A cut above the rest – my hair-cutting solution

Expat life in Istria throws up many challenges. For me, one of the biggest has been finding a reliable hairdresser. Yes, I know it sounds crazy and trivial but, with my very limited Croatian, it’s something I’ve put off time and again. After seven years, this small matter had grown into something of an issue with me. Luckily, my life conspired to finally find a proper fix and get me under the scissors: all it needed was a birthday treat – For Him.


His birthday treat

What do you buy a man for his 50th birthday? How about a hair cut (for me, not him)? Not the first gift that jumps to mind, I know, but that’s part of what I decided to buy My Other Half. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. He’s always loved my long hair: what he doesn’t appreciate is that it’s usually scraped into a pony tail or rammed under a sun-hat and, with my hairdresser phobia, rarely gets any attention. For his birthday, we were crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 and I wanted to look the part. (And at least I can say that when I have my hair done, he does notice and appreciate it.) It was time for me to take my courage in my hands and get my hair ‘done’: time for A Trip to The Hairdressers.

It sounds so simple and it’s not as if there aren’t enough hairdressers in Istria: there’s almost one on every street. For a couple of reasons, though, finding one had become something of an issue with me ….


Scissor phobia

Scissor nightmare - long hair being hacked shortI have long hair, but I’m not one of those lucky Mediterranean types who can cut their hair short one month and seem to have it back down to their waist six weeks later (OK, so I’m exaggerating to make a point). My hair grows very slowly and getting it this length has taken many years, and a lot of effort and expensive conditioners, so I’m irrationally fond of it. If someone ‘accidentally’ cut it short, I would – to put it mildly – be devastated!

I also had a scary experience in my twenties. I had just started trying to grow my hair and stupidly went to my mother’s (my old) hairdresser ‘for a trim’ (what was I thinking?). She certainly wasn’t and gave me my standard, short childhood haircut. I know it was a long time ago, but incidents like this can leave a life-time scar! I’d almost rather go to the dentist than let anyone near my hair with scissors.

The other thing is … it takes so long and is so boring (sorry hairdressers, nothing personal!). He goes for a haircut, half an hour later he’s finished. I go and, as I usually have it coloured, it’s a three to four hour process – almost half a day, trapped! Which is why it ended up being years since I had last had my hair properly done.


Divine intervention…

While Porec is full of hairdressers and, from the results I see around me, they’re excellent, most of them are for locals. So until now I’d always gone to the hairdresser at one of the hotels. I knew I was paying over the odds, but they spoke English and did a reasonable, if impersonal, job – and I only went once a year.

With his 50th and the cruise looming – and the fact that my hair was now a total mess – I finally decided it was time to find a better solution. But I dithered a bit and, running out of time, ended up going back to the hotel hairdresser – only to find it shut! I was tempted, yes really tempted, just to turn round and go home. But I couldn’t. I’d promised, so I damn well was going to get my hair done. But where?

“When in doubt, call my friend Snježana.” It’s a mantra that has served me well in the past and would hopefully help today. Snježana doesn’t have to go to a hairdresser, she has one living next door, Suzanna: she does a beautiful job but, with two small children, doesn’t have time to do mine. Could Snježana recommend anywhere else?

“There are two hairdressers in La Cop (the shopping centre above the supermarket). I used to go to one: it was fine, and Suzanna used to work in the other.” La Cop is in a somewhat run-down part of town, but it was convenient, had free parking and was on my way home. I’m not proud about decor, I just wanted a good hairdresser, so why not?

However, when I got there, the car park was cordoned-off for painting … and then my first choice was closed. I felt the gods were trying to tell me something. But now my stubbornness kicked in: I was going to get this haircut, come hell or high water. I marched deeper into the gloom (La Cop’s not big on lighting) and found the hairdressers where Suzanna had worked before motherhood intervened – a tiny, low-rent, cubicle in the heart of the half empty complex. I put my hand on the door handle, took a deep breath and walked in. “Govorite li Engleski?” I asked the young hairdresser, “Do you speak English?”

“Of course,” she replied with a smile. A good start! And yes, she could give me a cut and some highlights, but just not now. I had to come back at 4 pm and see her colleague Vanja, who, I was very relieved to hear, also spoke English. I might not have a hair-cut but at least I had an appointment and could communicate with the scissor-wielder.


…leads to a styling diva

Back at four, I found Vanja waiting for me in an empty salon and nervously sat down. As she got to work, my anxiety soon evaporated. Vanja might be a well-rounded, slightly tattooed, bass-playing blonde, but she also speaks fast, fluent English, and is a diva with the comb, scissors and mixing palette. I was in the hands of an artist who took pride in her work and loved a challenge (no denying that about my hair).

She mixed a blend of colours. With her dreams of working in a creative London salon, she christened it, “London in Autumn.” Thinking of grey London skies and drizzle, I thought “Istria in Autumn” would have been more appropriate, but didn’t want to disillusion her. Then she set to with her scissors.

Two and a half hours later I walked out of the salon. My hair shone under its triple highlights (the technical term I learned for what she’d done) and was beautifully cut to reveal gentle curls I didn’t even know I had – I felt like a new woman (and according to Vanja looked ten years younger, which gave me pause to think what I must normally look like!). More importantly, I’d found a hairdresser I could trust and I’m now actually looking forward to going again. All it took was the right occasion, a little effort, a little luck and, possibly, divine intervention.



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