"We'll go Dutch" is a phrase used in many parts of the world to signify the splitting of a bill at a restaurant or cafe. In my experience, though, it is a concept alien to most of my peers in Dubai.
A typical scene at the end of a meal out with my friends, be it at Cheesecake Factory, Chili's or any shisha cafe, goes something like this: our stomachs are thoroughly satisfied, filled with burgers or sickly-sweet sundaes, the enthusiasm that we started with while playing our card games has steadily subsided and yawns are trending.
It is time to go home and get some sleep, so we call for the bill, and when the waiter brings it to the table, it is snatched up by an eager male friend who smoothly slips his card into the black leather folder and proceeds to give it back to the waiter.
This is followed by exaggerated protests – some genuine, others forced – from the rest of the party.
Friends wave around their wallets in a show of willingness to contribute to the bill – which could be anywhere from Dh300 to Dh1,000, depending on where we are eating. On a rare occasion, another friend might snatch the bill and replace the card inside with his own, winning the battle of the male egos.
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It seems, at least within my social circle, that a man feels he is measured by his willingness to pay the bill.
Having been raised in the United States, my friends there would always split the bill, or "go Dutch", often down to the last cent. I always argue with these bill hijackers, stressing that we should all pay equally, or pay for what we ordered.
While the prospect of a free meal might sound nice, it quickly becomes detestable when you feel like a pawn in someone's attempt to elevate their own reputation.
If a friend pays the entire bill, others usually feel obliged to make a bid for the bill at the next meal, to pay back the first friend and even things up, which in turn prompts an endless cycle of individuals – mostly guys – paying entire bills. And while they may view it as fair, it doesn't add up.
It could put someone who is financially unstable, for instance, in a very tight spot when their turn to take the big fall comes around. And it often leaves female friends – especially those who are single – enjoying free food, over and over again. To me, it's bizarre.
After some research, I learnt that "going Dutch" isn't very common in eastern cultures – it's sometimes viewed as offensive.
In South Asian traditions, it's considered rude to ask people to pay for themselves, and the responsibility of payment falls on an elder or male member of a group. And apparently in Iraq, the expression "going Dutch" translates to "maslawiya", which is a dig at the perceived stingy reputation of people from Mosul.
Surely expressing a desire to pay for what you ate isn't stingy – it's the complete opposite.
So, friends, next time the bill comes around at the end of a meal, and the receipt lists my burger at Dh59, take my money graciously, please, and don't look at it as if it is the offerings of a peasant or tell me that you don't like to carry cash.