I recently changed jobs (and even continent) and believe I'm now at liberty to asking this question.
About two tears ago, I received a proposition from a former colleague (lets call him Albert) to quit my current job and join him in the company he had just joined as well. The salary offer was three times higher that what I made at the time and the job seemed exciting (better tools, interesting product, international environment and so on) so I jumped on that opportunity even though I was proposed a lead position in my then-current company.
From the moment I joined, Albert who I barely knew (we only used to work 2 months at the same place and barely talked then) had a very non-professional behavior with me. The kind of behavior you would expect from old high-school friends: familiarity, personal questions, gross jokes and remarks. As he was the one who gave me the opportunity and as we were the only two french speaking people in a company otherwise speaking English, it didn't felt that weird at the time: people with similarities often become friend in a "foreign" environment. Truth be told I was happy to have someone to talk to in my mother tongue in this new scary adventure.
We were driving together (a 3 hours ride) to the central place every week so this gave us time to talk, sometimes about more or less personal matter. Albert would often complain about some other employees, telling me how they "were terrible" and how he'd like them fired.
After a few months the jokes and remarks became more and more frequent, often about personal things, both in private and public (including meetings with the CEO and/or CTO). "Remarks" like: "By the way, you are fired !" (joking, 15 times a day), "Shut up you are fat", "Your girlfriend must be cheating on you with a hobo", "Such fancy clothes. Did you stole them from a queer ?". This would especially happen whenever we had a technical disagreement, specifically when I knew more than him on some topic. Everybody would laugh in the room, including myself, at some point mainly trying to avoid some kind of Streisand Effect.
Another annoying thing was when, during meetings he would pick on me because of my way of pronouncing things in English which is not my native language. Often to the point where I would stop participating to avoid the remarks altogether. He would later complain because I don't participate enough in meetings, pretending it proved my lack of interest in my job.
Worst was, other people in the company that had a professional behavior in the past started acting like him because it was the "fun" thing to do. They would only do so in his presence, but it still bothered me.
I managed to work there a year and a half, working on topics he did not master so to limit social interaction with him to its minimum but in the end felt like I needed to leave as my stress was growing day after day. This was especially frustrating as I don't consider myself a victim, at all: a lot of my former colleagues from other jobs still say they miss me and some even say I was a team-binding-agent. The CEO of the company gave me a recommendation and a company mail was sent to everybody, to inform them I was leaving, that my work was really appreciated and that I would be missed. I did not make any fuss nor mentioned explicitly the problems I had with that person, and still believe that was wise.
I obviously wouldn't go back there with him for the world, but my question is today: is there another way of dealing with such situations ? I felt like I took the easy path by leaving but I couldn't complain to anyone and don't really knew what other choice there was. Talking to the CEO or CTO would be ineffective as they were witness of the thing but deemed it reasonable. It was a really small company so I suspect their state of mind was "this is the dev. team culture, they pick on each other". By complaining about that I know it would have been perceived as "look at this guy that can't handle jokes". Truth is, I can do so, very well, but when they come from friends only. Joking back to the guy seemed to work for a while but it was against my usual behavior (that's not my education, at all and don't want to become an a**hole).
So, how do you deal with an officially accepted bullying culture in a job that you otherwise like ?
For some additional context, the bullying even continued recently when the guy contacted me on Skype to complain because he was assigned the task to pick up the projects I was working on and didn't knew the technology. He blamed me for his situation and insulted me. I ended the conversation quickly.