When In Doubt, I Don’t Open My Mouth

Last week, I had my first salon visit with no special help from a Czech speaking individual.  On my previous visits, I always had some form of assistance – be it from another English speaking salon customer or my husband.  Contrary to his liking, I used to drag my husband to come with me to the salon whenever I needed a hair procedure done.  You can’t blame me.  With my limited Czech, I don’t want to come in for a haircut and come out with a perm.

We are here in Czech for a year now and even though I didn’t get any formal language education, my day to day interaction somehow increased my vocabulary and I can now navigate my way through places and “important ” domestic tasks, like buying bread for instance. 🙂   So, I finally decided to brave it out and set up a salon appointment all by myself.

In setting up my appointment, I initially tried calling one of the salons I found on the internet.   Although their website was in Czech, google translator helped me out and translated it for me.  Because the website can be translated, I immediately thought that maybe they speak English.  When I dialed the salon number, a nice lady from the other line answered the phone in Czech.  After we exchanged pleasantries, I immediately asked:  “Do you speak english?”  To which she flatly replied: “Ne”.  So I was forced to speak Czech.  As I struggled through my Czech, I was not able to make an appointment because according to her, the schedules I wanted were all booked.  Hmmm.  I wondered if I may have misused some words or mixed up the days.  Unfazed and determined to make the appointment, I personally went to the salon to book it myself.  While I was there, she opened her schedule book to skim for vacant slots.  This gave me the opportunity to take a peek and pointed out to her days that are favorable for my schedule.  Alas!  I got a hair appointment.

On the day itself, I was prompt in keeping my scheduled time.  But since I booked very close to their closing time, I was the only customer there.  The lady who did my hair was very nice as she patiently listened to me explain what I wanted with my hair.  I explained it in 3 sentences:  “I am here for a hair appointment.  I need a hair coloring procedure.  Please make sure to cover my gray hairs.”    But to make sure she did not misunderstand what I was saying, she gave me a catalog to pick out a hair color.  After I picked out my choice,  she immediately started working.

Then we both shifted to “mute mode.”  She didn’t start talking nor did I initiate a conversation.  It was the weirdest hour and a half that I’ve ever spent in a salon.

One of the peculiarities that I find among Czechs is that they would rather ignore you than admit that they can’t speak your language.  In Europe, it is a requirement to speak 2 other languages other than your own.    English, being the most common language spoken by foreigners is recently being taught in schools as an elective.  But still, a great majority of Czechs don’t speak English.  My hairdresser was probably one of those that don’t.  Or maybe she was more conscious of her accent that’s why she didn’t talk to me.

On the otherhand, I am normally a very friendly and talkative person.  But I opted not to talk for fear of making a mistake or appearing rude.  I have a penchant for misusing words.  I once interchanged čočka (lentils) with kočka (cat).    I also once went to an optical shop and after the optician said she didn’t speak English, I said “to nevadí” (it doesn’t matter/nevermind).  I was later on told that it is not polite to use “to nevadi”  in that context.  So, I guess it’s better not to use certain lines if  I am not sure how to use it.

Thus, the appointment started with a nod and ended with a smile.