Haircuts in Russia: like playing roulette

As with so many of my posts, this was inspired by my actual experiences. Though, my bumbling shenanigans offers me a great chance to talk about one of the underrated aspects of living abroad: getting a haircut. Bear with me here, because it’s one of those idiosyncrasies that you don’t anticipate having to artfully maneuver around.

For starters, there are two options you have regarding your hair, and they are to frequent your local salon or go to the expensive place for expats. Each district obviously is unique, but just strolling around in the course of my job, I always see small neighborhood barbershops (парикмахерская) scattered around. And on that note, I’m blessed to have a place that’s a five minute walk from my apartment, and it’s dirt cheap at 180 rubles ($2.99). Though, having lived in two other districts prior to my current location, the fare ranges from 500-700 rubles, meaning that this might not be as applicable in some circumstances; the places in those two areas did also include a rinse afterwards, so there is something extra in the price as well. Compared with the Expat Salon (which, in the interest of the post, I admit I’ve never been to) where they do speak English, but I’ve heard a haircut costs at least 1000 rubles (~$16.61) or more. So, it’s a matter of how willing you are to test your luck with your snazzy new trim. In my experience, the haircuts have provided a bang for my ruble, and they’ve kinda spoiled me for the overpriced ones I get (or got) back home. Getting them for nearly three full years now, I’m surprised at how professional the experience is, especially at the bargain prices offered.

The nitty gritty of it is that стрижка (strizhka) is the word for a haircut. Sounds easy, right? A few times, due to either my fantastically American accent and/or the receptionists not hearing me correctly, some basic pantomiming was incorporated into my request, but overall being understood hasn’t been a problem. Another problem is that I’m always asked how I want my haircut, i.e. the length of the cut. Upon further reflection, this only has only asked in my current district, and you’d think I’d have graduated to saying something mildly satisfactory in the almost two years of living here. Nope! All I try to say is короткая стрижка (short) and/or стандартная стрижка (standard) and hope they (mercifully) understand. After answering their follow-up questions with some potentially dangerous mumbling of “yes”, they either read my mind or start improvising. I’m kinda kidding here, but they do ask me, by holding up the length in the mirror, if things are okay. At that point I’m fine, as I generally prefer having shorter hair. Though, as one of my more decidedly irrational fears go, I’m afraid I’ll run into a stylist who will decide to give me my absolute biggest pet peeve- a rat’s tail. Like, I’ll walk past a mirror to see them having completely botched the job. It hasn’t happened…yet. In short, I amazingly have been walking away with everything as I had hoped for, even if I sound like a bumbling idiot in communicating that fact.

While it can be an intimidating experience that you pray won’t go awry, you’ll be fine. Nobody, at least to my face, has mocked my spiffy looking haircut, and I’m content with walking out every few months with that knowledge.


One thought on “Haircuts in Russia: like playing roulette

  1. How about take a pic of your hair when they are at the length that you like and show it to the barber as a visual aide?

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