At The Hair Salon (Flash Fiction #17)

Arlan, Maylin, Wani are doing their hair at the hair salon, although only Maylin has the money to do the flat ironing and highlighting. They always book the same time so that they can talk and catch up with each other. Sometimes if they don’t think they have talked enough, they would go to the cafe next to the Korean grocery store to continue their talk.

Arlan: I can’t believe his nerve. He asks me how many languages I know–Vietnamese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay, Thai, English. Can you believe that? It’s just a little tiny accounting office like a pigeon hole. It’s an accountant and manager position–a lot of requirement and he’s paying the lowest salary possible.

Maylin: I tell you. In this greater New York area, the more language one knows, the worse one’s earning power.

Wani: You must be kidding.

Maylin: Go get the community newspaper from New York City.

The hairdresser keeps old newspaper and magazines at a corner and Wani fetches a little pile of them. Maylin flips through.

Maylin: If you work as an analyst in Wall Street, you need to know English only; working in grocery stores or restaurants or small offices, many languages. Sometimes Asian languages and English are not enough–Spanish and Italian are added on top of that.

Arlan: Really?

Maylin: Look here. A grocery store is looking for a manager. After Korean, Vietnamese, and a parade of Asian languages, it says, Spanish and Italian a plus. Look here yourself.

The three women laugh loudly.

Wani: Why? Speaking so many languages in a grocery store?

Maylin: They must have patrons who speak Spanish or Italian. Or the delivery boy who speaks Spanish or Italian.

44 thoughts on “At The Hair Salon (Flash Fiction #17)

  1. This is so insightful and kind of made me sad a little. In the past, I have worked for a call center, and I remember so many English speaking people mocking us because we’re Asians talking in English. What we really want to say is, “at least I know more than one language, how about you?”. I’m hoping there’s less discrimination in the industry now. I really love your flash fiction series and I hope I can do them as well. I really want to write more ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true. I experienced that many many times. My accent is a liability which will cause people to think a lot of stereotypical images. It’s an imperfect world. Yes, we know more than one language, LOL. Thank you for the praise and it means a lot to me. Yes, please write more and you have so many fascinating experiences and I would love to hear what you have to say.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The immigrant lot is tough for this and other reasons, and that is why it has spawned considerable literature of angst and alienation. On a lighter note loved that bit about the 3 girls hopping over to the cafe next door if they feel they haven’t talked enough on the topic😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, girls talk and talk. I love it. I always prefer long talk to short ones, but I know we don’t have enough time to do that. Sometimes women would go to the door, step outside, about to leave, but instead standing there to talk for another hour. I miss those time when i was young and people had more time to chat. I love those days and I think those are the natural state of human beings–we want to spend a lot of time to connect with each other. Nowadays, we just don’t have the time to do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s really insightful. It reminds me of this statistic that in the USA, employers tend not to see international experience as an advantage, so people who have lived overseas are not recommended for promotions

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? That’s too bad. I actually heard from one person who told me that she couldn’t go work for the diplomatic section of UK government because she has lived aboard for too long. LOL. Not for promotions–is it because of the loyalty issues involved? I guess when a person has lived in various places, he or she can see through many of the propaganda that aim at people who haven’t traveled much.


      1. Well, I could never work in US government because I am a dual citizen. Divided loyalties is definitely something I have discussed with other TCKs. I think it may have something to do with not being promoted. But I do feel there is more to it than that

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Something more to it? I am so curious to know but probably it’s just some unwritten rules or invisible lines or glass ceiling. The system moves in mysterious ways.


        2. I would say xenophobia too. But you’re right, I do think there are things like unwritten rules and/or a glass ceiling

          Liked by 1 person

  4. You know multilingual are do needed in hospitals. Everytime an Indian, a Pakistani or a Bangladeshi is admitted in our hospital, everyone asks me if know the language. Languages connects us all and divides us all as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true. I can imagine that and being able to understand the patients is so critical in diagnosis and treatment. Yes, languages do influence us left and right, connecting us and frustrating us.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The law offices and accounting offices in New York, which serve people from different ethnic groups, prefer people (I mean assistants) speaking at least three languages (and two dialects on top of that). I mean just the terrible salary they pay, they can ask for so much. LOL. Yes, and grocery managers too are ask to have multi-language skills.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Really appreciate your work πŸ˜ƒ
    I truly love learning more and more language so that when I get a chance to accomplish my world tour dream πŸ˜ƒ
    I wish that I don’t get to face the challenges due language difference 🀣

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL. Yes, that is true. Even with the help of modern translation software on smart phones, a lot can be lost in translation. This is such a great motivation to study more and to know more. Love your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🀩🀩 Yes it’s an amazing way to stay motivated ☺️
        Translation application convert the words emotionless, the effectiveness of language gets lost…

        I started learning several languages in which Japanese is my favourite one because I would love to visit Japan at the time when Sakura blossoms 🀩🀩🀩

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well said. Yes, language is a living thing and robotic treatment of it will not work very well. Yes, wish you bring back pictures of Sakura and I will travel vicariously with you through WordPress. LOL.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. True indeed πŸ™‚
          Sure if I will upload pictures of sakura one day πŸ€— clicked by me 🀩
          Sure good luck for our journey ahead πŸ˜‚

          Liked by 1 person

  6. There is a saying on the internet, “Classy when rich, trashy when poor”. Being multilingual is that. If you’re rich and speak many languages, you are seen as worldly and well-educated. If you’re poor, then you are seen as low class, fresh-off-the-boat immigrant—maybe even an illegal.

    It’s a sorry state of affairs, even in a country that prides itself as a meritocracy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The fact is super rich people can be very trashy, isn’t it? If it was veiled in polite trashiness before, it has become blatantly trashy in the past several years. On the other hand I’ve met many poor immigrants who are decent, helpful, happy and optimistic despite the circumstances, although many people I described all legal immigrants. I think immigrants have a lot of stories to tell, more vibrant and more interesting than the tepid novels that are saturating the market.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, if anything this country has been built by immigrants and they have done a lot for this country. Unfortunately, there is a undercurrent of racism in “polite society” that needs to be address but hardly ever is. That saying expresses the hypocrisy of this current class system.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, immigrants have been the target of all the political vitriol for decades if not centuries. It has always been this way and I doubt it will ever change.

          Liked by 1 person

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