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I have been in this company for one year but still, being the sole developer, I haven't had many occasions to talk a lot with my coworkers and we haven't even had many chances to chit-chat that much.

I am vegan, and I am eating vegan for 2 years. Recently it was my birthday, and on that day I brought (like others did) some delicious but vegan pastries, before I told some coworkers I was vegan.

Now, whenever they can, they joke with me. Just some of individuals, others like my choice but for some reasons are not vegan. They also did on my birthday saying "oh they don't taste as good as the ones with milk and eggs" (but they actually are like some said), and lately when it comes to talk about food where I say my opinion on it, I always receive some kind of passive-aggressive jokes like "even plants suffer", "man was made to hunt animals" (for sure, in the supermarkets nowadays) and these kinds of things. This really infuriates me, since sometimes I don't say anything more than the truth, but truth in these cases looks like a bad thing. (EDIT: this means that if I answer to the question "why are you vegan?" with something like "I don't like animal exploitation" the reaction could be like "no they are not / you are not well informed (etc.)" for, I think, a sense of guilt that's not anymore my problem, so I am not interested in starting a debate since if they really care about it they should already know if the meat they eat comes from more ethical places or not, but it's none of my business anymore, even because i am not a preacher). I don't harass coworkers with my choice or whatever, just saying "I am vegan" is enough sometimes, and usually I don't try to change their minds if they're not into it because one should change according to their beliefs freely. I just inform maybe, but I never judge.

Last time I was saying that kebab has a really nice taste and, since it is done mostly with spices and aromas, I was thinking a vegan one but they said "vegan kebab... you don't really know what to invent any more".

I don't really know what to do. These comments annoy me and I don't want to remain silent in these cases, because they should not judge my choices, but I also don't want to get defensive, because I don't have to, actually. I wish I could talk more with them to get them more informed, (EDIT: to start debates if they're up to), but I can't since it is not related to work. Reporting or stuff like that isn't even an option, of course.

EDIT:I am adding more information that someone has taken off but were important. I know that involving ethics in a question is dangerous since everything could turn off-topic very quickly, but the point here was not "if I have been preachy" or whatever, it was just a point to notice that "veganism is a really critical topic that could instantly create debates so it must be handled carefully", but the real question here was: how to deal with coworkers that have a different point of view?, coming in a specific form. If I am going around staying something like "hey assassins, how are you?", for sure I will receive some bad comments. But as I said, I think people should change if the feel they're up to, otherwise it will be bad even if it happens that someone want to become vegan from a day to another, producing those people who like to just give morals, and I don't think it should work that way.

Anyway I have chosen the best answer, no need for more debating, and as a side-note: Even if I was "the preaching type", a good answer, if you wanted to point that out, could have been "not everyone thinks like you do, always try to be respectful with yourself and the others, we all have our own reasons to do what we do" not "Well if you say that you are vegan you deserve being teased!" Thank you.

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    I would like to remind everyone here to keep our Be Nice policy in mind as they answer or comment. It's fine to encourage the OP to critically reflect on his own behaviour but belittling comments, arguments or debates on the merits of veganism are not what this site is for. – Lilienthal May 9 '16 at 17:26
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    Some may experience similar behaviour for the choice not to drink any alcohol (as a student, I experienced disrespect for this choice, but somehow not for being vegetarian). – gerrit May 10 '16 at 9:13
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    For anyone interested in environmental/health topics relating to this subject, please follow the Veganism and Vegetarianism StackExhange site proposal (shameless I know) – lifetimes May 10 '16 at 14:46
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    People who want to discuss the pros and cons and facts and rumors and media references and whatnot of veganism should get a room. That way you can have your discussion -- which does not belong in comments -- without it being deleted over and over. – Monica Cellio May 10 '16 at 22:10
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    "I just inform maybe, but I never judge." Would your co-workers agree with this statement? Sometimes, even honest attempts to inform can be taken in a hostile manner and a judgmental tone may be perceived even if one was never intended. I don't know if you can actually answer that, but the answer to it would be integral to your action plan going forward and is just general good advice for this and a plethora of other topics. – corsiKa May 11 '16 at 19:46

15 Answers 15

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Take your pick for in-the-moment replies from any of the below.

  • I'm sorry you feel that way.
  • I respect your choice to eat meat, can you respect my choice not to?
  • I'd really rather not discuss my food choices at work.

From Alison Green:

  • I’m not up for discussing nutrition.
  • I don’t want to get into this conversation at work.
  • I’d rather not discuss this.

A dry reply and redirect:

  • Yes, good one, now about that project that's starting next week...
  • Haven't heard that one before Paul. Hey Mike, how was that trip to...
  • It hasn't killed me yet, so like I was saying...

As an alternative strategy, offer to share every time you get a remark:

  • You don't know what you're missing out on, do you want some?
  • You always mention my food, are you sure you don't want some?
  • You really can't stop talking about my lunch, can you? I'll bring you some extra next time.
  • I could make an extra portion tomorrow, do you like [Italian/Chinese/...]?

And a popular reply to boundary-crossing remarks and which I believe is a favourite of Carolyn Hax:

  • Wow
  • Wow, just wow.

Some more aggressive ones from Alison Green to be used with really offensive or over-the-top remarks:

  • Wow, did you really just say that?
  • That’s incredibly out of line
  • In what way is what someone else chooses to eat your business?”

