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Beijing, Practicalities

My hair was lost in translation

After dreading for a couple of weeks to go to a barber, I finally asked around and got a recommendation for a shop place nearby. A colleague who gave it to me has even offered to take me there today and translate my requirements. I refused at first, saying that I need to download a picture of a “beautiful me” to a camera, but then, what the heck, I decided to be adventurous and agreed to go right away. Mistake.

The place looked posh and their Y28 for a haircut was really more than a Y10 you would pay in a hutong. My friend translated my simple asks of “the same thing, as it was 2 months ago”, and as he was just about to leave me one-on-one with a herd of hungry hair-slaughters (stylists, I know), I asked him to give a reference length I remembered from US’s Great Clips: “start with number 5”. Mistake.

The guy happily nodded and there we went: my friend – home, me – towards doom. Long story short. Very short. Being a positive person, in deed or at least in aspirations, I’ll start with


  • The shampoo I brought will probably last me till it’s time to go back.
  • Washing the head now take twice as less time as washing the hands.
  • I make people smile. I seriously do.
  • “What happened” or “What did they do to you” will be a common start of any conversation.
  • I’m well-prepared for an oppressively hot Beijing summer.
  • This incident made me finally publish this blog. Dammit.


  • Now my eyebrows are the longest hair on the head and that just looks weird. No, I’m keeping them.
  • I suspect myself in a robbery every time I look in a mirror.
  • I look better on a passport picture.
  • I now have one more body part to sunburn.

And of course, being a bore, I’ll end with “lessons learned”:

  • A good picture of yourself ensures your success more than a Chinese-speaking friend who doesn’t stay throughout the entire process.
  • Do not mention a trimmer to them, even as a length reference, or that’s all they would end up using.
  • If in US, “Great clips” filed “start with number 5” for you, and you say that in China, you would end up with the same hair style that I did. For whatever reason, the numbering system used in US is not millimeters.
  • Yes, knowing Mandarin improves the quality of life and in this case, appeal.
  • Being in a country without knowing the language, set your humor to high and expectations to low.


5 thoughts on “My hair was lost in translation

  1. muhaha… we demands a picture

    Posted by oo | April 3, 2011, 03:42
  2. the plot to get your blog rolling is a total success, well done my chinese friend

    Posted by oo | April 3, 2011, 03:45
  3. you do look suspicious:)

    Posted by Evgenia | May 18, 2011, 23:16

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