As a background, I am currently working as a foreigner where in 90% of my colleagues speak the local language and while the other 10% speak another language. Cut the story short, I'm the only one in the office that is of my nationality.

We recently shifted office and my seating arrangement changed.

I am currently sitting in the middle of a group of all-locals and they'd often speak their language unless they're specifically speaking to me (where in they'd switch to English).

For one, I am not complaining that they should speak in English. It's their country and they can speak their local language.

However, I feel very distracted and feel unintentionally left out when they banter which I didn't feel when I was seated further. It makes me very unhappy in an otherwise friendly and nice environment.

Is it reasonable for me to ask one of my colleagues, who was actually was previously in the same seating position I currently am to swap seats? I say same position because the arrangement of the group didn't change even if we shifted office. Only the two of us swapped. His seat is on the edge and I'd feel more comfortable to be a little bit further from the rest (which was where my old seat was).

I don't know how to say it to him without offending anyone. Like, what if my current seat mate thinks I don't like him (which isn't true) because I wanted to change seat. And without coming off as fussy. But it really affects my concentration.

  • 3
    Sounds reasonable to me. Just ask.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 5, 2016 at 3:43
  • 1
    The worst he is likely to say is "no".
    – keshlam
    Sep 5, 2016 at 3:51
  • 1
    Are you sure that moving is the least disruptive option? If the problem is that you're distracted, the first approach would generally to try to find a solution to that problem yourself. Getting headphones, for example. Is there any reason to expect that your colleague's new seat is "better" than yours by some reasonable metric (closer to a window for example)? Asking a colleague to move to a less optimal spot because you are distracted by people speaking the local language in the workplace is going to come across as a bit more than "fussy". Sep 5, 2016 at 4:12
  • Why did your seating arrangement change when you moved to the new office?
    – user29390
    Sep 5, 2016 at 10:29
  • 4
    Is learning the local language not an option ? This might be better than excluding yourself permanently from office communication. Usually people appreciate it if you at least make an effort to blend in. Sep 5, 2016 at 11:23

2 Answers 2


Just ask him, if people are constantly talking through you then they won't (shouldn't) mind. Foreigners are all a bit weird and usually get small things they ask for. I can't see why anyone would get offended.


If they are happy co-workers, they would accommodate you in any relevant conversation. As you have mentioned. Otherwise, it is also a good chance to pick up the local language. They will become better friends, once you start on bits and pieces. If the language is too loud and distracting, there is no harm in asking them. You work with them, so they won't take it as an offense. If they do take it that way, it is better to explain your situation to your friends than to escape.

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