I am fairly girly. I will admit it. I love makeup and pretty clothes and getting pampered at a salon. Salons in the U.S. are great, but I envisioned getting my hair done in France as an exotic treat–after all, that’s where many of the top hair and makeup brands seem to be based. When we were in Connecticut in limbo, I procrastinated getting my hair done even though it had been months since my last trim. The short ponytail became my best friend. I just had to hold out for France.
Last week, I finally got a chance to give it a shot and get my hair cut. I was a bit nervous as my French is still very poor, but figured hair grows, so if I ended up with pink hair eventually it would get back to normal. In the meantime, I’d look very trendy.
Picking my salon was a bit of a crab shoot. There are as many salons in Toulouse as there are Starbucks in New York City–and I’m not exaggerating. Walking down the street, you can pass a salon nearly every block. I decided to go to the same salon that Matt’s colleague’s girlfriend uses: Jean Claude Biguine Saint Georges.
Fortunately I didn’t need to make an appointment (rendez-vous) there, so I simply walked over as soon as I got the nerve. I walked in and made an attempt to communicate with the stylist who greeted me about what I needed.
“Je voudrais un coupe, balayage, shampooing et le brushing,” I said slowly, thankful that those words were fairly easy to say.
“Parlez-vous anglais?” the stylist responded.
“Oui,” I nodded.
“Vingt minutes,” he said and gestured for me to wait on a cushioned bench near a big, sunny window.
Though I would have been okay working through my hair needs and desires in French, I was put with the salon’s only English-speaking stylist, Laura. She was great! In addition to making my hair look fabulous, she also gave me a French lesson and this yummy glass of strawberry water to enjoy while I was getting my hair done. After a quick consultation, Laura began working on my balayage. She took her time getting the pieces separated and painted with the highlighting formula and, when all the foils were in, she took me back to the sink and began to rinse out the pieces that were already done. I loved that she took out the foils as they were done rather than making me sit there until all pieces were ready. I have baby-fine hair, so the less time in contact with chemicals the better.
The chair at the sink, by the way, was a massage chair. And, as soon as she was done shampooing and rinsing my hair, Laura gave me a scalp and neck massage. Talk about a treat! Next up was the cut and style. Laura cleaned up my ends and layers (I think I could hear my hair cheering as she did so) and then curled my hair with one of the coolest styling tools I’ve ever seen: a ghd hair styler. It added curls to my hair with just a quick twist and apparently automatically sets the heat for your hair type. This would make an awesome gift. Just saying.
It’s a little windblown from my walk home, but here’s a quick picture of the finished product. Please excuse the ironing board in the background. If you find yourself in a French hair salon, here are a few quick tips:
1. Each service is generally priced separate, unless otherwise noted on the service menu. So, unless there’s a package deal, shampooing and styling aren’t included in the price of your cut. Be sure to look at all costs before you go (most salons post their services and prices in the window so you can check before going in). That said, I still paid less for my cut, color and style than I do in the U.S.
2. Tipping is not expected in France as it is in the U.S. Those who do tip may leave a few extra Euro with the stylist or in a jar at the front of the salon. I tipped Laura because she spent three hours just with me (not split between me and other clients as I’ve experienced in the U.S.) and gave me a French lesson on top of that. The service I received was beyond excellent.
3. Brush up on your terminology before you go, but don’t be afraid if there’s a bit of a language barrier between you and your stylist. The stylists want you to be happy and come back, so they will work with you to figure out what you want and need. This blog post has some great phrases and terms to memorize before you go. Here are a couple more:
- Prenez-vous la carte de credit? (Do you take credit card?)
- Comment trouvez-vous la température de l’eau? (How do you find the water temperature?) This is good to know when you are getting your hair washed.
- Ai-je besoin d’un rendez-vous? (Do I need an appointment?)
4. Take pictures of the color or style you want. That will help you explain how you want your hair done even if there’s a bit of a language barrier.
5. Relax and have fun. You’re getting your hair done in France!