A couple of years ago (no, I am not going to tell how many) I was an enlisted sailor in the Royal Dutch Navy and as such visited Great Britain and the USA from time to time. It’s amazing what response you get when you’re in a bar/restaurant and tell that you’re both Dutch and in the Navy. It seemed to me that, especially in the US, this was reason enough to be treated as royalty (but still having to pay the frickin bill of course).
Anyway, during one of my stays, I can’t remember where exactly, a bar conversation turned towards the phrase:
What does it mean?
My first thought was something like: do as Dutch people do (whatever that may be), but since I was only guessing it would be best to ask what they meant by it. The answer kinda took me by surprise. Apparently the phrase ‘Going Dutch’ is mainly used at restaurants to indicate that each person pays for his/her own food rather than one person paying the entire bill. It is also known as ‘Dutch Treat’.
I know that paying for your own food is quite common in the Netherlands, but little did I know this was adopted by other (English-speaking) countries.
So is Going Dutch a bad thing? No, I don’t think so. Having a ‘Dutch’ dinner with a couple of mates can work out just fine. But gentlemen, don’t ever, ever go Dutch on a (first) date. That’s just plain cheap and a guaranteed relationship killer. Be a smart lad and pay for the lady (unless you’re a homeless guy and she’s a rich chick of course).
Where does it come from?
Some say it has something to do with a door.
Yeah, first time I read this I raised my eyebrows as well. This particular door is divided horizontally so that the lower and upper part can be shut separately. This is called a Dutch door and somewhere, I don’t know how, there is a connection to the phrase Going Dutch. If you see the link please let me know, but for now I’m not buying it.
Could the Dutch immigrants have something to do with it? Might be. The Dutch are known to have settled all over the world and I doubt they had much cash with them so who knows. But is it plausible? I doubt it. So let’s look a little further shall we?
The final explanation I could find originates from the 17th century when the English and Dutch were at war over seas and trade routes. During that period the English continuously used the word ‘Dutch’ as an insult. In this perspective Going Dutch means; being a cheap skate. Now I find this more plausible and actually there are more phrases with the word ‘Dutch’ in it which originate from the 17th century. They all have a rather negative ring to it which I find quite amusing. For example:
– Dutch courage: Courage through alcohol
– Dutch headache: Hangover
– Dutch widow: Prostitute
– Dutch oven: Look this one up yourself, it’s quite funny
So thanks a lot British people for advertising The Netherlands so well. Because let’s face it, you have managed to place a very small country (with capitals) on the world map.
Can we have a final verdict on the phrase Going Dutch?
Even though the British used it as an insult, I believe it has lost its negative character. I’m curious though if other people (both Dutch and English-speaking) share my view. Maybe I’m positive because I was born in the Netherlands and don’t see the harm of Going Dutch. After all, it’s rather common here. Let’s hear the pros and cons.