I often feel hungry and have snacks at my desk. Today, I realized that Ramadan has begun and my colleague who sits beside me is fasting. So I quietly kept my snacks back. I felt it might seem rude and uncaring.

How should I deal with it? I don't want to offend anybody. I am working in Germany.

We are a team of 6 and 3 of them are observing ramadan.

  • 62
    Since you're willing to be accommodating (which is very thoughtful, btw), why couldn't you just ask your co-worker if your snacks pose any problems for them?
    – Kent A.
    Jun 18, 2015 at 21:17
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    I love that you care so much that you even think about this. As a vegetarian I get the same questions asked regularly whether it would be rude if the other person eats meat. Honestly, I am always a bit baffled about this, because it is (as is following ramadan) my personal choice, not theirs.
    – dirkk
    Jun 19, 2015 at 8:44
  • It's fine, just don't offer them food if you know they're doing so Jan 18, 2016 at 18:09

5 Answers 5


I felt it might seem rude and uncaring. How should I deal with it? I don't want to offend anybody.

I agree with Lawrence's answer that a reasonable co-worker won't be offended. That said, they probably will also appreciate the gesture.

While there are many things you're allowed to do and your freedoms at work are important - it's definitely within reason to try and be respectful to other peoples' belief systems (eventhough you don't have to).

So - while you certainly don't have to change your eating habits to cater other people at work, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to be sensitive and save the steak to eat right in front of a vegan or eat a pork in front of a religious Jew or Muslim. Some things you don't have to do but doing them will still help you gain the respect of others back.

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    +1 said the same thing that I was trying to say but which I couldn't say as elegantly.
    – user541686
    Jun 19, 2015 at 7:29
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    Yes, you should attempt to be respectful within the bounds of reason as long as everything is done in good faith. This is not ass kissing, there is no notion of superiority and there is no "political gain" except for creating a more respectful and free work environment. Jun 19, 2015 at 19:55
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    @BenjaminGruenbaum Honestly, your answer addresses 2-sides of the same coin quite well. I am surprised why it has so less upvotes. This was exactly my point that even though he might not be offended but I should also consider not disturbing him or his senses. It may happen that he won't be able to work...because of me...but he would not complain to me either.
    – learner
    Jun 20, 2015 at 12:29
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    @learner StackExchange sites have a landslide effect, typically when an answer has more upvotes it is more visible and is more likely to receive further upvotes. People also tend to vote for their opinion rather than what advice they'd actually use. I think it's entirely reasonable to attempt to be respectful in good faith as long as you're OK with the trade-off in order to encourage a pleasant environment where trade offs will more likely be made for you in the future. It's possible other people simply don't share this view. Jun 20, 2015 at 12:33
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    @BenjaminGruenbaum very true. well said. I am very much inclined to accept your answer. Just want to give it some more time and look for other arguments given how sensitive this topic has become. Never expected such a huge response to this question.
    – learner
    Jun 20, 2015 at 12:35

He won't be offended. If he is a reasonable person, he realizes that most people do not follow his religion and thus are not subject to his rules.

Now if you're going up to him holding your food in front of his face and making fun of him then yes, he will be offended. Just act like nothing is wrong. People's religious affiliations do not and should not affect you, and this goes for your whole life, not just work.

I agree it would be nicer for him. However, if you're suggesting that people at the office should starve or go out of their way because of other people choosing to follow religion (it is a choice by the way) then that's not nice, that's just being stupid. Other people's religious choices should not affect you.

I just don't think you should be altering your behavior in order to accomodate the rest of the world.Some things you do will offend people even if it shouldn't. I know in America we have a PC issue with this right now, but my belief is that if you are offended by normal behavior as a result of your choices, then that is your responsibility to handle that emotion, not the responsibility of the "offending" party. We are all responsible for how we feel about things as a result of our choices and beliefs.

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    -1 This isn't even a religion issue; you're missing the point. There's a fine line between when you eat your food and where/how you eat your food. Of course they're not going to want you to avoid eating, but that doesn't mean they're totally chill with you eating right beside their desk.
    – user541686
    Jun 19, 2015 at 22:45
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    @LawrenceAiello your answer is nice and also getting lot of upvotes. But, I don't see it 100% fitting. Your argument is based on assumption that he is a reasonable person. What if he is not? Then its all problem for me from that point onward. Right? I want to avoid that exact problem.
    – learner
    Jun 20, 2015 at 12:26
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    There's a big difference between being PC and not giving a damn about people who aren't "normal." The workplace has improved in the US because we no longer put up with all the bullshit that use to go on.
    – user8365
    Jun 20, 2015 at 14:52
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    "I know in America we have a PC issue with this right now" Well that's interesting but the asker explicitly states that they're in Germany. Jun 20, 2015 at 20:39
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    People used to smoke in the office, since that was their choice and people who didn't could just get over it. While I don't think this is that extreme, people who are fasting have physical things going on and I think it's nice, if optional, to respect that. They shouldn't expect the world to bend for them, but if someone chooses to be thoughtful, fantastic. Jan 18, 2016 at 16:46

As a Muslim currently in the workplace, I can say that I wouldn't be upset in the least; in fact, the only thing that might upset me is knowing that I'm making co-workers uncomfortable to eat in front of me :)

I just went to lunch with a few co-workers. Didn't eat anything, but just came for the company. Luckily, nobody felt too guilty or anything—if they did, I would have regretting going.

