new employee won’t stop talking about her old job, losing money on a business trip, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. New employee won’t stop talking about how she did things differently at her old job

I have a new employee who is in orientation. Every time I or one of the other staff members tell her about something, she says, “That’s not how we did it at my last job,” or “we did it XYZ way at this other place.” And she expresses an opinion about everything she is told, no matter what the topic. My staff is starting to get frustrated but so far has been kind and saying things like, “Well, this is the way we do it here.” She is also printing out orientation pages and telling me what needs to be updated when she was already told what the updates were.

Is there a kind way to tell her to listen and learn and stop telling us about how she did things other places?

Sit down with her one-on-one and say this: “Jane, you’ve mentioned multiple times that you did things differently at previous jobs. Right now, we want to focus on teaching you how we do things here, and it’s becoming a distraction to keep discussing how you’ve done things differently before. Can I ask you to stay focused on what we’re teaching you about how we operate here?”

Also, if you’re not this person’s manager, give a heads-up to the person who is, because this has Pain In The Ass written all over it. (And that will be helpful for her manager to know about, since it’s more likely to make her direct about nipping this in the bud when she sees it herself.)

2. I’m going to lose money on this business trip

I’m from Asia and am being asked to fly for a business trip to Europe (Germany). There are many issues, but I don’t know how to bring it up without making it seems like I’m a difficult person to deal with:

1) We have to choose the cheapest ticket available. Of what I’ve found online, the cheapest would take 19 hours, while paying about $150 more would shorten the flight to 12 hours. But I’m not allowed to take a shorter flight, just the cheapest flight.

2) I’m only allocated a per-day allowance of 25 euros, which don’t think is reasonable since a meal costs 15 euros in general and I have to eat two meals (lunch and dinner). This 25 euros allowance is inclusive of everything. I have been on business trips in other countries and felt like I had to fork out more money than I’d spend if I were to stay in my home country. And of course I’m not compensated for the lost time I could spend with family and friends.

Is there any way I could reject this trip without making it seem like I’m rocking the boat? Thinking about this just makes me really miserable.

Whether you can just decline to go really depends on your job, the nature of the trip, and your relationship with your manager. But before you get there, I’d try pushing back on both issues: You can point out that paying just $150 more would shave seven hours off the plane ride and ensure that you show up far more rested and ready to work. You can also put together some samples of what 25 euros will buy in the city you’ll be in; you might be able to show that it’s not sufficient for two meals there, even if it might be realistic for other destinations. (Note: I don’t know if it is or not, but by looking at actual menu prices in the area you’ll be in, you should be able to conclude pretty definitively.)

This may or may not change anything. In a reasonable company, it would, but you may not be working for a reasonable company. If that turns out to be the case, you can try framing it as “It seems like I’ll be losing $__ by going on this trip. What can we do to ensure that I don’t lose my own money during business travel?” But if they’re unreasonable and the trip is required, you might be stuck.

3. My coworker keeps trying to speak our native language to me, but I want to speak English

I share a room with the rest of my team (seven of us in total); it’s a fairly small and packed open plan office. A guy who joined this week speaks my native language (which is not terribly common). Finding this out delighted him, and now he insists on talking to me in that language in front of everyone (trying to make conversation, not just asking one question or two). This makes me uncomfortable, and I also believe it’s unprofessional and rude to the rest of our team.

Am I overreacting? If not, can I shut this down somehow (presumably by telling him)? He told me before going home yesterday that he needs to talk to me in that language even MORE from now on (no clue why). I think he’s trying to establish some type of connection, and while I’m more than happy to share any work-related knowledge I have, I don’t want this to happen in any language that isn’t English.

Just be direct with him! The next time he does it, say in English, “I prefer to talk in English at work,” and then go on to answer him in English. If he seems confused or put out by that, you can explain, “I don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of others in a language they can’t understand.” If pressed, you can explain that it feels exclusionary to you and you simply prefer to stick to the language spoken by those around you.

(To be clear, I do think it would be fine for you to talk with him in your native language if you preferred to, especially if it were faster or easier to communicate that way, but it’s also legit for you to choose not to, and he should respect that.)

