In Hong Kong, men are always expected to pay on a date. There are of course exceptions to the rule but for the most part, an overwhelming majority of Hong Kong women consider paying the bill to be men’s responsibility. The rule is simple – men always pay. This rule is so ingrained in Hong Kong society that when a couple asks for the bill, the waiter will always instinctively give the bill to the man. No exceptions.
Men have been expected to provide since the old days
In imperial China, the patriarch provides whilst their wives and concubines bear and raise children. The value of a wife or concubine depends on whether she can bear a male heir for the patriarch. Women were property of men. When they are born, they must obey their fathers. Once married, they must obey their husbands. When their husbands die, they must obey their sons. They always seek men to provide.
Confucian values continue to dominate our thinking
Fast forward to the 21st century. Women are no longer property of men. But Confucian values, when it comes to who is expected to provide, continues to dominate our society. Though many career women today earn more money than men, many are still looking for men with ability to provide. They still expect men to pay for dinner, not because women don’t have money, but because intuitively, they want to be taken care of.
The expectation has burdened many Hong Kong men
Undoubtedly, this has created much burden for some Hong Kong men who are simply not that well off to always pay for dinners. To add insult to injury, some women would choose “romantic restaurants” which are incredibly expensive. This causes resentment. And as for the men who do have the ability to pay, they are often turned off by women who feel entitled to free meals. This is inevitably a lose-lose situation.
Do Western women expect men to pay the bill?
A friend of mine once asked me whether it is normal for Western women to expect men to pay. I am not an expert on this topic, but after some research, I found different schools of thought. Whilst some women want to feel pampered by men paying, others feel insulted or patronised if men insist paying. Nevertheless, from the male perspective, it is always advised for men to pay, at least on the first date, for a good first impression.
I believe that it is perfectly fine for a woman to expect a man to pay for her dinner. But the reality is that not every man has the ability to do so. And even if he has the ability, he might be put off by a women who feels entitled. A friend has told me that he doesn’t mind paying, but he would want her to pay from time to time, even if only for drinks or desserts, just as a token of appreciation. I think this appreciation is the real issue.