Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An Unforgettable Haircut and the End of the Year

I´m at the Santiago airport killing time before my flight back to the States for the holidays.  One of my friends is also flying out around the same time, so we've been catching up waiting to board.  I also ran into a coworker at a cafe here and a former coworker while in the line for security.  It seems the airport brings people together.

I thought that I wouldn’t have much interesting to blog about before leaving Chile for the year, but it turns out I was wrong.

Have you ever gotten a round of applause after getting a haircut?

No?  Really?  Well it’s a pretty cool experience.  So how did THAT happen?

There’s a hair salon school about 3 blocks from my apartment, and I have been going to get my haircut there for a little over 3 years now.  Students that are learning to become hair stylists cut your hair, and since they are practicing they charge a very nice price.  For me to get a haircut I pay $1,000 pesos, which is about $2. 

I went on Saturday morning, and after paying the receptionist asked me the following question:

¿Te molesta si el instructor hace el corte mientras dos alumnos observan?
(Would it bother you if the teacher cuts your hair while two students observe you?

I told him it would be fine, and about five minutes later the teacher came for me and asked me how I wanted my hair cut.  A buzz cut, same length all around, I told her.  I then walked into the room curious to see the two students.

Well, it wasn´t two students.  It was about 35.

I quickly realized that I misheard the receptionist.  I thought he said dos alumnos (two students), but he said los alumnos (the students).  I think the surprise on my face was obvious, and there was a quet laughs and murmurs upon my entrance.  I then wished I had shaved seeing that I was going to be on display for an entire class of students.

So I took a seat, and the instructor put on the apron while I took off my glasses.  She began talking to the class giving a play by play of my haircut.  She asked me what length I wanted, and I told her 3 to start but possibly shorter.  “Si el cliente pide 3, usas 4. Si pide 2, usas 3.  Siempre se puede hacerlo más corto pero no se puede cortarlo más largo.”  (If the customer asks for length 3, use 4.  If he asks for 2, use 3.  You can always cut their hair shorter, but you can´t cut it longer.”

She then continued on, showing how you go over each area of the head with a buzz cut twice, and insisting that the hair stylist is in control of the head positioning, not the customer. 

Another interesting thing came up during the haircut.  For those of you that don´t know Spanish, there are two words that are pronounced almost identically in Spanish but that have different meanings in English:

Peine means comb.
Pene means penis.

The instructor was very fond of talking about her peine and how she took it out and then ran it over my head to get out the loose hairs.  As childish as the similarity of words is, I had to hold in my laughter since I was on display for all of these students.

She cut my sideburns and trimmed my neck before brushing the extra hairs off.  After handing me my glasses and letting me look in the mirror, I took of the apron and stood up.

And that´s the moment when I got a round of applause.  I was taken off guard and had no idea what the etiquette is in that situation.  Do I give a bow or just nod my head?  I settled for a smile, a quick wave, and a gracias.

The past few days have been spent meeting with friends, finishing up the last of my classes for the year, and getting ready for the trip home.  I didn´t get to meet up with everyone that I was hoping to, and I didn´t get my place as organized as I had hoped to, but that´s ok.  I´ll be back in February and will have plenty of time to pick up where I left off.

In case I don´t get to post again in 2013 I`d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year wherever in the world you are.

¡Hasta 2014!


  1. Hope you're having a fantastic Christmas! I think I would have had a panic attack if I'd had that many students gawking at me while getting a haircut. You're a braver man than me buddy.

  2. Thanks Jorge and Dan! Unfortunately I didn´t have my camera to take a picture of all of the students!