Monday, 9 January 2012

Snip and Snap

Coex Mall is Asia’s largest underground shopping mall. Having shopping malls underground seems to be a theme across the whole country and I can only assume across the whole of Asia. It is located in the Gangnam district of Seoul and covers over 85,000 square metres of floor space. It houses hundreds of shops, a sixteen screen multi-plex cinema, two giant food courts, a giant bookstore, an aquarium, a kimchi museum, a computer games tournament room and three hair salons. I got my haircut this weekend and I’d like to share the experience with you.

I walked around Coex for about half an hour before deciding upon Satin Hair (what looked like a chain hair salon) in Coex Mall. I walked in and greeted the staff behind the counter, asking them if it was possible to have my haircut. They said that would be fine and directed me to the waiting area. I just figured I’d roll with the punches as there was no way I was going to be communicating in English. It was clear from the outset that they weren’t confident enough with their English to hold a conversation with me. Suits me fine, I always dreaded having to converse with my barber.

The salon was one of the largest I had ever been in. They had at least 30 different seats lined up in front of mirrors. It was a stylish joint and if I didn’t know any better I might have assumed that this hair cut would set me back a few bob. My jacket was taken and put in a locker and I was directed by a young Korean girl over to have my hair washed. With nothing but hand gestures and facial expressions to communicate with she led me into the seat, pulled my head back over the wash basin and proceeded to wash my hair for me. This has always freaked me out. I’m used to having a dry cut but I was rolling with the punches so I laid back and pretended to enjoy the rather violent hair scrub I was receiving. Afterwards the Korean dried my hair and led me to one of the thirty seats lined up in front of mirrors.

I was handed a book full of several different hairstyles. The book had every Korean hairstyle you could possibly imagine photographed and displayed on its pages. I found one western hairstyle sported by a fifty something George Clooney look alike. It was pretty much the length I desired and as the hair dresser and her assistant approached I pointed to this style. The book was taken away and the haircut began. She was good. She snipped and snapped away whilst her assistant brushed any hair that fell onto my face off with a sponge. She was adamant that my head look directly forwards, as every time I tilted it slightly she would adjust it straight back to where it was. She snipped away for about fifteen minutes. She made sure no stray hair was left un-cut. This was probably the best hair cutting experience I’ve ever had and I don’t know how my hairdresser back home is ever going to live up to it. I was offered another shampoo once she was finished which I declined, and I was also offered some wax which I also declined as I like to style my own mop but never the less I was very impressed and expected to pay highly for the service. I walked over to the counter and was handed my jacket and then I was told the price.

20,000 won.

That’s great, I thought. That’s about ten pounds for the best hair experience of my life, and I came out of that Salon feeling classy and cool, very happy with my new haircut.

I wondered all weekend what the reaction would be from the people at school and I entered the office this morning to applause. “very good,” “very handsome,” “awwwww, amazing,” “new style?” I’m assuming they liked my haircut but what must have they thought of what I walked around with before? I mean sure it got out of hand a little bit towards the end there but, really? The students were equally as impressed with my new style, they were touching it and shouting about it and were delighted by the sight of it. A rather surreal experience if there ever was one. Who would have thought that a trim would garnish me with so much attention? I’ll be sure to go back again.

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