TL;DR: I want to work in a company with a strict no-eating-in-office policy. How can I ask about it during an interview?
Background: Western Europe, software engineering, ~2 years experience.
I have a problem with other people eating near me when I try to focus on my work. I am not talking about extreme cases of coarse behavior, I am talking about otherwise well-behaving people who eat while working at their desk. The problem is - however hard you try, eating things like potato chips, nuts, or apples emits sound and is distracting to other people sitting around you. Noise-cancelling headphones
won't help and even if they did, the problem of smell would still remain help to some extent, but (1) they do not block all sound - you still hear people sufficiently close to you, (2) wearing them for a long period is not comfortable (edit).
Most people seem to subscribe to an opinion that while eating lunch and leaving stinking garbage in a shared office is indeed problematic, eating small snacks is acceptable. My problem is that I disagree with that and in principle find eating in a shared office distracting and disrespectful. I try to be considerate towards others and I have never done that - when I want to eat something, I always leave my office. I would be grateful if my colleagues did the same.
I have seen numerous questions about eating. I am already at the point where I tried to solve that at my current company but this failed. The norm in my company is that people do eat at their desks and as far I know, I am the only person having problem with that. Hence, when I brought up the problem with my colleagues, the response was that asking them to eat outside is not a reasonable request.
Having had my bad experiences, I am interested in preventing this from happening in the future. I am now in the process of applying to different jobs (not only because of the problem I am describing here, but it's definitely one of the reasons why I want to leave). Unfortunately, given my situation I am not valuable enough to be offered a private office, where I won't waste time on problems like that. I will probably work in a shared office with another 1-3 people.
How can I find out what is a specific company policy on eating? Isn't it a strange question to ask during an interview? How much of the story should I share? Should I mention my bad experience at previous workplace and that this is one of the reasons to leave? I do not want to appear as a person who 'causes problems' and has 'special needs' even before getting on offer and 'day 1'. On the other side, I don't want to get into the same situation again.
I don't think I am inflexible and intolerant in general, but when I hear slurping behind my back while I try to be productive, this really drives me to the point of writing this question here.
I know I can look for a 100% remote job. This is certainly an option but also comes at some cost. I enjoy the fact that I can have normal in-person meetings or that I can have lunch with my colleagues. Contrary to what many of you imply here, I do not have a problem with the existence of other people in a workplace in general. That's why I consider office-based jobs. If I could find one with a culture/policies that fits me, I would be happy. I think many of you do the same. What is special here is that I recognize that its an unusual need and I don't know how to approach this during or before an interview. If I have a problem with myself, as many of you write, then its a problem with communication -- I do not know how to get information I need and this is where I seek help. I would like to thank all of you who responded to this question in this vein and provided some specific advice.
If finding such a job fails and it turns out the only option is to work from home, then fine, I can accept such an outcome. While I understand why you would not like such policy and would not like to have me as your colleague, I do not get why this question receives downvotes, close votes and negative comments.