Hair salons in China

A couple of days ago, Baby A. had his hair cut for the first time in his life and I realized that I had never written anything about hair salons in China. Are they different from the hair salons in other countries? Well, at least they are somewhat different from hair salons in Spain!

The most obvious difference is that in Spain most hairdressers are women and in China most hairdressers are men. The male hairdressers I’ve seen in Spain are usually gay; in China they are straight. The only female Chinese hairdresser I’ve personally seen is my husband’s aunt, who owns a small one-woman salon. Usually, salons in China are big and employ an army of young men, sharply dressed and scissors in hand. There are also female employees in these salons but they are always receptionists or hair-washers.

There is, though, a special kind of “salon” in which all the “hairdressers” are women. These are small establishments that I’ve seen sometimes in old parts of the city and my Chinese teacher in Spain also told me about them. According to him, he just wanted a haircut but got offered other services in the back room… if you know what I mean! However, I’ve never been to this kind of salon myself, although, based on my teacher’s experience, they can also cut your hair for real.

 

This pic above looks pretty much like the salons I’ve frequented in China. They have a lot of seats so many of the stylists can work at the same time. When you enter, you are greeted by a chorus of “welcome” and, if there are empty seats, the receptionist takes you straight away to wash your hair. Usually they do it twice and with a nice head massage. In some salons they also give you a shoulder massage; not in mine, unfortunately. Later you are asked to choose which category of stylist you want to cut your hair: normal hairdresser, expert hairdresser or the master-of-the-universe hairdresser. Each category has a different price, obviously. I always choose the normal hairdresser a.k.a. the less expensive one because I’m cheap not very demanding and I’m always happy with the result. I normally pay about 40 RMB (around 5 EUR / 5.5 USD) for my haircut; years ago in Beijing I used to pay 10 (Maybe they were trainees? I wonder how they survived). I remember how, at the beginning of my life in China, I never went to the salon here and always waited to go in Spain. I think I was scared about not being happy with my haircut, but that turned out to be a nonexisting problem that I probably heard from someone very demanding about her hair.

 

In some salons they are very annoying and while cutting your hair they are constantly pushing you to buy some hair care products or get their membership card. Sometimes they even say your hair has such-and-such problem for which they luckily have the perfect product. I always say no to everything and sometimes I even pretend I don’t understand Chinese. The membership card thing is so funny; usually you need to put a minimum of 1000 RMB on it and then each haircut is 20% cheaper or something. But I only get a haircut once or twice a year, and at 40 RMB a piece… it would take me many years to use up all the money in the card! However I might need to start going more often… to dye my white hairs!

I don’t know if Chinese hairdressers work in turns or if they work the whole day (probable the later), but salons are open all day, from 9 or 10 am to 9 or 10 pm. And there’s always customers! Luckily for their business, most people go to the salon more often than I do, hehe. Another thing that is different from Spain is that in my home country I would always call ahead to book an appointment; here I just walk directly into the salon and if I have to wait it’s only for a few minutes, as there are so many stylists and seats.

One funny thing that salons here do is that every morning, before opening, all the employees stand in the street in front of their workplace and sing and dance together. Perhaps it is some kind of warming up or team building activity.

It’s been almost a year since my last visit to the salon… I should go soon!