Split the Bill: Who Pays for a Meal?

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In China, when people have lunch or dinner together, who pays the check? It depends.

If you invite your friends or your client to lunch or dinner, then you should pay. If they invite you, then they pay. If it's not clear who invited whom, then everyone fights for the check.

Older generations almost never split the check. It’s common to see people fighting for the check in a restaurant. The Chinese concept of "saving face" (要面子, yào miànzi) is the main reason behind the fight. Everyone wants to be generous and show that they can afford to treat everyone. If someone were unable to even offer to pay the bill, it would be embarassing and they would "lose face" (丢面子, diū miànzi) or respect among their peers.

Younger generations in China are comfortable with the custom of splitting the bill, especially when they are having dinner with close friends. It is still considered a nice gesture to treat people to a meal, especially clients, but it does not hold the same consequences of "saving face" as in the past.


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