Now, if these don't help it's time to address the broader picture with the offenders directly. Ask them why they feel the need to criticize your life choices. Then ask them to respect your choice of lunch and to please let you eat it in peace. In fact, since this has evidently been going on for a while, I'd suggest going straight to this as suddenly bringing out the acerbic wit may paint you as the bad guy who "can't take a joke". It's unfair, I know, but you want to preserve the peace here.

After that conversation, if it's still happening, then you go to your manager. Explain that you've tried to shut it down in the moment and addressed the problem directly with the offending coworker(s) but that it's still happening. He should be able to intervene as these kinds of high school environments can kill morale.

Whatever you do, don't try to convince these people of the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. The kind of people who lack the common sense to avoid these remarks are not the kind of people who you'll convince with rational arguments and trying will only annoy them and bait them into further remarks.

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    "Ask them why they feel the need to criticize your life choices." Don't do this. Odds are that they're reacting this way because they subconsciously feel threatened and calling them out will increase the defensiveness to hostility. Simply by making a very different choice you are calling their lifestyle into question, causing doubt and uncertainty, something a lot of people can't handle gracefully. A direct approach of "guys, it's getting old, can we just drop the jokes?" addresses the issue you want to solve in a more neutral way. – Cyrus May 11 '16 at 9:01
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    +1 - all the other answers put the onus on the OP and basically tell them that they've done the wrong thing by being who they are. Although I agree with some people that the OP is being preachy when they think they aren't, at least this answer doesn't make the whole issue the fault of the OP. I particularly like the last set of bullets regarding making it obvious that they've crossed a line. – Mark Henderson May 11 '16 at 11:08
  • You missed the one that seems most important to me: "These anti-vegan jokes are quite annoying and upsetting to me. I don't tease you for your eating choices. Could you please stop?" – Jonathan Hartley May 15 '16 at 19:28
  • This accepted answer is ripe with real or potentially perceived hostility, so other people running across this Q&A should take that into consideration. – kayleeFrye_onDeck Feb 25 at 21:10
  • @kayleeFrye_onDeck Advice given here should always be adjusted to fit a particular situation. The suggested replies I gave escalate in tone and directness as you go down the list because they're intended as replies to increasingly rude/ offensive remarks from colleagues. I wouldn't call these hostile but some are definitely rude because they're intended to respond to boundary-crossing rudeness. – Lilienthal Feb 26 at 10:13
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OP quote from comments:

No, once they said "if everyone become vegan we don't have space on earth to make food for everyone", the truth is that an omnivorous person take 18x space then a vegan because animals don't eat air. And that's the truth; when i say the truth, is like that, more or less, or like "you can't do sports if you're vegan" and look at me - i am healty and i do lots of sports and also there are some bodybuilders who are actually vegan. It's not preachy, nor a guiding principle, i am just informing people.

It is preachy and it makes you fair game for jokes. If all you had ever said on the matter is that you are vegan, the jokes would be infrequent and would fade over time. Once you start going into why your way of thinking is the best you invite discussion on your way of thinking.

For future mitigation stop discussing your beliefs if you do not want your beliefs being discussed. If coworkers continue to bring it up on their own, shrug and look bored. Don't engage them in this discussion and eventually they will get bored and move on to other things.

In response to the edit:

is it bad to have ideals? It is bad to start a debate on it? Maybe i think something that is actually wrong, but confrontation exists so that something good could came out, if it is done properly. Or should i get extra-informed and with that purpose really start debating - and so preaching - because i will held the notions of x people about it against the y of others?

No it's not bad to have ideals but it is a bad idea to start a debate on it if you don't want others making jokes about your viewpoints. With respect to getting extra well informed, you are the one who doesn't want to have these discussions so don't take part in these discussions. Criticism of others view points, however rational it is, opens you to criticism of your own. Don't dish it out if you can't take it.

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Self-deprecating humor is a cornerstone of the American workplace and your co-workers are actually giving you an opening to improve your relationships and become more popular and have more influence in the workplace. To get there you kind of need to get over the idea that light deprecation and self-deprecation involve loss of face -- it does not --- they are expressions of affection.

The best way to deal with teasing in a social context is to amplify the sentiment. This has the unexpected effect of getting people to laugh and also proves that you are not bothered by the comment. It stops further teasing dead. Check out the "Bob Newhart" show on TV to see an example of a respected professional dishing out deadpan self-deprecating one liners.

Here are some responses to comments you have heard:

they don't taste as good as the ones with milk and eggs

yeah they taste like cardboard

man was made to hunt animals

actually, cannibals say that nothing tastes as good as human

even plants suffer

yeah, I guess I like the thought of that

There was an interesting exchange in the show The Man in the High Castle where someone was discussing with a Japanese man that in America, if you feel very close to someone, you call them an insulting name, like 'hey jerk'. But if you are really angry at someone and about to do them harm, you actually choose a more respectful form of address, like 'hey brother.'

I don't recommend calling anyone a jerk but I put this out as another example of the paradoxes of our culture that can take awhile for anyone to digest and appreciate.

