61

I am starting a new position next month and I have been kindly invited to a team lunch. I would love to go, but due to the month of Ramadan I will be fasting during the day - no food or drinks allowed. I am not sure if it would be rude to decline their offer. I could ask them to delay it by 1 month but then that is no longer a welcome lunch.

  • 43
    As a boss, I can tell you that if anything, I would be the one embarrassed about this. I should have been more aware of the situation, and I would be embarrassed for not thinking about this in the first place. Just kindly remind your boss that it is Ramadan, and I am sure that they will be accommodating. – bremen_matt Apr 29 at 13:42
  • 6
    Is the team lunch a welcome lunch for you or is it a regular activity that you're now invited to as a member of the team? – Alexandre Aubrey Apr 29 at 13:45
  • 20
    @bremen_matt: Why would you be embarrassed? Religion should be a choice, at least in theory. In many countries, it would be illegal to ask candidates about their religion or lack thereof. – Eric Duminil Apr 29 at 14:47
  • 21
    @AlexandreAubrey The lunch was specifically arranged for me. They were happy to delay it by a month. – umutesen Apr 29 at 14:49
  • Related (from the other side): workplace.stackexchange.com/q/112477/325 – Monica Cellio Apr 29 at 22:31
111

Observing your religion shouldn't be viewed as being rude.

Simply respond and explain the situation to them while thanking them for their offer.

You can certainly suggest delaying for a month, and they should be happy enough to do this (other plans permitting).

They may also offer to go for an evening event instead of a daytime one. They might even go further in going ahead with the lunch event, but choosing not to eat or drink out of respect for you (this is something I'd happily partake in).

  • Thank you for your comment, I think I will be delaying it rather than evening time as the fasting ends at 9pm. – umutesen Apr 29 at 9:42
  • I like this. Also you can ask for alternatives from lunch. Depending on age and what sort of job, maybe a fun hour doing something nearby like arcade or going to the park. – Dan Apr 29 at 13:23
  • 2
    @UmutEsen You might also consider a breakfast thing, especially if you have leftovers from the morning meal. A friend brought some leftover pastries one year, his approval rating went through the roof. – AmiralPatate Apr 29 at 13:27
  • 2
    @AmiralPatate For most locations in the northern hemisphere, this would require that all the coworkers arrive quite early in the day (eating before 6am in my location right now)... – user3067860 Apr 29 at 16:28
  • 2
    Delaying it doesn't seem worthwhile. The point of these things is to get to know all your new coworkers. A month later you should know most of them, and now it's just a random party. – Barmar Apr 29 at 16:54
33

As Snow suggests, observing your religion in this way isn't rude - and asking for a delay isn't a big deal but if it's not feasible that doesn't mean you have to cancel or postpone the lunch.

The point of such a "welcome lunch" isn't really about you eating or drinking things - it's about getting to know your new colleagues in an environment that is less formal than the office or a meeting. You could quite easily fulfill the purpose of doing this by attending and not eating or drinking.

  • 17
    Well I always find it a bit awkward when 1 of the guests doesn't eat at the restaurant, both for that guest and the others who are actually eating. – Laurent S. Apr 29 at 9:57
  • 8
    +1 for attending and not eating or drinking. People have different beliefs, this way you can still meet the team but you're not forcing people who don't hold the same beliefs as you to change plans while still observing your own religion. – Old Nick Apr 29 at 12:26
  • 21
    Attending a restaurant when you are hungry and thirsty is not my idea of fun. The OP may have different views of course. (Remember, strict observance of Ramadan requires nil-by-mouth after sunrise.) – Martin Bonner Apr 29 at 12:49
  • 3
    @LaurentS. well, you shouldn't; I don't know how else to put it. Would you feel awkward going to a theme park and not going on a ride; or going to a shop and not buying anything; or going to a petting zoo and not touching an animal? Life is too short to feel awkward because you're doing something which you THINK is a little different, but is actually perfectly normal. – UKMonkey Apr 29 at 12:54
  • 2
    @DarrelHoffman No. No water. – Dawood ibn Kareem Apr 29 at 19:50
4

The purpose of the welcome lunch is not really the food, it is to welcome you to the company.

Consider accepting the invitation but explaining that you will be in the middle of a fast and will not be eating.

Perhaps in light of that, the welcome lunch will be changed into some other kind of welcome event that doesn't involve food.

2

I suggest that it's not necessary to explain why you can't make it to lunch. You can decline and suggest an alternate date.

For example, you might say "I'm grateful for the warm welcome you're all giving me here at CompanyName. Your offer for the welcome lunch is very kind, but I'm afraid I won't be able to accept until after [specific date]."

There are some things that don't need to be discussed in the workplace, such as medical issues, home life, religion and so on.

For example, you might not be able to attend a lunch because:

  • You're fasting for religious reasons
  • You're preparing for a medical procedure that requires a specific diet
  • You want to remain available so that you're on call to tend to an ailing relative
  • You have a special diet because you're trying to make some weight loss goal
  • etc etc etc

The key is that you don't need to explain why you're declining the invitation. Explain that you won't be able to go, thank them for the offer, and also give a timeframe when you would be able to in the future. If they can't reschedule, that's fine.

None of this is to say that one should hide their religion. It's simply that it's not necessary to explain your reasons when declining an invitation if you don't want to, and even moreso when the reasons are related to things that are typically left private at work.

  • 2
    Although I think it would be better to give the reason for declining the invitation (or asking that it be postponed), I agree that there's no obligation to do so. – Andreas Blass Apr 29 at 20:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.