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Guy Asks If He’s Wrong For ‘Playing The Race Card’ After Coworker Complained About His Food

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Redditor WarmCap459 is an employee who often brought the food made by his Korean girlfriend to work for his lunch breaks.

But when the Original Poster (OP) was confronted by a coworker who was offended by the food’s pungent odor, his attempt to diffuse the situation prompted an unforeseen accusation.

He visited the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit and asked:

“AITA for ‘playing the race card’ when it’s not about my race?”

“My girlfriend is Korean and often cooks our meals. For lunch at work I tend to bring left overs. Usually Korean food, specifically kimchi.”

“I know kimchi can be pungent but honestly I’ve never personally found it offensive. I can understand how others might though.”

“Recently one of my coworkers has been harassing me to stop bringing it. Me and this coworker are not close and really the only time she talks to me is to talk about how she doesn’t like my food.”

“It call came to a head on Friday when she approached me again. This time I could tel she was really upset.”

“At work we have a 3 hour block that we can take a 1 hour lunch break during. I offered a solution that I’d take my break during the first hour (1130) and she could take hers during any point of the other two. That way she wouldn’t have to smell my food.”

But the coworker found his proposal was non-negotiable.

“She got really upset saying she shouldn’t have to change her eating habits because I want to bring disgusting food.”

“I said something along the lines of ‘this is kimchi. It’s traditional Korean food. what would you do if we hired an actual Korean person and this is what they wanted to eat?’”

“At this point a few people were looking at us. The coworker backed down but not before saying ‘you can’t play the race card when you’re not apart of that race.'”

“I don’t think I’m TA for standing up for myself but AITA for bringing race into it?”

“Just wanted to clarify I’m not microwaving the kimchi. Also the kimchi is bought from the store and brought as a side dish with what ever leftovers are. It’s only brought on days my girlfriend cooked Korean food the night before.”

Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked if and where guilt belongs by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH – No A**holes Here

People responded with what they thought should be proper food etiquette at work while others thought the OP was not making a big stink about the situation.

“As a Korean, I’m gonna lean more towards the side of YTA. Not necessarily for playing a race card, which I don’t think you really did by explaining what kimchi is.”

“But Korean food is pungent. It’s heavy with garlic and spices that can make an office stink. If you really want to stick with Korean food then ask her to make other dishes that aren’t kimchi, fish, or exceptionally pungent.”

“There are plenty of options that are way better than those for an office.” – jessedoge12

“My mom is Korean and she wouldn’t even open the kimchi jar if we were having visitors at any point in the day. She was very aware the smell could be strong and didn’t want the house to smell. We were never allowed to bring it to school.” – midner1116

“dude, where do you live? there’s a korean bibimbap place down the block from my office, so maybe my life is just different from y’all’s? no one would even think twice about me eating my kimchi stew at my cubicle.”

“also, if koreans can’t bring in leftovers that have kimchi, garlic, or spices, you’re just asking all of us to give up our food and only eat what the prevailing office (ie: white) culture approves. you really want to go there? can indian people ever bring in curry? or thai people anything with fish sauce?” – dddmybbb

“Dude, I am Korean American and I have never brought kimchi for lunch to work- because it stinks. I think it’s a delicious stank, but still stanky.”

“My coworkers and I also don’t heat up fish or broccoli in the microwave at work, because it smells and it’s about common respect. And I also live in a place where Korean food is prevalent, with non-Korean coworkers that also eat Korean food.”

“We just eat it outside the office cuz no one wants to smell all that stanky goodness all day while we’re trying to work and having clients coming in that don’t expect to be walking into a food market.” – Anntato

“I worked with a man from Laos who primarily ate his dinner leftovers for lunch and it almost always included fish that he reheated in the microwave.”

“It was especially torture when I was pregnant. Regardless of what type of food people eat at home, we all know what stinks up a room an shouldn’t be eaten in the office.” – spectagal

“This has nothing to do with race or cuisine and everything to do with pungent smells. The white guy in my office got a talking to for reheating salmon in the microwave.”

“I’m Filipino and would never eat leftovers in the office – I would eat them outside where the smell isn’t being trapped with a dozen other nonconsenting people on my floor.” – thaddeus_crane

“If your food f’king stinks out the place then no don’t bring it, no one wants to choke on the smell. You’re inferring to the ignorance of others but being totally ignorant yourself.”

“You don’t have to eat your food in the office, you don’t even have to eat that food for lunch, you’re choosing to and choosing to bring a smell, that can be offensive into the work place.”

“I love eating curry, I like Kimchi and my nan used to cook me a lot of African dishes, that used to stink out the house, but I never took them into work out of etiquette to my fellow colleagues, and if I did have left overs from the night that I wanted to eat to stop them from spoiling them I’d take it outside and sit on the wall or bench and enjoy it outside.”

“It’s called consideration, you want people to be considerate of your culture and that’s fine, but you don’t have to make them suffer the smell just because you can like it, so you take steps to be considerate to them as well.” – BenHG96

“I’m Korean, and I lean towards NTA, but I also admit that I’d done giving f’ks what other people think about my food. So, it may well be I’m the a**hole in this situation.” – chocobocho

“YTA. I love kimchi, and fish, and garlic chicken, and all sorts of smelly food. But I wouldn’t force my coworkers to smell it because it is strong.”

“Also, it has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the smell.” – Madmax0412

Although the reactions remained mixed, the majority of Redditors thought it would be more considerate for the OP to eat his kimchi outside the work environment.

Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a Los Angeles based actor whose work has been spotted anywhere from Broadway stages to Saturday Night Live.
He received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese.
In addition to being a neophyte photographer, he is a huge Disney aficionado and is determined to conquer all Disney parks in the world to publish a photographic chronicle one day. Mickey goals.
Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1 Flickr: nyckmo