Posted by: Andy | March 4, 2010

Turkish Haircuts

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.

Andy's Turkish Haircut

Andy's Turkish 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.



  1. Do you guys find that it takes you longer to do things because you have to plan how you are going to do it? Such as, going to a new restaurant: you need to figure out how to
    1. Say or write the address for the taxi driver, or figure out if you can take public transit.
    2. Does the restaurant have a picture menu there, and if not, what do you do?
    And so on.
    Moving back to the States, I realized how many questions I had to find the answer before I could do so many things while in China and how simple things are for me here.
    I’m glad you got a good haircut. In China, I got 2 haircuts that looked very similar to mullets, so I’m glad you had better luck.

    • Generally restaurants will hand us their English menu without us ever saying a word. They just know. 🙂

      And yeah, sometimes it takes a long time to get up the motivation to go through all the steps to do somethings.

      Thank goodness Andy didn’t end up with a mullet.

  2. Typically yes. Not having a car has been something that takes a long time to get used to. Also, not having Stephanie’s iPhone in full use is difficult as well. We used to just jump in the car and go and she’d look it up on our way there.
    As far as public transit, yes that takes a while to figure out, especially if we have to try and ask somebody which bus goes where. We’ve wondered around a few times on foot and gotten decently lost.
    Restaurants usually have picture menus and a lot of them have some sort of English menu, though the translations are a bit poor.
    The barber today wanted to spike my hair up Turkish style, but I wouldn’t let him. They certainly would know how to make a mullet here. They are very fashionable.

  3. Looking good!

  4. I’m still too scared to get my hair cut in Germany and my German is pretty good now! I’ve seen how those German ladies have streaks of purple and pink and all sorts of asymmetrical cuts.

    I was in the UK the other week and had it trimmed there. I think us ladies have a little advantage in that our hair can get longer and still look good.

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