So I'm talking about all the junior people (age 21-24) in my department who joined as the same time as me and I'm the only foreigner in the group. Language is not the issue I just feel that I get ignored by most of them all the time.

I'm not the loudest and most talkative person but I'm friendly and generally happy to socialise with and talk to anyone regardless of what they look like. I'm friendly with them but I just don't blend in in the group. Some people would not even look me in the eye. Some girls would even ask my number and to add me on Facebook at the end of the night and ignore me the next day. It's been 3 months and I've decided I'm not going to force myself to try and fit in.

Now I'm really worried that it will harm my career. I joined the firm not expecting (junior) people would get so cliquey and xenophobic. I planned to build a wide professional network and was going to try and be at least friendly with everyone. Now I found it impossible to build professional relationships with someone who would not even acknowledge my existence or respect me enough to even say good morning and smile after talking to me "friendly" the night before.

There are around 60 of us. I get along ok with I'd say 40 of them with 20 never paying any attention to me. I get along quite well with people from other departments. Most of those 20 people I'm referring to here are women.

I'm from Asia with a British father and I work in London. A lot of my friends prior to work are from all over the world.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Oct 25 '16 at 16:15
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    Just be the type of person who you'd be interested in becoming work friends with (knowledgeable, helpful, polite, etc) and the people who are going places professionally will notice and have respect for you, and those who aren't don't matter. PS - I don't hang out with coworkers outside of work or friend them on facebook as a rule, and it's never hurt me professionally.
    – McCann
    Oct 25 '16 at 17:35
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    If you'd call me xenophobic I would also stay away from you. Oct 25 '16 at 18:28
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    As for the girls, you seem to believe that having a girl talk to you means that she is into you. That's quite dangerous to believe. Oct 25 '16 at 18:32
  • @StephanBijzitter The OP is female, it's not likely they suspect her to be interested in them romantically.
    – McCann
    Oct 25 '16 at 20:50

I joined the firm not expecting (junior) people would get so cliquey and xenophobic

I think your career will benefit if you don't decide so quickly that people not choosing to be friends with you on your terms are xenophobic.

Now I found it impossible to build professional relationships with someone who would not even acknowledge my existence or respect me enough to even say good morning and smile after talking to me "friendly" the night before.

This reads like a culture expectation clash. You mention you are from a different culture. Are you sure that you are not putting unrealistic expectations on your coworkers?

Not everyone does this anyways. I often greet coworkers with barely more than a look in the morning. This doesn't mean that I hate my coworkers. It's just how the culture in my company/country works. It's not me being disrespectful or rude. It's just how it is.

There are many of possible explanations here. A common situation is your coworkers are really slow at waking up in the morning. I've known people who can barely walk without a morning coffee, let alone be friendly and "happy" and excited.

What I would recommend is the following:

  • Lower your expectations. It sounds like you have high expectations of your coworkers.
  • Invite your coworkers into your life instead of waiting for them to initiate with you

This could be something like eating lunch together. Going for an afternoon walk. Asking them about how their day went.

I fairly often see a theme of, "no one wants to be my friend. What do I do?" and the answer to the question "how much do you initiate with them?" is "never... they should just want to be my friend perfectly!"

If you've decided that they are xenophobic I can almost guarantee that you don't regularly initiate with people in the group. It's part of why assuming bad intent can be a problem, because that assumption guides future behavior. More subtly this guides how you act towards them and if you even partially think they are xenophobic towards you it almost certainly influences how you act towards them and not in a good way.

If you believe they are xenophobic this will come across to them and probably make them not enjoy your company.

Building friendships takes time and effort, particularly if there are meaningful culture gaps - which there are in this case.

And ultimately, it might just not be possible. Some people just "fit" better with friends. That's just life.

was going to try and be at least friendly with everyone

Just a note on this, you can always control your actions. If you want to be friendly towards your coworkers, nothing is stopping you from doing so.

