Friday, April 15, 2011

A hairy lesson learned

As is usual lately, I’ve been a bit MIA from blogging. What could be more important that chronicling my misadventures in Germany for an unfortunately quantifiable audience that likely consists mostly of friends and family back in the States?

Well there’s cleaning the parquet brush on my Dyson, for example. 
Who doesn't love a good clean vacuum brush pic?
Or following my constipated cat around to note when he poops. What, TMI? Don’t worry, my cat probably feels the same.

But despite all of these momentous responsibilities, I’ve decided that a certain recent event deserves to be documented: I got my hair cut…at a German salon…all by myself. Well there it is. I’ll give you a moment to take all that in. I just saw my cat head to the litter box again anyway…

Okay so maybe after a few moments of deep reflection you’ve decided that my hair cut is really no big deal. Not so my friend (whoa, did I just channel a little John McCain there…yikes).

To properly convey the significance of this experience, let me back up a few days. A classmate in my German course mentioned that she’d cut her hair the night before…on her own, as in, with the scissors in her very own hands. Another chimed in that she does the same, although a bit differently. I listened in awe as they explained their various methods. Then it occurred to me, why not try it myself…it sounded simple enough. And besides, if it worked, I could put off going to a German friseur on my own and learning related the vocabulary like stufig (layered) and der pony (bangs). By the way, here’s a link to more vocab if you’re the market for a haircut in Germany.

So when I got home that afternoon, I promptly washed my hair, combed it perfectly straight and even watch a few DIY videos on YouTube for good measure.

You could say the first cut went well, if your only definition of “well” is that my hair had been cut. But not wanting to look like a subject for a beauty school staffed with six-year-olds, I kept cutting, and cutting and cutting. In the end, I succeeded only in creating the first bathroom rug comprised of 100 percent genuine human hair. There’s something for Etsy…or maybe Regretsy would be more appropriate.

But from folly sometimes come fortune, or some crap like that. Thanks to overestimating my innate stylist skills, my fear of German salons disappeared. And before I knew it, I had an appointment for first thing the next morning.

Fast forward through the 17 hours in between (which were sprinkled with cocktails and various expressions of bewilderment from Thomas), and enter Max, friseur and corrector of hideous hair creations.

I spent the next hour and half in his chair listening to snip, snipscheiße!...snip, snipwarum!?, warum!?!

And although I only understood about 70 percent of what he was saying, I realized that sometimes we have to just suck it up and go out there if we really want increased lingual comfort and fluency…or just do something stupid that requires professional help. Yeah, that works, too.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, thanks to Max, I can now appear in public without triggering howling dogs. Here's proof:

Before and after  
Sorry, no photos of the actual "before." Some things are best left to poor illustrations.


  1. I like your post haircut! Very chic! Also, thanks for the cool German dictionary, complete with exercises. Although I was disappointed that they didn't have the hairstyle I always asked for - ein Pilzkopf. You can probably guess on that style. Your cut is kinda in that direction...

  2. I have met a few people here that cut their own hair, and more than just their pony. Strange. Cute hair cut! Although I am always nervous over here and I am pretty fluent in German. Just makes me nervous that I will get some wild Euro style, lol

  3. Love it! I laughed so much. I too was very surprised to meet ex-pats who cut their own hair and even those who flew home to get their haircut. Especially when I had read that German haircuts are so much cheaper.

    Piffle I thought! I'm off to get mine done. I ended up spending far more than I would have in the UK and got highlights that started halfway down my head.

    My son's haircuts have been pretty horrific. They seem to be asking me "Would you like his ears clear? Would you like your son to look like he has Lego hair?" and I just smile broadly with incomprehension and say "Ja!Ja!". I'm sure he looks fine to the average Berliner, but boy when I take him back to the UK, does he get some comments. If I wasn't scared of snipping his little ears off, I'd do it myself.

  4. I hear you! I haven't even moved to Germany yet, and I have already figured out how much time there is in between trips home and, consequently, trips to get my hair cut and highlighted. Thanks for the link!

