Yesterday was a big day in my Kuwait life; a make or break day; if this went badly then possible departure would be necessary. This is something all expat women have to face at some point upon their arrival in their new country, facing the fear of the unknown and walking boldly over the threshold. Holding their breath with anticipation and saying a small prayer to the gods, as they take a seat in the waiting area, hearts beating. So the leap of faith is taken, no going back, the scissors are out………the hairdresser approaches.
A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life – Coco Chanel
Now I have never been a vain person and growing up was not someone who would spend hours upon hours applying makeup and doing hair. In fact I remember turning up for my first day at dance college, an ethusiastic fresh-faced 20 year old, hair pulled back into a frizzy pony tail (I’m blessed/cursed with curly hair which just went into frizz before I discovered straighteners) and being told that we could no longer come to class without a full face, which must be re-applied throughout the day. So a trip to Covent Garden and more than my student funds could afford I walked out of MAC ready to take on the world. I subsequently went home and relegated my Body Shop pressed powder, which had served me well since I was 15, then came the realisation that there is a whole beauty world out there, waiting to be discovered. And so it began……
Living in London for 3 years and continually being fed that image is everything, not only at college and the performing industry but practically every tube stop would be advertising the latest products using 10ft glamourzon models, staring back at me as I climbed Kings Cross escalators. This is when I seemed to lose any kind of rational thought and quickly started to change the way I looked and lost sight of the real me. I created something that I thought was trendy or would make me stand out in class or make me popular. The extreme was, walking into the hairdresser and spontaneously deciding to cut my signature elbow length golden locks into a pixie in one foul swoop. How screwed up is that?! Why as women do we think that the way we look is so important to the person we are? And why do we conform to the pressure of how other people think we should look? Shameful really I allowed this to happen, but I was young, vulnerable, insecure and had a very distorted view of myself. It really did take me to hit rock bottom in order to rebuild myself esteem, only then to realise that who I was to begin with wasn’t that bad and I was actually a pretty great person.
After cutting my hair for the first time, that means more than the standard 3 inches I had previously stuck to most of my life, I allowed myself to be a little more relaxed about what I did with it. I would go see my stylist, who had been cutting it 10+ years and say do what you like. I trusted her so much, she knew me, my family and more importantly she knew my hair. I would always walk out of there with a great new do (and normally windswept and damp, as why is it the weather always turns the moment you leave the salon). So when we decided to move to Prague, I quickly made a final appointment to make sure my hair looked fabulous for my new adventure, knowing I had a decent cut to carry me through finding a Czech-side salon.
This is where it all goes wrong. 6 months later I still hadn’t plucked up the courage to find a hairdresser. It had become apparent to me that although there are a lot of English speakers in Prague, it can be quite hard to get them to divulge the fact, leaving you struggling to communicate. Whilst my new-found district had hair salons almost on every block, the reality of getting them to understand me was another matter, as my efforts of learning Czech had failed, past being able to tell the supermarket how many bread rolls I had from the bakery and asking for the bill in a restaurant. Who knew it was the fourth hardest language in the world? Anyway I digress, back to the hair and me chickening out. I caved and managed to hold out until I was back in Jersey and could squeeze in an overhaul at my old faithful. And so the saga continued and it did continue for the first 18 months I lived there!
My hair gets to a point, where no matter what I do with it, it just looks crap. This is what I like to call the point of no return. I have no option. Good hairdays were hair today and gone tomorrow (sorry couldn’t resist that one hehhe). I could either continue to walk round like Cousin It or make the messy bun my lifetime hairstyle. So here is when the intense research kicked in and when I say intense, I mean I opened up Google and typed in English-speaking Hairdresser Prague . At the top of the page was a guy called Mark, who ran the salon with his wife, and between them would take care of all your beauty needs. Sounded good, more research into the location gave me an address only 10 minute walk from my street, sounded very good. The next day I went to do a recce just to check this wasn’t some kind of cowboy operation and I was pleasantly surprised to find a modern, tiny salon tucked away in basement run by a South African; Mark. A seasoned expat himself and in Prague for 13 years, he was a top stylist at TIGI before he went it alone. The next day I took that leap of faith and put my hair life in Mark’s hands. Succes!! and so began the ritual of Mark doing my hair for the next 3 years, the client/stylist relationship built, trust was established and I left each time looking and feeling great. By the time I came to leave, I had recommended him to my newbie expat friends and the cycle began once more; I quickly made a final appointment to make sure my hair looked fabulous for my new adventure, knowing I had a decent cut to carry me through to finding a Kuwait-side salon.
Finding English-speaking salons is not an issue here and the beauty industry is massive. There is quite literally a nail or hair salon every 20 yards, they are like Starbucks in London, every corner, every street, even if there is one round the corner lets squeeze another one in. My fellow expats had all bitten the bullet and had their hair done and recommended me more than one place, but there was still something holding be back. I also had an excuse that last year my baby sister got married and insisted that I grew my hair out, so not getting it cut wasn’t an issue, allowing me to bench the leap towards the scissors. Guess what yesterday was….yep you guessed it 18 months into my Kuwait landing and the point of no return!
I am lucky that at the beach club were we are members, there is a onsite Toni & Guy. It is full of British stylists who would understand European hair, as it behaves so differently to Arab hair, and lets face it this was not going to be walking into the unknown, as practically every expat I know has gone here at some point. I was met by Samantha who knew exactly what I wanted and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was then given arguably the best hair wash ever, the head masage was so out of this world that I almost struggled to make it back to the cutting chair, as I was ready to doze off. Chatting away to this fellow Brit about life abroad and life back home, it was like being back in the familiar hands of my Jersey salon. Time flew by as her hands snipped efficiently away, like a natural extension of her arm. My head and shoulders felt a million times lighter and I was back to being me. I walked, ok I sassed my way out of there, ready to take on the day, love was in the hair and I felt fabulous.