This week whilst organising a date for a new member through the personal matchmaking service, he asked me why separate bills would be given by the venue on the date. I advised him, it was so that neither party felt uncomfortable, or obligated when the bill arrived. But he insisted that I call up the venue and ask them not to do this as he would prefer to the pay the bill himself. I commented on how chivalrous that was of him, his response "I wouldn’t have it any other way and would feel extremely uncomfortable letting a woman contribute". This got me thinking that in a day and age of equality and effectively meeting strangers through dating agencies, online dating sites and also via Asian dating events, what’s the etiquette when it comes to paying the bill on the first date? Should the man pay? Should the woman pay? Or should you go dutch?
I decided to ask both male and female Tantric Club members for their opinions. Starting with the ladies...
According to Shilpa, when a man asks you out for dinner on a second or third date and does not pick up the tab, she interprets this as a man who can be somewhat selfish and is demonstrating that whilst he can manage his own expenses, he wouldn’t necessarily be able to provide for her.
Trusha believes that it is fair to pay her half on a first date, although it is nice when a guy insists on paying. She always offers and if the guy declines, she gracefully accepts, unless she feels that he is being insincere. In which case, she will insist on paying her half so that she does not feel any obligation towards him.
"The last two dates that I have been on, I’ve picked the tab up!” Seema recently went on two dates set-up by her family, where both guys apparently had forgotten their wallets. “Shockingly, neither of these guys felt embarrassed, or were over apologetic". She met the first guy after work in town for a drink. "Considering that he had been at work all day, surely he would have noticed that he did not have his wallet at lunch time, and had the good sense to at least borrow some money from a colleague". The second guy, when the bill arrived, the waiter placed it in front of him. Seema got her purse out and asked how much she owed with the intention of going halves, he then causally piped up that he had forgotten his wallet so she would need to pay the full bill. Not surprisingly, Seema has asked her mother to lay off the family introductions for a while.
"I gauge how much a guy likes me based on whether he pays the bill on the first date" that’s according to Tina. She believes that if a guy does pay the bill then it’s likely that he is interested and will ask her to go on a second date.
For Reena, all the long term relationships that she has had, the men have always paid for the first date and the first dinner. "I don’t know if this is sheer coincidence but I certainly think that it tells you a lot about a guy’s characteristics. For me, when a guy pays on the first date it tells me that he is chivalrous, considerate and knows how to treat a lady. There are a lot of men out there who talk the talk about knowing how to treat a woman but unfortunately, they fail to walk the walk! Let me clarify, I’m not a gold digger and certainly after a guy has made an effort and paid for the first date and dinner, I will reciprocate by organising and paying for the next one. To me, if he shows generosity from the outset, he is likely to be generous with his time and to nurturing a future relationship, you tell me, which woman doesn’t want a man like that?"
Over to the men...
According to Hardip, his decision to pay differs according to the circumstances. He is more likely to pick up the tab if he thinks that the date went well and as a means of further impressing his date. However, if he feels that there is unlikely to be a second date, or is neutral about the experience, he will retreat to his fallback position of splitting the bill in an equitable and fair manner. Hardip also believes that the onus should not be on a man to pay for the bill on a first date, especially if he in effect is meeting someone for the first time. He is also cautious of not wanting to cause offence by insisting on paying the full bill, in his own words "it can be seen to be presumptuous as a female may wish to pay her own way. There's no reason to assume she wants a 'stranger' in effect to pay for her portion of the bill".
"Being an old fashioned type of guy when it comes to dating I have no issue in paying. I pay all of the time without exception. I think however, it should be customary for the lady to offer to contribute". Hemant also adds that given that we live in an era of online dating, where you are regularly meeting strangers, as a guideline for anyone who is unsure, you should go dutch on the first 2 dates. But if there is a third date then the man should pay as at this point there is genuine interest to pursue things further.
Nilesh believes that the man should always pay if he is asking a woman out, as it is the gentlemanly thing to do. He also feels that whilst a couple are in the dating phase, it is the guy who decides where the relationship is going, essentially whether to commit, or not and for this privilege it’s only fair that he pays. Mitesh, in part shares this sentiment “I would like to think that if I have asked a lady out for dinner then it's only right that I would foot the bill. However, if both of us have decided together to go out for a meal, then depending on how the evening and meal has gone, I would consider the following two options:
1. If it went well and I enjoyed the company I would definitely offer to pay the bill.
2.If we both were under the impression that we had a good evening but there was no chance of meeting again then I am hoping that we would go halves.”
For Vikram, if the date costs less than £20, he feels that the man should pay regardless of whether the date went well, or not. However, if the date exceeds £20 and there is unlikely to be a second, he would go halves.
Ash always pays on the first date. According to him "I think the guy should always pay on the first date and for the first dinner because it demonstrates his financial security and stability, and ability to carry out his manly duties should a relationship ensue. Thereafter, it does not matter who picks up the bill..."
The thoughts and experiences of a selection of our members show some interesting and common themes. When the guy picks up the tab, it would appear that he is signalling to the woman that he believes the first date has been successful and that he envisages a second. Women seem to interpret this signal in a similarly responsive way, commenting that this gesture in itself, demonstrates a man's level of interest. Furthermore, the act of a man paying appears to have much more of a symbolic and intangible impact than a monetary one. Women judge the act as a positive indicator of a man’s financial stability, nurturing nature and generosity. Therefore, despite living in an era of equality, online dating and Asian singles events, where veritable strangers often meet for dates, if both parties feel that a spark could ignite, the guy is more inclined to pay the bill and the woman is more likely to want him to. This does appear to change over time and women are inclined to take the initiative in both organising and paying for dates. However, the first date appears to be a special case.
So here's some final thoughts - Guys, if you like the woman that you are on a first date with and would like to see her again, paying the bill at the end of the night will score you brownie points. Just to clarify, it’s not because she’s money motivated, it’s simply because by paying the bill (or at least offering to) she believes it speaks positively about your characteristics. That being said, it is still your prerogative and you should not feel pressured, or obligated and only offer to pay the bill when you sincerely mean it.
Women - the reality is that in a day and age of equality when it comes to dating there are still grey areas. In turn some men are conscious that they may offend you, should they practice old age traditions. Therefore, when it comes to paying on a first date, where often you barely know one another, for some men (even if they do like you) the safest option is to go dutch. So don’t be too quick to judge him as he could still be a nice guy and is simply demonstrating that he respects you as an equal.
So in answer to the original question of what is the etiquette when it comes to paying the bill on the first date? Be yourself and do what you feel is right - if your natural actions offend or raise concerns for the other person, then maybe it's just not meant to be...