I did it. I finally got my hair cut in France.
To explain how serious this situation was, let me explain. It had been a full 2 years since I’d had a real haircut (before I moved to France).
Now, I’m already pretty bad at scheduling haircuts at home, in English. I wait ages until we’re way past acceptable length to actually make the call because it can just be such a hassle. It took me years to find a salon in Boston that I liked and would regularly schedule appointments with because my requirements are, apparently, complex. They are as follows: 1) good with curly hair, 2) open late enough on weekdays to go after work, 3) online appointment booking.
Online appointment scheduling should be standard for every salon. There. I said it.
It just makes sense! Who has the time to call, and then when they inevitably offer you a day or time that fits none of the original availability you’ve given them, you have to go back and forth wasting everyone’s time. Why not just provide a calendar that we can all check at our leisure and click on the timeslot that matches up with our own schedules? But I digress…
Since this is Paris, I knew there was no way I would find online booking in a salon here. The bigger hurdle was getting up the courage to actually go for the cut with a language barrier of unknown proportions. (What’s the lingo for layers and low-maintenance, no I don’t own a blow dryer that works here, and no I don’t style it, well, ever, in French?) It’s hard enough to explain to a stylist exactly what you want in your own language. Doing it in French is a real risk.
I needed a salon that was well-reputed for speaking English, and had someone who was confident with curly hair. Not that mine is the curliest in the world, but it makes a big difference to have a stylist that understands how to work with hair that doesn’t go in the direction you expect it to. Bonus points for not insanely overpriced.
My research began about a year earlier. Not kidding. It took me a full year to actually bite the bullet and book an appointment.
I googled for English-speaking stylists, read blogs about other expat tales of woe and wonder with their salon experiences, and followed Facebook threads of people in the same boat as me trying to find new salon. I finally found one that, GASP offered online appointment requests and then…. it didn’t work. **months passed**
Finally, I got so fed up with my hair – which, by this point was both the longest and the most split-ended it’s ever been – and made a phone call. In French. I called and took the first open appointment they offered. Sold.
It went… fine. I made my way to the Marais and showed up at the salon address and waited for someone to appear to greet me. Eventually someone stopped blow drying long enough to ask what I wanted and when I said I had an appointment they said, “oh, try at the other salon.” The other salon? So I followed their instructions to go around the corner and walked until I found an empty-looking, unmarked storefront with salon chairs inside. That was the place.
Despite getting off to an odd start, the stylist was nice and understanding of my questionable French hair vocabulary. She spoke English, but no better than my French so we just fumbled through. In the end, it wasn’t the best cut I’ve ever received but it was good enough and I didn’t miscommunicate catastrophically. Ultimately, I walked away with a haircut, so I’ll consider it a success.
When we finished, I had a brief internal panic where I realized I had absolutely no idea what the tip protocol is in France for hair stylists, if any at all. My American instincts say tip, but my French experience says no… (turns out it’s yes, tip for a haircut, but not as much as in the US). Lesson learned.
Now, here we are a full year+ later. I have not had another haircut since.
Not for lack of trying, though! In the last 2 weeks I’ve attempted to schedule appointments to no avail. Because it’s August, and August in France means everything’s closed and everyone’s on vacation. Here’s hoping I’ll get a trim come September…