If you’re lucky, you will find a great group of people to socialize with during your stay in the United States. However, if you’re going out in groups, it may lead to a sticky situation where you don’t know how to split a bill. Here are the common ways groups divvy up costs in America.
“It’s my treat!”
Sometimes, one friend will pay for the group. In this case, you can go along as a guest and you will not need to pay. However, it would be polite if you return the favor in the future. In other words, if your friend takes you out to eat, plan on inviting him or her out to eat (and paying for the meal) soon.
“Let’s go dutch.”
If someone suggests going dutch, this means that he or she wants to split the bill equally among group members. That means that everyone will pay an equal percentage of the total cost, regardless of what you ordered or did. For example, if four people go out to eat and the bill totals $100, each person will need to pay $25. This is a very common way to pay for group events in the U.S., but some people dislike it because you may end up paying for more than you used.
“Let’s get separate checks.”
Since some people dislike going dutch, it is also common for groups to get separate checks. This means that the group completely divides expenses by person. To clarify, if you get separate checks, you will only be responsible for what you ordered or did because you separated the bills up front. If you want to do this at a restaurant, it is important to tell your server before you order.
As a final note, in the U.S., couples often count themselves as one person. This means that when you go dutch with a couple, they may not divide the bill by head. Obviously, this may shift the balance of the bill, so just be sure to clarify how you will pay before you go out.
East Bay ESL is an English language school for adult students in the San Francisco East Bay.