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The silent services at a unique barbershop in Hanoi

The silent services at a unique barbershop in Hanoi

Wednesday, March 27, 2024, 10:42 GMT+7
The silent services at a unique barbershop in Hanoi
A group of friends striving to overcome speech and hearing challenges. Photo: Tam Le / Tuoi Tre

Editor’s note: Tam Le, a reader, recently tried the hairdressing services at a distinctive barbershop in Hanoi and recounted the memorable experience with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

New customers often enter this barbershop and express their desired hairstyle, only to discover that the shop owner and his wife communicate solely through text on their phones and pointing at posters on the wall. 

Despite this unique communication method, all are drawn back to the shop after the first try.

Wordless services in harmony

One day, I urgently needed to wash my hair, so I decided to visit Tuan Hang barbershop on Tay Son Street in Dong Da District, Hanoi. 

Upon entering, the shop owner greeted me with a warm smile and gestured for me to read the introduction on an A4 paper displayed on the wall.

The introduction began with, “I am a highly skilled, experienced hearing-impaired barber. Please assist me in understanding how to communicate effectively to achieve the hairstyle you desire.”

As a natural reflex, I covered my mouth with my hand to maintain silence.

I then noticed several signs, ranging from basic to detailed, strategically placed where guests could easily see them. 

One read, “To ensure a beautiful, efficient, and convenient haircut, we kindly ask customers not to engage in private phone conversations or excessive head movements. If an urgent matter arises, please pause momentarily to address it. Thank you sincerely!”

Throughout the process of shampooing, haircutting, and nail care, the salon owner communicates via text messages, ensuring mutual understanding and customer satisfaction. 

During my hair wash, Hang would occasionally text me questions like, “Is the water temperature comfortable?” or “Would you prefer a vigorous or gentle scalp massage?” 

Moreover, she adeptly employs sign language, using gentle touches on the shoulder to signal, and her warm smile and expressive eyes convey willing service.

Tuan and Hang launched their own shop last October, with Tuan specializing in men’s haircuts while Hang focuses on nail care and hair washing. 

They rented the shop space for VND6 million (US$242) a month, entering into competition with other nearby establishments.

However, what sets the service experience at Tuan and Hang’s apart is the ambiance of quietude coupled with an unwavering commitment to politeness, kindness, and attention to detail. 

They meticulously wash hair, providing thorough massages to the head and shoulders to ensure customers feel comfortable. 

Their apparent flaw might just be the competitive edge that Tuan and Hang have developed.

Hang (L) and Tuan communicate in silence with each other. Photo: Tam Le / Tuoi Tre
Hang (L) and Tuan communicate in silence with each other. Photo: Tam Le / Tuoi Tre

The couple’s harmony is remarkable, as the Vietnamese saying goes, “Compatible husband and wife can effortlessly turn the East Vietnam Sea shallow.” 

Their sole communication method through gestures does not prevent them from exhibiting consistent kindness and affection. 

Tuan assists his wife with hair washing while she is occupied with nail work or allows her to rest when customers are scarce. 

Each glance and touch serves as a tender and loving form of communication.

Hang translates the words for her husband through sign language since Tuan is not proficient in writing. 

Her eyes gleamed with warmth, and her smile radiated joy. 

Nature seemed to bless this young couple with endearing qualities, allowing them to embark on life’s journey hand in hand.

Tragedy and love

After delving deeper into their story by exchanging text messages, I discovered that both Tuan and Hang have been hearing impaired since childhood. 

As they matured, they independently mastered their craft, crossed paths, and eventually married, finding contentment in their professions and in raising their three-year-old daughter, who is not hearing impaired.

Vu Tuan, born in 1992 in Thuong Tin District, Hanoi, tragically lost his hearing permanently at the age of four due to a febrile seizure. 

Thu Hang, born in 1996 in Quang Trung Ward, Dong Da District, faced a similar misfortune, losing both her hearing and speaking abilities at birth. 

