What's new

Taking Japanese out to dinner

Seito

先輩
Joined
May 9, 2005
Messages
35
Reaction score
5
Hi,
It's been a long time since I posted here. I'm interested in Japan, but I've never been there, so I don't have much to tell :emoji_slight_smile:
I have a question, but I'll need to explain the situation first. A good friend of mine was a Belgian who lived in Japan for a long time. He died a while ago, and now 2 Japanese ladies want to come to Belgium to visit his grave and have a short stay here. I've never met them but they got in touch with me and I've been helping them out preparing their visit. When they come I will take them to Antwerp and have dinner with them. I'm thinking of paying their dinner, but I'm just wondering what they would normally expect in this kind of situation: that I pay, because I act in a way as a hostess, or that they pay as a way of thanking me for my help?
 

OoTmaster

先輩
Joined
Oct 23, 2012
Messages
738
Reaction score
119
Usually in Japan when I was meeting with friends we would split the bill. Sometimes I would insist they let me pay and other times they would insist I let them pay. I would say the best way to go about it if you wish to pay for it is to offer to pay and see how they react. If you share a common language you can of course discuss picking up the tab beforehand if you're comfortable discussing something like that with them.
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
16,454
Reaction score
2,233
The classy way to handle it is for you to tell the restaurant not to bring a check to the table. You excuse yourself briefly during the meal and go pay for it. Or in some other way make arrangements with the restaurant to handle the check before or after.

This way you finish eating and just get up and walk out and the issue of who pays never comes up.
 

Seito

先輩
Joined
May 9, 2005
Messages
35
Reaction score
5
Thank you both for replying :emoji_slight_smile:

Yes, I will offer to pay and see how they react. It's just that coming from different cultures it may be difficult to gauge each others reactions correctly. If you offer to pay, few people will just say 'Oh, OK'. But do they protest a little for formality's sake or do they really not want me to pay for their meal...

Paying the check almost secretly like you suggest, Mike Cash, does not seem such a good idea to me though. They're sure to ask about it if we just get up and go, and if they really feel awkward about me paying for them, they won't be happy that I sort of tricked them into it.

If anyone else wants to share their opinion about what Japanese expect in this kind of situation, I'll be glad to read it :emoji_slight_smile:
 

Seito

先輩
Joined
May 9, 2005
Messages
35
Reaction score
5
Where do you think I learned that?
Yes, in Japan I suppose. But I just wonder about it because it doesn't give the other one a choice anymore. Is it standard practice in Japan for the host(ess) to pay the bill that way? As I'm not sure what they expect, at the moment I would go for asking them and hoping I can estimate their reaction correctly. I'm still interested in hearing other people's experience too, if that's OK with you :emoji_wink:
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
16,454
Reaction score
2,233
I'm still interested in hearing other people's experience too, if that's OK with you
Certainly, that's fine with me. I would be interested as well.
 

joadbres

八方凡人
Joined
Sep 19, 2016
Messages
676
Reaction score
227
I'm just wondering what they would normally expect in this kind of situation
I don't think that Japanese customs are terribly different from those of other cultures when it comes to something like this. Most Japanese, though, tend to be very good at mentally keeping track of who did a favor for whom, and will not allow things to become too lopsided in their favor. Because you did not previously know these people, and are going out of your way to help them, they will almost certainly wish to pay the full dinner bill, unless they have already treated you to other things earlier in the trip.
They almost certainly will not be expecting you to pay the full bill.
Of course, there are mitigating factors, such as who chooses the restaurant and how expensive the meals are there. We don't know those factors, so you will have to use your judgment.
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
16,454
Reaction score
2,233
I think men and women may tend to handle these things differently and it may even be more of a factor than the difference in countries and cultures. I hope someone more familiar with that aspect of it will also give their input.
 

Lothor

Sempai
Donor
Joined
Sep 26, 2015
Messages
536
Reaction score
195
I agree with joadbres on this one. I think they will almost certainly want to pay the bill as an acknowledgement that you've put yourself out for them (even if you feel that you haven't). They may even go back to Japan happier if they have paid and don't have a feeling of an 'outstanding debt' - I often feel that Japanese people have quite a strong 'account book' approach to relationships (not necessarily a criticism). If they want to pay, I wouldn't argue too hard against it.
 

