There are some things you expect to be hard when you move abroad - getting your residence visa, making friends, navigating the grocery store, figuring out public transit - and then there are things that don't cross your mind - like getting your haircut. In fact, finding a new stylist in my inter-Canadian moves was difficult enough without the language and cultural differences.
A long time ago, I blogged about the quest to get Joe's haircut not long after we arrived in Gabon. I never blogged about getting my haircut in Gabon because it never happened. For the entire 2 years we lived there, I didn't get my haircut once in-country. I debated it at one point - several friends were frequenting a French woman's salon and I thought I'd try it out until I saw a very jagged cut along the back of a friend's hair - I decided to wait.
I've always been particular about my hair stylists. This isn't because my hair is difficult to cut or because I've had any terrible experiences but just because that's the way I am. I don't seek out bargain cuts and I'm not afraid to pay (quite a bit) for a good experience that involves organic tea and a head massage. Usually, as we prepared for a trip out of Gabon, I'd research a place to make an appointment. Generally, I'd look for an Aveda salon usually due to two reasons: first, I've used Aveda products for the last 10 or so years and often need to stock up and two, Aveda salons require their staff to complete Aveda training on top of any other training they've had so there's often a high standard in their salons. I'd phone or email asking for a senior stylist and hope for the best. Usually, it was fine. This process meant I'd get my haircut every 6 months at a minimum. I think I once went 10 months - it was horrendous and I was so embarrassed when I finally did sit down in the chair.
Even though we have resided in Norway for 9 months, I had yet to have my haircut here. (I had it done in Aberdeen before arriving and then in Canada over Christmas holidays.) Joe has had his hair done twice but he's decidedly less picky than I am. Salons are a dime a dozen in Norway. It's not uncommon to see several in the span of a couple of blocks but it can be quite difficult to gage the quality. When it came time for me to find a stylist, I relied heavily on the local expat forum for recommendations. A particular name kept popping up who seemed to be popular with many expat women - apparently she often trains in London, speaks excellent English, cuts & colours and it can take months to get in. I took that as a good sign and waited the 6 weeks before I could get an appointment.
The experience was really quite great and very similar to home. She understood exactly what I wanted, talked me through everything she was doing and had great chair-side manner. I left a happy woman - albeit much, much poorer.
A few things to note:
+Appointments can often be made online which I LOVE! You pick your stylist, your cut, your colour and scroll through calendar which shows all available dates.
+You will often get a text message 24 hours in advance to remind you of your appointment. (I also love this.)
+Not all stylists cut & colour and I've heard many women talk of botched colour treatments. If you don't have recommendations and are unsure, it's probably best to go in and ask.
+Tipping is not always expected in Norway. Everyone is paid very well here and do not require tips to supplement their salary. I didn't tip at the end of my haircut - there was no tip function on the machine, I didn't have correct change & the cut & colour was so expensive that I figured it wasn't necessary. I felt guilty the entire night afterwards. I'm not sure if that was warranted but knowing me, I'll probably tip extra the next time around.
+Don't expect a style after your cut. Mine ended with a blow out and the application of some product but it was fairly basic.
+It's going to be expensive - you're in Norway, nothing is cheap. The cheapest I've seen is 250 kroner ($45) for a men's cut and 600 kroner ($100) for a ladies trim. If you can't fathom paying that and above, wait until you are elsewhere. Also, if you have a particular budget, ask ahead what the price is so you aren't surprised at the end!