way comforted, and the hairdresser wearing a shit-eating grin. He showed me the back of my head with a handheld mirror, I nodded my approval and we approached the cash register.*
HAIRDRESSER: “So! That will be thirty euros!”
*I paused, wallet in hand, thinking, That is way more expensive than I had anticipated, but one cannot be frugal when shopping for uncut throats.*
HAIRDRESSER: “I kid! From me to you. It is eight euros.”
ME: “Eight euros, okay.” *Thinking, That is way cheaper than I had anticipated.*
*I tipped him an extra euro (which is actually a really nice tip here in Germany), wished him a good day and shagged-ass right the hell out of there.*
When I came home, I went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and discovered I’d received what was absolutely the best haircut I’d had in Germany thus far. Maybe it was so good because I finally had my hair cut by a man, and who better than a man to understand the subtleties of a man’s haircut? Maybe Turkish hairdressers are just really talented? I don’t know, and I shan’t question my good fortune. However, it wasn’t so long ago I would have laughed had you suggested I might someday move to Germany and switch political parties at the provocation of a knife-wielding Turk.
Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”
If you liked this post, please follow our blog by entering your email address in the upper right corner of this page. You’ll receive future posts directly in your inbox! No spam, ever! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.