So I’m going to generalise for my own amusement and to basically bring across a fact about the manner in which different races behave regarding ‘bill’ etiquette. Does bill etiquette depend on your cultural background or is it purely a question of race? I believe it’s a combination of both, but I leave room to be corrected should you disagree. The scenario: dinner amongst a group of male friends. The bill arrives and this is how the different races respond:
Blacks: The well-dressed black gentlemen, wearing square front snake skin shoes and suede jackets and displaying the keys to their environmentally unfriendly and ridiculously expensive Range Rover Sport editions, Mercedes C-Class Avant-Garde or some such, on the table. Each of them, having enjoyed a night of bragging about supposed financial achievements and painting themselves in an uber successful light. The bomb, the bill, arrives and quietens down the laughter. Each one in turn takes the bill, grabs one of the complimentary cheap mints and complains that they should have been Endear Mints. That done, suddenly, throats are being cleared and an urge to relieve oneself in the lavatory becomes overwhelming. And how about sending oneself a fake phone call and rushing out saying “Sorry gents, gotta take this.” The table is left bare, save for one or two nervous individuals who sharing a look, know they are going to have to be the white people for the evening. After the longest pees in the history of urinating are complete, they all return and ramble about non-bill related issues. When one gets the courage to ask the others for their contributions, there are murmurs of “Er, Sipho,Tumi, chomees, I’m sorry, I think I left my wallet in the car. Just get this for me now and I’ll cover you up front.” Check this awesome example that somewhat relates to this topic:
Whites: Polished looking individuals with their ‘silent’ labels – Armani, Ted Baker, etc – bottles of expensive wine litter on the table and lots of laughs and “yassis bru!” exclamations floating about. The bill arrives and in 5 seconds flat, everyone at the table is reaching for their wallets with their right, and fighting for the bill with their left; “No! Pieter, I’ve got it this time.” – “No, buddy, it’s absolutely cool, didn’t you get it last time?”, and another adds on to the civilised ‘fight’ to pay saying, “Listen, guys, it’s my treat today. You guys were great company and I really think you deserve it.” And the waitress approaches and has to wait another 3 minutes as this back and forth bluff game of who will pay carries on. And in a quietly resigned manner, if one doesn’t fill out the tip and quietly slip the waitress a card to process as the discussion continues, they’ll all eventually decide to split the bill evenly (with tip included) amongst them and each pull out their cards.
Coloureds: Having left the barber’s chair earlier in the day, the well-shaped, neatly trimmed hair and beards of the fragrantly scented gentlemen fool one into believing they would have no fear of the bill. The chatter continues as the bill arrives, but as they discuss amongst themselves, they decide that the waitress was too slow, inattentive and that the food was generally not up to standard. So the waitress returns and is bombarded with unfavourable comments about the establishment that warrant the appearance of the manager. So, in keeping with the crazy notion that ‘the customer is always right’, the manager patiently listens and offers to discount, or completely remove certain meals from the bill. Now satisfied with the appearance of the revised bill, they pull out their calculators and carefully divide the bill and individually pull out notes and coins, while arguing about how much who had of what. When all is said and done, the payment is unlikely to include a decent tip.
Indians: Dressed conservatively and bearing an air of ‘high and mighty’ the group of polite, but sceptical men sit waiting. They chatter quietly until the bill arrives and upon meticulous scrutiny of its contents for fear of an error and being cheated of their hard earned cash, the respected, and often senior, member of the party pulls out his credit card to pay. But, the miser mentality is never far, so the waitress knows not to expect miracles in the tip department.
So in a nutshell, the black men see going out in groups as a way of getting around paying honestly for ones share of the bill. They like the show and pomp of being seen in trendy public spots, but aren’t willing to part with their cash. The white men know that it is socially proper to offer to pay the tab, even if not all. Their culture dictates that it is impolite to eat and expect to be sponsored, and that making haste to actually pay, or act as if you want to pay, earns one respect and favour amongst friends. After all, who knows what Pieter will tell his buddies about you after you part ways. The coloured crowd will always manoeuvre a way out of paying the full amount and when they do pay, it won’t be without a little ‘playful’ bickering and ‘acting up’. The Indians, ever somewhat frugal as seen through the way the majority of them hustle in business to save costs, won’t be generous. They’ll pay, but not gladly.
Now, the question remains, is it how our cultural and racial backgrounds have shaped us?