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Splitting dinner bill? 2009/5/4 16:15
Last night I was invited to a dinner party at a co-workers house. I offered to bring something (as I would in my country) and in the end I bought some alcohol the needed and a nice dessert along.

At the end of the night I wasn't suprised when the hosts offered to repay me for the alcohol (this was the plan all along) but I was shocked when they got out a calculator and began to divide up everyones share of the meal. Nobody seemed suprised by this, and they all had money like they were expecting it. All the families in attendance also bought something ediable to contribute, but yet the 'bill' was still divided up. And I hardly ate anything!

I feel a little offended at this practice but I want to be prepared for next time. Is this a common occurance here in Japan, asking your dinner guests to 'chip in'?
by Ann (guest)  

... 2009/5/5 00:46
Traditionally in Japan, it is uncommon to have home parties to begin with. Even more uncommon to charge guests a price.

But there are millions of Japanese who do not follow traditional customs. The people, you are hanging out with, seem to fit the latter description.

I suggest to eat more next time ;)
by Uji rate this post as useful

splitting bill 2009/5/5 06:56
While it's common to split the bill equally among those who go to a restaurant party (regardless of how much each person eats or drinks), I'm surprised that this was done at a ''home party''.
by .... (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2009/5/5 08:11
I once was at a home party in Japan, where, from the start, we *planned* to split the bill for everything we brought in. So during the week leading up to it, we would decide, OK, Mr. & Mrs. A brings some barbecue chicken, Mr. & Mrs. B bring some salad, Mr. & Mrs. C bring dessert, etc. (The host *bought* something too, so that she would not have to cook for ten or so people all afternoon.) So at the end of the evening we presented the receipts, someone took out a calculator, and we "settled" the bills, so to say.

There was another home party where everyone agreed (as above) to bring in something, but there was no bill splitting then - we had agreed on an approximate budget for everything.

In your case, I don't know what other guests had arranged in advance, but maybe they'd planned something like this, but did not tell you somehow... while it was a pity that you hardly ate anything, that is not really the point - if that's the style they plan, they should let you know in advance.

I would feel somewhat offended if the hosts cooked something extensively and and wanted to "charge" everyone for it (without any ground for the number I mean), but maybe this was their custom for consideration not to put too much burden on the host.

While this is not really a "Japanese" thing, if you get invited again (it's not so much "invitation as guest" as "invitation to participate"), you could ask if it's going to be "mochiyori" (everyone brings in something) style.
by AK rate this post as useful

. 2009/5/5 11:06
I remember (and it was a long time ago) that when you are a young student and have little money, you tend to be strict on bills. So for example, if you buy things on the way to someone's home party, at the end of the party, someone offers to calculate and split the bill, even if it's a 100 yen bag of potatoe chips.

But as you get older and start working, this won't look so sofisticated any more. Plus, if you bring something homemade, you can't really set a price for it.

So in conclusion, as far as I know, at most adult's home parties in Japan, it's pot-luck but no cash will be exchanged. But if the host happens to do that, I would think, "Okay, this guy wants to be practical." and follow suit.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2009/5/5 20:25
Ann, reading your post once again, I now understand that the hosts indeed asked for money contribution to the stuff they home-cooked and served there, correct?

I think one consideration may be that since you are colleagues, if one "invites" others, the others would feel obliged to "invite" them back - and the whole chain of who's done it and whose turn is next gets started. So in order to avoid any feeling of obligation, they might have come up with a regular internal routine (just among themselves... this is not "Japanese" thing, I tell you) to simply split bills like a bunch of colleagues might do at a restaurant... so that no one person ends up "treating" everyone else to a meal at a restaurant...

I agree with Uco-san that some there has been just "practical" - definitely not so sophisticated :)
by AK rate this post as useful

. 2009/5/7 11:03
Thank you guys for your insight :)

I now think that my host just forgot or didn't think to tell me about the splitting up of the dinners costs - perhaps its common practice with them and they didn't think to mention it.

There was never any mention that I would be paying for a portion of the costs for the meal, only that the hosts would repay the costs for the alcohol that I got for them on the way there (this cost too was later divided up, even though I don't drink and was driving home that night).

I guess I kinda of assumed that as this was an 'adults party' (i.e. not full of broke college kids) and that everyone was contributing in the way of food that the hosts, being that they are hosting the party, would pay for the rest.

It's all good and now I know for next time, and I shouldn't necessarily take the words 'our guest' to mean a free meal :)
by Ann (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2009/5/7 15:39
While I haven't been invited to any house parties (everyone I know lives in a tiny apartment), it is quite common (or at least my experience) when out at parties in restaurants etc, that everyone is mostly going dutch and splits the bill, though sometimes if someone notices you didn't drink or eat as much they will offer to cover it for you. Othertimes its uneven. My Japanese friend tells me thats why they always eat and drink as much as possible, because in the end, everyone is splitting the costs!
by Express Train (guest) rate this post as useful

going out and staying home 2009/5/7 16:02
I agree with Express Train, but then, that's not how it usually goes at house parties, at least according to my experiences including the ones held at tiny apartments. Anyway, the OP seems to have gotten the picture.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

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