Expat nightmare No.1: the Cabeleireiro

Learning the word for "hairdresser" (cabeleireiro) was hair-raising enough...

When you’re living abroad there are some things that you put off as long as is feasibly possible as they scare the living daylights out of you

Actually, I’ll qualify that: living abroad in a country where you don’t speak the language very well.

I remember this very well from my time in Russia, and it’s no different here in Brazil.

One of them is undoubtedly going to the doctor – your leg has to be practically falling off before you go. For fear of the cost, fear of the saying something wrong leading to embarrassment, ridicule or – worse – them giving you an unnecessary operation, or just for fear of the unknown.

And dentists? Forget it. You couldn’t pay me.

However, there is one other service that you require on a more regular basis, the idea of going and procuring the talents of which will send shivers up your spine: HAIRDRESSERS.

They are the scissor-wielding nightmare that brings expats out in a cold sweat.

I mean… One wrong word and you could end up with an Eighties perm! And that’s after you’ve got your tongue round word for the place: cabeleireiro (cabelo – “hair”).

This time I had a local with me – but it reminded me all too much of the time I was in Russia and on my own – fumbling around with vocabulary I didn’t know – only to get ripped off with extras (washing, gel…), making the price much higher than the announced 200 roubles.

Luckily, things went OK – and the very nice lady took her time, giggling to a telenovela playing on a old TV hanging in the corner of the ceiling. R$13 (£5) later – and I absolutely couldn’t complain about the result at all. But my heart was still beating a little faster all the way through the experience.

You see, they don’t teach you the hairdresser scene when you’re learning languages.

Dealing with doctors and hospitals – just about. Restaurants and cafés, fine. Shops – you’re laughing. Hailing a taxi or taking a bus – no sweat.

But, getting your hair cut – no chance. I think it needs adding to the curriculum sharpish – and I’m thinking about introducing it to my more advanced English classes. It would have made me feel much more confident about the first time here – and would have meant I didn’t leave it three months to get my hair cut!

Next time, hopefully, should be a doddle.

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