This afternoon I ventured out to get a haircut. This trip was preceded by considerable research on the various expat forums, reading up on the suggestions for barbers. There is no shortage of women’s beauty salons in HK—there are a least two in the mall we live next to—but not a huge number of barbers, even in Central (which is the most Anglophone and clearly formerly-British area of HK). There are, evidently, very nice barbershops in the super nice hotels downtown, like the Mandarin Oriental, where they will clip and trim and wash and shave, all in a classy wood-paneled, leather-upholstered paradise, and oh by the way it’ll cost HK$700 (about US$90).
My haircut today cost HK$50 (less than US$7) and took less than 10 minutes, as they promise.
I went to this hilariously awesome place called QB House (actual motto: “Your familiar 10 minutes refreshment”). It is a Japanese chain, and the branch I went to is really more of a cubbyhole tucked inside the local branch of the (also) Japanese supermarket called Uny, one stop away from us on the MTR.
Here is how you get a haircut a QBHouse.
First you buy a ticket. You either put a $50 bill into a machine, or pay with your Octopus card. It spits out a plastic ticket with a number on it. Above the machine is a light that flashes green if there’s no wait; amber if there’s a short wait; red if there’s a long wait.
Then you wait.
When your number comes up, you have a seat and have a conversation about what you want to have done. I recommend “same style, a bit shorter” for the amateur. Then the barber gets down to business, working what I would describe as briskly but not off-puttingly so. Then, about 8 minutes later, after you’ve approved the result, the clean-up begins. You will note, if you read the link above, that the patented “air washer” is one of the key pillars of the QB House $50 haircut, so you will understand that I was excited to see what this fancy contraption could be.
My friendly barber pops open—again, efficiently and with purpose—a small UV-lit compartment that resembles a microwave oven, pulls out a little tufted do-dad, pops it onto the end of a hose, kicks a hidden button, and WHOOSH. On goes the air washer, which he then uses to whisk away all of the cut hair by passing it thoroughly but gently over my entire noggin.
Put another way: he vacuumed my head.
This was actually oddly exhilarating. Surely at some point when I was a child I dreamt of putting the vacuum on my head, and now it was actually happening, and in a societally sanctioned way too.
A minute later, it was all over. He offered to let me keep the comb (made of recyclable material, evidently), because QB House always uses a new comb—as well as a fresh piece of “neck paper”—for every customer. This is part of their ongoing commitment to maintaining a hygienic work environment. I declined the offer, but was grateful (and who wouldn’t be?) for the opportunity.
A fine experience all around. For barely US$7 (and no, you don’t tip) I had a little trip into the future. I look forward to many more familiar 10 minutes refreshment.