A Cut Above

By - February 9, 2006 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

I had my hair cut this week. This is not, under normal circumstances, an arduous challenge. However, as an expat, doing mundane, everyday tasks can be a bit of an ordeal, especially in a new land and in a foreign tongue.

As a woman with short hair, I tried to get a haircut every month back in Canada. My hair grows very fast and I have lots of it. If it is not kept under tight rein, bad things happen. My patriotism for ‘my home and native land’ does not extend to sporting the ever popular Hockey Night in Canada hairdo — the mullet. In the past few weeks, I was definitely starting to develop a helmet head.

Okay, so go get it cut — no big deal right? Wrong.

The first obstacle was deciding where to go. My first haircut in Belgium had been a bit of a debacle. I had gone to one of the hair salon chains (which will henceforth be known as the ‘haircut sweat shop’.)

Let it first be known that I am not all that fussy about my hair, as long as it is short and easy to manage, I’m happy. I’ve even been known to frequent beauty schools in the quest for a cheap cut. I’ve never had a haircut so bad that I immediately wanted to shave my head, (as long as you don’t count looking back on photos of my bad 80s perm).

I do, however, like to view my salon experience as a relaxing outing. The haircut sweatshop was anything but. I was herded into the salon with about six other ‘sheep’ to be shorn. No less than five people worked on my head. I was in and out in 15 minuets. It was the salon equivalent to ordering a Big Mac at the drive through.

I wanted Tuesday’s experience to be a bit more relaxing. My only requirement was a guarantee of French, if not English, to be spoken. Trying to come up for the words for short, spiky and kind of messy, in my second language was difficult enough. I didn’t think my limited Dutch would pass the test. (My name is Alison. I have four cats and a dog. I come from Canada. — probably wouldn’t get me the results I desired.)

So I found a mall in an appropriately French-speaking area. I’m sure this mall had no less than three salons when I was there a month ago. However, this time, I had a choice of one.

A lovely French lady took me in right away. I explained the look I was after and she pointed to a photo of exactly what I wanted. “C’est Ca!” I exclaimed and she went to work.

I’m sure Madame trained at the Edward Sissorhands School of Haircutting. She was like one of those cartoon barbers who turned into a whirlwind of sixteen hands all holding combs, scissors and razors.

But aside for occasionally fearing for the safety of my ears, she was marvelous and she was the only person to touch my head the entire time.

The only downside was when she began to sing along with Celine Dion. But, I’m Canadian — I’m used to that.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 17 hours ago


  1. Comment by Andrew

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Andrew February 9, 2006 at 21:17

    Gotta love cheap, fresh flowers! And just think, Tulip season is only 2 months away!

  2. Comment by christina

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    christina February 9, 2006 at 23:40

    Love the hair!

  3. Comment by Alison

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Alison February 10, 2006 at 11:55

    Christina, Thanks! Yay, no more mullet!

  4. Comment by Sue

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Sue February 14, 2006 at 16:08

    We will see who’s hair is redder under the Irish sun Lassie…
    (I do hope there is sun)

  5. Comment by Miss Jay

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Miss Jay February 14, 2006 at 20:13

    You look very cute, and I envy you those tulips!

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