Everyone has their own idea about the most polite way to split the bill at a restaurant. Some people prefer their own itemized check, so they only pay for what they ate and drank. Other people are more relaxed about the whole affair, splitting the bill evenly rather than haggle over glasses of wine and sides of French fries. There are others still who reject the concept of going Dutch, entirely, insisting that they cover the entire bill themselves – as long as their friends get the check next time, of course. In fact, in many cultures it’s actually customary – expected even – for an argument to erupt over who gets the honor of paying the dinner bill. Restaurant etiquette in a new country can be a tough nut to crack, in other words.
You’re probably already familiar with how people in your part of the world prefer to split the bill. But when you’re traveling somewhere you’ve never been before, there’s no doubt that if the customs are different than what you’re used to, splitting the bill can turn into an awkward ordeal. Some people might throw down their credit cards, while all others have is cash, and then it might turn out that the restaurants won’t even offer separate checks. That’s why it’s best to come to any new place you might be visiting with the necessary information on local etiquette when it comes to paying the dinner bill. Same thing goes for tipping – most countries have their very own customs when it comes to leaving gratuity behind, too. That way, you never get caught looking foolish when it’s time to close your tab. Here’s proper etiquette for splitting the bill from 21 countries around the world.
AUSTRALIA: Splitting the bill is common practice in Australia. Friends often are happy to split the bill evenly, but it’s also acceptable to only pay for what you ate and drank.
CANADA: Some restaurants in Canada will create separate checks, depending on how many people are in your party, otherwise it’s expected that
CHINA: In China splitting the bill is known as ‘AA,’ but it’s not a widespread practice. According to CNN, it’s “splitting the bill is a relatively new idea to most Chinese.” Mostly, you’ll find younger people willing to split the bill at dinner, but for older folks, it’s much less common. Friendly arguments break out over who will cover the bill – it’s considered honorable, generous, and as one blogger put it, Chinese people “insist on picking up the tab to keep ‘mian zi,’ or face.”
FRANCE: Not only is it not the norm in France to split the bill, it’s considered impolite. Friends like to take turns treating each other to a meal, and if you’re the one that suggested the meal or you’re playing host, expect to be the one to pay. In more casual settings, sometimes going Dutch is okay, but the check will probably be split evenly.
GERMANY: Waiters will often ask “together or separate,” at restaurants in Germany. If you opt to pay separately, the waiter will come with checks for each person in the party. That way, you don’t have to worry about haggling over who ate what at dinner.
GREECE: If you ask to split the bill while out to dinner in Greece, you risk looking rude. The best way to approach paying for dinner is to offer to cover the check and rest assured that your friends will most likely return the favor at the next meal.
ICELAND: You don’t have to worry about awkwardness over splitting in Iceland – it’s a completely acceptable practice.
IRAN: In Iran, friends will often argue who will cover the restaurant bill, so don’t expect to encounter many people who will want to split the bill.
IRELAND: Ireland is popular for its bill one-upmanship. Anne Merrit, who has family there, says: “There’s lots of arguing and grabbing that toes the line between good-natured and ruthless. It’s really awkward to witness as an outsider. My grandfather goes as far as slipping the waiter his credit card before the meal has even begun in order to nip an argument in the bud.”
ISRAEL: Travel forums give conflicting advice, but the cultural norm in general seems to pay with cash if you can, even though credit cards are often acceptable (though probably not preferred). Splitting the bill is acceptable as well, but it might be best to ask the restaurant if they allow this payment method beforehand.
ITALY: In Italy, cash is also the preferred method of payment, and most restaurants will find it inconvenient to split the bill among multiple people, especially if you’re trying to pay by card. If you’re with a group, the best thing to do is ask if they’d be willing to split the bill before you find a table. More complicated ways of splitting the bill, wherein some people pay with cash while others put down their cards, probably won’t be allowed.
JAPAN: In Japan, splitting the restaurant bill is known as warikan. Usually, the bill will be split evenly, rather than each person paying only for what they ate and drank. It’s good practice to let the restaurant know beforehand if you intend to split the bill.
LEBANON: Social norms in Lebanon dictate that you will never split a dinner bill, even on a casual occasion out with friends. Arguments tend to break out over the restaurant bill, with everyone at the table insisting that they’d be honored to pay for dinner. The practice is so common that a Lebanese television station even made a sketch parodying two men getting in a literal fist fight over the check.
MEXICO: Splitting the bill is uncommon in Mexico. Whoever invites friends or family out to a meal is the one to pay the bill.
NORWAY: In Norway it is considered polite to allow your dinner companions to split the bill with you, rather than insisting too vehemently that one person cover the entire cost.
PHILIPPINES: Shorthand for the splitting the bill in the Philippines is “KKB” or “kaniya-kaniyang bayad,” meaning “each pays their own.” It’s totally acceptable practice among groups of friends and even on first dates.
PORTUGAL: You’re likely to witness a friendly kerfuffle over who will pick up the check. If you invited your friends or family out to dinner though, you’ll probably be expected to pay for the meal.
SCOTLAND: Splitting the bill is common practice in Scotland, but it’s even more polite to let the restaurant know you plan on paying separately before you order. Otherwise, it’s completely acceptable to pay the check with a few different cards or cash.
SOUTH AFRICA: At casual dinners among friends, splitting the bill is the norm.
SOUTH KOREA: If you’re out to dinner with someone older than you, that person will likely cover the dinner bill. Even during more casual dinners among friends, splitting the bill isn’t the default. Usually, one person will offer to cover the check, while the other diners insist that they will treat whoever paid at the next mean. However, norms are changing, so you might encounter more willingness to split the check.
SPAIN: In Spain, paying the bill largely depends on the region you’re in. It’s not common practice, but you will find that in some parts of the country, splitting the bill is nicknamed, “a la Catalana,” meaning that everyone pays their own way.
SWEDEN: In Sweden, it’s not very likely that couples will split the bill on a date – usually one person covers the entire check. At a group dinner, expect to split the bill, or in some cases, one person will cover the whole check but be asked to be reimbursed on one of the many apps for splitting the bill. Cashless payment is also the norm.
THAILAND: Splitting the bill is common in Thailand, especially among friends, but it’s also regular practice for the host to cover the dinner check for the whole group. In fact, the custom among Thai people is that the oldest person at the table – who is often considered the most financially stable – will pay for the meal. If your host does insist on covering the check, arguing or trying to pay your share would be considered rude.
UNITED KINGDOM: Splitting the bill is common practice at restaurants throughout the United Kingdom. Some people prefer to split the bill evenly to avoid an awkward confrontation over who ate what. But this position is not without controversy: Some Brits, for instance, believe calculating precisely what each person owes is the only way to go, despite any awkwardness this might cause.
UNITED STATES: The bill is usually split evenly, and nickel and diming can even be considered tacky. However, it’s not uncommon to simply pay for what you ordered, but getting separate bills can be considered a pain.
VIETNAM: It’s not customary to split the bill, even among friends. The host, or whoever handled organizing the group dinner, is responsible for paying the bill. However, often friends are expected to repay the favor at the next dinner. Even if you are with a group of friends who agree to split the bill, don’t bother trying to pay only for what you ate – Vietnamese restaurants won’t create separate checks so you’ll end up splitting the bill evenly.