But what I suspect you are meaning by this is, "I want all of my coworkers to be as friendly to me as I want." Which may not be a realistic or healthy desire.

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    "I've known people who can barely walk without a morning coffee" I can barely walk after it :( Bloomin' mornings. Pfft. Who needs 'em? Oct 25 '16 at 16:33
  • +1 for mentioning non-morning people. I'm friendly in general, but I keep to myself in the morning.
    – Kat
    Oct 25 '16 at 18:25

A lot of people don't socialise with workmates outside work. I don't for many reasons. Particularly as an outsider it's not a great idea. The way to network is by doing it in a work setting. Socialise with them at work in a mild way. Don't force anything, let it happen. But don't be disappointed if it never does.

As a foreigner you have many disadvantages and come under closer scrutiny. Focus on your work, get your respect that way, you'll find people want to associate with you.

Lastly don't chat up the girls you work with, there's plenty around outside work. (assuming you are male)

Will it harm my career?

Only if you let it, it's not career limiting, networking is important in a career, but professional networking, not social.


The simple answer is "No". It's perfectly normal not to mix social and work lives and plenty of people simply go home after work. It's not really all that likely that you'd gain significant work-related contacts through socialising with your colleagues either.

Why you're being blanked at work, I wouldn't know. It could be any number of reasons.

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    Thats pretty naive. In an ideal workplace, that should be the case. In reality, not getting along with your coworkers socially means you're one big step closer to being fired for being a personality conflict.
    – Magisch
    Oct 25 '16 at 12:41
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    I dont mean not getting along with them as work colleagues. I mean I find it difficult to get along with them outside of work. My boss keeps tellin us how life long friendship formed at workplace and in my case, I don't see it happening. Oct 25 '16 at 12:45
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    @Magisch - Here in the UK, socializing outside of work hours isn't mandatory. Firing someone for not socializing would be illegal.
    – user44108
    Oct 25 '16 at 13:27
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    @Pete Yeah, technically thats the case in Germany too. But as you know it, firing someone for being a minute late twice isn't illegal, so yeah. Moot point. If an employer wants you out, you're out.
    – Magisch
    Oct 25 '16 at 13:31
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    @Magisch: That's an interesting comment. My (very) limited experience is that there is much less socializing between work colleagues outside work in Germany. (Limited: One startup company with six full time employees). Oct 25 '16 at 16:34

Honestly it depends on what your role is within the company and what aspirations you have for career progression?

Overall if you’re good at what you do, then you will get noticed and progress without being sociable… eventually.

Being sociable has benefits; you will be recognised as more of a team player by you peers which will help with future progression within the organisation. Your superiors will see your interaction with the team and a massive bonus when it comes to promotions or even just rolling out the next project.

To achieve this you need to build your confidence, I suggest preparing some conversation starters prior to arriving at the office or a work social as this will allow you to engage with your colleagues without panicking on what to talk about next.

As for the xenophobic comment, you have no proof (From your question) that the department has this sort of culture. It’s more than likely not the case and again can be put back to confidence. Its more the case that the team don’t know much about you and therefore find it difficult to start a conversation.

Try to find some common ground. It will not just help your carrer but you mental health as well.

All the best

  • You're right. I seriously don't think they discriminate against me. I just think they tend to be closer to people who look similar to them. When I socialise with people from other department I'm usually the only foreigner too and I get along with them very well. Should I just keep attending social events and try and let people get to know me? It's very disheartening at the moment. Oct 25 '16 at 12:53
  • @autumntimes: Is it similal looks, or similar interests? Do you have the same sorts of non-work interests as most of your co-workers? I've never socialized much outside of work, simply because I don't like drinking, detest popular 'music' (and most of popular culture, to be honest), and would much rather go for a hike or bike ride than attend a typical social event. Try to find people (at work or outside) who enjoy the same things you do.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 25 '16 at 17:42

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