Confusing Haircut Experience

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Last summer, I temporarily lived in a neighborhood that is located where Anam (안암) meets Dongdaemun (동대문). The Naebu Expressway cuts right through the area. It is rumored this region has inexpensive housing costs. However, I never gathered enough information the prove if that is true or not. I like this area because it is a contrast to Seoul’s busy and crowded downtown. You walk down the street you can smell many odors such as fish, oil, and kimchi coming from the restaurants. You will see old people collecting scraps of whatever they can find in order to make a dime. Little workshops are here and there. Inside the shops, people are turning raw materials into anything that you can imagine. Not a single foreign face can be seen. That is except for when I see my flection in a window or a puddle.

I see a spinning red, blue, and white pole. The universal sign for a barbershop. The exterior advertises using humungous red letters a 4000 won haircut. (About between 3 and 4 US dollars) Strongly tempted by the price, the step inside.

The barbershop is the size of a closet. The lighting is dark. Every single chair is occupied by an 아저씨 (“ah joh shi”) Which are men about my father’s age or older. The old men look at me. You could have heard a pin drop. I politely bow and greet the hair cutting man using honorific speech. He doesn’t reciprocate the greeting. Then I wait in the corner.

He finishes his current customers and then tells me to sit. To be honest I felt privileged because I thought he was going to tell my to leave. The old men leaving the store laugh and tell the hair cutter, “Good luck. Have fun with him.” I could understand 75% of what they were saying. However, it is really difficult to form sentences in order to make useful polite responses to whatever they are saying.

I show him a picture and he gets to work. However, very quickly my insufficient Korean skills frustrate him. He repeats himself louder and louder while spraying spit from in between his teeth made of gold. Usually I memorize Korean words from books. From the book I write the word 10-25 times while saying the word. Today I learned a new word the hard way. Never will I forget a word pronounced like “chey ri” Which refers to the styling that he wanted to know if I wanted or not. In Korean I told him something that roughly translates to, “I do not speak Korean well, therefore I am not smart.” He smiles and laughs.

He finishes. Then I politely explain to him that I enjoyed the hair cut job very much. (Which he did do a good job. Pictures are below.) Using both hands I pay him. He spits on the change.

Today was a failure. I need to study extra outside my Korean class if I want to get good at it. That is my plans right after the final exams end. I want the all the people to be happy when they talk to me. Not mad because of language barrier.