To Go Dutch or To Not Go Dutch… That is the Question

In previous posts, I discussed how one should pay for date nights. Do you go dutch or does one person pay for everything? In all this talk, I failed to explain the concept of going dutch; foreign to both the Swedes and the Dutch.

What is this funny idea from the lower country called The Netherlands? First, I did a little research on the history of going, the popularity of it in different countries, and then what people think of it. I went to Wiki, Yahoo Answers, Facebook status message, and even Twitter.

According to the Wikipedia entry, which unfortunately has been marked as full of weasel language, the definition is a bit nebulous. The phrase did probably originate in Holland because people pay for their own share when going out in groups. Makes sense to me. But on dates, or one-on-one events, the man usually pays for the meal (food and drinks). Standard etiquette says that the inviter pays for the meal. Equality etiquette states that the man and woman pay for their own share. Somewhere in between, some pissed off British blokes decided to insult the Dutch by coining the term “going dutch.” The phrase originated somewhere in the 1870s though it is unclear.

There was also an explanation of what happens in Sweden:

In Sweden, the practice of splitting the bill in restaurants is common. In a courtship situation where both parts have a similar financial standing, which is commonplace in Sweden, the traditional custom of the man always paying in restaurants has largely fallen out of use and is by many, including etiquette authorities[who?], considered old fashioned. Generally a romantic couple will take turns paying the bill or split it. It is generally assumed that everyone pays for himself or herself in restaurants unless the invitation stated otherwise.

I asked this to everyone: What does “going dutch” mean to you? And do you ‘go dutch’ on dates?
From Twitter:
@souldate: to split a restaurant bill by only paying exactly for what you had.
@pontusolin: That you split the costs at a social engagement.
@Ingyplingy: I thnk for Swedes it’s normal. But then, the majority of women here have been part of the work force since the 70s. At least. [Well] I actually don’t really care :-) We can go dutch, he can pay, OR I can pay!!! How about that, huh? ;) I still think there seems to be a cultural diff, since it seems like men r still expected to b able to provide for a family in US

From Facebook:
AN (American girl in the US): splitting the bill? walking around naked? plan a trip to the netherlands? ?
Sapphire: wee! i like the walking around naked part. do you think people should go dutch on the first date?
AN: do i think they should walk around naked on the first date? I mean…maybe…if its hot outside.
do i think they should split the bill on the first date? hell no! but, of course, i do live in the south…
RF (American girl in the US): hahhaa, You are hilarious!! I totally agree though- I share these impressions of going dutch;)
Saf (American girl in the US): Going dutch on a first date means that whoever invited you is cheap, wasn’t raised to be a gentleman…AND probably walks around naked ALL the time. But, of course, I’m from SF, so this is normal.
CM (swedish/american dude): I’m against it. She pays.. or I’m not putting out :P JK
Seriously, but no.. dutch is a bit of a hassle.. but I don’t mind if the girl pays.. once in a while.. that’s how swedish I am.
LBO (american girl married to a Swede in Sweden): i like it. It makes everyone equal. I enjoy myself more if I pay my share. =) We used to do it in the US [go dutch] , we don’t now. now I either pay all or he pays all.
Þorbjörn (the poor chap attached to me): I dont like it [going dutch], just don’t really like it. It is ok if none of you really have money; like if you’re a student. But well, if a guy brings a girl on a date, i think the guy should pay.

To sum it up: there is no good answer to it. Going dutch depends on the guy, the girl, and the circumstances around the date. Seemingly normal girls can go insane if they must pay their own way. Chivalrous attitudes required by men are neither arcane nor unnecessary. Women should truly take pity on men, as they have no idea what is acceptable and what is not. If I were a man, I would take her to a good restaurant (nothing fancy) and pay for that first date. If she seems like the type that wants everything paid for, then be prepared and face the wallet consequences.

Otherwise, if you are girl on a date, make the effort to take part in the expenses. Sometime I pay for ice cream or drinks if we go to another place after dinner. Whether America or Sweden or somewhere in between, there should be some equality between the sexes.

