Dear Lulu Jeh: I need to know – what’s the etiquette for paying for the first date in Hong Kong? I am a girl in my mid-20s. I met an older guy and got along with him pretty well, so when he asked me out, I said yes.
The thing was, he made me split the check at dinner. The worst part? His credit card was declined, and during his awkward exchange with the waiter about the issue, I seriously thought the bill was mine to pick up. In the end, we split the bill in cash.
He then insisted that he wanted to take me to the newest watering hole in Central, so I thought I would give him another chance. He ended up making me pay for the drinks! He didn’t even flinch or try to act like he was going to pay.
He seemed so excited about going there — which should surely mean he would pick up the check, especially as he had made me split dinner.
So could you tell me once and for all: who pays for the first date in Hong Kong?! — Cash Me On Dates
Dear CMOD: Oh dear, the age-old question of who pays on first dates. It sounds like you had a pretty awkward situation on your hands.
There are different schools of thought on this. We all know that, in Hong Kong culture, it’s typically acceptable to assume the guy will settle the bill. But then, there are plenty of people who think that splitting it should be the done thing.
So what should you do when you pull an insincere “wallet grab,” only to end up actually parting with the cash inside it?
While I agree that it was weird for him to make you pay for drinks — he was keen to go there, after all — there’s no “right” or “wrong” way of handling who pays for a first date in Hong Kong.
Some people like to thank their date for an enjoyable dinner by paying for drinks afterwards. Others will offer to pay on a second date. Perhaps he assumed you were having a good time, seeing as you agreed to prolong the date?
The best thing to do? Come prepared to pay. That means always having enough cash on you for three things: your share of dinner/drinks; your cab ride home; and “bail money” (that is, the cash you throw down on the table before you run away, should the date go badly). Or, in your case, when the guy was clearly running out of money (see: declined credit card).
But really, next time you’re not feeling your date at dinner, don’t bother sticking around. Just save yourself the headache and go home.
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