22 April 2019
Whether a lady prefers to go Dutch in a date may tell you something about what she thinks or feels about her dating partner. Photo:
Whether a lady prefers to go Dutch in a date may tell you something about what she thinks or feels about her dating partner. Photo:

Going Dutch and the psychology of dating

You probably have heard the news about a date between two new friends at a Japanese barbecue restaurant in Mong Kok that ended up in a bitter scuffle and the filing of criminal charges due to a dispute over splitting the bill.

The fight broke out inside a yakiniku restaurant at King Wah Centre on Nathan Road on Sunday. After a three-hour meal and the waiter presented a HK$2,200 bill, the couple had an argument over whether or not to go Dutch.

The dispute turned into a shouting match and soon into a brawl, prompting the restaurant’s owner to call the police. The couple were arrested.

The owner revealed that the man, who insisted on paying the entire amount, tore up a HK$500 note offered by the lady as her contribution to the settlement of the bill.

The saga has triggered heated discussion on social media over the practice of going Dutch.

The term could be traced back to the 17th century, when the Dutch were considered stingy.

Going Dutch means everybody has to pay for themselves. In Hong Kong, the same practice is more often referred to as “AA”, which is thought to mean “arithmetic average” although its exact origin can no longer be traced.

In developing countries, the man is expected to pay the bill in a dinner date, while the practice of going Dutch is more common in developed countries.

This is quite understandable. Women have less job opportunities and earn less in poor nations, and it’s natural for men to pay the bill.

By contrast, women often enjoy higher earnings and social status in developed countries.

In fact, the practice of going Dutch is fairly common in Europe and the United States.

Paying for oneself is considered the default arrangement in a date or a gathering of friends.

Before the proliferation of smart phones, Japanese women typically carried a small calculator in their handbag in order to calculate how much they should pay after dining with friends.

The practice of going Dutch is also becoming popular in mainland China. About 64 percent of women think a couple should split the bill on their first date, according to a recent survey by China’s top dating site

The Go Dutch concept, however, is still no quite accepted in Hong Kong. A recent survey of nearly 300 university students showed that only 28 percent believed in going Dutch on dates, while 49 percent said the man should pay the bill.

A study by researchers at the University of St. Andrews in 2011 found that both men and women who rated themselves highly were more likely to want their date to pay.

This is probably because when one thinks he or she is attractive enough, there is no need to impress the date by paying the entire bill.

More interestingly, the researchers discovered that when a lady found her date unattractive, she would prefer to go Dutch because in that case, the date could be regarded as a dinner with a friend.

Going Dutch then can serve a signal that she has no interest in getting into a romantic relationship with her date.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 26

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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