4. Should I check with the candidate before I give a reference for them?

My industry is kind of small, and while everyone doesn’t know everyone, it is pretty darn close. The people who work in our industry move from site to site with stints in the HQ. I used to work at Company A (left about eight years ago). A friend from Company A emailed me yesterday to ask if I would give a reference for my old boss at a site rotation at Company B. She told me that she and the hiring team already know that he is technically excellent but that he administratively needs a strong ops team and hates being bothered by HQ (this is pretty standard in our industry for people in his position, unfortunately).

They are asking because, as is clear on his CV, he went straight from the site where we worked together to another site and didn’t include references from either of those sites. My friend was on a site rotation for her company in the same small town as us and knew that he and I worked together. I don’t know why he didn’t include a reference from our site, but I would be willing to give a good reference. I know that he left the next site abruptly, but I didn’t work in that department so I don’t know why (I mean, I assume why, but when the C-suite lets a guy run sites a certain way for 20 years and heaps praise, promotions, and bonuses on him, and then all of a sudden decides they don’t like how he does things, that’s not on him and certainly not something I would discuss outside of Company B).

I know that a good hiring team does their own due diligence on reviewing a candidate, including using any resource they can access to get feedback. But as the person being asked, do I get permission from the applicant first? Is it a different standard if I am being asked to be a reference for someone who reported to me vs someone I reported to? I ultimately decided to contact Old Boss and let him know I had been asked and that I was willing to give him a good reference or tell Company A that it was my personal policy to only give references if requested by the applicant. He said he would be pleased if I spoke to Company A. I did this because Old Boss knows that I am looking for a new job and offered to be one of my references so I wanted to maintain the good relationship. But this is likely to come up again for other people I know so I want to be prepared.

It’s really up to you, but in general there’s no expectation that you’ll get the candidate’s explicit permission before giving a reference. That’s doubly true when you know the person who’s asking you for the reference, as you did here. You still might choose to reach out for permission, but you’re not violating any convention if you don’t.

Your friend who contacted you was basically drawing on your friendship and saying “hey, can you give me the low-down on what the deal really is with this guy?” That’s a pretty normal thing to ask when you know someone personally. (Imagine, for instance, that you’re hiring a nanny and notice that you’re friends with one of her previous employers. Would you really not reach out to your friend and ask her about her experiences with the person and expect her to be honest with you? This is basically the same thing.)

5. Letting a contact know I’m not looking for other work right now

A manager I’ve worked with in a part-time role in the past sent me a job posting. She said she thought that I would be a perfect fit, and encouraged me to apply. I loved the team, the work, the management, and the mission. A year ago, it would have been a total dream job.

The problem is, I am really happy with where I am now. I am happy with my salary, several people in leadership have “clicked” with me and have been informally mentoring me, I enjoy my work, I love my clients, I genuinely like most of my coworkers, and I have a short commute. There is probably not as much room for “on paper” growth as I’d like, but there are lots of different types of personalities to deal with, and I’ve discovered that I actually really love finding ways to work with difficult people when others have thrown in the towel. (I think dealing with difficult people at work could become one of my secret superpowers.) In other words, I’ve still got more to learn in my current role and am not ready to look for other opportunities.

What is the best way to say “thank you for thinking of me, I’m not looking for a change right now but would love to keep the door open in the future”?

Exactly like that would be fine! That’s a very normal thing to say. In fact, she’s probably expecting that there’s a decent chance you’ll say it, so don’t feel weird about it.

If you want, you can reword it a bit to “Thanks so much for thinking of me. In a lot of ways this would be my dream job, but right now I’m too happy with my work and my company to think seriously about leaving. However, I’d love to get in touch with you at whatever point I do start thinking about what’s next.”

{ 224 comments… read them below }

  1. Knitting Cat Lady*


    I live in Germany. If I go on a business trip within Germany I get a per diem of 15€. For breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    And I’d say that 25€ per diem is actually enough for two meals a day anywhere in Germany.

