Call ahead, travel nearly an hour, wait until he can see me, tip well when finished – these are the steps I take every time I get a haircut. As a guy whose hair and beard make up approximately 17.582957% of his bodyweight, I am very self-conscious of all my hair; I go to great lengths to ensure the quality of my haircuts and beard trims. For this quality I only trust one man in a downtown Chicago barbershop with my face and head. I was with this man for life and was never going to let anyone else put razor and scissors to my face – then I landed in Stockholm. And I needed a haircut.
Seeing as how it wasn’t practical for me to travel over 4000 miles back home for my regular barber, I decided to seek out a new one. Fortunately during my previous explorations, I ran across a local salon called Ivons about 25 minutes away from where I was staying, which I thought would be a good place to try. So one Saturday I woke up and confidently decided I was going to go to Ivons!
That didn’t happen. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that businesses in Stockholm tend to close earlier on weekdays than back in the U.S., and even earlier on weekends due to strong worker unions in Sweden. Ivons happened to close at 3:00 PM on Saturday and I got there just after they closed. After that I decided I had no other choice but to go home and try again on Monday when they were open. Being the curious adventurer I was, I decided to take a random path back in the direction of the T-Bana (Swedish Subway). As I explored unfamiliar streets and alleys leading back to the T-Bana station, serendipity struck:
I found another barbershop, one that was open too! I also saw there was no wait. I stepped inside the Haider Barbershop and the barber motioned me to an open seat. Once I sat he began speaking to me and we both realized there was a problem: he didn’t speak English; I didn’t speak Swedish. But this didn’t stop us. For the next 15 minutes we used universal hand signs and fragmented English to communicate what I wanted. Several times I pointed to different parts of my beard and head and said words like “long”, “short”, “straight”, “little”, and “half” (that one was easy for him since half is “halv” in Swedish). After our humorous attempt to conquer the language barrier, he gave me two thumbs up and reassuringly said “Don’t worry, I cut good” and began trimming away.
As he worked I began testing out the basic phrases I was learning in my Swedish Language and Culture Class. I asked him where he was from and what his name was. I think the class was paying off because he understood me perfectly and responded saying, “Jag heter Walid. Jag kommer ifrån Libya” (My name is Walid. I come from Libya). I then responded saying my name and saying I came from the United States. That was about it for our Swedish conversation, but I felt immensely satisfied for having used what I learned in class to aid me practically. Being from Libya he spoke Arabic and I happened to know a few Arabic words and phrases myself, so I was able to use that to create a little more communication between us.
After about almost forty minutes of cutting and trimming had passed, Walid was done. I’m happy to say I was quite pleased:
(Photos Courtesy of Alison Ryncarz)
Though it’s a little shorter than what I get back home, I think it came out quite well considering our communication challenge. But wow, it was expensive! It cost me 250 Swedish Krona, which is nearly $30. That’s double what I pay back home, but surprisingly cheap for a haircut in Stockholm. Most places are at least 300 to 400 Krona. Overall, seeing how great of a job he did with our unique situation, and at such a great price…
…he really did “cut good”.