Going Dutch

Who gets the bill at a business dinner?


In India, splitting the cheque when dining out with a colleague is a new concept. However, in many parts of the world, ‘going Dutch’ is the norm. Splitting the cheque when dining with colleagues is directly linked to how a culture perceives business relationships. Monochronic cultures being pro-transactional, businesspersons don’t mix their professional and personal relationships. In these cultures, you are not expected to pay for your colleagues when dining out. This is true in places such as Northern Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.

On the other hand, Polychronic cultures, being pro-partnership, view business relationships as life-long. In these cultures, business meals are seen as occasions to build better bonds. Usually, the senior-most person pays for the group and ‘going Dutch’ is considered rude, even taboo. This is so in places such as the Indian subcontinent, Italy, Greece, the Middle East, China and Latin America.

When dining out with colleagues, the common ways to split the cheque are:

Equal share: Post-tax and after adding the tip, the bill amount is equally divided among the diners.

Informal ‘fair share’: If you have expensive tastes, you are expected to pay extra over and above the ‘equal share’. For example, you enjoyed a couple of cocktails while your fellow diners were teetotalers, or you ordered a lobster while the others ate cheaper vegetarian/chicken dishes.

Individual bills: In some cultures, diners ask the server for individual bills when sitting down for a meal together. Here, each person settles his own cheque, including the tip.

Tip: Ask your local colleague about the accepted practice in his/her culture—don’t assume that, as a visitor, your host is expected to pay for you.


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