I just got my first haircut in China, for the outrageous price of 10 RMB ($1.47 US)! It was at the sketchiest back alley barber shop in Beijing, a two-seater about the size of a walk-in closet — and I was pleasantly surprised by the service. The woman working there spoke no English, but I mimed “scissors” with my fingers, and she of course knew what I meant. She asked me the sign language equivalent of “how short?”, and I made a joke by spreading my arms wide and saying “this much!” She laughed. I adjusted the measurement to an inch-and-a-half between my fingers. She nodded, wrapped me up in a plastic sheet, and I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

The haircut didn’t turn out too bad…and there were perks. Not only did I get my hair shampooed twice (once at the beginning, once at the end), I was also given an unexpected shoulder massage (!). She undid the plastic sheeting, and I was about to stand up because I thought the haircut was over. Then I felt her hands kneading my shoulders. “That’s odd,” I thought, but I relaxed for a few minutes while she worked out the knots in my back. Not bad for a buck and change!