Getting a haircut in China, especially somewhere other than a major city, can be a strangely unsettling experience as a foreigner.
Unless you speak fluent Chinese, which the vast majority of foreigners don’t, it is virtually impossible to articulate what you actually want the stylist to do to your hair. It took me absolutely ages to learn how to say, “I want a haircut,” in Mandarin, which, when you think about it, is pretty damn obvious when you are standing in a hairdressing salon. It’s like going into a restaurant and saying “Get me some food.”
Once, a hairdresser flatly refused to cut my hair on the basis that he didn’t know how to cut a foreigner’s hair. I tried to explain that it was just hair, and all hair is basically the same, but my efforts were lost on him. Another time, on a university campus in Beijing, I…
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