But men can still hold the door. ;)

13 thoughts on “To Go Dutch or To Not Go Dutch… That is the Question”

  1. For me it’s not so much about equality between sexes anymore. It’s about practicality, courtesy and financial standing between people who know each other, be they friends, colleagues, spouses, dates or family. A rule of thumb is to think of how the dinner was decided.

    – Was it a special (i.e. birthday, romantic etc.) invitation? Then the person who invited, chose restaurant and so on should pay. So in that case I agree that if a guy invites a girl out on a date, he should pay for it. But I would also expect the girl to reciprocate now and then and take the initiative, whether it be an invitation to a restaurant dinner, a home cooked one or something else.

    – Was it casually/mutually decided upon, e.g. “I’m hungry, you want to get something to eat?” or “Let’s go eat something”, then you only have to pay for yourself. But it can often be practical to take turns paying, regardless of it being spouses/dates/friends/family – it usually evens out in the end.

    If you plan on paying, then it can also often be beneficial to say/imply it up front, e.g. “Let me buy you dinner.” or “Want to go and get something to eat? My treat.” if you think there’s the slightest chance of confusion later on.

    Otherwise, I agree with Sapphire’s conclusions. With the addition that someone who wants everything paid for, all the time, does not interest me at all. I need to be able to respect a potential partner as an equal. There’s a swedish word for the kind of helpless woman who needs to be taken care of at all times. It’s called a “våp” and it’s not a flattering term. (Might exist an english equivalent, but I can’t find it)

    The custom that says men should *always* pay for women is hopelessly antiquated and should have disappeared at the same time women got the right to vote. Not something to bring into the 21st century. One of the problems, as I see it, is that this is connected to the custom that it’s always the guy who invites the girl to dinner.

    That’s my 2 cents, anyhow.

  2. Good post!

    I see from your other tweeps´s answers that we understood the question differently, I knew what going Dutch meant and didn’t think it needed explaining… possibly Swedish naivité :-)

    What I couldn’t explain on Twitter for obvious reasons was that I basically have the same ideas as Pontus. If I am dating a man and I am making more or less the same money as he is, then there is absolutely no reason for him to be always paying for things. If however, one of us is making significantly more money than the other person then I think it would be ok if the richer person pays more often (based on income differences, not sex). I would do it anyway, if I were the one making the big bucks. I don’t care about money, I care about having a nice meal with my dude (if I had one :-)).

  3. Hi there :)

    This is such a gray area for me because up until recently I’ve only dated broke musicians. It has almost always been dutch or me fronting the money…..Its a huge turn off. If a guy invites a girl out he should pay. That being said it could be anything from Coffee to a gourmet meal. It is not the amount that counts to most women but the gesture. The first few dates is really where I think that men should take the initiative as far as paying goes. After that it should be equal.

  4. @Pontus- Thanks for your input. I cannot think of an equivalent to våp but those kinds of girls definitely exist everywhere. And I agree, if someone invites you out for dinner, that person should pay. But at the same time, if you happen to be a girl, it is okay to ask a men out to dinner and for the GIRL to pay.

    @Ingela- Yea, I was not too clear on defining it on Twitter but I’m happy with everyone’s input. I agree with the point that the person who makes more money could pay a little more often. Unfortunately in the US the income inequality between sexes is much bigger than it is in Sweden. Maybe that’s why women expect men to pay more often.
    I can even say from experience that male friends who make more than me usually pay for our outings, though mainly they’re small (quick dinner, coffee, ice cream, popcorn at the movies). But I also pay for girlfriends who are still in college and have little disposable income.

    @Jacqueline- Definitely, when men pay, it’s very nice gesture and quite sweet. Do you think it steams from the fact that women seem more invested in dates so men pay for the first few? Or something else?

    Any thoughts from others?

