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Background : you are at a bar or some similar social place, where people gather and meet, and someone has struck up a friendly conversation with you, talking about the game playing on TV, etc, and eventually they introduce themselves and all.

And then they start asking you things like "where are you from?", which is fine, but then like "what do you do?" and then ask "for which company". Now that makes me feel very uncomfortable but if I don't answer it comes off as rude or something.

I've had it happen at a card table too with a lot of other people who could hear it!

What are some ways one could avoid answering such questions without turning the place cold?

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    As I am reading this, I'm thinking you are basically describing yourself in social spaces, where people go to meet and get to know other people (bar/card table), and the questions you describe seem like the kind of small talk questions people ask to get to know others. So maybe there's some cultural difference playing here, but would it be usual/common where you're from, for people to frequent those spaces you describe, and not tell others these things? Would it be common to have friendly conversations at a bar or be at a card table without eventually being asked such questions?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Feb 22 at 9:33
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    Would you be comfortable with indicating fairly directly that you don't want to answer? For example "Sorry, I don't like to talk about work when I'm relaxing" or some such. And are you comfortable talking about other aspects of your life, such as activities you enjoy like sports? It's easier to avoid one topic if you can deflect to another.
    – DaveG
    Feb 22 at 18:45

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I work in the defence industry. A lot of what I do is classified information, sometimes including the fact that I work there. So I am not even allowed to answer these questions, and even if I did I might get some kind of negative reaction form a stranger I don't even care about.

So this is what I say to well meaning strangers:

Oh goodness, I'm just a software engineer, you know, routine stuff, head down, hammer keyboard, come up for coffee.

Sometimes they are geeks too and want to know more, then it's boring detail time:

Right now it's Groovy in Netbeans, I really hate having to edit by hand, but Spock is cool... Have you had to do this too?

People would really talk about themselves, so turn the question back; just a boring worker ant, and you? That will get them going for hours.

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  • Most people should pick up when you don't want to talk about something, so making polite but vague and deprecating responses is definitely a good tactic, and if someone keeps pressing, then they're in the wrong. It's reasonable to not want to talk about your work, particularly if you find it boring, and it's OK to say that.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 17 at 10:12

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