How to Get Your Hair Done

I’ve watched many of my friends get haircuts at Viva Salon in Khan Shatyr (the yurt mall). I know that is weird but this is a weird city and you have to get creative with recreational activities. We make an afternoon of it and afterwards, go for lunch and shopping for groceries.

Hair cuts are 4000 tenge ($22) at Viva. It’s a steal for women who are charged the same as men. I think it’s because most women here have extremely long hair down to their waists with super blunt ends and no layers to trim or cut.

Men are given the KGB treatment of having their hair washed face down in the sink. There is generally only one sink for proper hair washing and it’s reserved for women, who are fussed over more. As with everything, a hair cut takes a very long time and even men should expect a standard appointment to take an hour.

My friend Kevin loves it when people get their hair cut, or “hairs cut” as he says in his Belgian way. Between his peer-pressure and the effects of going from the dank Pacific Northwest to the dry dry forever dry steppe, I caved. I was planning on holding out until going to Copenhagen next month but I’ve tried everything from mayonnaise masks to argan oil and nothing was working well. I had no idea it was possible for hair to be so dry and so greasy all at once.

I also decided to dye my hair because I no longer wanted to be a redhead. I dyed my hair shortly before a break-up and it was fine and whatever but that kind of thing is generally a bad idea and just ends with you spending time/money to get it back the way it was before. Which is exactly what I did here.



Also, Kazakh water is very harsh and unkind to brightly coloured hair.

Toni & Guy opened up on campus and I decided to give it a go instead of Viva even though I once had a bad experience. A stylist from the Vancouver T&G stopped me on the street when I was 18 to ask if I wanted to hair model for the salon’s look-book. While setting the dye on my hair, they showed me photographs of hair-models past.

“This one was sooooooo pretty!”

“See how the hair is covering her face? We did that on purpose because she wasn’t very good looking.”

The end result was a hot pink and purple asymmetrical bowl cut overtop of a mullet. How I have no pictures of this, I do not know. The salon phoned me the day of the shoot and told me the photographer had cancelled and they weren’t going to bother doing a shoot at all and that they would fix my hair.

They dyed my hair back to its natural colour and I tried not to think about what it meant that the shoot was cancelled outright – not even given the chance to be mocked by hair models future. The stylists didn’t have time to fix the cut and so I went from punk-chic to something reminiscent of 2009-Kate Gosselin (this was 2004, it was very ahead of the times).

But that was many hair modelling gigs ago and I’ve learned they are pretty much always terrible, except for the hair show that had free hamburgers, so I do not specifically judge T&G as an organization on this basis.

The T&G here entirely flooded (because, Kazakhstan) and so I had to wait a couple of weeks. Once it opened again, I popped by and had a consultation with a lovely friendly stylist.

“You really want to get rid of the red?”


“So difficult.”

I appreciated her honesty and put all my faith in her dubious “I will try!” attitude. We spent five and a half hours together the next day to bleach most of the red out.



“Did you say you wanted a haircut too?” the receptionist asked at 10:20 pm, my hair still wet, the salon having closed twenty minutes ago.

The hairdresser laid my hair against my back and cut in a straight line. It took less than two minutes and she didn’t charge me for it. And it looks surprisingly good! Or maybe I have absolutely no perspective after living here for three months. We’ll find out next time I travel.

I had to go back the next week to get a darker colour put on top to more closely match my natural colour. I was glad I understand enough Russian to know that the receptionist and stylist were discussing how nice they thought the end result was. Though I don’t know the Russian yet for, “Yikes!”



Overall, it was cheaper than it would’ve been in a western place but still a decent amount of tenge. Most of the cost was in how much dye was used and they gave me a very thorough breakdown. I’m happy I took the chance on KZ hair skills and I think I will be seeing my stylist again before the end of my time here.

Concluding thoughts:

  • Getting your hair done here is like everything else, if you’re not terribly fussy, go for it.
  • If you’re a bit hesitant, go to a standardized franchise like Toni & Guy.
  • If you are pretty particular, especially about hair dye, get your hair done next time you’re in a western lands. There are not as many hair dyes available in KZ as in other countries.
  • Keep in mind that layers are not common here and it may be wisest to stick with blunt trims.
  • Block off A LOT of time for any hair procedure.
  • Good hair products are more expensive here than western countries. It wasn’t until I left the salon and did the conversion that I realized I paid over $40 for one hair product (I think it was worth it? That’s what I tell myself.).
  • If you hate small talk with hairdressers, KZ is great because most hairdressers don’t speak English!

3 thoughts on “How to Get Your Hair Done

  1. Howdy 🙂 I live in Karaganda (thats 3 hours from Astana) for two months now, and i didn’t went to hairdresser jet, because i didn’t know how they do this stuff here, but I think I’ll go to try this experience 😉

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