* Disclaimer: This is an opinion based on a survey conducted amongst a group of Tanzanians, it is not a generalisation of the entirety of Tanzanian society.
A great date gone wrong?
Picture this scenario. You are on a date at one of the best steak joints in town, and you are having a blast. The restaurant is almost closing for the night and the waiter brings the bill. Naturally, they hand it to the guy you are with, and as expected, he reaches for his wallet.
But then you hear him say, “Your half is 50 K …”
How do you react?
Well, many women in Tanzania would be shocked, annoyed, and even lose interest in the guy. And they’ll definitely complain to their friends on WhatsApp later on.
But here’s the thing, women should also contribute to the bill on a date. Yes, this is an unpopular opinion in Tanzania, so let’s explain why dating practices here need to change.
In Tanzania, most men expect and are generally expected to pay for the entire date
First of all, it’s actually quite uncommon for men to ask women to pay for anything on a first, or any date. In fact, we asked 35 Tanzanian men and women on WhatsApp, ‘Who should pay on a first date?’ and over 80% said the man should always pay.
For example, a senior banker aged 33 said, “The man should pay. Should a woman ask and plan, he should still be willing and wanting to pay.”
Another 26-year-old banker agreed and added that he “wouldn’t be comfortable” if a woman paid because “ It’s just the man in me, I’m in charge.”
So why do so many men feel this way?
Well, according to another 31-year-old professional, paying for dates “is the gentleman thing to do. Same as opening a door for a woman and pulling out her chair. If a woman wants to do that, well and good, but a man should not expect a woman to pay.”
But where exactly does this association between paying for a date, and being a gentleman come from?
Well, a quick history lesson may give us some insight.
You see, in most societies around the world, historically men are the ones who worked outside the home and earned an income. Whereas women worked within the home and didn’t earn much, or anything at all. And even if they did work, gender inequality meant (and still means) that most women didn’t earn as much as men or have the same opportunities for career advancement. So naturally men had more money, and if they wanted to take a lady out, then they had to pay for the date.
* Though this is specific to the middle and upper classes, as many lower-income and rural Tanzanian families are primarily supported by women.
Moreover, many Tanzanian societal norms and practices are influenced by religion. And most men are brought up to believe that in the eyes of God, part of being a man is to be able to provide for the women in their lives. Be it, mother, sister, girlfriend, or wife. In fact, an IT manager in his 30s said,
“The man should pay, always, whatever the case, because the Bible said a man is a leader and provider.”
So when many Tanzanian men attribute paying for dates to ‘being a gentleman’, what they really mean is that they have a social and personal obligation to provide for a woman.
“As a man, I feel am obliged and it’s my responsibility to take care of my lady, if you go on a date and he doesn’t pay then he wasn’t taught right,” said a 30-year-old sales manager.
And many Tanzanian women seem to agree
Even though nowadays there are more women with university degrees and good jobs in Tanzania than there were 30 or even 10 years ago, most of them still expect men to pay for dates.
“I personally feel like a first date is about impressing the one who was asked out – typically, men ask women. The man should always pay for the date, especially in the beginning. We can go dutch once we are an established couple”, says a 28-year-old writer.
Interestingly, while the majority of the women we surveyed agreed that the person who proposes and plans the date should pay, few of them are willing to ever ask a guy out on a date. So at the end of the day, the men always foot the bill.
“Common decency dictates whoever does the asking foots the bill whatever the gender. More men in Dar should be told this. Though this (being asked to pay half) has only happened to me twice, it stuck because I thought it was distasteful” says a 22-year-old accountant.
And in scenarios where women ask men out, they still feel like the man should pay.
One 23-year-old man admitted that he was annoyed when he was “expected to pay” for a date a woman planned.
However, another male participant aged 40 said that in his experience, “ I have had about 3 women who spoilt me silly by paying for everything all day every day. Even if I resist they still insist and it ends up being a miniature battle of who picks up the tab.”
When asked why his experience differed from so many men he said, “if you are a TZ man of my age and you have no kids (and the lady knows of this), you become an instant magnet. They will do everything in their power to keep you. So money is the easiest route.”
However, he also mentioned that women who pay for men usually do not tell their friends (other women) that they are paying for dates. The reason? Well, they will be judged and criticised for financially taking care of a man, when he should take care of her.
So why do so many financially stable women still expect men to pay for dates?
To start with, they too believe that the ‘man is the provider’ and so it is their job to take care of the financials while dating. Moreover, many women view a date as an opportunity for a man to impress and pursue them. They want to be chased and believe that it’s the natural order of things.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about our evolutionary instincts. Men want to hunt, and women want to be courted. The man paying for the date is part of that ritual, it symbolises that you will be protected. And frankly, it makes my ovaries happy”, said a 40-year-old media producer.
And her perspective seems to be in line with what men think. As a 30-something father of three put it, paying for the date “is a symbol of a few things: commitment, stability etc. If I want to be with you I should be able to demonstrate that I’ll take care of you from day one.”
