The Australian way of life


 

I needed a haircut. My friend Hardy from Germany had come over for a two-week visit with me and we were exploring the city of Brisbane. Every day on our walk to the city, we passed this little barbershop in the West End. One afternoon after we had enjoyed the fantastic South Beach we headed home to get a little rest out of the sun before we would head to the shops and restaurant area again to grab dinner.

I discovered the barber's sign advertising haircuts for $40 one drink included. I asked Hardy if he was fine if I just asked if they did walk-ins. Absolutely, he said and I enquired inside. Yes, I could just stay and they would take care of me. I was very happy and directed them to pass the drink of choice on to Hardy since he was so kind to wait for me. He said he didn't mind at all because he loved to browse the magazine and just watch the people there and enjoy his downtime.

When the barber, a young guy who had just been training for a year or so, asked me what I wanted I told him to do something nice and exciting with the gray hair on my head. I didn't care too much, I just wanted something interesting. And that he managed to do.

While he started to snip away I looked around a bit and watched the people who worked there. Now, as a German from Germany who is used to order and cleanliness and societal rules, this shop was very interesting. The two young ladies working there had a quite different idea of an appropriate dress code. Basically none. Both were wearing very short skirts and belly tops. One of the girls was the receptionist, coffee maker, and assistant to the barbers. The other one did a work placement in the shop.

I don't know how and what they taught her but to mind she still needed to learn a lot of things. After she had washed my hair I felt like a dog when she dried it with the towel. She was a bit rough. But she was friendly up to the point where she told me about her plans for the next weekend and the discussions she was in with her friend. Okay then.

When the guy cut my hair he took forever. No wonder because it seemed he was cutting one hair at a time. He asked me if I had brought some time because cutting women's hair always takes longer than men's hair. I kept my mouth shut and just let him do his thing. The other barber next to me, who turned out to be the owner, had a peculiar way of cutting people's hair, too. He would shuffle through the hair and hold a strand of hair up between three fingers and then cut it. It looked like a kid would cut your hair. I was very skeptical and just thought: Oh dear.

The place was a bit of a mess; the mirrors were dirty and there were hair products spluttered on them. Used face towels were carelessly thrown into a big silver cook pot on the counter. Scissors, combs, hairdryers and other things were lying all over the counters. Someone was constantly looking for something. The guys would chat away and walk around in the middle of their jobs to talk to someone else or do something else that apparently needed to be done that second. I had the feeling I was at a friend's house who would cut my hair with other friends running around and having a get together. So un-German the whole thing.

When the trainee blow-dried my hair it looked like a big ugly wig. I would not leave the shop like that; it looked terrible. I seriously doubted the guy's ability and quality. He then came over and looked at it, got some styling cream and styled my hair a bit. BAM! What a difference! It looked fantastic. Totally different style from what I had worn before. I looked over to Hardy and he gave the thumbs up. I looked at the other client and his cut turned out to be great too. I guess my German arrogance and skepticism had just been just destroyed.

Six weeks later I was back in Brisbane at my barber's. Since I had been very happy with the outcome of my first cut, I decided to pay the barber a visit again. I was lucky again to get in, I just had to wait for an hour. I didn't mind. I had brought a book to read. I didn't see the guy who had done my hair the last time but I was sure who ever did the job today would do a great job, too. Then my guy showed up and when it was my turn, he even remembered me. How could he forget that, he said and brushed through my hair. I told him to repeat the job because I had liked it a lot. And that he did. Interestingly, it didn't take two hours to cut my hair this time; only one. And the result was great again. This time the whole place was clean but maybe that was because now I was there in the morning whereas the first time I had been there in the afternoon.

With this visit I can add a little more to the Australian way of running a barbershop. The receptionist was wearing a top that just covered her breasts. Her chest and belly were uncovered. Alright then, I thought. She walked to the little restaurant next door and ordered breakfast. 15 minutes later a lady from the restaurant brought two plates over with scrambled eggs and some vegies. The receptionist sat down behind the computer and ate her brekkie. The owner shortly came over and ate his. Interesting; nobody cared, it's what you do here. Another client showed up later and had some sushi she ate in the salon. Normal.

While I was still waiting for my turn, the boss, whom I take to be in his mid 20s maybe, got his hair done by another lady who apparently had just come in for that job. He got highlights in his hair. He is of Greek origin thus his hair is dark. Dying it blond takes some effort and I could see he had it done before but it was only more of a beige colour. If he wanted blond, he needed several dying sessions. So the woman very professionally took his strands and dyed them and layered them wrapped in aluminium foil. After she was done, she dyed the receptionist's hair and then left.

Now, you might think they'd now wait for the dye to do its job and then wash it out. Wrong. Of course they waited, but they didn't just sit there doing nothing. They went about their business, he continued cutting clients' hair while she did a little bit here and there and kept herself busy on her smartphone. He left the dye on until even after I left, so I have no idea of the result. I just thought it very funny and relaxing indeed that he would just run around with the aluminium pieces on his head.

This was my very first true experience of the Australian's laid back way of business life and I must say I love it!

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