An inch is an inch is an inch. Unknown
Great hair days make us women feel like we could rule the world.
Finding the right hairdresser that helps you with this goal not so much, especially when you have just moved to a new city and you are unfamiliar with everything. It literally makes you feel like you have 99 bobby pins, but when you need them, you can’t find A. Single. One. It’s adventurous and you try to make do with alternatives. I am indeed very glad that after six months of trial and error, I finally find Angela. She knows an inch is an inch and not two and a half and she cuts, colors and styles my hair just the way I want it or better.
“Umm – could you please check if there is any grey hair yet?’ I ask on our first encounter at Hair Works Abu Dhabi. I point to my head. (You see, as I am getting older, getting my hair done is not only to enhance my fading beauty, but also to hide hideous signs of age.)
“And if there is”, I add illogically, “could you please not tell me?” The only time I like and accept any grey is on other people, in clothes or in my cup drinking Earl Grey tea – but not on my head and I certainly don’t appreciate anyone pointing out some to me on it. Btw – there isn’t any.
I don’t really know what Angela was thinking when she looked at me puzzled and then went about what I had asked her to do, dutifully. But I do remember her face: It showed a well groomed astonishment, highlighted with a streak of amusement and a small hub of conditioned bewilderment.
She must have heard things like that many times before, because, very professionally, she regained her friendly face expression soon after. I am inclined to believe that she has come across enough middle-aged women like me desperate to be told they are still exceptionally young looking that she knows when to color the truth a bit. And, mind you, people like that are truly hard to find! Please meet Angela Ralph, one of England’s top hair stylist exports to the country of sun-fried, dust-dried and peroxide-tried man-fur Abu Dhabi.
What was her motivation to come to Abu Dhabi?
Every time I listen to her speak, I am reminded of a rousing Shakespeare play and a good cup of tea ‘wif a little bit o’honey’ – I love her English accent! Now, there are people among us who go on vacation or get married where Angela was born and raised and who can’t get enough of that town: London, capital of the legendary monarchy Great Britain.
After finishing her secondary education, Angela becomes a style director, but she is soon fed up with London, since it doesn’t turn out to be a safe place to work and live for the 40 year-old. So she turns in her Curriculum Vitae to a few companies that look for hairstylists worldwide. Pretty soon, lots of choices come up: an offer from Oman for example, also from Bahrain or Dubai, there is even a call from the Bermudas!
But Abu Dhabi offers the best package and so the Londoner happily moves to the capital of the Emirates in 2012. She becomes the manager of Hair Works Abu Dhabi, the salon above Spinney’s supermarket in Khalidiyah close to Corniche Road and many of us Europeans are so glad about this! It is hard for some hairdressers here, it seems, to tame our slick blonde Western hair, so we are super relieved that in ‘Ralphie’, as her friends call her, we have our personal hair-whisperer. Angela hasn’t regretted her decision to move to the Middle East at all, and so many of us Westerners are innately happy about that, too.
‘Messy bun and getting stuff done’ or a descripton of a normal workday
‘A normal day, huh?’ she chuckles. Must be a funny question. Could it be that, just
anywhere else, working in a hair salon, there are no ‘normal’ workdays?
‘Most days’, she says, ‘I work from 10am to 9pm’. Ouch. She works long days!
She first gets organized by checking the day sheet, and then she organizes her co-workers around, so that they all have something to do. Then it’s time for coffee and emails and their replies. Complaints need to be taken care of as well as orders; plenty of phone calls need to be made to keep the place running smoothly. And yes, Angela also works on customers.
This fills a typically busy day of hers, and she, of course, like most of us, works 5/7 days. However, she doesn’t get the weekends off. She stays home two workdays, since the salon is super busy on weekends is open every day – except for Christmas. My previous assumption is long confirmed.
‘I’m totally okay with working like that’, she adds, ‘I love my job’.
How many times and on what occasions does she go back to her country?
Angela, a sister to three brothers, went home three times last year. She regularly goes home for the big holiday at Christmas. But whenever social events, such as friends’ reunion or weddings etc. call her, she tries to go back to the ‘fish-and-chips country’. She loves to catch up with family and friends, so in some years, she goes home another time to do just that.
What does she do when she feels homesick?
‘Yes, I do get a little homesick’, she smiles at making this confession. ‘Especially, when I come back here.’ Like many of us, she misses Abu Dhabi especially when she is at home and she misses home when she is in Abu Dhabi.
‘The way that you are greeted here, everyone is on your case, and the service is so much better here!’ Here she refers to one of the benefits of living in an innovative and competitive environment, where everyone works a little more and harder than at home.
But when she is in the UAE, London and her beloved people are a lot on her mind. Of course she doesn’t miss the English weather. Angela tells me that she hosts a huge appreciation for the climate and living conditions in the Emirates. Hence, they cure some of the homesickness.
What has your work-experience in Abu Dhabi taught you about life in general? What have you gained from being in the UAE personally?
‘No, I don’t appreciate money more now’, Angela disagrees when I hint at the fact that most of us are here because the salaries are better than at home. She explains to me that the people here are different than in Europe. In her opinion, there are different levels of people here, as far as she sees it.
‘People are just genuine’, she is convinced.
‘They want something from you and they are not afraid to let you know.’ But she also thinks that the more money people have, the more they also want. I can back this up, definitely!
And then this keen observer of human nature says something that reminds me to be a little more conscious myself: ‘Life here has taught me not to trust anyone too soon.’ I do have to admit that this is probably not a bad recipe of coping with people from different cultures one comes across here.
I definitely owe my great hair days and all the likes for the inevitable selfies to Angela, and I appreciate her being creative, careful and considerate with my hair every day. May her scissors always be sharp, the shampoo bottle never empty and all her workdays real blow-outs!