Feeling too much like Cousin Itt, Luxemblogger decides it’s time to find a hair stylist in Luxembourg.
When living in a new place, there comes a time when the thing you’ve been avoiding finally becomes inevitable. A time when you finally have to confront the fact that you’ll soon be confused with “Cousin Itt” if you don’t take action soon. And a time when it becomes painfully obvious to everyone that your natural hair color is not actually the lovely shade of sun-soaked golden brown that you hope people will think is natural.
Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about making a hair appointment.
Finding a new stylist is a traumatizing experience for me. I’m not really sure why…but I’m going to blame it on too many bad perm jobs in the ‘80s and on succumbing to the Jennifer Aniston haircut craze in the ‘90s.
I’m a stylist monogamist. When I find someone I like, I will continue to go to them until it is absolutely, positively no longer possible for them to style my hair. Case in point: I followed Olivier Roumy from salon to salon for more than 10 years in Washington, D.C. When I moved to Dallas, TX for a year to live with Nick (oh, the things we do for love), I was absolutely thrilled that my wonderful D.C.-based company allowed me to telecommute from Dallas for many, many reasons; not the least of which was the excuse to make several trips back to D.C. for work…and for haircuts by Olivier.
Unfortunately, popping back to D.C. from Luxembourg to get a haircut isn’t entirely practical. So, late last summer, I bit the bullet and called a salon. The receptionist did not speak English, but I somehow managed to make an appointment in French, and (thanks to some help from Google Translate) asked very clearly to be scheduled for my haircut and highlights with a person who spoke English. The receptionist very clearly told me “O.K.”
I showed up for my appointment the next day, was ushered to a chair and a few minutes later, Flaurent appeared.
“Bonjour,” he greeted me. “Voulezagoughvosezyepqmiuegasldjias?” (Or, something like that…)
I swallowed. “Parlez-vous anglais?”
Then I panicked. “Um… Est mon primer coupe. Je suis trés nerveux. C’est possible pour une personne que parle anglais?” I knew that what I said was not anywhere near structurally or grammatically correct, but I had to at least try to get my point across. I was hoping that there was just some kind of mix up. (After all, the receptionist did say “O.K.” when I requested a stylist and colorist who spoke English….)
He just stared at me.
So, I knew I’d just have to get on with it already. Thanks to Olivier, who wrote down some key phrases for me before I moved, like coupe brushing (cut and style) and dégradé long (long layers, the style of cut I like), and with the help of several rounds of hand gestures on both sides, Flaurent gave me a great haircut. Fortunately, the woman who colored my hair spoke some English,which was a terrific relief since I had forgotten to ask Olivier how to ask for highlights in French.
But as Flaurent started blow-drying and styling my hair, I realized that I had a new problem: I didn’t know what to do about a tip!
In the United States, it is customary to pay a tip of 20 percent of the total bill directly to your stylist for their service. Before I worked up the courage to make a hair appointment in Luxembourg, I had spent some time on Google to try to figure out what the standard was for salon services here, but I hadn’t found a thing. Now I was stuck, and in less than twenty minutes, I’d need to make a decision. I didn’t want to be rude and under-tip, but I also didn’t want to look like a fool by tipping way too much.
In the end, I tipped way too much. And then I really felt like a fool when a friend living in Paris wrote me back later that evening to tell me that she tips “one Euro, nothing more.”
Which brings me to today. My hair needs some serious attention right now. I’ve been back to the salon a few times since my first stressful visit, and while I am no longer tipping 20 percent, I still haven’t quite sorted out the tipping thing.
So, I decided to call Olivier – something I should have thought of sooner, frankly.
Q&A with Olivier
Olivier is originally from Tours, France, where he began his stylist career before moving to the United States twelve years ago (see his profile here). These days, he’s still in D.C., busy with clients and traveling to do hair for the occasional fashion show in New York City, but he’s also behind a helpful new web site called Hairkü, a service that one of his business partners describes as “what would happen if LinkedIn and Facebook had a baby.”
It’s brilliant: stylists sign up on this site (it’s free) and keep their page updated with services they offer, photos that show samples of their work and a list of past and current salon information. Stylists can even make referrals for beauty service providers in other cities. Hairkü allows current clients to always be able to find their favorite stylist, and potential new clients can find stylists in their area and see samples of their work by searching by location. (Luxembourg stylists, take note: nobody has signed up yet from Luxembourg. Join now and help us English-speaking expats find you!)
Q. Let’s cut to the chase. Assuming that Luxembourg follows the same tipping etiquette as France, what should I tip my stylist at the end of my service?
A. Tipping is not expected in France. The cost of your service and a commission for the stylist are already included in your total bill. It is not necessary to tip but it is, of course, a nice thing to do if you like the result. A tip of EUR 2 to EUR 5 is nice and a 10 percent tip would be considered to be very generous and is probably the maximum a person should tip.
Note: To confirm that the policy is the same in Luxembourg as it is in France, I called Guy Mathias Salon and Studio Cophia in Luxembourg Ville. After explaining what the word “tip” meant, the women on the other end of the line confirmed that a tip is not expected, but if a person wanted to leave something, a tip of EUR 2 to 5 would be considered nice.
Q. Let’s say I’m new to Luxembourg and I don’t know anyone to ask for recommendations. Do you have any advice on how to find a good hair stylist in a foreign country?
A. Not really. But it’s a lot harder to find a bad salon in Europe than it is in the United States.
Q. When you sit down for the first time in the stylist’s chair and you don’t speak the same language, what’s the best way to get started?
A. You know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”? It’s a universal thing; it’s really true for hair. If you have a communication problem as an expat, the best thing you can do is take a picture with you when you go to the salon.
Q. What do you think is the biggest difference between getting a haircut in Europe and getting a haircut in the United States?
A. The biggest difference is that in Europe, everyone is trying to look different, to find their own style or enhance their personality or their natural beauty. Some don’t mind stepping away from their natural color, which is why you see a lot more people with brighter shades of red, shorter hair, or different color streaks. In the United States, people visit the salon more often for their cuts and color maintenance than in Europe.
I do a lot more blonde highlights here and long hair hairstyles. Though, trends can be different in different areas of the States, too.
Q. Is there anything special that a man should know before he gets his first haircut in Luxembourg?
Square (left) vs. tapered (right).
Read more on men’s necklines here.
A. Not really. In Europe, men who wear shorter cuts don’t have a straight square line like you would see in the U.S. It’s more of a fade in the back. When the neckline grows out, they won’t have a big line on their neck. It’s a more technical, smooth finish.
Q. What do I ask for if I want to get highlights in Europe?
A. You can ask for color in foil, by asking for meche alu. This is the way highlights have more often been done in the U.S. in the past. In France and much of Europe, there is a style of highlighting called balayage, which involves the stylist “painting” the highlights on the client’s hair and letting it sit instead of wrapping it in foil. This looks more natural. Balayage is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., thankfully!