ralitsa groot

While strolling around the streets of Sofia, I come across a cosy hair salon. Surprisingly, it was a visit to a local hospital that led me to this place. I heard the laughter of women discussing the latest trends in hairstyles. Inside I met Ralitsca, a 29-year-old with caramel-coloured hair who is a hairdresser and the owner of the studio. She welcomes me with a wide smile and offers me a coffee in fluent English.

How come you speak English so well? Did you learn it at school?

‘It is not so good, but it is better than most Bulgarians. I went to language school in the past as I wanted to be able to meet people from all around the world.’

Now she has a business with an international flair. Ralitsca often has clients from Greece and Turkey, and a couple of years ago she met a lovely Swedish guy in her saloon.

While listening to her story, I notice the letters RG written on the wall. Ralitsca has named the salon after herself so her place would stand out, but also to highlight her own style. She has been doing this for the past three years. She trained as a hairdresser and worked in other salons for 7 years before opening her own shop.

I guess you are a good hairdresser, but what are your strengths?

‘Everything. I love my job, doing creative haircuts and making beautiful colours.’

I never understood this before, but now I know that hairdressers also tend to be psychologists, because people sit here and they talk and talk, and you have to listen to them. How do you feel about this

‘It is great. I like it,’ she laughs.

But isn’t it too difficult, dealing with other people’s problems?

‘I like to work with people, it is not a real problem for me. I like the communication between us.’

Spending time with other cheerful people is essential for Ralitsca. She works in the saloon alongside a colleague who helps her domanicures and pedicures. The rest she does on her own.

When asked what is the average salary is of a hairdresser in Bulgaria, Ralitsca sighs.

‘Between 600 and 1000 levs (300 and 500 euros). It depends on how you charge the customers, but also on whether or not you have a boss.’

But is spite of the low pay, Ralitsca says she loves her life in Bulgaria. She even prefers staying here for holidays. If she had to choose a foreign destination, African or Asian countries would be her choice.

‘What is your favourite country in Europe except Bulgaria?

‘Italy or France. I haven`t been there, but I will tell you when I go.’

She is expecting new clients at the end of a busy day, but before I leave Ralitsca admits that her life is pretty far away from what goes on in Brussels. Nevertheless, she points out she feels European and welcomes people from different cultural backgrounds and ethnicity in her chair because beauty and passion know no boundaries. And then she waves good bye.