  5. Just so you know, I'm a regular reader and we're not related or friends ;)

    Don't lose your courage and practice, practice, practice! Maybe you could open a subsection here where you post smaller "stories" in German - you could avoid direct contact to the natives that way ;)

  6. I did it too! Very liberating and brave to visit the frisseur. Armed with my picture, we stumbled through it together and I came out with a decent cut and colour. My sis is a hairdresser so this is double difficult for me.
    Love the blog, keep it good sometimes to see that I'm not losing my marbles and there are others just like me, facing the same strange little problems and celebrating the same wonderful discoveries.

  7. Ditto to what Chopsy said.
    I have been putting off getting my hair cut here in Wiesbaden for too long. I'm so nervous about it. I know about 4 sentences in German, none of which have to do with hair. I have the option of using a hairdresser on base but I've heard bad things about them (they can't cut in a straight line, etc.) I've got to just be brave and do it and hope they don't all laugh at me.

    -Meredith, non-relative/friend reader!

  8. Thanks all! Although now that I have to style it on my own, it doesn't look quite so coiffed...more like a straw mop (not sure if that exists, but I think the visual is pretty accurate)... ;)

    @yozhuk - "pilzkopf," I love that name! And mine's a bit like that, but with lots of short layers.

    @TexaGermaNadian - I was a bit worried about getting something crazy too...especially when the stylist said something about a "wildschnitt" O_o

    @fiona - You made me laugh out loud when I read "lego cut!" You could always try one of these for a safe, at-home cut for your son: ... on second though lego hair is probably better. ;)

    @Jan - I have to say, going to salon here sans my translator hubby, wasn't as scary as I'd imagined. And I think it's one of those things that gets easier the longer you're here...hopefully!

    @Stefan - Thanks! And that's a good idea about posting in German. But given how long it takes me to write a post in English sometimes, it might be awhile before I get there, haha.

    @Chopsy - I'm with you on bringing in a photo. Given German's penchant for compound nouns, I wonder if a picture is worth about 520 words here. Either way, it definitely helped compensate for my lacking vocabulary. :)

    @Meredith - Just brush up on a few basic words to help describe your desired cut & style and bring a photo like Chopsy recommended, and I'm sure you'll be fine. :) And fortunately for those of us who are vocab-challenged, Germans aren't usually prone to small talk like often what seems like awkward silence to us is just normal for them. So nur Mut and good luck!

  9. perfect! and, I don't like small talk either!
    danke shon!

  10. I am totally impressed. I've been dying to get my hair cut for, well, months, and eventually just got it done when I was in London last week. I find it hard enough to explain what I want done in English, let alone German. And your new hair looks amazing.

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  12. It looks great!

    I have a long history of bad haircuts...and the perm that never grew out - we later discovered it just coincided with puberty, but I wouldn't set foot in a salon for years.

    It's hard enough to explain in your native language waht you want! I wish I'd had your glossary a couple of years ago.

    I did finally find a great bilingual salon in Munich, but for the first 3 years here, I got a cut every 4-6 months when I was in Texas or SE Asia. I'm ashamed to say I picked up another foreign salon before I found one in Germany. But, eventually it was time to be a big girl and find one here.

    What I did find interesting was that many of the strictly German salons in central Munich just offer you a blow dryer and a brush and you do your own. (Apparently they charge another €20 or so to dry it, so most people DIY). The ones catering to English-speakers include the styling in the price.
    Also they charge different prices based on the length of your hair, which makes a lot of sense. (But is not fun when you have long hair!)

    Thanks for the great tips!

  13. You are so brave - both for taking your hair into your own hands AND managing to communicate what you want to a professional! My only appointment over here proved how embarrassing my German was(is), but at least I had ample photos of the cut and color I wanted to help me out. Thank goodness I've decided to grow my hair out, do my own color and cut my own Pony!

    @Meredith - I went to Stephan Zollner in Wiesbaden (on Taunusstrasse) and I really liked him. He gave me a great cut and helped me take my first steps changing my color from platinum to red. He and his staff speak a little English and there's none of that 'blow your own hair' nonsense.

  14. This is a very entertaining post. Makes me laugh! I recently just passed the Deutsch A1 test as a requirement for visa. It's kind'a exhausting.

    I love that vacuum brush. While I don't cut my own hair, I need a vacuum that easily cleans lots of failing hair. ;)