'I expect my “rich” friends to pay for my half of dinner. And you should too.'

“We’ll just split it, thanks.”

Those were the words that came out of my friend's mouth when the waiter brought us our bill. A bill that she didn’t even blink at. A bill that I had to crane my neck to catch the number without looking like I wanted to read it. $448.56. That exact number has been ingrained in my mind for three years.

As we walked out to pay at the front, I was watching my friend as if she was in the middle of a performance. I couldn’t believe she was about to pay for a bill without even knowing the cost of the meal.

Sure enough, when the waiter handed her the EFTPOS machine, she asked him to add a 15 per cent tip and tapped her card without even realising she was paying $257.88 (I had to use not one but TWO calculators to figure that out because I’ve never dealt with this much money before… And I also failed general maths).

Still engrossed in our conversation, I had to check my finances while she continued talking. 

Okay, I had $300 left in my spending account so I should be all good. As I tapped my card, I didn’t hear that beautiful beep that ensured your wealth. I looked at the waiter. He looked confused. My friend stopped talking. “Oh,” he said. “You need to select if you want to tip or not.” 


Now that everyone was looking at me, I sheepishly selected the 5 per cent, tapped again and the beautiful beep applauded me. 

Just as we were about to walk out the door, the waiter called after us. “Miss!” 


Oh s**t. 

I knew that “miss” meant me. 

“You need to put in your four-digit code.” 

I then realised that when my funds get to an embarrassingly low amount, I have to put in a code as a way of saying, “yes I consent to being borderline broke.” 

Watch: Questions about friendship. Post continues after podcast.

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That was the most stressful situation of my life. So stressful that now three years later, while I couldn’t even tell you what my friend and I discussed at that dinner, I could tell you I expected her to pay for my half of the meal. 

I've been raised in a culture where if you were going out to dinner with other people, the bill was like an anti-lottery ticket that every family wanted to take care of. You had to fight for it.

I’ve seen my dad grab another man by the shoulders to push him out of the way so that he could get the bill first and pay for everyone. I’ve seen children used as distractions so the other family wouldn't see my mum quietly walk up to the front desk and pay for the meal while we were still eating. 


Yelling, laughing, phrases like “we’ll get you next time!” followed when the other family realised what she had done. 

As a child I would watch these grownups in awe. Giggling as they play mind games on each other in order to pay for the meal. I remember thinking, “I can’t wait to make money so I can play-argue with my friends like this.”

Sure enough, when I reached my early 20s, I went out to eat with a few friends. When the bill came, I grabbed it so fast I heard one of my friends gasp. 

“I’VE GOT THIS,” I yelled (for no reason). I ran up to the front, tapped my card and then sat back down grinning. “Thanks Em, that was really nice of you,” said a person at the table (who I didn’t actually know that well) before they all continued their conversation. 

I soon realised that fighting to pay for a bill was just a cultural thing and that my friends were always going to take me up on my offer to pay…

Listen: The Big Secret To Female Friendship. Post continues after podcast.

Thinking about that $448.56 bill three years ago, I still wholeheartedly believe my friend should’ve covered my half, and it's not for the reasons you might think. Yes, she was the one who chose the restaurant, chose (the most expensive) bottle of wine, has an income that's more than double my own... But the reason I believe she should've covered my half is because she is rich and I'm not.


Worse than that, she's the type of rich that forgets that she's rich. The type of rich that doesn't need to constantly check their bank balance, the type of rich that takes clothes to the cash register without needing to check the price tag, the type of rich that didn't even consider that one bottle of wine was two weeks worth of my rent.  

Later that night in bed, I was going through my bank statements (I know: a thrilling activity):

Coffee: $8.90. 

Movie tickets: $50. 

Ice cream: $15. 

Then I realised that prior to that $448.56 dinner, I had actually covered the cost of my “rich” friend the past three times we had hung out. And yes I know that these little spends don’t equate to the cost of our dinner. But the coffee, ice cream and movies were all my suggestions, and because of the way I was raised, without even thinking, I paid for both of us. I’m assuming that the costs of these things would’ve seemed so “little” to my “rich” friend that she didn’t even consider they were acts of generosity, and in return, I was expecting an act of reciprocation. 

Since then I've made it my job to school my rich friends. And honestly, I believe it's strengthened my relationships with them. It's helped me discover who is "I-have-a-lot-of-money rich" and who is "I-didn't-know-this-was-a-lot-of-money rich". 


Your friends who are "I-have-a-lot-of-money rich" are actually the easier ones to hang out with. Sure they might be a little egotistical but they're also realistic. And because they're your friends, they know how much money you have. They will pick reasonable places to eat, if they feel like something fancy they will always offer to pay even if you don't let them. It's the gesture that matters. 

The "I-didn't-know-this-was-a-lot-of-money rich" (my friend) are harder to crack. Mainly because they've been rich for so long they don't actually realise it. They don't realise when you pay for their movie ticket, they don't realise that you shouted coffee last and they definitely don't realise that $448.56 is an expensive dinner bill. 

A few months later, my friend asked if I wanted to try a new (very expensive) restaurant in Sydney. I couldn't take it anymore so I told her I'm still financially recovering from our last restaurant adventure. "Oh, that's okay, let's go somewhere cheaper!" she said.

I absolutely love her for suggesting that but I also know my friend ONLY eats at high-end restaurants. I pulled the plug because I had all my cards lined up. I know she's filthy rich, I know that she can easily afford to cover me, and income aside, I know she's my friend who cares about me deeply as I do her. 

"I'm still keen to go to that restaurant if you feel like shouting me haha," I replied jokingly (but not jokingly). "Hahaha omg yes, lets do it," she responded. 


At dinner we talked and laughed about how my friend really didn't want to go to the "cheaper" restaurant she suggested but still wanted to see me. She told me she would've offered to cover for me but felt weird about it thinking I would feel embarrassed. This made me realise that rich people are just like us (read: in a sarcastic tone). Jokes aside, I noticed I had subconsciously put my friend on a pedestal made of $100 bills when in reality, she was willing to go to a "cheap" restaurant (God forbid) just to see me.

This is exactly why I think we "non-rich" people should expect our rich friends to pay for us because they most likely will. Since then, I've been a big advocate of asking your "I-didn't-know-this-was-a-lot-of-money rich" to cover for your half of the meal if they're not willing to change their lifestyle to suit your needs. If you're 100 per cent certain they can comfortably afford to do so and they know that you're not taking advantage of them, I'm sure they'll happily oblige. Money can make or break friendships but acts of generosity are invaluable.  

Now, whenever my friend wants to go to a fancy restaurant, she always offers to pay. Sometimes I take her up on it and sometimes I decide to split the bill but I ALWAYS get the ice cream. 

If you want more from Em, you can follow her on Instagram @emilyvernem.

Feature image: Supplied