• Mina Bilkis

Who picks up the check? 🤔

When you're at a restaurant...who picks up the check?

Is it awkward? Should it be? What are the customs in your country or social group?


I like to look at picking up the check just like I deem diverse backgrounds from mine - it's a matter of culture, because in fact picking up the check varies from culture to culture as to who the onus is on to pay it.


For example:

I attended part of my high school studies here in Freetown at the Lebanese International School. Naturally I went to school with Lebanese students and I have a few very good Lebanese friends to date. In Middle Eastern/Arab culture, an Arab or Middle Easterner will NEVER let you pay the bill. Whenever I link up with my Lebanese friends and I reach for my wallet, my hand is swatted and I am berated for even "daring" to insult them in such a manner. Even if I initiated the hang out. I have never paid in the presence of my Lebanese or other Middle Eastern/Arab friends. (not that I am complaining o, Ya'Allah I am not here to block my future blessings🤣). It is just an observation.


On the other hand:

I have been out with my Western or American friends and as soon as the bill arrives they all become Mathematicians and I am hit with "Yasmine you owe $21.57, and don't forget that tip" and again that's fine.


For this and many other reasons, this is why I truly believe picking up the check is in fact it's own culture; it varies from generation to gender, to cultural background and more.


So again my question stands, who picks up the check in these various situations?


In Western culture (especially amongst millennials) it is presumed everyone pays for him or herself, and rightfully so. I get that. Having been born and raised in the West, capitalism is ingrained in you before you even utter your first word. The notion that you have to work hard for what you want and "if I can do it, so you can too" attitude is the foundation of that society, so we all have this innate sense of survival to fend for yourself and take care of your needs first. Some cultures may deem this as selfish but again it is a matter of perspective - a mentality which differs from your own based on your cultural beliefs and ideologies.


I remember once in The States, I met a Cameroonian lady and we had mutual friends. We all went out for dinner. She had just arrived to the United States and was still acclimating to her new found home. Of course, Americans being the stellar Mathematicians they are when the bill comes, I saw confusion sweep over Dominique's* (*not her real name but let's call her that) face like:

I quickly told her in French "Sista o...hmm this is America, we pay for ourselves o" and she quickly got her wallet and paid for her share and we left the restaurant. On our walk home, Dominique asked me "Hein Yasmine, aux Etats-Unis, c'est ça?" (Hmmm Yasmine, it's like that in America?), I then turned to her with sympathy in my eyes and responded "Ma soeur, c'est ça ici o." (My sister, it's like that o). And we laughed all the way home.


You see, because Dominique was invited by our mutual friend for dinner, she was under the impression that our friend would be footing the bill. It is common in African cultures that the "host" or "initiator" picks up the check. Of course gender and/or age may play a role, but for the most part it is the host/initiator who picks up the check.


For me, I feel there are a few basic picking up the check rules etiquette one should be mindful of:


1. If you initiate the hang out with someone who is your peer or friend, you can safely assume you're going dutch; splitting the check, unless stated otherwise.


2. If you are going out with someone [significantly] older than you (maybe 10 or 20 years), personally I feel s/he should pay BUT do not go with your entitlement and go there empty handed. At least make the attempt to offer even if it's insincere.


For example (🤣), if I'm going out with someone; the initiator and it happens to be a member of the opposite sex (not necessarily much older or "older" than me). When the check comes, I always do the "oh are you sure you don't want split it?" I initiate this twice. He will respond with "No it's fine" or something to that effect... I will then ask for the last and final time (😏), "are you SURE?" and again he will respond the same. I then drop it. Did I have any intention of paying that bill? Hell no, but it's the thought that counts. 😊


Ok. But awhile back, a colleague was in town for just a few days. I found out through our WhatsApp group and reached out to her, because I know how it feels to travel for work in a different city where you know little to no one. So I asked if she would like to grab lunch or coffee -- she opted for lunch. I obliged and offered to pick her up at her accommodation. So we get to the restaurant and have a lovely time. Then the awkwardness comes in:


The bill arrives and the server gave it to me (I assume because I asked for it, but that's another story - maybe the next blog post should be titled "who should receive the bill?"). So my colleague was actually twice my age. I'm not saying I EXPECTED her to pay but I believe if:


a) you earn significantly more than the other party

and/or

b) you are significantly older than the other party


you should pick up the check. Like c'mon!


Nope. Aunty just sat there, while I was like:

Here I am seated thinking "Kai, Oluwa who sent me o?" ...in the spirit of being nice, look at the wahala that has befallen me.

Aunty then said "Do I owe anything?", me being petty I was like "ummm yeah, you can put XYZ" calling the exact amount she owed 🤣. She paid it forward, we settled our bill and bounced.


I mean, I would have been highly upset if I had to pay that check by my lonesome. It's not that I couldn't afford it, I just think it's the principle of the matter.


and last but not least:


3) If the encounter is romantic in nature, like a date for example. I still would refer to rule one, down to the initiator. In these harsh economic times and climate we find ourselves in, I don't expect a man to pay for every single meal. I know some women will disagree but to each her own. I have never felt comfortable with that "culture" that one person should do something because of their gender. It's like saying domestic chores should be done solely by women (see what I did there?😏). I just don't agree. If a man insists on paying for the meal, I'll chime in to get dessert or pay the tip or something. #FeministAF

On the other hand some men insist on always paying the check or some people go dutch. Whatever works for you I guess.


But know where you stand either way to save yourself from embarrassment.


But one thing I will say about Sierra Leoneans is that we have a very hospitable and "take care of you" culture. I have been treated from complete strangers to people I went to school with. Being in this kind of culture you find the spirit to pass it on and I also return the favor to the next person. And I am sure others who come to Sierra Leone and other Sierra Leoneans would agree. All that said, irrespective of who picks up the check remember to:

a) not clown yourself. Duya tek moni wit yu, nor go disgrace yu sef fo yu mama (please take money with you, don't disgrace your family).


b) Because you're being treated do not take the piss and order the most expensive thing on the menu. Basically refer to a)


c) Be kind. If you're treated, offer to treat the next round or treat someone else. Sharing is caring. 🤗


“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” - Amelia Earhart

What's the asking out or paying the check culture in your country? I would love to hear about it in the comments. Let me know!


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