During my expedition to Hong Kong, I had a chance to talk with Alf, a barber that had left London to come and work at The Fox And The Barber Shop in the industrious city. Starting out with ambitions from the greats and seeing the growing posts around sites such as Instagram, Alf started out as a hair dresser and then enrolled in an intensive, nine week course at London School Of Barbering, so he could move forward on barbering.
That one eventful decision would lead him to a fantastic discovery. As a means of job placement, the head barber at the London School Of Barbering Stil recommended him to a job listing site where he found postings from all over the world. After seeing one posted by Sarah, the owner of The Fox and the Barber, and with a few Skype interviews later, Alf would set out to Hong Kong.
Now, work visas and immigration is typically no easy thing. Anyone who has travelled as much I have will know that. However, the Chinese embassy has been exceptionally welcome towards foreigners between the ages of eighteen to thirty who are looking for work. With a one year visa under his belt, Alf headed off to Hong Kong to show his skills as well as what he could bring to the market.
Quite frankly, the answer for anyone who is looking to go to Hong Kong as a barber or as an educator in similar fields is everything! Alf comments, “There’s not a huge barbering community here, if one at all, and no real means of formal education. You can find apprenticeships in shops, sure, but anyone who was looking to be a barber or an educator over here could have a line all the way down the street – the market is just ready to explode here!” He comments on the men in Hong Kong, relating that many of them have the money to spend and are constantly looking to integrate the Western fashion and style; Hong Kong is, after all, a very fashion conscious area. “We have our own plans from the company, and goals for the future. The fact remains that the market has vastly opened up to people who are looking to share their skills for compensation.”
The pricing is also similar in terms of what they charge and the general cost of living in Hong Kong when compared to London. Alf considers this fortunate, as they are able to keep the prices mid-range in the shop and be more accommodating to clients on a broader scale. Of course, Alf’s goal was to bring a traditional barbering style to Hong Kong back, which also means he focuses on spending more time with the clients. “The big difference is that a lot of clients come in, sit down in the chair and tell me that they don’t know what they want, really. So, I sort of have to think on my feet when I consult them, in terms of what they want and what they can actually have for their work. There’s a sort of fun and satisfaction in that, though.” Even in the sense of traditional barbering, the demand for wet shaves hasn’t been large according to Alf, but he expects that will change.
Alf explains that his greatest satisfaction comes from just having clients come in and see his work and getting their feedback. “I see my and Sarah’s stuff being shared by others and it’s a bit weird, but the feedback is great and Sarah gets it as well from her Instagram.”
Is there a drawback to his journey and discovery of the potentials that awaited in Hong Kong? “The tools bit is hard, we’re struggling with that a bit.” He admits, “Ordering from the UK costs a fortune, and they take so long to arrive. There really needs to be a shop here to get stuff more easily.” Take note of that, potential entrepreneurs! In the meantime, Alf says he makes do with his T-Liner, a pair of Wahl clippers (one that is too old to remember) and his convertor.
The lesson here is simple, really. Anyone looking to educate or pass on their skills should seriously consider jumping into the market in Hong Kong before it becomes oversaturated. The opportunities there, as Alf have found, seem to be endless at present. The immigration divisions are practically holding the door open for people who want to work – so, go and show Hong Kong what you can do!
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