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    +1 they are expressions of affection this is a VERY strong possibility. The #1 sign of affection and acceptance is people "poking fun" at "your weaknesses". There is a fine line that can be crossed - and there is a chance that you work with bullies and intolerant people - but, imo, it's more likely that your coworkers accept you and are comfortable enough to make lighthearted remarks. And... it's possible that there are those who are reacting to you being preachy AND there are those who are simply comfortable with you. Different people are different. – WernerCD May 9 '16 at 20:58
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    It's not self deprecating when you are making fun of someone else. You have turned Self-deprecating on its head. – Shantnu Tiwari May 10 '16 at 11:03
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    @ShantnuTiwari - I am sorry you feel that way. The only point I'm trying to make, is that when someone makes fun of another, it's an invitation to be self deprecating, which is a way to bond with co-workers. So, for someone shy or unassuming, someone not sure how to go about adjusting to a strange new workplace, it's effectively a gift. I'm not sure if it is worth it to take on the cultural precedence underlying this ritual, but maybe it's something to bring up with HR? – John Meyer May 10 '16 at 14:26
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    Actually the key property of your replies is not that they are self-deprecating but that they shut the conversation down. Btw workplace bullying is real and I'd appreciate you not laugh it off as the bullied's problem. – user42272 May 10 '16 at 14:33
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    @djechlin Sorry you feel this is bullying. I thought we were talking about comments about veganism such as 'plants feel pain too'. I do agree workplace bullying is real. I'm simply trying to say that any workplace behavior should be first seen through the lens of local cultural protocol. Anything truly perceived as disrespectful by anyone needs to be handled immediately by management with support from HR from all involved corporations. The purpose of this post was simply to give someone a relatively quick and simple option to avoid taking this route. – John Meyer May 10 '16 at 15:05
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It's going to happen, I'm afraid. One reason why some people pick on vegans is because, unfortunately, there are many vegans who tend to be very "preachy" about their diet. A common joke is "how do you know if someone is vegan? Just wait and they'll tell you". I'm not justifying it but just explaining why it happens.

I belong to a certain religion. I don't volunteer that at work because there are people who would tease about it because they don't understand. It avoids a lot of hassles. But not everyone wants to do that or can. It's a choice.

Some people are just bullies. I recommend taking an attitude of "whatever" with them. If they pick at you just say, "you don't know what you're missing" and "I feel better when I eat this way" and "well, it works for me".

Like bullies, when they see you get bothered by it, some people will just continue it. Unfortunately, a lot of bad behavior people acquire as children don't go away when they grow up.

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    I'd probably not say "you don't know what you're missing". This sounds like trying to convince someone of something. If you don't want to preach about it, don't say that. – Alexandre Vaillancourt May 9 '16 at 14:59
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    I'm suggesting that only as a response. It's not preaching if they're answering an comment. It also tells the person making the comment that 1) you're not ashamed or embarrassed by their comment and 2) points out that they're criticizing something they haven't tried, in a friendly manner. – Chris E May 9 '16 at 15:02
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    @AlexandreVaillancourt I've turned down desserts and beers and parties before and have been told "you don't know what you are missing" and never felt preached at. – user42272 May 10 '16 at 22:36
  • @djechlin I respect that you don't feel preached at when others tell you that. However, given the amount of upvotes on the comment I have made, I'm not the only one that feels that it could be interpreted as being preached at, and that's not something to say when you want to adopt the 'whatever' attitude. Using the 'you' opens the door for debate, and the 'bully' might feel picked on. Again, this is only in the context where one wants to adopt the 'whatever' attitude. – Alexandre Vaillancourt May 10 '16 at 23:26
  • +1 for how can people tease you about something they don't know about. – UKMonkey Jun 14 '17 at 13:18
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There is a thing about having a different approach to nutrition - the less you talk about what you eat, the less titles you use, the better.

Saying "I'm a vegetarian" or "I'm vegan" puts a little sticker on your forehead - I'm different from you. That can make a few people uncomfortable, but it is not, on itself, the problem.

The problem starts when you start talking about veganism - even if on little, apparently inoffensive comments.

Every single time you try to inform people about what veganism is about, that little sticker on your forehead starts changing a bit. It slowly goes from "I'm different from you" to "I'm better than you". And that's when the problem starts. You may not perceive it that way, but every single word you say about how veganism is good automatically says that every other eating habit is bad. Instead of talking about veganism, talk about how you like salad. Instead of saying "I don't need meat for reason X", just say you don't really like it. Likes and dislikes are easier to understand than doctrines.

Think about how this is similar to radical Linux Users - the problem is not about their use of Linux. The problem is about how they talk about it!

So, really, don't worry that much. If you watch out how you talk about your eating habits, people will quickly forget about how you are "different", and will stop bothering you.


As a sidenote: "I don't say anything but the truth" already made me dislike how you talk about veganism a bit. Again, there is no problems on you wanting to be vegan. Just don't be a dick about it, and you should be fine!

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    +1 for the side note, really. The OP's tone does suggest a certain non-ideal attitude. – Angew May 11 '16 at 6:48
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    @Angew Exactly. "I don't say anything but the truth" implies that the others are not speaking the truth, or fooling themselves. That comment alone says means OP thinks he is better then the omnivores. – Trenin May 11 '16 at 16:25
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    Tough but truthful answer. I'd give this a little twist though: Actually saying "I am a vegan and a better person than you" with a smile on your face would change the game - I think. It is a bold move, but at the same time it is a bit of a joke too. Make sure they are not sure if you are serious or not, so they'll be amused and/or confused.. – diynevala May 12 '16 at 12:55
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    @Trenin No it doesn't. Things can be true, false, and unknown. What others say is unknown in this case. Also, it's "better than". – Cees Timmerman May 12 '16 at 19:46
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    @CeesTimmerman Correct; we don't know what others say. However, the implication is obvious. Judging by the rest of the comments, others feel the same way. Also, thanks for the correction in grammar. Since we are being pedantic I'm sure you will appreciate me telling you that you should probably put a comma after your interjection: "No, it doesn't". – Trenin May 13 '16 at 12:37
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I was reading this question because I found it really interesting, then I noticed you saying you are abroad and I joined the community just to answer this one.

