It has been argued that the biggest challenge in living abroad is getting your hair cut. Having lived in eight countries, nothing brings me as much anxiety as doing just that. A haircut abroad is a continuous negotiation of language, style, and personal tolerance for unexpected outcomes.
This is not to say that personal grooming overseas does not have some benefits too. In Bangladesh, I first experienced the satisfaction of a good straightedge razor shave at a barbershop. In Burma, there was a salon that would wash/massage your hair during your wait time. I typically got a 20-minute head and shoulder massage as I waited for my turn in the chair. And now here in Macedonia, I have found my bearded people!
I have had a beard since I was 16 years old. When I left the States in 2003, beards were definitely not an “in” or “hip” thing; so I maintained my own beard, though with poor form. I just didn’t know what to do with it, though I really enjoyed having one. In Bangladesh, beards were well respected, but just tended to grow out with no maintenance. In Myanmar, I would say that they really had not idea what to do with a beard as very few men could (or would) grow one. Sweden tended towards the lumberjack beard if you had one, but generally they were all pretty clean cut. Up to this point, I never trusted anyone to groom my beard. Two pretty bad experiences kept me from repeating that mistake. Then, I returned to the States in 2015 and discovered that there had been this whole hipster movement and men were boldly wearing big beards, bushy mustaches, and man buns. Unfortunately, I also realized that I was definitely not cool enough to have the moniker of Hipster, nor did I find a place in northern Virginia to experiment with facial manscaping.
And then I arrived in Macedonia in 2018 to discover a nation of hipsters! I should say, I found a nation where the men have been wearing big beautiful beards and fantastic handlebar mustaches for hundreds of year. There is even a T-Shirt about this! It is here that I now regularly wash my beard with an appropriate beard wash and I am using a beard balm for the first time too…boy does that make a difference. So, ever so slowly, I am letting the beard and mustache develop like I too am a Macedonian Revolutionary!
After trying three different hair places, I have found my establishment at Daniel’s Barber Shop. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey spray bottles, classic blue, white, and red barber pole, rock music playing, and all of the barbers remarkably resemble their logo. This is the first place, in or out of the States, where I have been able to sit in the chair and leave without any of the annoying negotiations and disappointments. English is well used, style is spot on, and I fully trust them to sculpt and shape my beard too!