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Who Should Pay on a Date in Singapore?

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Joanne Poh

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So a friend of mine goes on a blind date and the guy takes her to Starbucks. When they’re at the counter, he leaves her to pay for her own drink, paying for his with a voucher. She refuses to see him again.

Another friend goes out with a girl he met on WeChat. After two or three dates, he suggests going to a hawker centre. She replies that she doesn’t like to eat at places without air con. He promptly deletes her from his contact list.

(True stories, in case you’re wondering.)

Dating in Singapore isn’t just a simple matter of waiting to see if sparks fly. Whether you like it or not, money plays a big part, and making a blunder on a date like not footing the bill when the other party expects you to can sound the death knell for your budding relationship.

Here are some money conundrums and what’s the right thing to do in each situation.

 

Who pays on a date?

One of the biggest questions that both men and women alike have is who should pay on a date, especially in the early stages of a relationship.

It is true that many Singaporean men believe they should pay on a first date, and continue to pay in the early stages of the relationship. Women tend to be divided on the issue. Many believe you should offer to split the bill, although there are some who feel distaste if the guy accepts.

Then there are those women who use dating apps like Tinder and OKCupid just for the free food.

To avoid misunderstandings or leave your date with yet another Tinder horror story, here are two rules which, if you follow, will ensure nobody gets hurt.

1. The party who asks the other out on the date should be prepared to foot the entire bill.

2. The party who is asked out on the date should be prepared to split the bill, or pick up the tab on drinks/dessert/the next date.

3. Both parties should make a sincere effort to show their commitment to paying or contributing.

Most of the time, when people get offended that one party didn’t pick up the tab or offer to split the bill, it’s not really about the money per se. Rather, it’s because they feel used. They have the feeling their date is with them only for a free meal, or isn’t willing to spend a little to spend time with them.

There is no hard and fast rule on who actually pays—ask a bunch of Singaporeans on who actually ends up paying on a first date and you’ll get all types of answers.

But it’s quite clear that people do get offended when they feel the other party does not have the intention to cover or share the cost of the date. Which leads us to our next point….

 

What if the place is too expensive for one of you?

Okay, you say, I don’t mind paying, but I’m a student / unemployed / underpaid and really can’t afford to pay for my share of that $100 meal. So I have no choice but to sit back and let my date pick up the tab. Right?

Well, think about it this way. If your friends invited you to a restaurant you couldn’t afford, what would you do? Sit back and let them pay? Of course not, unless you’re a complete douchebag. You would either suggest a cheaper place or decline the invitation.

The same goes for dates, especially if you’re with someone you’re just getting to know. Sure, you might be certain they’ll try to foot the entire bill. But since we’re talking about etiquette here, the polite thing to do would be to refuse to go anywhere where you can’t afford to pay at least your own share.

The same things applies to ordering the most expensive item on the menu. If you wouldn’t pay $100 for lobster, don’t expect someone else to do it for you.

 

What happens if one if you is much older or richer than the other?

Everyone has a few friends who are dating much older or richer people, and this often catapults their activities to a much higher cost bracket. When that happens, the older or higher earning party usually ends up paying.

This is all fine and dandy… if the party paying doesn’t mind feeling like a pimp or a sugar daddy, that is.

The problem in Singapore is that people always tend to spend as much as one of the parties can afford. It’s our upgrading disease. Why buy a four room flat when you can afford a five room? So if one person in a couple is wealthy, people immediately assume they’re going to be eating caviar all day long.

If you’re starting to get a little uncomfortable, remember that it’s the responsibility of both parties to choose cheaper activities that both of you can afford. One person treating the other now and then is fine, but it’s easy to see why not everybody would be comfortable with one relying on the other financially 100% of the time, especially if they’re in the early stages of a relationship.

If you’re the party who’s making piles of cash, resist the urge to constantly show your date what living the high life is all about. And if you’re the one who’s broke, don’t feel ashamed to suggest eating at McDonald’s once in a while.

The ideal situation is one where both parties compromise and find a solution that both can afford and are comfortable with, without either feeling used or uncomfortable.

What other awkward money situations have you encountered in the dating game? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.