There are lots of hairdressers in Larnaka. That is to say, LOTS of them. They can be found all over the place - in shopping areas, and residential districts alike. They are in little boutiques, and beauty salons, and hair styling studios... and they all look very daunting to me.
It's not just the language problem - most people here speak English to some degree. It's not just the expense of having one's hair done - it's generally less expensive than in the UK. I think it's those efficient looking women wielding scissors and other sharp instruments, usually with immaculate hairstyles and stunning manicures. And then there's that question, 'How do you want it cut?' Well, how should I know? I want it to look tidy, and to be easy to handle, and for the cut to last at least six weeks, maybe more.
For the first eight years that we lived here, I didn't have my hair cut at all. It was long, and easy enough to trim at home. Of course, I didn't trim it perfectly, which added to my worries about going to a hairdresser. 'Where did you have it cut?' she might ask, disdainfully. And I would feel like crawling beneath the floorboards. Much easier not to go.
But in 2005, we decided to have a few days away for our 25th anniversary. A few weeks earlier, at the end of June, I finally decided to have my hair cut short. I went to a hairdresser around the corner from where we lived. She was very nice - though she really did NOT want to cut my hair short! - and took a great deal of care. It looked good, and she charged me the grand sum of £4 CY.
I was so pleased with it, I returned to her every couple of months for just over a year. I became less and less nervous about the whole thing, reminding myself that I was the customer. The hairdresser did try and persuade me to have my hair dyed to remove the grey hairs, and told me often that it looked thin, or that I should grow it again. But I determined years ago never to dye my hair (once you start, you have to continue... and unless you pay a LOT of money, it always looks artificial) and I liked it short. I also liked the price, which didn't change, although I usually gave her £5 and insisted she keep the change. Tipping isn't normal in Cyprus, but somehow I felt she deserved it after an hour's work on my hair, and probably needed it - there never seemed to be many customers in her shop.
I continued going there for a couple of years, continuing after we moved when she was no longer around the corner. Then apparently she closed. And I had to find somewhere else, because with a layered cut I couldn't simply let it grow again even if I wanted to.
After much thought, I went to a place downtown which a couple of friends had recommended. It was rather bigger, and the hairdresser was older, and spoke much better English. She was also a great deal more encouraging. She told me my grey hairs had come through like highlights, and that I was very lucky. She said no way should I dye it. She also said the hair was fine, and a nice colour, and that the style suited me. Perhaps she said that kind of thing to all her customers, but I found it a great deal more reassuring.
Which was just as well, because despite only taking half an hour on a wash, cut and blow-dry, she charged me £12. Still not bad compared to UK prices, but three times as much as I had been paying. But it was a good cut, so I went there a few more times. I had another slight shock in January 2008 when the euro price was €22.50 - a distinct increase. But I paid it, and went back a few more times.
Then her shop was closed for a long time. And seemed to have a new owner when it was finally opened again. And since it was a bit of a nuisance having to go downtown, I thought I might try a local hairdresser I had seen, near the fruit shop that's just five minutes walk away.
The first time I was booked in, I was unimpressed. I had to wait nearly an hour while various elderly ladies had trims and perms and blow-dries. The tools didn't appear to be as well sterilised as those in the other places I'd been, either. The blow-drying at the end was nothing like I wanted - they used clips and brushes, and made it stand out in a way that was totally not 'me'. I had to re-wet it as soon as I got home, and dry it in my usual style. And they charged me €25.
I nearly decided not to return. But I had noticed that when I went to the till, the hairdresser said, 'Hmm, washing, and cutting, and blow-drying...' then she did some mental calculation before presenting me with the bill. They were itemised as three separate things on my receipt, too.
Since they are so very convenient, I decided to go there once more. So, mid-November, I made an appointment for 'a cut'. At the other two places, I had asked at first for 'a cut', and they had said, 'you mean a cut-and-blow-dry', and I had meekly agreed. So the first time at this local places, I asked for a cut-and-blow-dry. Which is what I got.
But they agreed to book me in for 'a cut'. I wondered whether they would cut it dry, since I firmly refused a wash. I never like having my hair washed by someone else anyway. Instead, one of the junior girls sprayed my hair with what looked like a plant mister before it was cut. I wondered then if I would have to walk home with my hair still damp, since I didn't want a blow-dry. But after the cut, the hairdresser got out the hairdryer, and quickly dried it using her hands to style, just like I do.
I didn't have to wait that time, and she charged me €11.
It seemed ideal. Convenient, good price, and the kind of cut I want without any fuss.
So I booked another appointment for this morning. Once again there was no waiting around, and a good cut with no fuss. It's gone up to €12, but I don't think that's unreasonable. I think I'll be sticking with this one for a while... unless, of course, she too closes down. Shops and businesses come and go with great frequency in Cyprus. Still, this hairdresser does seem to have a lot of customers, mostly Cypriots, so I hope she'll stick around.