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I spend most of the time in my lab and do my work. I prepare food for myself everyday and want to eat it in the lab when hungry.

I generally prepare limited food only for me and hence I want to eat alone without sharing. It is okay for me to share my food once in a month (or once in a long period) but not every day. Since I eat food daily in the lab and don't offer it to my friends/labmates, I can sense that they are developing an unfriendly opinion towards me.

In India, it is minimum courtesy to offer the food to the surrounding people (who are not eating like me) before eating. Since the other labmates only eat their own food occasionally in the labs, it's not a big issue for them to share their food.

If I offer food then I end up with either much less or no food and I can't spend my time and money on preparing more food so that I can have sufficient food after sharing also.

How can I send positive vibes to labmates without sharing my food?

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    Hi there! Are you incline to disclaim to your colleagues that you don't have much money for your food? – avazula Jul 28 '18 at 9:55
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    Would it be possible to have some cheap food available and share that? Or is it considered bad to not share everything you are eating? – DaveG Jul 28 '18 at 21:16
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    As most of us are not from India, can you explain the custom of food sharing to us? Are there people around you who have no food at all and rely on someone else sharing with them to have anything to eat? Or is it more like "Would you like my food in exchange for your food"? – Elmy Jul 28 '18 at 21:26
  • Are you in a State where it is legal and could you eat a "bacon burger with onions"? Would it be rude for them to not eat your food? - Note for the North American curious: some people won't eat beef, pork, or root vegetables (particularly onions). – Rob Jul 29 '18 at 8:26
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Indian here. Sharing food is an untold courtesy and few of them deem themselves entitled to take a bite of food from our lunch boxes, yes, without asking.

Handling it varies from person to person, situation to situation.

In one case, when two colleagues took some food from another male colleague, he promptly said, 'Taste it. Leave enough for me so that I don't stay hungry'. Or something on those lines.

From next time onwards, everyone would get into an auto-alert mode and let him eat his food peacefully.

I realized that when he said that, he sounded firm, confident but not rude. He knew what he wanted. He didn't drag the conversation and later swiftly switched the topic to something else. In such cases, people tend to forget the incident and yet acknowledge what he said.

That said, there could be pesky people who could take offense at it; it is always better to avoid them.

P.S. No one really has to know about the time/money factor. People can get nosy when you even mention it.

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You have a few options here:

  • Eat together with them: Now you can eat some of the food that they offer. However, given the vast diversity in the food that people bring, this might not suit your tastes.

  • Eat alone outside the lab: You don't need to share your food if there's nobody nearby.

  • Socialize with coworkers by other means: At one of my previous jobs, I ate my lunch at my desk without offering it to anyone. However, I would occasionally bring in self-cooked dhokla, ubbatti, aloo paratha, etc. for my colleagues. I would also take coffee breaks, etc. with them. Nobody gave me any strange looks or treat me like a social outcast for not offering my lunch.

  • Bring a little more food and choose how much you offer: I know you said you don't want to bring more food, but I suggest you reconsider. Rather than letting them take as much as they like, you could say, "Hey, I got some Kanda Poha today, would you like some?" and hold out a spoonful. Most people would either politely decline, or take a spoonful and be done with. Some people might ask, "Can I have some more?", but I doubt anyone would have more than two or three spoonfuls, because that would be socially shameful.

Finally, some advice from the Workplace perspective. Make peace with the fact that when you work with people in an office environment, you have to give up some of your personal preferences in consideration for others. It sometimes means spending a little of your own money. See this related answer.

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To me it sounds like your problem is not the fact that you are supposed to offer your food, but when you offer your food.

If you eat at the same time as your friends, you all offer to share at the same time. If someone takes half of your lunch, you can take the same amount of theirs to have enough food for a satisfying meal.

I suggest you make a "lunch date" with your friends. You could agree on a certain time or you set a time period (maybe an hour) and contact each other when you decide to eat.

Now, you said you don't want to eat together with your friends every day. Set the lunch dates at bigger intervals like every second friday or every first day of a month. That way you don't have to eat with them every day and they don't feel neglected.

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