When I got a Dutch bank account, I also started internet banking and downloaded the app. When I was trying to check my balance as I usually did with my Chinese bank app, something strange but really interesting caught my eye. It was the function button of ‘split the bill’ that lets you share costs with people you know. To me this reflects the deep cultural consensus on splitting the bill in the Netherlands.
Splitting the bill is never considered an option in traditional Chinese culture. We like to treat rather than to split the bill, which might suggest that you want to end the relationship with the other person. Both offering and accepting a treat mean you want to stay in touch and that you care about the relationship. The Chinese also have a ‘favour balance’, which decides who should pay the bill. Generally, the ‘favour balance’ can be understood as how much you owe. And the people who are in debt should obviously do something if they still want to keep the relationship going.
When you need help, the quickest, safest and cheapest thing to do is to ask a favour from a friend who is a professional in this field. Thanks to our Confucian education we will remember the favour a friend did us and try to pay them back. You either can help them when they are in need, or treat them to a really good meal. When you give back, you keep your favour balance balanced. This may sound calculating, but it is not. It is just a way we make friends and maintain relationships. But we are not total strangers to the concept of splitting the bill, because we have already accepted a lot of western culture since the late 1990s and it is becoming more and more popular for young people to pay the bill together when they hang out.
Shengle Huang, Chinese MSc student of Environmental Sciences