25 September 2015
by Peter West

Culture shock: Jarryd Hayne's adventures in America

Jarryd Hayne

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.

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.

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.

And don't do what I did in a clothing store and reach into your pants (sorry, trousers) to pull out a kangaroo pouch. The store owner thought I had a weapon and was half-way to the floor. The Americans call that pouch a fanny bag, which sounds a tad rude to the Aussie ear.

Jarryd has come to play football. The team is called the 49ers.

The photo of Jarryd with some of the 49ers shows what he's up against. One, they are massive guys and Jarryd looks like the guy who carries the water bottles. There must be something in the water to make those guys so big, I reckon.

Two, most of the guys he wants to play with, are black. Some of the colloquial black phrases might be hard for a kid from Minto to follow. Luckily, footballers aren't required to say much past the occasional grunt.

Black Americans tell me it's handy having a white person walk with you; they can talk to the "po-leese" for you. Black guys walking by themselves are liable to be thrown to the ground and cuffed, as James Blake found. Best not walk anywhere if you can help it.

Gridiron is a complete circus to the Australian eye. There are no scrums and no tries, just touchdowns. The ball goes up and the guys run in all directions, like scalded chooks. Hopefully, Jarryd will be told what to do. American footballers usually are , as the game is managed from the sidelines.

Your team-buddies will tease you about Australia. "Put a shrimp on the barbie", "good onya, mite" and so on. Just smile that good-natured grin. Yeah, boys, Australians get regularly chewed up by sharks and crocodiles. Americans suffer from a bad education system and a media that tells them mostly about America. If you're lucky, they won't get confused between Australia and Austria. But friends visiting the USA say that Americans prefer Australians to lots of other people, such as Africans, pretty well any South Americans, most Europeans, a good deal of the Asians, Russians naturally, anyone with a thick accent, dark people generally, and anyone from the Middle East.

If stopped by a police officer when driving, don't reach for your licence. Keep your hands in full view until asked to get your licence or you will get shot. Always carry some money with you in case you get mugged (held up) by a crazy guy on the street.

Finally: don't drive on the wrong side of the road. In Australia the left side is the right side to drive on: the right side is the wrong side. You'll get used to the change.

Well, Jarryd, I suppose the money they throw at you will make these small problems worthwhile. One day you might earn as much as Eli Manning or Russell Wilson. The sums apparently paid to these gladiators just boggle the mind. Be nice to your team-mate Kaepernick - he could throw some expensive parties on the sums we read about. Not a bad life, Jarryd, for a kid who was raised by a single mother in a Housing Commission place in Minto in a poky part of Sydney.

All of this will have a flow-on effect. There will be many more boys in Australia sitting in class day-dreaming about all this and hoping to imitate young Jarryd. When you can dream of being such an international success, why bother learning anything at school?