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Culture shock: Jarryd Hayne's adventures in America

By Peter West - posted Thursday, 24 September 2015


We are getting reports every day about Jarryd Hayne's adventures in the USA. Apparently he is already earning thirty seven thousand a week Australian. That's just for starters. And if all goes well, he will earn millions more in endorsements.

Great news for the little Aussie battler (as the media love to call such people). What cultural differences will he find?

American food comes piled high on large plates. Breakfasts are usually massive, with inches of bacon, piles of potato (or potato substitute) and sometimes maple syrup poured over everything. A heart attack on a plate.

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Hamburgers are common, and they taste strange. Sugary buns, a bit of minced beef, and never the suggestion of beetroot. Weirrrrrrrd, as an American might say. Jarryd, you must never ask for a hamburger with egg. A friend of mine did. The short-order chef had never heard of such a thing. So my friend asked for a hamburger and a fried egg. It took a long while, and my friend said. "Where's the egg? Is it getting laid?"

The chef marched out and threatened him with a meat cleaver.

Don't ask for a cup of tea. Americans hardly know what it is, even the Tea Party people. Ask for it and you'll get iced tea, which is some sweet sugary stuff.

People in civilised countries like Australia eat with a knife and fork. Americans cut up their food with a knife, then ladle it into their mouth with a fork. Civilised? They think so.

And the killer: tipping. Jarryd would be used to Western Sydney, where the bill says $40 and you pay it. End of story. Occasionally someone might pop a couple of coins into the Tip Jar. But Jarryd would have kittens worrying about how much to tip the waiter. Er, Waitperson. I usually pay what my American friends tell me to, to save arguments.

America and Australia are two countries separated by a common language. In Australia beer is a strong beverage, and though a strong man can down 6 or 7 schooners, it is gutsy stuff. American beer is weak as, well, water. By the way, that's pronounced "wadderr". If you make a mistake, don't ask for a rubber. That doesn't go on the end of a pencil. It goes on the end of your, um, yeah.

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Americans talk loudly, and constantly. In a restaurant almost anywhere, if you hear one voice clearly over the rest, it's bound to be a Yank. Some people think the women are louder than the men, but I couldn't comment.

Words sound different. They don't say "Ozzy", but "Ossy". The number 13 is "thirrr-teen'. Not "thuddean". One visiting friend , Barry, was driven mental because every American called him "Bairy". Who knows, they probably talk about "Prince Hairy". God knows what they will do with Jarryd. "Jerrid"? They probably ask you your other name, and write down "Hine".

Forget the Western Sydney lingo. Don't talk about people being "povo" (poor) or worried about "reffos" (refugees). You won't buy clothes at the "Salvos". Best not to call someone a "drongo", or tell them to "rakk off". Americans can feel insulted so easily.

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About the Author

Dr Peter West is a well-known social commentator and an expert on men's and boys' issues. He is the author of Fathers, Sons and Lovers: Men Talk about Their Lives from the 1930s to Today (Finch,1996). He works part-time in the Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University, Sydney.

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