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I come from a land where regionalism is at its peaks. The moment I tell them that I am from a particular region, stereotyping and judgement begins. Mocking, sarcasm etc are all part of it. This is quite common at both the workplace and the apartment where I share with a few others.

On the contrary, I do not have affinity towards any part of the country. I do not get judgmental. I talk to everyone in the same manner. I am old enough to understand that this kind of mockery or coming to irrational conclusions is foolishly common. I only feel sorry for them that they are extending these views to everyone they meet rather than trying to know the person, individually.

A few incidents to cite.

When I am cooking a particular dish, there would be a taunting remark from my flatmate, as 'We don't use these kind of spices or this amount of spices'.

While I am watching a movie on TV or laptop, there would be a remark, 'I wonder how you understand this language so well.'

Or 'I have never seen anyone from your region getting dressed up like you. You are different from the rest. Where did you learn this from?'

It feels like I have to prove every single time I come across people from other regions. Probably that is what they expect me to do, i.e., give a reason or explanation to why I am being the person I am rather than accepting me for what I am.

If this is really relevant here, the answer is I am a natural at picking up things related to fashion, cooking or my diction. I do not have to struggle much about it.

Most of the times, I remain silent. I never answer nor do I tend to reply to such silly remarks. But, over the years, this has started to get overwhelming. I am sick of hearing those kind of statements. And at the same time I do not want to sound rude to them.

How can I shut down regionalist remarks without being rude?
I do not want to burn any bridges, since these people are coworkers, roommates or family. But I would really like these comments to stop.

  • The spices comment seems out of place, how do you know it was a taunting remark? It seems like a regular conversation piece to me, unless there is more context to make it seem like it was intended to provoke. – Callum Bradbury May 22 '18 at 8:08
  • @CallumBradbury The intensity of the mockery might not be visible through the post. But, when it happens, people are very sarcastic about it. Spices is just one thing. It could be anything related to food, religion, rituals, basically anything they want to. When one wants to make a remark, they find anything and everything to comment about. Those are all silly remarks. Very silly. As I have mentioned I tend to ignore all those but I am sick of it now. – WonderWoman May 22 '18 at 9:16
  • Do you want to stop the remarks from that person once and for all, or do you want phrases to momentarily brush the comments off? How confrontational do you want to be? – LinuxBlanket May 22 '18 at 12:56
  • @LinuxBlanket The remarks are not from a single person; it could vary from anyone at the workplace to my roommates and their parents/partners. It is a little less at the workplace because I brush them off saying 'We'll talk about it later' and keep my rapport professional. But, with roommates, it is getting sick. And it is not always the same set of roommates, people come and leave or I would be changing apartments. I want to brush off the comments as silly ones or depending on the situation might want to have a friendly chat with them minus these sarcasm, if at all possible. – WonderWoman May 23 '18 at 6:52
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I'd say they start being rude so it's perfectly valid to be a little bit rude back.
There are a couple of ways to deal with the sarcasm. My personal favorite is to completely turn the sarcasm around and treat it like an over the top compliment. As in: the more sarcastic they say it, the more serious you take the compliment.

Q: I wonder how you understand this language so well.
A: Oh I didn't realise that it actually takes effort to understand this. I must be a natural. Thanks for pointing this out.

Another fun way to respond is with an equal amount of sarcasm. This works really well with a big smile and preferably also taking it as a compliment.

Q: We don't use these kind of spices or this amount of spices.
A: You don't? Well ever since I tried it this way I loved it. You should try it as well, you might learn how to make it tasty too!

Careful with that kind of wording. This only works if you're already on somewhat friendly terms or if you like friendly banter. If done incorrectly this can result in actual dislike of each other.

Instead of the return sarcasm you can also treat it as if it wasn't sarcastic at all.

Q: I wonder how you understand this language so well.
A: Hmm, I never thought about that. I've been used to listening to this language/dialect my whole life so it takes me about as much effort as understanding what you say. Do you have trouble understanding me perhaps?

Or maybe a better example (I'm more used to responding the sarcastic route so I seem to have trouble finding a good example here).

Q: We don't use these kind of spices or this amount of spices.
A: You don't? Than what spices do you usually use in this dish?

Ask it as genuinely as possible.

If they keep their sarcasm on just continue normally

Q: Well everyone knows you should use this spice instead.
A: Oh, well I didn't. Perhaps I should try that next time. < continue cooking normally >


There's a couple of reasons why (I think) this works.

1) When done often enough you yourself will nog longer focus on the sarcasm part. For you, after the response the negative conotation is dealt with so you can go on with your everyday stuff without worying about it.

2) It usually tends to go into a more normal conversation instead. Especially if they were just looking for smalltalk in the first place and wrongly defaulted to the sarcastic remarks because everyone does so. By ignoring the sarcasm you make the smalltalk work and can actually have a normal conversation from there on.

3) By actually responding normally they get to know you a bit better. This means they'll start seeing you like the normal (or at least interesting) person you are. Which as I understand it was your goal in the question in the first place :)

  • I find it is okay to be rude too to those who are rude to us. I need to keep practicing that. – WonderWoman May 23 '18 at 6:55
  • great. But note the emphasis on "little bit". You need to find the balance between friendly banther, i.e. both being somewhat rude but in a joking/teasing way (which is perfectly fine) and escalating things turning into "fights" (which should be avoided). – Imus May 23 '18 at 7:01
  • I think I need to work finding that balance. Sometimes, the sarcasm comes so suddenly, that I take time to understand that it was one. – WonderWoman May 23 '18 at 7:05
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    That's exactly why this answer works. Either they were joking and you responding with normal conversation or a bit of joking yourself which will probably lead to a better mutual understanding. Or they were not joking and you brushing it off means they failed their bully attempt. That way it's still a win on your side. – Imus May 23 '18 at 7:12
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Just repeat the question to them as serious as possible.

If they ask 'How do you understand the language so well?' Reply with 'How do you?'.

It might be slightly offensive and aggressive but it brings home the point that everybody has the same potential and their own roads to how they became who they are now. It also puts the ball in their court to make the unspoken statement of 'people from region x are bad at this and that' spoken. Which they will rarely do unless they are really offensive people.

And if they end up doing that you have a good excuse to smile, stand up and walk away.

  • Exactly. I am really looking for such statements which would put them in the soup and make them think twice before talking to me. Smile, stand up and walk away is something I need to try from now on. – WonderWoman May 22 '18 at 9:23

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