June 02, 2010


In a country where meeting a fluent English speaker is only slightly less difficult than finding a good driver, I get by mostly with sign language, grunts, pointing, head nods, and artistic skills. One of the hardest things is to communicate with barbers on how I want my hair cut -"Same style, but shorter". A couple of times a Chinese friend accompanied me and explained to the barber what I wanted. On several other occasions, I would explain my desires over the phone to a Chinese speaker and then hand it over to the hairstylist so that the instructions could be relayed onwards.

I decreased my reliance on others even though my Chinese skills did not improve. I started indicating the length of hair I wanted remaining on my head by showing the gap between my thumb and forefinger. I then made a "bzzzzzzzzzzz" noise to suggest the use of a trimmer for my sideburns and the back of my head. This met with limited success. When a barber tried to buzz the top of my head off, I quickly fled the scene. I do not have a preferred barbershop, because the turnover rate is quite high and there is no guarantee a capable hairstylist will be found twice at the same location. Nowadays, I just find out the price of the haircut and sit down. The barber does the rest.


"There's many a man has more hair than wit." ~ William Shakespeare