Titbit of the day - recently i asked my boss (who is a Dutch), where did the term 'going dutch' come from. It was only then did i realise it has a sort of derisory meaning to it. It could be that traditionally Dutch people are stereotyped as stingy and tight-fisted which is why it could have a negative connotation. Another saying is that because Dutch are traditionally very hard working people (stemming from a protestant culture), they watch each dollar that they spent carefully and do not want to waste anything.
For most of my life, i had assumed going dutch in a meal means splitting the bill equally. However, technically, it means just paying for what you order. So in a group setting, if someone orders a bottle of wine, and you are a non-alcoholic, you only pay for your food and not the wine. Same applies if someone ordered a dessert and you are on a diet and choose not to partake. You should not be made to pay for that.
I think this is a good thing - as it levels the financial playing field amongst people and allow everyone to have a good time while sticking to their own budget. You can enjoy the company of your friends in an expensive restaurant, but choose to order something that suits your wallet whilst your friends can order entree, first main, second main, dessert and wine if it so makes them happy. You then do not need feel obligated to split and 'subsidize' their meal if you choose a cheaper option.
Have you ever felt pressured to order a more expensive option to be in line with the rest of your friends (even though you are really on a budget) because you know that the group of friends you are with will almost certainly split the bill equally - so that, in Singaporean term, you do not 'lui gi' or lose out when it comes to settling the bill?
In an Asian context, i think it could be a 'face' or ego thing not to highlight the fact that maybe you did not eat the dessert, or did not order a drink, and just pay the same as the rest. Others may stereotype you as 'stingy' or 'calculative', or it could be that you yourself feel that others may view you so.
THAT is definitely not wallet-friendly. Maybe more so if you are a male and in a senior position, and you could feel the pressure to pay/treat the others or others could expect you to do that? That is enough of a damper to prevent you from hanging out often enough.
Or if the group of friends you are with somehow always wait for you to settle the bill first and conveniently 'forget' to pay you back? Are you the thick-skinned type to chase back the money?
[Actually i don't understand why people don't just take out the cash and immediately pay back the guy who paid first - is it so difficult?]
I'd be a downer if i didn't try to put out a few solutions, so here goes: -
(1) If you only ate a main, and the others have desserts - when the bill come, be the first to pull out your cash and place it on the table, saying i only had a pasta, and this should cover it.
(2) If somehow you paid first and it's a group setting, send a broadcast message to the group detailing the amount to be paid, together with bank account details. People are not singled out and probably won't be offended with a 'debt collector'. Even then, some people are not 'automatic' enough to pay up, and that's when you need to personalized a collection message.
(3) Suggest an alternative place which is more wallet friendly
(4) Minimize hanging out with people who tend to order expensive stuffs and expect you to split bills equally. Either you join them in eating expensive stuff (and engage in a lose-lose war, lol)
There~ 4 solutions to help you stick to your budget, and still have some level of social life. [Actually i suggest option 4 if your friends do not understand if you have a budget to stick to. Those likely are not your true friends anyway].