My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XIX. Mine and Yours
Finances and Favors
I do not recall how we settled the issue described in this incident, but this situation clearly revealed a difference between Dutch, Israeli and Palestinian norms. A humoristic guidebook on Dutch culture (White & Boucke, 2006) describes the Dutch as the stingiest in Europe, having a hard time departing from their money. It explains that this has several origins, like their Calvinistic history and their wish not to waste anything. Thus, a common way when going out to a restaurant in the Netherlands is called “going Dutch”; everyone pays for him- or herself. In the case one’s expenses were paid for, one returns the favor as soon as possible. Similarly, presents in the Netherlands tend to be substantially smaller than is common in Israel, thus reducing feelings of obligation or debt toward others. For the Dutch, the notion is “I will not burden you and you will not burden me”. In this way I was raised; one does not spend money if it is not necessary.
In Israel, it would be ordinary for friends to bring food and drinks to private parties, whereas also costly presents are common. There would be no clear guidelines concerning events as the one described above. In an attempt to verify my intuition, I asked both Israelis and Dutch people (all Jewish), including some who were present at the party. Almost all replied that they would have verified in advance who will pay, before ordering from the menu. They would have wanted things to be clear from the start. Palestinians Bedouins do not tend to bring presents, but in their culture if people come to visit your party, all costs are on you.