Hi Mark, this is Mauro...from Italy. Everything that follows is with all due respect and from a vegetarian who worked for an year in a European research center (located in Italy) with 2k+ people from all over the world most going along pretty well.


While your question is by itself a good question, it totally goes around and ignore what should be the main point: you are not in your home town, you are not in your region, and you are at least not even in your own country! You are in a totally different country, with totally different social behaviours.

Your problem here is not being vegan, your problem here is thinking there is a problem. But there is not, it's simply the way social interactions are in this country...and you are lucky you are in the north of Italy, where people are much more colder and less inclined to joking. I'm vegetarian, too, and I can assure it's pretty normal to be joked about. God, I even make joke about myself being vegetarian, going around saying that plants suffers too and I should eat rocks! Everybody here jokes about everything, it's our basic way of living. It's like being surprised of british people drinking beer, really! And food is traditionally a huge part of our life, so we tend to speak (and thus joke) a lot about it.

And reading the other answers and comments...yes, you sound preachy. And it is something Italians do not like at all. More than that, and ignoring Italy itself, if after an year in a foreign country you still do not have an idea of which are the basic rules of that country when it comes to social interactions, and the only thing you can say is that they joke about you being vegan and they don't understand the value of it...you have serious social issues in general.

So, generally speaking: if you plan to stay in a different country for a long time, learn and try to adapt. You are not going in muslim nations looking at women, or in Japan speaking about work during lunch, etc. etc. If you don't want to adapt to your new country, you have no other option than isolate yourself and allow only professional interactions.

Seriously, you could be vegan, blonde, tall (I'm 187 and in Indonesia most of the people stared at me laughing, do you think I got pissed off?), slim, just plain normal (what is normal, anyway?), whatever, it's not what you are, it's just you are in a different country with different social habits; it has nothing to do with what you eat.

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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Kevin Wells May 10 '16 at 22:55
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    "...you have serious social issues in general." - So boys will be boys, except the peaceful ones that don't fit in. Disgusting. – Cees Timmerman May 12 '16 at 19:50
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    @Luaan At least he doesn't make stuff up like you appear to do. – Cees Timmerman May 13 '16 at 8:17
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"I wish I could talk more with them to get them more informed, but I can't because it's not related to work."

Even if this weren't in a workplace context, talking to them to inform them about the benefits of veganism would not be a good approach. The jokes that they are making are a good indication that a. They've probably already made up their minds that they don't want to be vegan and b. They are used to that stereotype of vegans being peachy, and so trying to explain will simply reinforce that stereotype, and be counterproductive.

"Reporting or stuff like that isn't even an option of course."

Why not? One of your manager's responsibilities is to make sure there's no problems with his or her team working together, which can include social disputes. However, you should still try to work out the problem yourself first. Simply take whomever aside and say, "Just so you know, I don't like it when you make jokes about veganism, so could you please stop?" Once you've asked all the offenders once, if they are antagonistic or refuse to listen, then go to your manager and ask him or her to talk to them.

  • Finally an answer I can 100% agree with. – Pharap May 10 '16 at 20:30
  • I generally agree that talking to co-workers about problems you have with their behavior is a good approach and that managers have a responsibility to respond to these complains seriously. However, I think you have to tread carefully here. As others have pointed out workplace teasing is frequently a sign of affection and may be an invitation to become closer that person socially. Telling them to stop joking may feel like a rejection of offered friendship, and that may harm your workplace relationships – Kevin Wells May 10 '16 at 22:25
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    My advice instead would be to talk to the person privately and ask them why they tease you. Likely the response will be, "I'm just messing around with you", and at worst it will be, "Because I think veganism is stupid". If it is the first then they are just trying to be your friend, and if the second, then you can escalate it to your manager – Kevin Wells May 10 '16 at 22:28
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    "so could you please stop?" is bad, you're basically just asking them to defend themselves, and now you are escalating the situation when you presumably set out to deescalate it. The accepted answer, as well as John Meyer's, include good IMO good examples of comments that shut the conversation down rather than let it rise. – user42272 May 10 '16 at 22:45
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I've read all answers and I'll provide you with a different approach, if you disagree please don't be offended.

A little background: I am an executive with thousands of people below me and some decades of experience so I went through a lot, saw a lot, lived in every continent and experienced a lot of different human behavior... I think I can give you some valid advice.

...but, please read it more like your father giving you advice then as the advice of a guy with (probably) more experience.

Why don't you go and start making fun BEFORE people make fun of you? I've seen that across multiple cultures and usually that stops people all over from making fun of others.

Years ago, I had this morbidly obese employee. I called him to my room several times to ask him to see the company doctor, as I was personally worried about his health and his family. Some of the most senior employees started making fun of him, like, really making fun to the point of hurting MY feelings... but, unfortunately, I had to talk to lawyers, etc, in order to comply with the country's law and start firing people because of this (and I was going to fire all of them). Some days later I called him and asked him who was making fun of him, surprisingly he said no one.

