Going Dutch: First Date Etiquette

Even though we think that life is relatively straightforward in these modern times of ours, every now and again something crops up that makes you wonder just what the correct etiquette is. One particularly perilous scenario is the first date – especially when you take the classic option and go out for a meal – who pays for what? I was asked about what women expect in such a situation and so, being unable to speak for all women, I did the next best thing and conducted a largely un-scientific survey of my followers on Twitter. I asked them two questions, the first of which was what they thought was good etiquette on a first date regarding paying the bill. 27 people replied to this question (23 women and 4 men), and 20 of them said that they would expect or offer to pay half the bill. No counting up what they’ve had either, a straightforward 50/50 split.

Strangely enough, there seem to be a few women out there who still think it’s “good manners” for the man to offer to pay, which I think is slightly bizarre as we are in the 21st century. However, many people agreed that, if any one person should pay for the meal, it should be the one who did the inviting or selected the venue. My second question was: if you want to pay for both meals, should you offer before ordering or just when the bill arrives? 17 people responded to that question (13 female and 4 male), and 14 of them were sure that offering when the bill came was the most polite way to go about it. It was recommended to not push the matter if your date refuses and specifically announcing your intention to pay in advance was largely avoided against. As one tweeter eloquently put it, “you can hint before (Can I take you to X? My treat!), but making it very explicit could be seen as imposing/showing off.”

All in all, it looks like my initial opinion on the matter is shared by at least a few others. I thought it was probably best to only offer to pay, if you are willing and able, once the bill arrives. However, doing so should be along the lines of, “I’d like to pay for this but am happy to split it if you’d prefer”. I’d never expect someone to pay because of their gender, but would be happy to accept a bill-settling offer I knew they earned a lot more than me… or if they’d invited me to a restaurant I couldn’t really afford to eat in! All in all, it’s a tricky business this first date lark. Whatever you do, from bill paying to conversation topic choice, will be a slight worry and so you can only hope that you create a good first impression. Still, it’s nice to have good advice. So, dear readers, what do you think is good first date etiquette?

A version of this article first appeared on BitchBuzz in 2010. Image via Iwona Kellie‘s Flickr photostream.