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I am a foreigner who works in a big company in the US for the past few years. I work across multiple departments so I dealt with many coworkers and not just my team.

I am very social so I am close to many. Most of whom met me know exactly which country I come from. For the entire period working here, I never met or knew, or anyone mentioned, that another colleague is from the same country I come from. So it is pretty known that "I am the only one".

We have a shared place were employees sit, take their breaks and have lunch. Most of the times you would find extra food on a table with a note that says "Help your self".

Today, there was an opened container with food in it, imagine a pickles container for example. With a note that says:

"Pickles from CountryX. Help yourself!"

Now the issue is that, the container was very rusty and disgusting, and food was probably spoiled. You would not want to put a finger on it or its food.

The first impression I got when I saw it, was is that employees will think I brought this disgusting thing to the workplace, because the note says my country. Who else would that be?

I would like to throw the whole thing in garbage, with the note. Is that professional? What to say if someone sees me or maybe I should do something else?

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You're over-reaching in your conclusion that this will affect your reputation. The food has nothing to do with you other than a tenuous connection to your country of origin. Badly done food can come from any country. Why would it reflect on you? People will not judge you for a bad rendition of a food in your country just as they won't judge random Indians for a bad chicken korma, or random japanese people for bad sushi, ad nauseum.

If people ask you about it, just say it wasn't you who brought it in. You don't need to have come from a country to obtain a food that is well known in that country. I kid you not, you can pick these things up in supermarkets.

If the food is spoiled though, it's gotta go. That's a health and safety thing right there.

  • You are probably right, I am over-reaching.. – Sandra K Sep 3 at 18:16
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    @SandraK You could even start the conversation by asking someone "Do you know who brought these in?" That would make it pretty clear that it wasn't you. – David K Sep 3 at 19:08
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If something is spoiled or disgusting, you throw it out, yes. If several people are there when you want to throw it out, just comment to them something like: "Oh dear, no idea who put it here but it doesn't look good. Do you think we should throw it out?".

Not sure how this affects your reputation however. You didn't put the container there. You don't have a reason to feel bad. You can't control what other people do.

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The first impression I got when I saw it, was is that employees will think I brought this disgusting thing to the workplace, because the note says my country. Who else would that be?

In my workplace, we routinely will bring back food from our travels. Sometimes it's food from our home land, but a lot of time it's food from where we were vacationing. Bringing food in is not required, but just something fun people like to do to be social.

I would like to throw the whole thing in garbage, with the note, and whoever brought it. Is that professional?

It's not professional. Someone brought the food to share. Whether that food is edible that's debatable, but you don't have to eat it. Maybe the food smelling spoiled is normal e.g. Durian. Throwing it out right away looks more poorly on you than the person who brought the food in the first place.

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    There is a difference between spoiled food and food you don't like. OP mentions that it has likely spoiled. If that's the case, it's gotta go. – 520 says Reinstate Monica Sep 3 at 18:18
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    Fermented foods can smell like spoiled foods. Some foods smell spoiled even when they aren't e.g. durian. Just because OP is from the country it doesn't make them an expert of their country's cuisine. Case in point, China is an enormous country with many different types of foods that would be difficult for one person to be an expert in. – jcmack Sep 3 at 18:55
  • Given that it's specifically a food from the OP's country of origin, they have a better-than-normal chance of knowing whether or not it is actually spoiled. – Ben Barden Sep 3 at 19:32
  • @jcmack My country is small and not in any way known for special "pickles". It was very odd to see. And even if it did not say my country, I believe it was obvious to anyone that it belongs to garbage and not a give away. – Sandra K Sep 3 at 21:03

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