Thursday, February 19, 2015

My trip down memory lane.

Many people of my generation would yearn for or occasionally think of the “good old times” when Australia was less sophisticated, the population was friendlier and smaller, and it was a much safer place than it is today.

Coming to Australia in 1954, was a bit of a culture shock for us. Different language, different customs and many other different things we were confronted with. Our mind was still back in the country we grew up in and we realised that we stood before a big learning curve. However, we were determined to adapt and learn. I experienced my first culture shock by visiting the butcher shop in Iluka northern NSW. This was a bit confronting to me at the time, but the Australian butcher shop has evolved and looks different now and is more attractive and inviting. Below is my story which looks amusing now, but wasn’t at the time. The migrants who came here in the 50s and 60s can probably relate to this. - Werner 

The picture shows a typical Australian butcher shop circa
1950/60. Most of them had  electric fly zappers to attract the flies away from the hanging carcasses.
My first visit to an Australian butcher shop in 1954 – an edifying  experience. It was in November 1954 and we were temporarily living in Iluka, northern NSW, a lovely seaside village. Karola asked me to go to the local butcher to get some meat for the weekend. I was unaware that I was in for a very big “culture shock” by entering an Australian butcher shop for the first time. I had been in Australian for only 4 weeks and had been used to the immaculately clean, mirrored and tiled butcher shop in Germany, with all the wonderful and big variety of small goods and nicely presented cuts of meat.
This Butcher shop in Iluka was a lone building, the whitish looking paint must have been there since the first fleet arrived and didn’t look very appealing. As I came closer to the shop there was this peculiar smell emanating from the butcher shop. The entrance was not very inviting, it was a dilapidated fly screen door with holes in the fly screen big enough for magpies to fly through. As I entered, I nearly had a heart attack. I thought that I had come to a third world country. The shop floor was covered with a thick layer of sawdust, which was mixed with blood and bits of meat around the butcher’s block, which was a tree stump and which was part of that terrible smell.
The butcher’s apron was contaminated with blood and bits of meat and bone chips and looked disgustingly filthy. The soiled apron was so stiff that it would have stood upright had he taken it off and leaned it against the wall.

I was shocked to see that only carcases of animals were hanging there, nothing else, the same as I saw on our stopover in Port Said, in Egypt. Cuts were made as you ordered, using his bare hands to handle the meat. When the whole order was cut he put a small piece of greaseproof paper on newspapers, then the meat, then another small piece of greaseproof paper on top and then the whole caboodle was wrapped in newspaper and tied up with a string. 

There was a big sign hanging in the butcher shop about government regulations, it told you what you can’t do in a butcher shop. With my limited English I could read most of it and got the gist of what they were saying. But there were a few words I wasn’t quite sure about and jotted them down on a piece of paper to be checked out at home with the dictionary. One particular word, which bamboozled me, was "expectorate”,a word I had never come across in my English lessons in Germany. (Come to think of it, you don’t see the word too often, if at all, today).

The sign of course told customers that according to government regulations, such and such they were forbidden to bring their dog into the butcher shop and also to expectorate within the butcher shop is strictly forbidden - non-compliance brought a hefty fine. I said to myself, “oh my God” and they have to tell you this? I thought that commonsense would have taken care of that.

That night I wrote a letter home to my folks in Germany to bring them up to date, but I never dared to mention my experience in the Australian butcher shop at Iluka. Thanks goodness the butcher shops in Australia of today are a different kettle of fish and have evolved 360 degrees to what they were.
My thought for today.
Life experience is what defines our character, even if it means getting your heart broken or being lied to. You know, you need the downs to appreciate the ups. Going on the adventure or taking that risk is important. Nev Schulman
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City Girl said...

I’m 25 years old and only know how the butcher shops are today. However, I found your story very interesting and amusing. So, I can say that we have “progressed” in our country.

Matt and Jane said...

Yes, Werner, we can relate to this story, we grew up in a little country town in Western NSW, and the butcher shop there was like that. We really enjoyed your amusing story and you described the situation well.

Pam said...

Remember similar, but I was not out bush but a sheila from the suburbs of Sydney!
Of course we all thought they were ‘normal’ butchers shops having never seen any other.

Dymity said...

Werner, I certainly can relate to your story. Thank goodness things have changed...

Martin, from Germany said...

Thanks, Werner, for the interesting story! How times have changed in Australia...