    1. Jen RO*

      Really, that low? Our per-diem for Western Europe is 50 USD, which is 45 EUR nowadays, and at its lowest was ~33 EUR. I’ve never been to Germany, but in all big cities I’ve visited (Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen, London, etc) 15 EUR would *maybe* get you a lunch…

      1. De (Germany)*

        45 sounds like a much more reasonable number at least for Germany. 15 is way too low, and with 25 you still have to think about where to eat a lot in some cities (München, Düsseldorf,…). That pretty much leaves you with fast food or fixing sandwiches yourself. And that’s something you really shouldn’t on a business trip, in my opinion.

        1. De (Germany)*

          To put this into perspective, I am not in one of the expensive cities and if you go to a halfway decent restaurant (nothing fancy, just for eating a decent meal), a main course will be around 10 Euros and a drink will be around 2 to 3 Euros. Two sandwiches at the bakery will be 4 Euros. A pizza at a take-out place will be around 6€.

          1. Glod Glodsson*

            As a Dutchie, it always strikes me that going out for dinner or lunch in Germany is comparatively cheap. In the Netherlands you’ll pay about 25 for dinner alone in a restaurant. But I do think it could have been a little higher – if you’re out for work in a strange town it’s nice to be able to eat somewhere without worrying about money (instead of getting takeout or eating at Burger King).

        2. Jen RO*

          I agree, that’s what I meant. I am sure you can live on 15 EUR/day, but when I have non-stop meetings 8 hours a day in a city I don’t know, I want to at least afford a nice meal to relax in the evening… without having to do extra research on where the most affordable restaurants are.

          On my last trip, I was in Paris, and my hotel and the office were super central (Champs Elysees). A sandwich was 5 EUR and a steak (at Hippopotamum, not very fancy) was 20 EUR. Add some water and juice and you’re at 30 EUR already.

          1. MK*

            I was easily able to get a one-main-course-plus-water lunch for less than 10 euros in central Paris; also an ok dinner (though not steak) for a littl more than that. And it’s hardly a huge deal to spent 10 minutes on the internet beforehand to find places to eat; many people do that anyway instead of trying to figure it out when they are tired and hungry.

            I do agree that it’s kind of crappy to send an employee to another continent with the minimum per-diem for their expenses. But it’s not true that the OP has to spend their own money on the trip.

            1. Colette*

              A lot of that depends on where they’re staying, what kind of transportation is available, and how much of their time is being taken up by work. The last business trip I took involved twelve hours a day in mandatory meetings. If I had to spend 30 minutes travelling to get to a restaurant I could afford at 8 pm, I would not have been very happy.

              1. MK*

                True, a lot really depends on things we don’t know about. And why I think the OP needs to have facts to make a case for a better expense budget.

                I think what makes me question this is the whole “this trip is going to be ghastly and I will be out of pocket” attitude of the OP. Also, that they aren’t looking to improve their budget, they went straight to wanting out of the trip.

                1. Colette*

                  I wouldn’t want to go on this trip, either. I think the OP should make a case for the shorter travel time and more money for food, but business travel (for jobs where it’s not the norm) is rarely enjoyable – and if the company is trying to save pennies at any cost, it’s going to be more of an endurance test than anything.

            2. Jennifer M.*

              The OP did note in one of the other chains that the 25 euros included transpo so restaurants in walking distance from office/meetings and hotel will probably be a must.

            3. Sunflower*

              I disagree with you. While yes he should try to negotiate his budget, I don’t blame him for not wanting to go at all. If I was being told to travel and being offered this, I would be offended. I’ve never had limits when traveling but I have been expected to make reasonable decisions. I decided a good budget is you should be able to spend what a mid-priced meal in the restaurant of the hotel you’re staying at would cost. I doubt this amount comes anywhere close to that.

              Traveling is effing hard and exhausting. It’s not a vacation and time change is no joke either. I can’t remember a single time I traveled for work that did not require long hours and limited sleep. When I travel for work, I usually do research restaurants. Sometimes I’ll decide to go to one and then change my mind at the end of the day because I’m so exhausted I just want to shove food in my face and go to sleep. I think there is somewhat of a tradeoff when it comes to travel- travel long hours, work long hours and the company will take care of you while you’re there. I think the biggest issue I have is traveling usually brings up all kinds of small, unforeseeable costs and I do not want to possibly be responsible for that considering it is no choice of mine to go on the trip. I’d feel like I was back living paycheck to paycheck on this trip and that’s not something I think is fair to make an employee deal with on a business trip.