I was surprised and at first I thought he was protecting the bastards but later I found out everybody quit making fun of him. I later invited him for a dinner and he said he had that kind of problem his whole life, never cared about it, laughed about it, and always made fun of his condition and made friends doing it.

So, long story short, next time you have a birthday party do the invite yourself with some huge red words "ALERT: VEGAN BIRTHDAY PARTY PLEASE DO NOT BRING ANY FOOD THAT TASTES GOOD. DO NOT FOLLOW THE RULES AND YOU WILL HAVE TO TASTE MY TERRIBLE HOMEMADE VEGGIE HAMBURGER". Feel very, very confident when giving the invite to people, smile a lot, make fun of yourself.

From my experience, I bet nobody will make fun of you since you already did, it's not going te be funny anymore. You will make new friends and be know as the department badass.

I know you may think that's not fair and you shouldn't be the one doing it, that people should just respect your food choices. But, this is life, you may as well do as I suggested and never have people bother you again and come here ask how to grow as a professional, which I think is a much better use of your time.

Again, please, do not be offended.

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    I like the general idea of this: often beating people to the punch helps immensely, but only recommended if you're comfortable doing so. This approach isn't for everyone. Some people are content to laugh about their diet, others feel very strongly about their diet and don't want it treated like a joke. – Tas May 10 '16 at 2:19
  • @Tas as I said, think more of a parent advice than a professional advice and please do not be offended. – fsenna May 10 '16 at 12:10
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    I disagree with this answer. I'm not saying it's not a good approach to other problems, but being vegan is not really comparable to being overweight. Being particularly overweight is something that is readily noticeable and cannot be hidden. Being a vegan on the otherhand does not have to be a defining characteristic. The only time a person's dietary requirements need be mentioned are in situations where there is food to be organised. Making a big thing of being vegan would be counterproductive, it's much better to just play it down and not mention it unless necessary. – Pharap May 10 '16 at 20:38
  • At a high level it is about being different. The way you are different (weight, height, veganism, gender, color, whatever) isn't the main point. – Michael Durrant May 10 '16 at 22:38
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    Kudos for the suggestion but in my experience as an awkward high schooler if your strategy for dealing with a social problem is to make a big mockery of yourself you will get exactly what you have coming, annnnd it's permanent. Sorry, but -1 for content, not for intent... – user42272 May 10 '16 at 22:47
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There are two kinds of teasing, friendly teasing which is meant to connect people together and bullying teasing which is mean to exclude people and make them feel less than. The way to handle each is different.

The best thing to do when encountering friendly teasing is to gently tease the person back.

I find with the unfriendly teasing that it works best to make the person feel uncomfortable. One thing that makes people really uncomfortable is a stretched out silence. I usually make strong eye contact and then say nothing and let the moment hang there until the other person gets uncomfortable. Of course I use my patented "teacher with an unruly student" stare - the one where it is clear from the stare that the other person is doing something wrong or childish. People rarely try to bully me twice.

If you can't perfect the stare and the uncomfortable silence, a smackdown often works as well. Bullies prefer easy targets. Since vegans have a reputation for being preachy, if you use the smackdown method, it is probably better to smack them down on some other characteristic than their eating habits. That will confuse them as well as it is not the expected behavior from you.

Smackdown is more dangerous than the uncomfortable silence though. They can claim you harrassed them. They might get angry. It is hard to complain when someone is just silent and staring.

How to tell the difference between the two types of teasing is that generally the friendly teasing is done in a friendly jokey tone of voice and the unfriendly is said with more of an edge to it. But some people are pretty good at pretending to be friendly when they are not. My rule of thumb is that I assume it is friendly teasing and respond accordingly the first time. If the teasing gets nastier, then I escalate to assuming is it unfriendly teasing.

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    The line between friendly and unfriedly looks always too blurry for me, and i take it as "if i want to joke with you we're joking, if i don't want it's not a joke anymore". And people makes jokes and say "we're joking!", but actually is trying not to feel guilty even if i don't say anything at all. – MarkWuji May 9 '16 at 15:53
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    That is why I assume friendly until proven unfriendly. – HLGEM May 9 '16 at 17:19
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    HLGEM: he is in Italy. So, if he had spent a bit of time trying to understand the social rules here, he would have found that there is only friendly joking here and it means peoples like you. When it is unfriendly joking? When someone is serious and calling you by name: that means you are screwed up. – motoDrizzt May 9 '16 at 20:18
  • An eye for an eye and the world goes blind. If they'e being genuinely unfriendly the solution is not to give them a reason to be even more nasty. – Pharap May 10 '16 at 20:49
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I would say initially avoid making a big formal deal of it, but still let them know the jokes bother you and it needs to stop. One move I've used with relative success in a similar situation is this:

Next time they make a vegan joke: 1) Smile 2) Look at the ground 3) Raise your head (still smiling) and say something along the lines of "Ok guys, could you cool it on the vegan jokes? Like... I get it, ok?"

I feel that sort of approach gets across your annoyance with them without coming across as uptight or easily offended. If they keep it up, a progressively firm tone can be used. Inserting how the jokes affect your well-being can also help humanize the situation ("Hey, seriously, those jokes are getting old for me. Could you please lay off?").

If it's obvious that asking them as adults to stop the jokes isn't working, you may have to go to H.R. and file a report.

