Non incautus futuri

A Washington & Lee junior and Marine Officer Candidate in Spain

Spain is Different: Part I (The Spanish Barber)

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For a while now, I’ve been making little notes on the ways that Spain is different from the United States.

Spain has a different flag than we do!

DISCLAIMER: I’m trying to stay away from stereotypes here, so keep in mind that anything I write is purely anecdotal, based on my limited experiences here in Alicante. What is true for one person or one city may not be true for a whole population or a whole country. But I do wish to share some of those experiences I’ve had. So I will be recording these in multi-part posts entitled “Spain is Different.”

Some of the differences between España and the United States are blatantly obvious. Their cities are older, they have a different language, they drive cars less and walk more. I want to stay away from the big things and talk about some of the smaller cultural indicators. Like, for example, my first haircut here in Spain.

People who know me well know that I can’t stand when my hair gets long. “Long” for me is actually quite short for most people (my dad once remarked after one particularly short haircut that I looked like I was headed to Parris Island, or prison). But anyway, long hair drives me up the wall. So this week, I went and found a peluquería, or a barber shop. The place was unremarkable, more or less like any barbershop I’ve been to: two barber’s chairs and three chairs sitting against the wall.

But the cut was very different. Whenever I get a haircut in the United States, the barber whips out the electric clippers — ten or fifteen minutes later I whip out my wallet. That didn’t happen here. There was nothing hurried about the cut I got from Manuel, the Spanish barber. I sat in the chair, and he chatted animatedly about his former life as a truck driver in Europe. He used the clippers on the sides of my hair, carefully using another clipper to even the hairline and slice away tiny bits of hair around my ears. Then he used scissors on the top, starting from the side and working his way up. He was cutting only about a centimeter of hair at a time, and I was concerned that he wasn’t going to cut enough. He told me that he was going to cut more, he was just making it even. Indeed, he did the entire upper portion of my hair in this manner. Out came the clippers again, and he made minute adjustments. Then he started all over again…

Several times, he stopped cutting my hair to watch television.

He chatted with customers.

He chatted with the other barber.

He chatted with me.

He asked what America was like, where I lived, what I thought of Spain, was it very different from the United States? I remarked that this haircut was quite unlike the haircuts I got back home — that my haircuts were usually only with the clippers and that they took less than 15 minutes. At this, he looked scandalized. “Aquí en España, es más artesano,” he said. Here in Spain, it’s more of an art. “I am sculpting your hair,” he added.

Almost an hour after I took my seat in Manuel’s chair, I emerged from the peluquería. It took a long time, but I think I got one of the most even haircuts I’ve ever had.

Here, nobody seems to worship at the altar of efficiency and productivity like in the United States. The cultural focus appears to be about quality of life and social interaction, not on material acquisition and economic advancement. Being something of a stickler for punctuality, I don’t know that always sits well with me (read: sometimes it drives me crazy!). But in this case, it was actually really nice.

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Written by Lee

September 18, 2011 at 07:32

Posted in Spain

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