          2. Green*

            Coming from a job with an unlimited expense policy, it was really nice to be able to walk into nearly any restaurant in NYC and be able to grab a drink, an entree and an appetizer without worrying (or order room service), especially since I was working hard and exhausted on these trips. That goes double if I were in a foreign country or supremely jetlagged. My current policy is still ~$75.

          3. SandrineSmiles (France)*

            Hmm, yeah. Being near the Champs-Elysées, you’d have to go a little further to find any place to eat that would be cheaper, and quite frankly, 25 euros per day in Paris seems insane.

            I mean, 12.5 euros wouldn’t get you too far, depending on the area of Paris… *shivers*

        3. Just Another Techie*

          I prefer to fix sandwiches myself for lunches. For me, it’s less stressful than trying to figure out transportation to and from lunch on a tight schedule in an unfamiliar city, and my tummy gets unhappy with too much restaurant food, especially if all the places that are close enough and fast enough for a work break are particularly greasy (don’t get me started on the time work sent me to Detroit for a week; I couldn’t even find a place that would sell a side salad much less something both healthy *and* interesting.)

          1. quick reply*

            There are actually a LOT of restaurants in Detroit and surrounding areas that offer a huge variety of healthy choices. There a ton of middle eastern, Greek and other Mediterranean places along with the “typical” American fare of Coney Island hot dogs and such.

      2. Just Another Techie*

        I’ve vacationed in Berlin and Hamburg and easily fed myself on 10-15€/day. Of course, I was also only eating dinners in restaurants, and bought some meat and cheese and bread at a grocer for breakfast and lunch or sometimes got lunches from street vendors. I’d want a bit more if I had to do restaurant lunches every day, but not a whole lot.

        I live in the US in a big east coast city, and every time I visit Germany I’m startled by how cheap the food is.

    2. West Coast Reader*

      I think it’s different though when you’re traveling within your country vs in another country that uses an unfamiliar language.

      As a local, you have a lot more knowledge of where to find cheap food. It’s not so easy when you’re a traveler in an unfamiliar place, and maybe you can’t even read the menu! I found it a bit challenging when I was traveling in Europe, and I can imagine that it would be more difficult when you’re on a business trip and don’t have time to look for a deal.

      1. KH*

        Yes, this exactly. Plus if you eat at a hotel or someplace near the hotel that caters to travelers, the prices are usually MUCH higher. I know I can eat for $20 a day in Atlanta and get GOOD food, but that’s because I’m local and know the good and cheap places to go.

        1. MsChandandlerBong*

          I wish I had known you when I went to a conference in Atlanta last year! I had some amazing food, but most of it wasn’t cheap.

        2. Colette*

          The last thing I want to do when travelling for business is have to worry about food. I’d suspect that’s the last thing the OP’s company wants her to do, as well. If the per diem is in line with actual costs, that’s great, but if it means she’d have to scope out the three restaurants that she can afford online and then arrange her day to make sure she can eat there, it would be in the company’s best interests to raise it.

        3. Natalie*

          Yep, I’m eating in my hotel on a business trip now and the food is fine, but it’s super expensive. If never eat here if work wasn’t paying for it.

        4. AVP*

          oh, this is so true. In NYC you can find two identical-seeming pizza places next to each other and in one, eat for $4, while next door you might eat for $15. Locals would know that and choose accordingly but a traveler unfamiliar with the language might not!

    3. De (Germany)*

      I just looked this up for my company and it’s 24€. Or whatever ou pay, if you talk to our bosses first (I work for a small company, so if 24€ was unreasonable where I’d travel to, I’d be able to do that).

      For travel outside of Germany, it’s according to the “Seuerliche Behandlung von Reisekosten und Reisekostenvergütungen bei betrieblich und beruflich veranlassten Auslandsreisen ab 1. Januar 2016”, so 53€ for France or 45€ for the UK excluding London, for example.