Yes, it will be uncomfortable. Yes, you may garner an unfair reputation in the workplace for being humorless. However, it's more than likely that they will receive much worse, such as threat of termination if they continue workplace harassment. This is a lifestyle choice of yours that harms literally nobody, so they should be able to hold their tongue if they disagree with it.

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    +1 If you can't joke back, then making it clear that you're not having fun and would like them to lay off is definitely the next best thing. Hanlon's Razor: assume ignorance before ill-intent. They're probably ignorant that the OP is so upset about it. – DCShannon May 9 '16 at 22:24
4

I haven't had many occasions to talk a lot with my coworkers and we haven't even had many chances to chit-chat that much.

I told some coworkers I was vegan.

Now, whenever they can, they joke with me.

That's great progress. Now they know something about you that they can talk about. Unfortunately it seems to be the only thing they know about you, and so it's the only thing they know they can talk about with you that isn't work related. The fact that they're using it in a joking context means they feel fairly comfortable with you. I don't think they intend to insult you or your choices, though I suppose if you react negatively they might start to use it that way.

First I'd suggest you expand their knowledge about you. You aren't just "the developer" anymore, you're "the vegan developer". What else are you? What entertainment choices do you make? What are your hobbies? Do you have a significant other and/or children? Do you attend any clubs/groups/organizations?

By sharing with them more about you and your life you give them opportunities to bring up subjects other than work and veganism. Some of these will be opposite their choices - maybe you don't have kids and they do, maybe they like to barbecue meat. These will not necessarily be negative, but they'll still be a subject of discussion and specifically comparison.

Some will be similar. If you have kids another coworker with kids might talk about that with you. Sharing your hobbies will give them other subjects to approach.

Ask about them and their life. Learn what they like and dislike. Go out to lunch with them if they go out and just talk. If you work in isolation it can seem like they are teasing you when what might be happening is that they are trying to draw you out of your shell and into their group.

Lastly, if the teasing about your vegan lifestyle really is bothering you, just be straightforward.

"Look, it makes me really uncomfortable to hear you joking about my diet so much. Will you please stop talking about it?"

If it gets to the point where you feel uncomfortable, talk to your manager or HR.

  • 2
    +1 this is a really nice answer, nobody pointed out that i could also be "more then vegan", anyway the situation is more relaxed now since i started to joke on them also (yestarday they asked "Do you want a cappuccino?" "no, i will be swallowed by meat-eaters if i do" laughs (since i told some of them about this gigantic post, the ones that were already ok with it)) – MarkWuji May 12 '16 at 14:48
2

Workplace

Common laws provide certain protections for certain protected classes of people, and are designed to eliminate discrimination for things such as religion, gender, nationality. This is because such things are uncontrollable (race) or shouldn't be controlled by the workplace (religion).

Diet is not such a category.

People making fun of other people can be inconsiderate, but isn't necessarily a violation.

Prior approach

delicious but vegan pastries

They [said] "oh they don't taste as good as the ones with milk and eggs" (but they actually are [delicious] like some [other people have] said)

(I added some words in brackets, based on how I interpreted the statement you said.)

Okay, so let me get this straight: You identify the vegan pastries as delicious. Then other people provided a different view, and you phrase things like as if their comment is wrong.

"Taste is on the tongue of the beholder" is not really a well-known phrase. However, the reality is that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is much more true of taste than beauty. Some people dislike certain foods, including the taste of many vegetable products. They are not incorrect. This is not a scenario of correctness/incorrectness. This is taste. Taste is preference, and not an issue of accuracy.

You are being highly dismissive of the point of view that they provide, as if it is a wrong, incorrect point of view. The tastes that you find to be delicious are not necessarily what they find to be tolerable. This does not make them wrong.

when it comes to talk about food where I say my opinion on it, I always receive some kind of passive[...]

(The emphasizing boldness was added to the original text being quoted.)

So the comments that they make, which you find unpleasant, are their responses to comments that you make. "I say my opinion" are your very words. Then, after you spread your opinions, they state their opinions, and you're feeling offended.

In particular, it seems you're objecting to them doing this (spreading their opinions) on repeated occasion. So you're really inviting the criticism, by continuing to discuss views that you know are disagreed with. If you don't like the way that the conversation keeps turning after you provide views that you know they disagree with, then maybe you should just stop provoking them.

I'll even quickly address the examples you provide.

"even plants suffer"

Sure, they don't scream if you tear off one of their limbs. But plants are life. I don't think they suffer too much by ripping an apple off of a tree that will just drop the apple shortly later. But do you think that being uprooted is good for the plant?

"man was made to hunt animals"

Though man may have started out eating vegetables, there are records of early men hunting.

Their comments don't really seem to be wildly inaccurate. Yes, their comments do seem opposed to the vegan point of view. However, they don't seem to be comments that belittle you as an entire person that has other (unrelated) aspects to your life.

(for sure, in the supermarkets nowadays)

Immediately after mentioning their comment (about hunting animals), you waste no time throwing in your own sarcastic slant. You're hardly being successful in this attempt at portraying yourself as the innocent victim.

You're just not enjoying being on an unpopular end of a disagreement. Being on the less popular side can make you feel like you're losing the argument. If you feel like these people won't be swayed to your point of view, then your best bet may be to simply avoid such discussions.

