Not only Chinese, but many Asians in general love to insist on paying the bill. It is about dignity and honor. Offering to pay the bill after a meal or dinner is considered to be polite. Bill fights can be amusing sometimes, but in rare cases they can also be quite serious. According to an article from 3 Nov 2016 on shanghaiist.com, a man knocked a friend unconscious, because he picked a bill and paid for it, causing him to lose face.
In China, it’s a time-honored tradition to battle over who gets to pay at the end of a meal. Paying means gaining all-important “face” or esteem in front of your friends or colleagues. (shanghaiist 3 Nov 2016)
Many things in China, that seem difficult to westerners actually relate to the same familiar concepts of face, hierarchy or other traditional aspects. Money is often a universal marker for success, people in China sometimes love to impress others with their status. One simple way to do this is simply being generous or afford a lot. Younger people today, especially Asians that are raised in western society have a change in their attitude.
For many paying the bill is not just about dignity, another aspect is love and giving. Money is not easy to earn for many and the willingness to provide for other can be considered as an act for compassionate giving or sacrifice. While it is normal for westerners to pay separate or as they say “to go dutch” it is something shocking for many Chinese. Since building relationships is very important in China, paying for the bill means to show appreciation and the desire to maintain the relationship. To help you get along in China, we have summed up the most important 101 rules on dinning etiquette
Dinning Etiquette : 101 Rules
- Older people pay for the younger ones
- Insist to pay the bill yourself, if somebody offers to pay it
- Chinese sometimes would say that they need to go to the bathroom at the end of the meal, just so they can pay the bill.
- If you lose the bill-battle, it does not mean embarrassment, just pay the next time
- If it is your birthday and you have invited people, then you pay the bill
- Gender equality does not exist in romantic dinners in China, the man has to pay
- Business dinners are more complicated, it depends who is invited including factors like hierarchy and who wants what from whom
- You are not expected to pay the bill when visiting someone at home, getting invited for dinner (with implication that he is going to pay), being a guest of a company or family
- You are expected to pay when asking somebody for a favor, thanking somebody, you want to celebrate an important event in your life or you are the senior person at the table
You are not supposed to get physical or touching people when insisting to pay. Grabbing hands between friends is regarded as normal. As mentioned above “secret payments” are one of the few tricks, but this is more popular on business-dinners or between people who you can expect to argue heavily every time.