Business

Snippets of news: 2010 through the eyes of hairdressers

Hair salons the world over are often seen as barometers of the mood of a particular time and place. The BBC World Service has been looking back at 2010 through the eyes of hairdressers across the globe, from cash-strapped Athens to Miami, where a haircut can cost $700.

A Taiwanese stylist now working in Beijing reflected on the social change happening around her while a barber in Santiago recalled a year in the limelight for Chile.

Alexandros Kyriakakas, Athens, Greece

Obviously the situation right now is very rough.

In one year everything collapsed. There is now a lot of unemployment and fear.

Customers come less frequently and only for the basics.

They are very concerned about what exactly they are going to have done, and how much money it is going to cost.

Just two or three years ago, there was always a smile on the client's face.

Now you do not see that - everyone looks sad and angry.

That is very bad energy, you know?

And it is contagious.

Cai Huilin (English name: Amy), Beijing, China

I am from Taiwan but have been in mainland China for two years now, working as a hairstylist at the Tony Studio. My husband's business is in China and I came with him.

When I was in Taiwan, the foreigners did not speak much Chinese and I only had the basic vocabulary for my job - cut, short, long, etc. I could not communicate more complicated ideas. So whenever a foreigner walked into my salon, I got so scared.

Here in Beijing, there are many foreign customers but most of the foreigners can speak very good Chinese. At first I was really surprised about that. I believe it is because China's economy is developing so fast, and also because they know they will always be a minority in this country. They have to learn good Chinese for their own survival.

China has come a long way. I remembered I was afraid of coming to China because I was worried that I would have to use a public toilet without doors. The China that I see now is very different. The service that people are getting here in Tony Studio is up to the same standard as services in Taiwan, if not better.

Mainland Chinese people have been able to visit Taiwan since July 2009. My customers often ask me where they should visit and what they should eat before they go on such tours.

Some customers are very curious about the news media in Taiwan. The news in Taiwan is not censored like it is in China. The TV channels are privately owned, they broadcast whatever they want to, it is a more democratic place.

One of my customers told me that he went to Taiwan for the first time and was glued to the TV in the hotel - so much so that he did not go out to dinner with the family - he stayed in the hotel just to watch the political debate shows on TV. He was so surprised that people can be so direct on television. He was really fascinated to see the members of parliament debating and fighting on TV.

Ricardo Hernandez, Santiago, Chile

I work with my father. We have had our barbershop for more than 45 years.

My father is from Parral, and my grandma and my brothers and sisters live there. Parral was close to the epicentre of February's earthquake, and like a lot of other towns there it was really badly hit. My grandma's adobe house, which was about 80 years old, collapsed completely. Thankfully she was not there, otherwise she would be dead for sure. It was a real family tradition to go to that house, we used to go every summer.

The earthquake was a talking point for our customers, not just in the days and weeks afterwards, but for a couple of months. It still is. We do not watch much television here in the shop, but during the World Cup, the earthquake, the rescue of the miners, we had the TV on all day.

Let us hope that next year is quieter than this one. I do not think we will have another earthquake. In terms of our business here, let us hope that 2011 is as good as 2010, or even a little better. People will always need their hair cut.

William Isaac, Miami, US

People here are so image-conscious. We are always beauty, beauty, beauty, beauty. My salon is a central area for diet, for nutrition, for plastic surgery - you name it, we have a number, we know somebody.

One of my regulars [comes] the same time, every week. She drinks her usual white wine. She takes a diet pill. She is ready to go. She works for a pharmaceutical company which was her father's. She is probably very well off but it has not gone to her head yet and she has been with me for years. I have seen her go through her break-ups, make-ups, crying, hung-over.

And then we have those clients that think they are rich or want to be rich. They will come in with their Louis Vuitton bag, designer shirt, designer shoes, designer everything, and they give you the worst attitude and they make your life difficult, and they do not have money - they just have credit cards.

There is a lot of money in this industry but I would like to give my clients options instead of just - boom - they come to the front desk and its six or seven hundred dollars.

Two years ago everyone was spending money, spending money, spending money and they did not care, there were no issues. Now I think they have to think twice about what they spend.

Miami in the 1980s was like, wow. I think that eventually we will get back to that. It was a playground but there has to be somebody to serve those on the playground.

Yesterday was a very interesting day. I had to deal with somebody who had not slept for three days. She was chemically imbalanced. She was, like, sleeping one moment, then laughing. She is an artist and she has been sinking for years and years and years. I think I get a lot of the crazy people in the salon but I like it, it is fun. Just a few of the desperate housewives of Miami.