Positive Plan

You could still be nice to your co-workers, and label your shared foods so that they can easily avoid experiences that you know they would find unpleasant. (By labeling your pastries as "vegan", they can know to skip over such foods if they find that type of food to be distasteful.)

Understanding An Objection

They do not have a particularly strong case for objecting to other people eating food (like vegan pastries) that the other people find more delicious. If they do appear to be annoyed by such a thing, it is probably because they find that contributions of such foods result in less food that they do appreciate. (If there's too much vegan food, and not enough food with other tastes.)

This "problem" (in their view) can seem particularly annoying to them when vegans eat less overall (which seems to be a common occurrence, perhaps related to the ideas that women seem to frequently eat less than men, and veganism seems to attract more women than men). So not only is there a higher-than-they-desire proportion of vegan food at the start of the event, but the vegan offerings don't even go away over time (like the foods that they do enjoy), because the vegans don't even bother to eat (much of) the stuff that they bring, and so 20 minutes later they are out of food that they see as delicious, and just see a ton of unappetizing vegan offerings.

This can be annoying, particularly if the non-eaters end up hearing people's efforts to try hard to find somebody to give the leftovers away (instead of enjoying it at home). It's not just an undesirable experience of counter-top space being dedicated to food that they need to spend effort to avoid (or, even worse, failing to avoid, and suffering through an unpleasant taste). Even worse than that, it ends up being a problem that just doesn't go away. Instead, it just continues to lingers on throughout much of the day (in comparison). Instead of 3 minutes enjoying a tasty treat (like what is experienced with traditional cookies that people grew up with), the vegan offerings seem to have an undesirable impact for 20+ minutes.

Positive Plan

If you were to bring a mix of vegan offerings and non-vegan offerings, with such a split that the vegan offerings tend to be fully eaten, such a move is more likely to be seen as a friendly gesture. And why are you even having such snacks/meals, except to be a social event that presumably is intended to be friendly?

Acknowledgement

Note that I'm not saying that you have any obligation to do this. I don't know enough about your situations (structures of your social dynamics/events) to identify what you ought to feel obligated to do. Isolation may be preferable if you're planning to leave anyway, and don't wish to invest in such niceness. What I am saying is that this approach could be a win/win opportunity which you may wish to consider if your wish is to have people be happier. You'd win by having happier co-workers that are less likely to be antagonized into discussing a topic which is actively annoying them (and thereby creating discussion which has actively annoyed you). They win by enjoying the food that is offered. Granted, this sounds like more of a win for them, but that's better than you losing by feeling terribly agonized, like you were when you wrote the question. Being nice is more likely to result in you experiencing the win of one of them being compassionate and including a mixed offering themselves, remembering your position of choosing to avoid their foods just as they choose to avoid yours. Whether you find such benefit (or potential benefit) to be worth your costs/effort is a decision you'll need to make yourself. I think you should do this, but that is because I think people should humbly strive to make other people happy when they have a chance to do so. I am not saying there is any cause for you to feel any specific obligation to take this good course in life.

Edit: Added this next section:

Alternative Approach

If you don't want to positively invest in what other people will be interested in, fine. If you don't have a thick skin, then simply do not engage in discussions that you expect will not turn out desirably. People with at least some interest in being respectful may get less enjoyment out of making anti-vegan comments if they learn that it repeatedly turns into a rebuttal that feels less amusing, like hearing "Let's talk about something else. Please."

Still, labeling your foods (as an advertisement for proponents, and a warning for the detractors) is considerate. Such politeness is still recommendable.

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    1. Veganism is not a diet. 2. Veganism is a protected belief under the European convention of Human Rights – lifetimes May 10 '16 at 11:57
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    @d.g 1. carnivorism is not a diet 2. carnivorism is a protected belief under the European convention of Human Rights. See how it can be turned from the other side as well. If we all start placing stuff under law and protection and all that we might as well all go to different planet and leave eachother alone, because I really don't want to offend anyone – Kiwu May 10 '16 at 13:12
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    @Kiwi I wasn't offended and don't have any problem with people who eat meat, 90% are nice people who don't try to abuse others for their choices. The reason it was added to the protected convention was because of the other 10%.. being harassed and the same jokes every damn day goes past the point of a joke – lifetimes May 10 '16 at 13:22
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    @d.g these kind of topics are what should be excluded from the workplace (IMO). I keep away from politics, social standings, religion and all that, that can cause a "negative impact" or "isolating effect". Just as an example and maybe it's not that relatable but people repeat me when I talk, because my native language is english and I speak dutch at work. So it would just naturally sound funny and when they talk english I have good giggle too. It's just banter and yes I agree banter can get out of hand sometimes, then just stand up for yourself (respectfully). – Kiwu May 10 '16 at 13:50
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    @d.g : I've always had veganism be defined for me as "don't eat any food that came from animals, including meat or anything else that came from an animal such as milk". And a diet may be defined as "what a person (or animal) eats". So those definitions, which this answer was based off of, was from the idea of veganism being nothing more than a diet; a choice about what a person eats. Although such dietary choice is often motivated by certain beliefs, I was completely unaware of veganism actually being a belief (and am still unaware of just what the belief is). – TOOGAM May 11 '16 at 7:55
1

Disclaimer: I am a person like that too, but maybe not to this extent, but please consider that they might not be joking at you, but at vegans in general, since they tend to "convert" others.

Now, they might feel like you're the same. Why?

