Monday, October 08, 2012

Getting a haircut to make friends in foreign places

During my travels I have made friends with lots of different people in many fairly predictable ways. When I was teaching English, I made friends amongst my fellow teachers; a number of my students became lifelong friends too (and of course, one of them became my husband!). I've also got to know fellow travellers on long train trips or in hostels and kept in touch over the years as well.

But one of the more unusual methods for making a friend was by going to the hairdresser. And no, I did not end up with a hairdresser as a friend. Let me explain - when I lived in Bratislava, my then-boyfriend and I both frequented a tiny local hairdresser close to our Soviet-era apartment building. Being that he needed more haircuts than me, he went more often, but both of us went regularly enough (and endured quite tricky communication as the hairdresser didn't really speak English) to be memorable.

It turned out that this hairdresser had another customer who happened to work as an English translator, and she was in need of a native speaker to proofread some of her work. As hairdressers do (when they know the language!) this one chatted about us and this customer asked if she could pass on a note to one of us when we next came for a haircut. She did! And that is how I met Tatiana.

At Burg Stettenfels, southern Germany
It turned out that Tatiana lived practically in the next building and we got to know each other firstly by doing some proofreading for her. That was just the beginning. Since then, Tatiana and I, often along with her son Martin, have met up in all kinds of corners of the globe. One Easter the two of us took a walking trip through Cornwall, we've explored southern Germany together, we have met up in Croatia and enjoyed incredible Croatian sunsets together; Tatiana and Martin even hosted me, along with my sister and brother-in-law, back in Bratislava for a memorable New Year celebration. Most recently, the two of them made the trek all the way down to Australia and we had a ball exploring places like Rottnest Island and the surrounds of Perth.

Celebrating the New Year in Bratislava
Since we met, we have all moved countries, and between Tatiana, Martin and I we are now spread widely across three different continents. We don't email especially regularly; I don't know that much about what's going on in their lives - but I do know that our paths will continue to cross in new and old places, nearby and far flung, and we will pick up our friendship, catch up on lost months or years, have plenty of fun together and then depart once more.

And all because we needed to get our hair cut in Bratislava.

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