In any woman’s life, hair removal is no easy feat. In mine, it’d been fairly unremarkable- until I started travelling. The comfort of baring my bush to the same familiar face each month was taken away from me when I decided to uproot myself to Asia. Of course some parts of Asia are renowned for their hair removal expertise, for example threading in South Asia. Sadly, China is not one such part of Asia. Hair removal is virtually unheard of in most of China and the majority of woman opt for the natural look. As a European I’ve managed to embrace many parts of the Chinese culture, but the fuller bush will not be one of them. Since leaving the comfort of the Emerald Isle, I’ve not only experienced the waxing techniques of The Middle Kingdom, but also Bangladesh, Thailand and Spain.
Lucky for me, bigger cities in China cater for the more Western habits and living close to Shanghai meant taking regular trips to the Big Smog. Whilst the waxing salon I’d so carefully selected was clean, comfortable and did a wonderful (and may I add thorough) job of removing any unwanted hair- culturally, it was a big change. Waxing in Ireland is a delicate affair, and the beauticians are often a little too delicate, as they awkwardly move whatever is covering your modesty out of the way so they can wax where necessary.
In China, a much more direct culture, it was a case of strip down and get to it. The woman who waxed me had little English, but handed me some baby wipes and ordered me to “Please clean your pussy”. Albeit taken aback by her choice of English, I did as I was told and hopped up onto the table. The other words my beautician knew in English were “please turn over”- to ensure the nooks and crannies were taken care of. In keeping with the “no nonsense” approach in China, when she’d finished waxing, the beautician unexpectedly showcased her handiwork to me with the aid of a small mirror.
I was assured that hair removal was more common place in Bangladesh, but whilst in the capital city of Dhaka, I was still a little apprehensive. Going to a new salon in Ireland can be daunting, as an inexperienced beautician can easily bruise or burn. A few moments into the wax in Dhaka I relaxed on the bamboo massage table, as I could tell the beautician knew what she was doing. Upon completion, Irish beauticians usually use a tweezers to pluck the odd stubborn stray hair that has not been waxed. In Dhaka, she whipped out a roll of thread from he pocket, put it between her teeth, and she was away-closing examining my bikini line and threading away any strays she could hunt down. After that she popped out of the room through the tiny bamboo door, swiftly returning with a bag of ice cubes, which she proceeded to rub on my crotch, to cool down the irritated skin. Following that, I grimaced for the first time as I was wiped down with a damp cloth.
In a small salon in Phuket, I was led down the stairs into a grubby back room with a low hanging ceiling. There I was gestured to a massage table. The half hung curtain was not drawn as I stripped off, hoping nobody would just rock down the stairs. I had stupidly worn a onesie, meaning rather than just removing my bottoms, I took off all my clothes for the occasion. There I was, lying in just my bra on this rickety table, looking at the cobwebs above my head. Still, the beautician knew what she was doing, and chatted to me as she waxed away. Her teenage son even popped in for a chat during the wax, to ask me if I’d care for an arm wax afterwards. I awkwardly shook my head, hoping that he would swiftly vacate the area. As a family business, neither the mother nor son seemed to think his presence weird, but luckily he scarpered after a quick exchange with his mammy.
Despite being the most Western of the places I’ve decided to tidy myself up, my experience in Lanzarote was the worst of the bunch. Rather than noticing cultural differences, this was a case of a hairdresser turned waxer who thought she’d try her hand at styling hair of a different kind. She sloppily applied the uncomfortably hot wax, so even the back of my knees got some unnecessary waxing. On top of general shoddy waxmenship, the real challenge arose when I asked her to do “the back”… Every woman knows the struggle of eliminating all those tiny lurking hairs, and achieving that smooth finish means a little time being spent on… the crack, ladies and gentlemen. Often an unwritten bikini wax rule, most beauticians will do a speedy strip or two in this region before finishing off. In Spain, however, after asking her to do “the back”, she proceeded to wax… my butt cheeks. I’d like to add for the record that this was not needed. She even managed to miss the target area, leaving me baby butt smooth on either side of a fluffy patch- all for the low low price of ten euro.