They aren't vegan. You are. You brought them vegan pastries. Why? It wasn't for you - you came to share. You could have brought your own favourite vegan snacks. You told them you're vegan. Who cares? It was you who made the vegan food, not them. They didn't need to know that - you did, and you used this knowledge. Why tell them this?

Now of course I'm a bit too critical, playing a bit of the devil's advocate, but they might feel like you're propagating vegan culture, and people don't really like it. Personally I disagree with vegan people and laughing at them is just my way of expressing my thoughts - I find their lifestyle a bit absurd.

But I'd like to take a different approach; let's consider this question: do they mean harm? Do they want you to feel bad?

Probably not. They just have fun. You are uncomfortable with their way of having fun, so you have two options.

The first one is reporting them to HR/management, or giving them obvious signs that you disapprove their behaviour.

This is a terrible idea.

The very moment you do this, you show them that you have absolutely no sense of humour. What's more is that you also show that you are really sensitive about little things(I believe none of them thinks that it's anything problematic), and this could be harmful for you - at the very least, they won't joke at you, but will probably limit their communication with you - people don't like whistleblowers. Please, don't do this.

The second option is imho the best one: you might as well embrace the vegan title and joke at yourself.

I know. It's probably hard. You don't want to make fool of yourself. You just want to show them that you can laugh, and you don't care about their insults. First of all, when you're joking at person who's joking at themself too(and doesn't care), the joke isn't that funny anymore.

Secondly, you can use it to make out most of it - you have sense of humour, you can laugh, and you're friendly. You're caring for their food more then they do - say it, but in jokingly manner. Remember - these guys don't want to become vegan. If you try to convert them, you'll look like a fool. If you laugh like they do - with vegan twist - everything's all right("Well, Josh, . You won't convert them anyway. Show them that you're cool with them eating meat(why shouldn't you be anyway?), and soon enough they'll forget. Make this your strength.

  • 7
    "Personally I disagree with vegan people and laughing at them is just my way of expressing my thoughts" - that's called being a bully, and is nothing to be proud of. You'd be out the door on the first day here – lifetimes May 10 '16 at 11:19
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    @MatthewRock : Ack! It's terrible! That last paragraph has imbalanced parenthesis! And a mismatching quotation mark too! Further, the whole "Well, Josh" sentence structure is honestly a little confusing to me. – TOOGAM May 10 '16 at 11:51
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    @d.g : People express things differently. I could respond by saying you're being a name-caller (calling him a bully). Sheesh, that term gets so over-used. As someone who remembers being bullied (literally, physically), my opinion is that your condemnation is overly harsh. (Could he have phrased it more eloquently? Yes. I'm not sure that I even fully agree with his point of view. However, I don't think his common approach is coming anywhere close to rising to the atrocity of bullydom.) – TOOGAM May 10 '16 at 11:55
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    @TOOGAM Non-physical bullying is in no way less harmful than physical - as someone who has been through a lot of physical violence, in my experience it is the non-physical bullying that stuck. I don't care for people trying to control my tone either - that fact you are telling me to be 'more eloquent' in reply to someone who enjoys humiliating people just for daring to care about other lifeforms/their health/the planet, tells me a lot about you, too. – lifetimes May 10 '16 at 12:02
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    @d.g thanks for your opinion. Fortunately my boss hires people basing on their knowledge, not sweet talk. I won't refrain myself from saying that vegan is stupid if I think so, but I also never said that I do that at my workplace, nor how I do that. I don't bully them. You're wrong. PS. at our workplace we have good relationship in team, so laughing at each others is a way of expressing the sympathy. We're friends, not lawyers. – MatthewRock May 10 '16 at 12:03
1

It seems like this could have been avoided, had you just kept your dietary preferences to yourself. Why is it anybody's business what you choose to eat? Simply put, it isn't their business, but you made it their business by bringing it up. There's nothing wrong with being vegan; spreading the "faith" is annoying, at best. While you say that you just inform and never preach, this is often misinterpreted.

Take for instance a hypothetical super religious person working at your office. Everyday they go on these self-righteous rants, proclaiming that their belief is the best one, and anybody that doesn't agree with them is a complete moron. Any time you try to talk to them with a different point of view they scoff at you and walk away. How would you feel at that point in time? My guess is you wouldn't really like interacting with that person in the future.

It's been my experience that if you don't want to catch heat for something, keep it to yourself. A vast majority of arguments I've gotten into in the workplace were due to people not checking their politics/religion/whatever at the door. That inevitably causes disagreements, which turn into arguments, which are counterproductive in a professional environment. After all, you're there to work like everybody else.

In any case, try looking at this from their perspective. That may provide some insight. Maybe start a conversation that doesn't have to do with this topic, and get to know them better. You may end up with another friend or two!

Best of luck!

1

I guess I have three behaviours at work:

  • I try not to mention it (or don't try to mention it).

  • I mention it if I'm eating with other people (e.g. I order different food). If they ask me "Why?", then I say, "Lots of reasons"; if they ask, "Is it because of this or because of that?", then I reply, "Both".

  • If someone tries to tease me then I watch them and smile (as if they're making a joke); and then move on to something else as soon as they stop.

What you wrote sounds probably true (especially among younger adults):

If I am going around staying something like "hey assassins, how are you?", for sure I will receive some bad comments.

If you talk (or preach) then it's quite a common experience to get 'back-talk' -- see e.g. this blog.

protected by Community May 9 '16 at 18:07

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