Thus far, I’ve gotten two haircuts in Turkey. Both were quite an experience. For the first one, I went with one of my American friends who speaks Turkish fairly well and who was known well at that place of business. My friend translated essentially what I wanted and it turned out pretty well. During my haircut, my friend was speaking with another customer whom he had met before. Their main topic of conversation was if I could be this man’s English tutor. I said I would think about it. We finished our haircuts at nearly the same time and this gentleman decided it was necessary to pay for my haircut. He said that whenever new business is spoken of between friends, it is a Turkish custom to pay for the guest. So I walked away with a free haircut and a good story.
Today however, I decided to go and attempt to get a haircut on my own. My Turkish is still quite minimal, so I simply walked in, said in my broken Turkish I wanted a haircut and sat down in a chair. I told the guy I didn’t speak Turkish and he said ok. We communicated as best we could on what I wanted, but I really didn’t say much. About all that was said was “short on the sides and back and medium length on top.” The barber went to work and after 20 minutes I had a lovely haircut, got my first shampoo at such an establishment and was out the door.
Despite the fact that I could barely communicate, my second haircut, most certainly looks better than the first. Granted it was more expensive (than free), but paying for the experience alone was certainly worth it. The man gave me his business card and I will most certainly go back again for my next haircut.
It’s interesting how attempting to do something as relatively simple as getting one’s haircut can be such a large ordeal in a setting where you don’t speak the same language as the person cutting your hair. Other encounters with the culture and that ever-persistent language barrier are easier to adapt to. When you’re at a restaurant, you can always point at the menu. When you’re grocery s
hopping, you can usually tell exactly what you’re buying. When you’re in a taxi, you only need to know approximately three words. But getting your haircut, now there would be a place to know some Turkish. The hand actions needed to describe instructions on how to cut one’s hair are a bit beyond my current ability with the Turkish language.
It all worked out well and I’ve established a connection at a local business. All in all, a great day, a great experience.