KyushuWoozy

Sempai
Donor
Joined
Dec 13, 2015
Messages
202
Reaction score
43
Yes, I will offer to pay and see how they react.
They will react by (almost) definitely offering to pay. It then just depends on who insists more strongly so better you decide beforehand. But isn't this the same in most cultures?

In Asia (not Japan specifically) I usually follow the simple rule that whoever did the inviting will finally pay. But this will be after the ritualistic both sides offering to pay.

However I wouldn't overt-think this. There isn't one simple rule.

Reminds me of the time years ago my mum and auntie almost came to blows both insisting they would do the washing up after a big family dinner ... I remember it all these years later because there was even some pushing and shoving and my auntie almost fell over.
 

WonkoTheSane

先輩
Joined
May 12, 2013
Messages
1,335
Reaction score
300
Reminds me of the time years ago my mum and auntie almost came to blows both insisting they would do the washing up after a big family dinner ... I remember it all these years later because there was even some pushing and shoving and my auntie almost fell over.
I'm quite careful to give up that fight well before I'm in danger of winning it.
 

Seito

先輩
Joined
May 9, 2005
Messages
35
Reaction score
5
Thanks everyone for your input.

It was my proposal to have dinner together. They only vaguely hinted they didn't know where to go in Antwerp. They also let me choose the restaurant. And yes, I heard both about the rule that the one who invites usually pays, and that Japanese like to 'repay' every debt, so those rules are in conflict here.

Well, I'll just offer to pay as I'm the one who invited them, and try to make it clear my offer is genuine. But if I get the impression that it's really important to them to pay as a way to thank me I won't keep insisting. (And probably feel a little awkward myself that strangers are paying my dinner, but that's just me :emoji_wink:)

Anyway, I'll let you know how it went :emoji_slight_smile:
 

OoTmaster

先輩
Joined
Oct 23, 2012
Messages
738
Reaction score
119
Well, I'll just offer to pay as I'm the one who invited them, and try to make it clear my offer is genuine. But if I get the impression that it's really important to them to pay as a way to thank me I won't keep insisting. (And probably feel a little awkward myself that strangers are paying my dinner, but that's just me :emoji_wink:)
That's how friendships work. Sometimes you let yourself feel a bit awkward or a bit of discomfort in order to not offend the other party. Finding that balance where neither party is too uncomfortable or awkward feeling is the way it all is supposed to work.
 

nice gaijin

Resident Realist
Staff member
Moderator
Donor
Joined
Aug 8, 2005
Messages
5,366
Reaction score
566
If you want to pay, I like Mike's suggestion, as it removes the potentially awkward (and highly culturally contextual) argument over who gets to pay for the bill. It may stunt their efforts to show gratitude to you for your hospitality in helping them come and grieve for their friend, but they may find some other way to repay you. If you agree to meet up for another meal or show them around any more, I'd let them handle those bills as they'll most likely insist on doing.
 

Seito

先輩
Joined
May 9, 2005
Messages
35
Reaction score
5
Thanks everyone.

I met them. They were so up nice and friendly, and very concerned not to put me to too much trouble. We visited the grave together, I showed them around in Antwerp and we had dinner in a restaurant where I had made a reservation. Because I thought it might give rise to a bit of discussion, I already mentioned during the meal that I was thinking of paying for their dinner, as I had invited them there. They protested because I had already done so much for them. We didn't discuss it for long; I had the impression they wanted to pay, wasn't totally sure so I thought I'd bring up the subject again when I'd ask for the bill. But then after the meal I went to the lavatory, and when I came back they had already paid. Apparently they meant it and didn't want any more discussion :emoji_relaxed: Well, it's OK, I understand they felt they had to do something in return. I didn't feel too awkward about it after all, and I think they were happier this way :emoji_relaxed:

They are sisters, one of them lives in Japan and the other one in the US, where she has a Japanese restaurant. When we met, the one living in America seemed to want to give me a hug. I had already put my hand forward though, as I expected a handshake (Japanese usually being rather formal, I thought). So we shook hands. When we said goodbye, she gave me a hug, and so I gave her sister a hug as well. The one living in Japan may not have been used to that 🙂:
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
16,454
Reaction score
2,233
But then after the meal I went to the lavatory, and when I came back they had already paid.
Sounds vaguely familiar for some strange reason......

Glad everything worked out pleasantly for all of you.
 
Top