She is the youngest of three siblings in a family where all others have no disabilities, making her the sole member of the family facing this challenge.

“On that day, my child had a high fever, so I rushed him to the communal clinic,” Tuan’s mother, 55-year-old Bui Thi Han, recalled. 

“A nurse assured me that she would prescribe safe medications with minimal risks. 

“Concerned for my child’s well-being, I consented without hesitation. 

“Upon returning home a few weeks later, I noticed my child exhibiting signs of deafness. 

“I was in the countryside at the time, lacking awareness, and did not think of seeking treatment at a larger hospital.” 

After Tuan, Han has a daughter, who is healthy and unaffected.

Speaking about her son, Han takes pride in his gentle nature and eagerness to learn from a young age. 

Unfortunately, Tuan completed only fourth-grade education as the local school lacked teachers who could teach sign language, forcing him to drop out of school. 

As he grew older, he pursued carpentry schooling and later secured employment at a factory. 

Another pivotal moment in Tuan’s life occurred when he found love. 

Tuan decided to leave his carpentry job and pursue hairdressing to impress Hang, whom he met through an online friend group, while she was working as a hairdresser and nail artist.

On the day Tuan met Hang’s parents, he faced rejection. 

Hang’s family closely monitored their outings, with her father observing from a distance, fearing she might be emotionally deceived.

Undeterred, Tuan sought the assistance of his articulate uncle to represent him and arrange a meeting with Hang’s family, inviting them to his hometown. 

Both families met and celebrated the couple’s love joyfully, culminating in renewed confidence and their wedding in 2018.

Tuan plays with his child. Photo: Tam Le / Tuoi Tre
Tuan plays with his child. Photo: Tam Le / Tuoi Tre

After undergoing vocational training and gaining experience working with others, Hang and Tuan made the decision to open their own shop in order to transform their lives. 

Now, like any other couple, they are managing a small family and striving to build a new life, despite the inevitable challenges ahead.

Friends with shared entrepreneurial spirit 

Upon revisiting the couple’s hair salon, I coincidentally encountered a gathering of their friends who were paying a visit. 

This group, composed of five friends, all hail from various provinces and cities, encompassing both men and women. 

Despite facing challenges in speech and writing due to their hearing impairment, the heartfelt reason behind their meeting was truly touching. 

Each member exhibited enthusiasm as they discussed business ventures and aspirations.

Among them, Ngo Duc Trung and his wife run a coffee shop in Binh Giang District, Hai Duong Province, northern Vietnam. 

Trung hails from north-central Thanh Hoa Province. Due to his father’s exposure to Agent Orange, Trung lost his hearing and suffered a deformity in his left hand.

Trung’s wife also experiences deafness, and together, the couple has leased a spacious café, serving both as a retail space and a residence.

He met Tuan and Hang in a communication skills class for hearing-impaired individuals. 

Today, he, his wife, and their students pay a visit to Tuan and Hang’s shop. 

His wife is currently instructing two students in making salt coffee, one from northern Bac Ninh Province and the other from northern Tuyen Quang Province. 

Their group also includes a friend from northern Phu Tho Province, who sells salted coffee on the sidewalks of Hanoi.

Trung said that everyone in the group is engaged in at least one job to sustain themselves, from operating hair salons, cooking, to selling salt coffee. 

Trung himself juggles multiple occupations, aside from vending coffee, he also operates a motorcycle taxi and delivers goods.

Besides their barbershop, Tuan and Hang also sell Siamese coconuts, which occasionally sell out.

“Making a living solely from one job is challenging,” Trung said. 

“I do whatever tasks I am capable of. So do these guys.

“Our shared obstacle is our inability to hear or speak, so when one avenue is closed, we strive to explore other opportunities.”

Gatherings like this serve to inspire and support this group of friends’ entrepreneurial endeavors. 

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Tam Le / Tuoi Tre News


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