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The culture of “请客” in China


A Chinese friend told me that she recently met an American guy. They have had dinner together several times, but they went Dutch every time. She said that the American guy is too mean, never taking the initiative to pay the bill. I laughed after hearing her story, and then told her that it is quite different between Chinese and Western cultures in terms of "请客-qǐng kè" (treating a guest for dinner).

一个中国朋友说,她最近认识了一个美国男生,他们在一起吃了好几次饭,但每次都是AA制。她觉得这个美国男生太小气了,从来不主动买单。我听了哈哈大笑,告诉她请客 (qǐng kè)吃饭这件事在中西方的文化中是有差异的。


In general, Chinese people are proud to treat a guest to dinner – it's considered to help Chinese  gain face. As we already mentioned many times, "face" means a lot to Chinese people. There’s a saying "打肿脸充胖子-dǎzhǒng liǎn chōng pàngzi", meaning lit 'to swell one's face up by slapping it to look imposing (idiom); to seek to impress by feigning more than one's abilities’. In China, when a guy and a girl dine out together, it's taken it for granted that the guy should pay the bill. On one hand, it’s because men want to gain face, and they can’t be too cheap. On the other hand, in Chinese tradition women are the vulnerable group that should be taken care of by the men. If these two are a couple, it is the man who should pay the bill, unless the woman insists on paying.

中国人一般认为请客 (qǐng kè)是一件很有面子的事,而"面子"对中国人来说非常重要。有句俗语叫"打肿脸充胖子",意思是因为要面子,就做一些超出自己能力的事。而在中国,如果一男一女一起吃饭,人们通常认为男人应该来买单。一方面是因为男人要维护自己的面子,不能显得太小气。另一方面是因为在中国的传统思想中,女人是较弱的一方,应该被男人照顾。如果这两个人是情侣,除非女人坚持要买单,其他情况都由男人买单。


Today, some young people have accepted the Western idea of 'going Dutch', which is usually considered as a lack of human kindness in China. The Chinese believe that people shouldn’t value money too much between good friends. However, sometimes when there are a lot of people dining together, and the bill is hefty, it's very likely that the bill will be shared. After finishing the meal with friends, Chinese will rush to pay the bill. The person who rushes to pay is probably not really willing to pay for the bill, but in order to save face, or out of courtesy and politeness, they will act like they want to pay. Sometimes they will even argue with each other over who should pay for the bill. This is a very interesting cultural phenomenon.

虽然现在一些年轻人接受了西方的观念,吃饭时喜欢AA制,但总的来说,AA制在中国被认为是一种缺乏人情味儿的表现。中国人认为好朋友之间,不能太计较金钱。但是有时候,一起吃饭的人比较多,这顿饭的花费又比较高,很可能大家买单的时候就会平摊。另外,中国人在和朋友吃完饭后,会抢着买单。可能有的人并不是真的愿意买单,只是为了要面子,或者出于礼貌和客气,所以做出想请客 (qǐng kè)的样子,有时候甚至为了谁买单产生争论。这是个很有趣的文化现象。


Chinese people are particular about "礼尚往来 (lǐshàngwǎnglái)", meaning 'courtesy demands reciprocity'. In other words, only by giving each other presents will the relationship be long lasting. Nobody is willing to pay the bill every time. If your friend pays for the meal this time, then it should be your treat next time.

中国人讲究礼尚往来,意思是互相送礼才能够长久地交往下去。没有人愿意每次都买单。如果这顿饭你的朋友请客 (qǐng kè),那下次你就应该买单。


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