But while the idea of being taken care of may seem ideal to many women, it has its shortcomings for both genders.
Women can’t escape old-school gender roles
This may sound dramatic, but who pays for the date is symbolic of the power dynamics in a relationship. It’s not to say that if a man wants to pay, they want to rule over a woman’s life. However, the reality is, if a man feels like they are the provider then they probably prescribe to other old school ideas about gender like, they are the head of the household and make the important decisions.
In fact, some of the men we interviewed admitted that while they believed it was their role to pay for things in the relationship, women also have responsibilities in other areas like, “cooking, taking care of children, and the men”.
Having a traditional relationship with old-school gender roles is perfectly fine if both parties involved are on the same page. But when we asked women if they are ok with this arrangement, well, 95% said ‘no’.
“The man is not in control of the relationship. It’s a partnership. I can’t stand men who think that way!”, said 27-year-old account manager.
But here’s the thing, when one person has more financial power in the relationship, they also tend to have more control.
For instance, let’s say you want your child to go to a certain school, but your husband pays the school fees. If he doesn’t like the school, he can technically make the final decision on the matter, as he controls the money.
In fact, a 27-year-old male entrepreneur explained that,
“Typical Tanzanian men pay for everything since it makes them feel superior. And I think most Tanzanian women are too submissive. If you ask some girls I’m sure they’ll tell you sharing bills is unacceptable to them. They think it’s a man’s duty to pay for salon bills, to pay for dates, household bills, and taking care of her small needs as if she is your daughter. So if you meet a girl with this mindset, it’s a turn off to her if you even try to make her pay for herself on a date. There is no way you can make her share the bill, and this is how lots of men take advantage of women. I pay your bills so you have to give me sex, and do what I say.”
So it’s clear if you are a woman who wants equal footing in a relationship, you need to establish this by being willing to contribute financially from the start – including on dates. If the guy rejects your proposal to split the bill, that’s fine, at least you offered and communicated through your actions that you don’t need but are letting him take care of things.
It’s also about sex
While some men will say that they don’t expect anything from women when they pay for the date, many do. For instance, 3 men admitted that they pay because they don’t want to lose points or chances of sleeping with women.
“A man should pay because it’s an investment with good returns,” said a 26-year-old investment banker.
Another one added, “ Hapa TZ story goes if the guy pays for the date, the lady must ‘repay’ back in some form or fashion….. cough cough.. as in sexually.”
And the last, “Here that tradition of splitting the bill will cost u a cookie maaan. You will just hear rumours that you are stingy and no woman will want you. You are better off just paying.”
These men are not being paranoid as a 30-year-old female non-profit program manager confirmed that, “ If I pay for myself, my friends will hear about it as it means you simply cannot do hata the simple role of providing in that aspect.”
Therefore, some men do have expectations when they pay for dates. And while many women are ok with this, there are others who may feel pressured to do something they may not want to do.
Moreover, many women complain about men losing interest after they’ve been intimate. Well, this is probably because he was taking you out in hopes of eventually ‘getting the goods’, rather than to get to know you. And if a woman uses the action of a man paying for dates to signify his interest, well she may miss other signs of what he is really after.
Men suffer too
It’s not uncommon to hear a Tanzanian man complain about ‘gold diggers’ and women using him for money. And the thing is, many women do date men simply because they get nice things from them. The practice of ‘taking care of women’, can actually ruin romance and limit a man’s opportunity to form genuine relationships. Because if you keep putting it out there that you are willing to pay, well, you will definitely attract some women who only care about the material things you give them. As the rapper, Darassa put it, “what do you expekti?”
So, men need to bring more to the table than their wallet. Don’t aim to impress a woman by your ability to pay the whole bill, instead, focus on the conversation and experience you create. If she sticks around, you know it’s because of you and not the free meals.
Moreover, it’s incredibly expensive to continuously pay for dates with women. And surely you’ve heard several stories of ladies showing up to a date with their group of friends, and still expecting the dude to take care of the bill!
It’s all about expectations
At the end of the day, who pays for a date is really all about your expectations of a relationship.
If you are comfortable in a traditional relationship where the man is the provider and leader, and the woman (even if she works) is the caregiver and supporter, then, by all means, continue with the normal dating practices.
However, if you want an equal partnership, whereby both the man and woman is accountable for the finances, home, children and whatever else, then you need to move away from using money as a symbol of interest and control. If the guy doesn’t attach his manhood to paying for a date, then he won’t feel emasculated when a woman offers. And if a woman doesn’t view the act of the man paying as a sign of his interest in her or his masculinity, then she’ll be happy to contribute.
In fact, if each gender relieved themselves of the societal expectations set on us while dating, then both men and women would truly be offering to pay for dates out of goodwill rather than obligation.
As one 24-year-old female psychologist put it,
“In general, both men and women should always be prepared to contribute to a date and there should be no expectations placed on the other person.”
But alas, Tanzanian middle-class society is changing, but not fast enough. And so, for the guys who read this and are still going to pay in full for the next date, here are some great date ideas for Valentine’s day.