  5. I would just like to clarify something here about the term Dutch treat. I have no idea where it sprang from, but after living here in Holland for 16 years I have never been on a date (casual or otherwise) and was expected to pay by the guy. They have never asked me to pay and ofcurse there were times that I took a turn to pay. I don’t expect the guy to pay all the time, and not due to being a feminist (which I most definitely am not)but just because I thought it would be nice to pay for them for a change. I also feel very uncomfortable and guilty if the guy pays all the time. In Holland, the Dutch are under the impression that there is such a thing as an American party where people have to bring drinks to a party or something. This is quite puzzling because all the parties I have been to in Holland have all been fully catered by the people throwing the party. They think this is how it happens in America…

    The Dutch, however, seem to be rapidly approaching the Scandinavian stage where the woman are very equal to the men and the woman will insist on paying her share. I think this is a shame as it really does mess up the difference between men and women and then you need blogs to help us out when we go out with the opposite sex on a date!

    A English term for val (sorry do not know how to do the fancy dot on the ‘a’as I do not have a Swedish keyboard) could possibly be a damsel in distress. Women that sit around waiting to be helped out by men constantly… Not sure if others agree, but that is the closest I can come up with.

  6. Income inequality? Rubbish.

    It would make no sense for businesses in a capitalist country to hire men when they could hire only women and cut payroll costs by 24%. Yet they don’t.

    Expecting men to pay more often if they have more money is ridiculous. Why would you go out to dinner if you were struggling financially? If I earn 75k and you earn 35k, what exactly is stopping you from paying your half of the dinner bill? Would a few dinners bankrupt you? It would be no different than if you ate dinner alone. You would still be paying your half. Would you eat-out if you couldn’t afford to do so? Of course not. So why would you do it now just because you’re on a date? Why not tell him, “Hey, I can’t afford to eat-out all the time. Can we do something that doesn’t cost money?”

    The ‘whoever asks, pays’ system is flawed. Women don’t ask men out on first dates as often as men ask women out. Until that is equally balanced, that system is not in favor of men. It still allows women to get free meals because they were not willing to ask a man out.

    Don’t expect 9-5 equality if you still expect chivalry from 5-9. Get used to this, ladies. This is only the beginning.

  7. Well here is a little scenario, have been dating a girl for a month, and on the first date I paid for everything which was fine, and again on the second date. However on the third date I texted her, (perhaps not the best way to go about things), suggesting going ‘dutch’ she was quiet offended, I had even asked, but she did decided to do this and everything went fine.
    Only this week she said why don’t you come from London and visit me in Manchester, (she is living back with her parents after losing her job as a lawyer) I said fine so I was prepared to book the train ticket, and when searching around the hotels I thought they were quiet pricy and I’m on a low income job, however I said would you mind going half on the hotel room with me so we can stay together and enjoy each others company. This again up set her, I enquired was it because you could not afford this, I was understanding due to her job situation and said maybe we could leave it another couple of weeks then I could pay, (at this point but was a little short on cash) The answer was a blank no, she was annoyed because I had even asked. I feel like I’m been taken to the dry cleaners with this girl, surely a man has a right to ask regarding going half at time, I release its not romantic but its a 21st century reality unless your a banker

  8. It’s simple. Women begged for “equal rights”…fine, they got them. PAY HALF!!!

  9. @Mr boomtastic

    Maybe she expects u to pay for most of the stuff because she’s unemployed? Otherwise, if u had money for train tickets, but not the hotel, why didnt u invite her over to london and stay at yours? That would’ve been problem solved:)

    I generally don’t approve of men “having” to pay for everything all the time, if were in a bar or club I’d let a guy buy me a drink, but then I would insist on getting the next drink, i just don’t like to feel like i owe something to someone, though I am probably the least feminist person among my friends and aquaintances:) I just think chivalry can be demonstrated in other ways, without making the other person feel in debt:)

  10. If a woman wants your company, she will pay half. Way to many gold diggers out there who just want a free lunch. And way to many guys think with their penis, so they pay. Only later to realize they was being taken for a chump. The best test for a gold digger is insist on splitting the bill on the first date, if she looks shocked gold digger move on. If she is fine with it she has passed the test. Simple.
    Think of it this way, if a dude comes over to you and asks for $50 for some food money, do you say sure here you go!? NO you dont, so why do the same on a date? Use your brain not your penis.

  11. Do you realize that it is people like you who make sure that women will never have the same respect or status as men?! Personally I do not sell either my body or my company for money

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