Taste of poverty

taste-of-poverty
Banality often contains concentration wisdom of folks. They say, it is not shameful to be poor. Poorest can obtain social security benefits. What is poverty in Austria, how it looks, tastes and smells? Apart from concept, I wanted to know this as personal experience. Being granted with work after five years of survival training in Graz, I felt myself enormously rich  being registered as poor in Vienna. Low income is inevitable lot for many emigrants. In case of Austrians, poverty is often life philosophy. Those whose income is lower than 893 euros are considered to be poor and can buy goods on lower prices in social supermarket. There I paid visit yesterday, hungry for new experiences.

It was crowd in front of gloomy building forty minutes before opening. This crowd spoke different languages and had shopping bags on the wheels. I felt curious about miraculous presents life had in store for me and found modest size of my bag regretful. Austrian woman nearby started talking to me, and I paid attention to her exquisite make-up and numerous silver rings. She told one must pay or wait, and she preferred the second. Eventually the first two visitors were let in the store, and after half an hour we together with silver lady reached the entrance, where joined new queue to registration office. I counted sufficient quantity of social workers around, who briskly moved forth and back in front of us, but line was moving on with speed of snail. Pale woman in front of me in long Muslim dress and scarf told she was close to faint after two hours of waiting. The dark young mother behind, had three small children, who shrieked playing run and catch, what added to whole turmoil. Meanwhile I was observing faces of buyers leaving store, and there was no air of satisfaction at them. They dragged their bags with listless expression.
After my patience was significantly strained and sweat flowed on my backside under cloths, I was let in registration room.
Middle-aged woman executed certain paper formalities and solemnly handing me the card as pass to happier reality told:
“Sie sprechen schon gut Deutsch”, and this struck me as assessment of my prosperity chances in Austria.

I rushed in the shop passage in haste and forgot to take the cart. Never mind. I never needed it.
Closer inspection of the store turned my joy in perplexity. I gained special card after considerable time and nerves sells loss, but I didn’t see what to buy.
Nightmare jeans, creams and spices, which didn’t justify even that low price, video and audio products, orientated at enigmatic audiences and in no way could be eaten, milk products with expired date, abundance of black bread, not replaceable for other needs…Examining all this, I was thinking about why many people put poverty and degenerated insensitivity in one row.
Does this scenery means that if you are poor, you are not more than tuff beast and cannot afford to be choosy? You must eat all that is eatable and ware all that is wearable. If your income is low, we will help you! To buy what nobody needs.
Visit to social market make you realize quickly that bargain is illusion, created by our own greed. This greed of bargain-seekers is exploited by shop-keepers. When you are convinced you make bargain you buy what you don’t need and give profit to shop. There is now such thing as free meal, alas.
Many goods in social market puzzled me by lack of practical usability and made an impression of pure waste. Such waste as result of producers dull taste and lack of mindfulness lays buried in the back-yards ready for recycling and when transferred at the shelves of market suddenly obtains holy glow of social aid.
After certain hesitation I decided for expired yogurt and cardboard folder with ridiculous picture on the top. I will keep my social market card here.

Galina Toktalieva

Kyrgyzstan-born author residing in Graz, Austria

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