      1. Anna*

        Speaking no German myself, I can’t be sure, but that seems to be similar to the GSA travel suggestions done in the US. They set the minimums for things like per diems and what hotels should cost. Businesses can use them strictly or as a baseline, depending on how they function.

        1. Formica Dinette*

          Just out of curiosity, I looked up the GSA per diems for Germany. M & IE is $94-125USD, depending on the city. I have only traveled domestically at GSA per diem rates, but my experience has been that they are fine but not generous.

      2. Myrin*

        I know you meant “steuerlich” but now I can’t help but think (and laugh) about “säuerliches” dealing with travel costs.

    4. MK*

      I line in Europe and have traveled in London, Manchester, Southampton, Paris, Strasbourg, Berlin, Trier, Luxembourg, Copenhagen, Budapes, Prague, Barcelona, Rome and Milan. In all those places I was a traveler, not a local. The only one where I wouldn’t be able to get a decent meal for 12,5 euros is Copenhagen, which is hideously expensive. I suspect that the difference is in what you consider a decent meal. It’s certainly not enough for a three course meal at the hotel restaurant or tourist traps or formal dining. It is enough in general for a light lunch after a hotel breakfast and an decent dinner. That being said, circumstances vary wildly; the OP might be working in an area where the chooses are few (or somewhere that provides unch, but I assume she would have calculated that if it was the case), so the thing is to get concrete data for your specific situation, not rely on what it costs in general.

      As for the air ticket, are you sure they are telling you to get the cheapest one available, no matter what? I have had to comply with this, but it was almost always a guideline to book inexpensively, not an absolute order to get the one that costs the least money. Is your company really demanding proof that there was no other way? And, given that ticket prices change so often, how are even able to prove that this was the cheapest ticket at the time you made the booking?

      What I wouldn’t mention is the time you lose from your family and friend; it struck me as kind of odd that the OP would even think of it as time that isn’t compensated. That’s a reality of business travel, a way your job affects your free time, not unlike your commute.

      1. Arbynka*

        “And, given that ticket prices change so often, how are even able to prove that this was the cheapest ticket at the time you made the booking”

        I am wondering the same thing. Plus, when it comes to getting cheapest tickets – that is not always the most practical solution. For example, many “cheapest” flights I can find have a day layover. Sure it’s fun to spend a day walking around Madrid or London but it is often not the way to go because I can’t spare the time. And cheapest flights in winter time tend to have 12 – 18 hours overnight layover. For business travel I would expect to be compensated for the meals and if layover is overnight, a hotel. So in the end, it might not actually save any money.

        1. OP*

          Well, there are a lot of ticket comparison sites around and you have to fork out the money from your own pocket first and submit to finance with the proof of your screen shot to get your money back. And yes, they want us to get the cheapest. That’s ridiculous.

          1. Amy*

            What would happen if you told them you couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket, that you don’t have the money? You’re giving your company an interest-free loan, and they’re refusing to guarantee that they’ll repay the loan. I’d let them know that it won’t be possible for you to book your own flight.

    5. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

      Yeah, I was just coming over here to say something similar. 25 Euro wouldn’t be enough in Switzerland (where I live), but Germany? No problem. We frequently take the family (2 adults, 2 kids) out to dinner in Germany at our favorite Turkish restaurant. 4 meals with bubble water comes to 33 Euros.

      Now, you can spend a fortune on dinner. My husband’s job requires him to take doctors to dinner in Germany all the time. He can spend 1000 euros for 5 of them, no problem. But, we love to eat in Germany because it’s so cheap!

      1. De (Germany)*

        That’s very cheap, though. I just looked at the websites of my two favorite Turkish restaurants and again, I don’t live in an expensice region, and they are the type of restaurants you wear jeans and a T-shirt to and a main course is still 10-15€ and 3€ for a drink.

        1. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

          This is Weil am Rhein, which admittedly, isn’t a big city. 7 or so Euros a dish. It’s very cheap! Why we go.

