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What does It Mean When You "Go Dutch"?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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To go Dutch, also known as a Dutch treat or a Dutch date, implies an informal agreement for each person to pay for his or her own expenses during a planned date or outing. The decision to do this is usually made in advance in order to avoid any confusion when the bill arrives or the tickets are purchased. Under certain social and financial circumstances, the idea allows larger groups of friends or co-workers to enjoy a night on the town without the worry of one host footing the entire bill. During a romantic dating situation, however, the suggestion to go Dutch may not be as well received.

Many people agree to going Dutch as a tactful way to level the financial playing field. One friend may feel uncomfortable with the idea of another friend in better financial shape always footing the bill. When two or more people agree to pay for their own bills, each is free to spend within his or her personal entertainment budget. Even if one person can afford to order the most expensive item on the menu, the rest of the group is not obligated to spend outside their own limits.

When it comes to social dating, however, the idea of going Dutch is not universally accepted. Traditionally, the person who invites a companion for dinner or other entertainment is obligated to pick up the entire tab. Modern dating etiquette now allows women to assume the same role as men when it comes to financing a date, but there is still a clear division between the inviter and the invited. Some couples, however, are very comfortable with the decision to go Dutch, especially during early casual dates. By agreeing on a Dutch date, neither party feels obligated or indebted romantically to the other party for picking up the entire bill.

The origin of the phrase can be traced back to a time when England and the Netherlands fought constantly over trade routes and political boundaries during the 17th century. The British used the term Dutch in a number or derogatory or demeaning ways, including Dutch courage (bravery through alcohol) and Dutch treat, which was actually no treat at all. The Dutch were said to be very stingy with their wealth, almost miserly.

While many of these derogatory Dutch references fell out of common usage, Americans did retain the idea of a "Dutch treat" when a number of German (Deutsch) immigrants arrived. A corruption of Deutsch led to the designation of German immigrants living in Pennsylvania as "Pennsylvanian Dutch". Even though the original British slur was against the actual Dutch, some Americans perpetuated the negative connotation of "Dutch treat" to include the German Dutch as well.

The modern idea to go Dutch no longer carries the stigma of the term's original intentions. It is simply a recognized bit of social jargon which allows each party to know the financial arrangements of a date or social outing.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon126269 — On Nov 12, 2010

I'm Dutch-Moroccan and here in Holland we often make jokes about our greed and cheapness.

Dutch people usually don't have a problem with it.

It's really nothing more than a saying anyway.

I've lived here my whole life and Dutch people are not cheap.

By anon110614 — On Sep 12, 2010

In the Netherlands, when a person invites another on a date, then the one who is inviting pays. So similar to US. It is only a phrase. In the past English felt threatened by the Dutch so lots of negative things in the English language are combined with the word Dutch.

It says more about the English in that time than about the Dutch I guess. In the golden century the Netherlands were considered the most powerful in the world, and also had more ships). If you are interested dive into Dutch VOC or WOC archives. (Lots of Asians study the Dutch language just because of being able to access these archives, which is one of the richest historical libraries in the world).

Traveling through Europe I noticed that, for instance, in a lot countries, it is not common that if you are going out with friends, that they also buy drinks for you.

But when If you go out in Netherlands with friends and someone is buying a drink just for himself, that is considered very rude. So do not "go Dutch when you are among the Dutch" is my advice. That is considered very impolite. During dinner, I guess that sometimes varies.

By anon94532 — On Jul 09, 2010

American jargon? Did you not read it's origins? British!

By anon60733 — On Jan 15, 2010

A poster asked: I wonder what the Dutch think of this particular American "jargon"?

Answer: The Dutch, I don't think mind the American phrase. They have a similar phrase to describe this same scenario, only they call it, "Amerikaans feest" which translates to "American Party." So, in the US we call it going dutch, and in the Netherlands they call it an American Party!

By breakofday — On Jan 10, 2010

Personally, if I've asked someone on a date, then I expect to pay. If a man asks me out on a date, then I expect him to pay. Whoever does the asking is the one who should pay, in my opinion at least.

I wonder what the Dutch think of this particular American "jargon"?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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