First off, I know that this question is very close to mine, but has no answer that would match my needs.

Secondly, I find it shocking how many people answer for a workplace situation. This question is about generic place and a generic way that can be taken.

Yesterday a colleague of mine had birthday and I didn't know about it until later that day where the coworker brought in some food and sent an email to everyone. I felt pretty embarrassed, as I already met him at that morning but had no clue. This is the reason for following question.

Please assume following situation:

  • I am the person having birthday
  • We meet each other for a short period of time (lets say around 5-10 minutes)
  • It is a 1-on-1 conversation
  • This can happen in any place with any person I know (talked to that person a few times but only small talk)
  • This person has absolutely no clue that it's my birthday (doesn't ask "what's up?" or similar to which I could respond properly)
  • I am not giving off any hints by my looks or my behavior which could cause a question.

How can I tell someone who has no clue (and therefore doesn't ask about it), that it is my birthday without it being somewhat awkward?

I am not looking for answers like the ones in the linked question, as they are mostly suggest to bring food or do some activity. I am looking for answers which are purely conversation based (A short conversation, only small talk, no questions about what up etc.).

Please note that answers such as Hey, it's my birthday! would not be a good fit in my opinion, as I feel that it would be pretty awkward if you walk up to someone and the first thing you say is "It's my birthday!" (also I feel its kinda rude).

  • 12
    Can you explain the goal of telling somebody its your birthday? The way I'm reading this, you felt bad about not knowing it was your colleague their birthday (and thus not congratulating them) when you first saw them that day and your goal is to prevent others from feeling that way towards you. If that is correct, ask yourself: would you have felt better if the colleague had told you right away when you first talked that day? They still would have had to remind you and you would have probably felt like they where bothered by you now knowing, since they reminded you specificly in a 1 on 1 talk. Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 9:36
  • @JoryGeerts that is exactly my goal. And yes, I would have felt much better if he told me earlier Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 13:12

6 Answers 6


Yesterday a colleague of mine had birthday and I didn't know about it until later that day where she brought in some food and sent an email to everyone. I felt pretty embarrassed, as I already met her at that morning but had no clue.

That sounds pretty standard to me, other than the fact that you got embarrassed by it. Most adults aren't that bothered about their own birthdays. Mainly it's an excuse to eat some cake, and share it with colleagues. Your colleague probably didn't tell you that it was her birthday when you had the morning chat because she wasn't that bothered about it and didn't expect you to be either.

How can I tell someone who has no clue (and therefore doesn't ask about it), that it is my birthday without it being somewhat awkward?

It sounds like for you a birthday is a fairly big deal. In terms of bringing it up, I'd do so the same way I'd bring up anything else that's interesting in my life: I'd wait for the person I'm chatting to to ask something like "How are you?" or "Get up to much last weekend / last night" or "You got anything planned tonight / this weekend?". So I could then respond with something like:

  • I'm good. Super excited today because it's my birthday!

  • I spent the weekend baking cakes so I could bring them in today because it's my birthday

  • Didn't do much last night, but tonight my other half is taking me out for dinner because it's my birthday.

  • This weekend I'm going karting with some friends to celebrate my 23rd birthday.

Note that in these examples you're not walking up to someone and saying "Hey, it's my birthday!", you're describing what's going on in your life and adding the reasoning as "because it's my birthday".

  • 1
    The first two examples seem pretty awkward Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 13:07
  • The last two bullet points hit the nail on the head. By saying you already have plans, the other party won't feel guilty.
    – Tom
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 14:29

Your colleagues approach to this was just fine and can be copied for situations in the workplace.

Many companies have some place where if you put food there, it is assumed that it is free for all and will be eaten. (Not taken. If I put a cake in the company's kitchen you are welcome and supposed to cut off a slice of cake and eat it, and maybe two slices especially if it gets late in the day and it looks like the cake might not disappear until the end of the day. You are not supposed to take the cake away).

And since nobody would know what the cake or whatever you put there is about, and that you put it there, you can either put a sign there explaining, or send an email.

There is no need to feel embarrassed if you meet someone and don't know it's their birthday (yet). If you are not told, you cannot know. And nowadays companies in many countries are not allowed due to privacy laws to tell about birthdays. So your manager cannot shout "Hey everyone, today is Xtremebauer's birthday". For legal reasons. Which is Ok, since some people wouldn't want anyone to know.

  • 2
    Please note that the op commented below the question that they are not interested in that approach
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 7:57
  • 3
    This does not answer OP's question.
    – kscherrer
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 8:18

I haven't been to Germany, but where I'm from it's generally polite for both people to ask "what's up" or "how are you" or "how was your day?" or something equivalent if meeting casually. If it's similar where you are, this is a good opportunity to mention it's your birthday. Or you could wait for a lull in the conversation.

If neither of these opportunities arise they are probably too distracted by something else, maybe the situation, maybe the contents of their own head - in this case they are possibly not going to be too enthusiastic to learn it's your birthday.


she brought in some food

This could simply go as follows:

Dave: Hi.

Helen: Hi, Dave. Oh, I brought some food for my birthday, I'll send an email with more information later. Please feel free to drop by.

Basically, tell them you brought something and explain it's because it's your birthday!


As other answerers pointed out, you can bring it in a casual conversation. If there is any celebration, event, whatever, the same day, talk about it and mention your birthday is the same day. You can mention it more or less obviously.

Another easy solution is to talk about the weather, and say how it will impact your celebration day.

You can ask the person you talk with when is his/her own birthday. He/She will probably ask you in return when is yours.

You can tell a joke related to birthday or celebration, which will give you the opportunity to evoke your own birthday.

You can also wait for a proper moment in the conversation to mention it's your birthday. For example, a few days ago, I worked with a friend of mine to conclude a music festival. He said "Another year is gone (une année de plus en moins, not sure if the translation is good)", which I replied "Tell me about it, it's my birthday next week!".

Eventually, my best advice would be to do not make a big deal about it. It's your birthday, everyone has one, and no one will be mad at you to be a bit selfish that day. Moreover, as @AJ said in his answer, if you tell it to just a few people, they will spread the word themselves and after a short time everyone will wish you a happy birthday.


Since you don't want to say that directly, you can always try to start a conversation about a celebrity or a historical figure or any popular person and tell that your birthday coincide with yours.

For eg,

Do you know {celebrity_name}? They turned {years} today. {some casual talk about that person}. Do you know their birthday coincides with mine?

This will give them a hint that it's your birthday.

This one time, when there was celebration for Lord Ganesha's birthday in my new office, I did tell them that it's my birthday too. That's when they stuffed my mouth with sweets brought for the occasion.

If you can't find any such person your birthday coincides with, try to have a casual conversation about birthdays or something and then mention that it's your birthday. Some people might get hint when you're talking about birthdays.

You have to say this to some people and everyone will start wishing you.

You can also try to start a conversation and mention it. However, you shouldn't try to be too subtle as they might not get hints and will not wish you birthday.

But in the end, there is nothing to be shy about it or think whether someone will consider it rude or not. This is your big day and you have to tell everyone about it.

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