Inside of a Korean Hair Shop

Here in Korea, like everywhere else in the world, people go to get their hair done.  Every neighborhood has a small hair shop, and today, I visited the hair shop in my neighborhood.  They actually use the English words and make them sound Korean and say “Hay-o shop.”  We usually say Beauty Parlor or Barber Shop, but their hair shops are for everyone, not just for women, and not just for men.  The only people that don’t use the neighborhood hair shops are people who want or need something else. For example, I have a foreign friend who likes to keep her hair died blond, and just every hair shop in Korea can do it, only ones who specialize in foreign hair.  There are also hair shops in Itaewon who specialize in black people’s hair, but if you go to a local hair shop in Korea, there is no way they will be able to give you corn ribs or anything like that.  I am lucky because except for the fact that I have a little natural curl, my hair is like a Korean’s hair, and they know exactly what to do with mine. They even enjoy themselves when it comes to blowing my hair dry because my hair curls, and the ladies end up playing and laughing about my hair because of the curls.  Today, I went to the local hair shop, and I will share my local shop with you.

The sign above the door reads “Cocoa Hair.”
The towels drying outside.

The name of this hair shop is Cocoa Hair.  Like every other hair shop in Korea, out front, there is a clothes drying wrack full of towel drying.  These clothes drying wracks are normal in Korea. They are not only in front of every hair shop, but most people use them in their apartments to dry their clothes.  Dryers are rare here. They exist, but most people don’t bother using them because they take so long.  They are not like American dryers where you can put your clothes and they are dry in a short time. It may take 2 hours for a load of clothes to dry.  If you do have a dryer in Korea, it won’t be a separate machine from your washing machine.  We have a dryer, and we just program the machine from the beginning, and it washes and dries all in the same machine without us having to take it out like we do in America.  In the beginning, we used the clothes drying wracks like everyone else, but the Korean apartments are so small, and we just had trouble finding a place to set up our clothes drying wracks, and we like less clutter, so we began using a washing machine with a built in dryer.

You can see the smile on the beautician’s face. She is a very happy lady, and her customers love her.

Next, as you go into this Korean hair shop, in this one, there is one lady.  Sometimes, there are more. I went to one that had several young people working there, but I only went there a couple of times because I think it was a beauty school, and the young people didn’t always take their time to do it right, but the lady in this shop not only does it right, I think she is so skilled, she could do it with her eyes shut.  She laughs and talks all the time. Her customers are entertained by her. Some people drop in just to visit. She talks about TV, about kids, about people’s weddings, etc.

She joked with this little boy so much she had him giggling.


When I was there today, there was a little boy who came to get his hair cut. As I said, they don’t just do women’s hair in these shops, but men’s and boy’s hair tool.  She laughed and played with the little boy so much she had him giggling.

The machine where you can get water or coffee.

If you look around her shop, it may be like any other shop around the world. She has lots of bottles of things that only she knows what they are.  She has a cart set up for each kind of task she does: one for cutting hair, one for perms, one for dying hair, etc.  She has a machine that gives either hot or cold water, and packages of coffee next to it. She can take a break or the customers can help themselves.  She also has a place in the back to wash your hair.

The Korean dramas are always on TV.

On the wall, there is a big flat screened TV. It is always on when I am there. She keeps the Korean dramas on, and her customers can also watch the dramas while getting their hair done.  A Korean drama is like a mild soap opera.  There is never immorality or anything like that, but they get themselves in crazy situations.  Instead of PG-13 which are how some of the American soap operas might be rated, they were usually more like G or PG, if you understand the American ratings.  There was a funny one on today. I wasn’t watching the whole time, but there was a guy who seemed to be full of bologna and kept getting himself in trouble. A man came home and found the guy in their house wearing a towel because he had just taken a shower, so they guy got thrown into the street wearing just a towel and got his clothes thrown at him.  After that, the same guy, after he got dressed, went to visit an old woman. The old woman almost fainted when she realized he was  there and went outside to talk to him, and he got on his hands and knees begging forgiveness while the old woman kept turning her back.  I really don’t know the whole story, but Korean dramas can be VERY good.  Sometimes you can find them online with English subtitles.  If you are interested, I recommend “Secret Garden” and “Anyong Francesca.”  Those are two I really enjoyed. I watched them from the beginning to the end. “Secret Garden” is a love story between a rich guy and a poor girl.  “Anyong Francesca” is about Korean vampires, and there is a guy who accidentally gets turned into a vampire, and he is a big fat guy who runs around in pajamas with red and pink hearts all over them. It is as funny as it sounds.

In the back of the shop, there is a place she washes your hair. You can see hair dye has been splattered all over the wall.

Anyway, if you go to get your hair done in Korea, you will probably be watching Korean TV while you are there.  As for Koreans and whether or not they understand English in the hair shops, they don’t. However, you can make yourself easily understood because they use some of our words when they speak Korean.  They use the word “cut”  or “cutting.”  That is why most people go to the hair shop, for a hair cut. The use another English word. They change it a little, but if you say it in English, they will understand. It is the word for perm. If you want a perm, just say “perm.” They change it a bit and say “pama,” but they understand “perm.” If you want to communicate more than that, you need to learn a few Korean words.  If you want to say “just a little,” say “jokum.”  If you want to say you want your hair colored, the word for “color” in Korean is “sek,” but to color your hair, they say “yomsek.”

In Korea, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, everyone colors their hair as they get older. In the history of Korea, when other cultures weren’t coloring their hair, Koreans were already coloring their hair because they thought everyone should have black hair. Today, if you don’t color your hair as you get older, they just consider that you aren’t doing a good job taking care of yourself, both men and women.  Now a days, they use more than black hair dye, though.  Korean ladies like to tint their hair red.  The young people may go as far as trying to make their hair blond, but it never looks natural.  The Korean men even go so far as putting perms in their hair.  They love curly hair, but none of them have it naturally. If you know a Korean guy with curly hair, he has been to the hair shop and gotten a perm.

When I go, I let them dye my hair, and sometimes, I let them cut it, but whether they dye it or cut it, it is always the same price. If you get your hair dyed or permed, the hair cut is free.  I pay 30,000 won to get my hair done, and that is a good price. There are places that charge more, but 30,000 won seems to be the going price in these small neighborhood hair shops.  That is about $30 in American money.

Do you think she did a good job on my hair? (The wind was blowing a bit.)

As I came out of the hair shop today, I took a selfie, which I never do, but I thought you might like to see what the lady did to my hair. She did a good job.


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