Why Do We Refer to Splitting a Bill as "Going Dutch"?

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Some phrases, such as “Dutch courage” (bravery fueled by alcohol consumption) and “Dutch reckoning” (a non-itemized bill that seems excessively high), were probably coined as a result of the long-standing rivalries between maritime behemoths England and the Dutch Republic (present day Netherlands) over everything from trade routes in the East Indies to North American colonization. But the phrase “going Dutch” (sometimes expressed as “Dutch treat” or “Dutch lunch”) harks back to an entirely different kind of Dutch—German immigrants, as in the phrase “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

The first recorded use of "Dutch treat" was in an 1873 editorial in The Baltimore American, which suggested that drinking to excess could be curtailed if saloon owners insisted on a Dutch treat policy, meaning that each man should be responsible for his own bar tab. It was a point of pride among the German immigrants to never be beholden to anyone and to only purchase what they could afford. This attitude was pervasive throughout the community, and it was a given that when a group went to a place of entertainment or refreshment, each person would pay his or her own way.

While there is no slang term equivalent of a “Dutch treat” in the Netherlands, there is something called an "Amerikaans feest," which roughly translates to “going American." It describes a gathering where the guests bring their own food and drinks, rather than expecting the host to provide everything.