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    I agree, and I might have very well done the same, but isn't there a difference between me going into a lunch setting, versus others bringing their lunch in front of me when I'm working at my desk? In one case, I'm saying "I would rather see you eat lunch than sit at my desk"; in the other case, I'm saying "I would rather sit at my desk than see you eat lunch"...
    – user541686
    Jun 21, 2015 at 2:23
  • @Mehrdad sure, that's certainly true. As a general comment, I also should have specified that this is my take on it, but others may not feel the same way.
    – A N
    Jun 22, 2015 at 22:06
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    @AN More people should be like you !
    – Rolexel
    Mar 31, 2017 at 9:11

Not per se, but...

It kind of depends on what you're eating and how easy it is to eat your food somewhere else, as well as how uncomfortable Ramadan is at that place and time.
And obviously, try to be discreet about it and not draw your coworker's attention or distract him with the smell or taste.

To elaborate: snacks are pretty much always fine to eat at your desk (that includes fruits, chips, etc... heck, they probably wouldn't even find chips appetizing at that point -- they'd want water and a good meal), as are meals that were prepared earlier in the day (since they're probably cooler and won't have as strong of a smell). But it's a bit distasteful (no pun intended) to eat newly-prepared food that has a highly appetizing smell right beside your coworker's desk if you can reasonably avoid it without much trouble.

For instance, if you have a lounge where people often eat lunch, your coworker would probably appreciate it if you had your hot pizza delivered there instead of within 3 feet of him.

Furthermore, the setting kind of matters too. If it's a hot day, your coworker would not appreciate it if you kept reminding him of water. But if your office is air-conditioned then it's unlikely they would be thirsty at all, so at that point your coworker is almost surely not even going to think about the fact that you have a cup of water/tea or a bag of chips or cookies sitting next to you, unless you make super loud slurping/crunching sounds or something.


People understand, but they're humans too.
The mere fact that you're eating/drinking nearby isn't offensive in any way whatsoever (unless you're in a culture where fasting is the norm, which you're not). However, if you do it in a manner or setting that ends up making this distracting for him and it's clear to everyone that you have a reasonable, alternative lunch setting available to you that could be less distracting with little inconvenience to you, then it would probably bother your coworker.

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    +1 - I can't believe that the highly upvoted answers didn't even bother with the basic notion that it isn't necessarily about offending someone's religion, it's about "offending" their sense of hunger.
    – user13655
    Jun 19, 2015 at 16:45
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    Their sense of hunger is self imposed, and no one else is under any social obligation to try and not offend someone else's voluntary self imposed suffering or whatever. They do not address that because that is an illogical thing to consider. The example of eating meat around vegetarians is a valid analogy, no one else should have to cater to your own self imposed choices for whatever reason.
    – user718
    Jun 20, 2015 at 13:49
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    This question is about snacks not lunch, and even it were lunch they can go not eat their lunch somewhere else just as easily and to expect someone else to avoid you for your own personal choices is pretty selfish.
    – user718
    Jun 20, 2015 at 13:51
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    Jarrod - I don't drink. Are my colleagues and friends wrong for not tempting me with alcohol, or are they just being polite? I think they're being polite. I still go to the bar with them to socialise and they still drink, but they don't go on about it to me. I think that's the kind of thing Mehrdad is talking about and I honestly don't see why it would be a problem for anyone to respect one another in this way - as a two way street.
    – Rob Moir
    Jun 20, 2015 at 14:41

Your co-workers choices are self imposed:

Why is it considered rude to not participate in others self imposed choices. In this case I am pretty sure they knew the ramifications of their choices.

Key takeaway is choice:

I have an involuntary heave reaction to the smell of melted cheese, I politely excuse myself when others are partaking of pizza or lasagna or whatever, amongst a couple of other things. This is a well documented medical condition.

The only time I ever would expect someone should accommodate me is when they expect me to be in some kind of meeting where it will be mandatory for me to be present while the food is present.

I present my condition and let them decide if I can sit remotely while they eat or they can order something that is not going to make me heave and puke all over the place.

Everyone in the three decades of my work career has understood and either let me leave or ordered an alternative.

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