I’ve had six haircuts in Turkey, admittedly not very many. Somehow, the experience is different every time. The first time I went with a friend who helped translate and we bumped into someone my friend knew who was also getting his haircut. For whatever reason, this friend of a friend decided he had to pay for my haircut. Despite our refusal, he insisted and I got a free haircut.
The next time, I went alone to a different barber. I didn’t know what to say, but it worked out rather well. The guy gave me his business card and I returned there for two more haircuts, one of which involved witnessing a man who was getting wax rolled around on his face answer his cell phone and in answering it, got his phone full of wax as well.
Then we moved and I went to a new barber. I had learned essentially what to say to get the haircut I wanted, but my new local barber doesn’t have any guards for his clippers, so he just used a comb and it worked out fine the first time.
Well, yesterday I went to that barber again and the guy who cut my hair initially wasn’t available so another guy cut my hair. The hair cut was pretty typical, until the end.
Usually, they just wash your hair, offer you gel and let you pay and leave. Not this barber. After washing my hair, he got out some lemon cologne. This cologne is used in restaurants after a meal on your hands and it’s normal; I got used to it. So I put my hands out, figuring he would just squirt some in my hands, no big deal. The guy puts his one hand on my forehead, blocking my eyes and proceeds to dump tons of this cologne into my hair!
I had no idea what he was doing, but he just mixed it around until he was satisfied. Then, he took a bottle of normal men’s cologne out of one of his drawers and squirted no less than ten squirts on to my shirt, then continued by squirting himself with a few. I stunk. Then he finally offered gel which I refused and was on my way.
I wondered if they were just playing a joke on the foreigner or something, but I asked my students if this was normal. The 24-year old guy said that had never happened to him, but the 40-year old guy in my class reassured me both uses of cologne used to be common practices. They are simply rare nowadays.
So my last Turkish haircut was just as interesting and awkward as my first, if not more so. I wonder if German haircuts will be this interesting.