Today I returned to my hairdresser here, which was largely unremarkable except in that it was so unremarkable. All I did was get in my car, drive for 15 minutes, sit in the chair for a couple hours, chat with the hairdresser, read some trashy magazines, then drive to the grocery store and go home for lunch.

Really? No linguistic hazards, no trying to guess how to say what I want done and ending up with a buzz cut? No 45 minute bus rides, or tube rides plus 20 minute walks over railroad bridges and through winding side streets? No buzzing the doorbell of a tiny apartment and being surrounded by batty old Portuguese women who coo at me while I smile and nod through their ministrations? How very boring.

More than anything, my return to a normal American hairdressing experience sums up the differences between living here and living in Lisbon. There, even the most mundane of tasks was an adventure requiring the utmost mental and physical agility. Here, all it takes is a short drive, and I get a relaxing morning spent in the chair.

What difference does a hairdo make? Turns out, a lot.