          But, if you eat a sandwich for lunch you can certainly have enough for a nice dinner with 25 Euro just about everywhere I’ve been in Germany. I do think this company is being cheap with the nit-picky flight stuff and a low per diem. But, I also think 25 is doable in Germany.

          Wouldn’t be possible in lots of other European countries, but Germany is pretty cheap.

          Also, I love Turkish food!

      2. BananaPants*

        I was so shocked at the cost of mid-range restaurant meals when traveling in Switzerland (near Zurich). Our supplier took 6 of us out and the bill was over 1000 Swiss francs. Hotels are also very expensive. Trains seemed expensive but were comfortable and very punctual. I like the country but my family could never afford to vacation there.

        Several of the suppliers’ employees are German nationals who actually live in Germany (near the border) and commute into Switzerland every day. One guy lives in France and comes in on Monday morning and heads home Friday afternoon, renting a small room near his office during the week. They have an American expat working there and the consensus is that the cost of living is very high in Switzerland.

    6. TowerofJoy*

      You could probably make it on 25 but you’d have to eat fast food or counter type items and be thoughtful about where you ate. I guess it just depends on if you expect the per diem money to offset what you’d spend at home or completely cover it.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Something just occurred to me: I wonder if the company is expecting the customer or vendor she’s visiting to provide some of the meals? Say, breakfast at a meeting one morning, a team dinner one night, etc.

    7. Neeta(RO)*

      Disclaimer: this will probably be an unpopular opinion… and I’m already bracing for the “you poor citizen of an ex-communist country” rebuttal.

      I was always told, that the per diem was supposed to supplement your earnings during the business trip, not cover all expenses in their entirety. So, basically accommodation and flight were paid for, but the food was an expense that we were supposed to shoulder from our salary. And the per diem sum was supposed to add a bit to that, to help you out in a foreign place.

      That said, I do find 15 euro/day extremely stingy. Even at the most penny pinching company, I’d get 35 euro/day. I’d focus on trying to frame the “losing money” part in a more compelling argument.

      1. Neeta(RO)*

        Whoops… I misread the per diem as 15 euro. 25 euro is doable IMO, if you consider it a supplement to your salary, and don’t expect it to cover 2 meals completely.

      2. the gold digger*

        food was an expense that we were supposed to shoulder from our salary.

        To which I would reply, “Sure! If you give me a fully-stocked kitchen and extra time to shop and to prepare my own meals, I will be glad to spend my own money at a grocery store, as that is what I would be doing at home.”

        But if you are going to send me away from home, where I have to eat out, which is something I do only rarely (maybe twice a month) on my own dime, then I expect you to pay for it. And I expect a decent meal, too.

        1. OP*

          I totally dig your comment the gold digger! :) you said what I was trying to say in your whole comments. It’s like I’m losing money and energy at the same time just going for this trip. Not forgetting the networking and conferences that I have to sit through and the daily work I have to do back in hotel after all these.while money is not a good benchmark for overseas experience, it certainly helps to make the whole experience better when one doesn’t have to feel somehow unfairly compensated for the time and effort.

        2. Neeta(RO)*

          I’m completely behind that sentiment OP! There are indeed companies who operate under the same premise.
          More often than not however, people tend to get very stingy sums for per diem, with the reasoning that I put up above.

          In any case, I think OP would have a good case, if he/she presents his/her argument by taking your reasoning into account. Good luck OP!

        3. get some perspective*

          “To which I would reply, “Sure! If you give me a fully-stocked kitchen and extra time to shop and to prepare my own meals, I will be glad to spend my own money at a grocery store, as that is what I would be doing at home.”


      3. Marcela*

        Not at all. Food is an expense I am covering when I am _at home_. If I am required to travel, that’s an _extra_ expense that my company should cover.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I can see the “I’m not buying your entire meal; just supplementing the cost to take the edge off.” Because eating is something you do as a human being, not as an employee: when I’m at home on the weekend, I eat meals; during a normal workday, I’m responsible for providing my own meals.

        So if I’m traveling, I still have to eat. And I can comprehend the approach that says, “the food is your problem, not the company’s. However, you can’t eat as cheaply while you’re traveling as you could at home, so we’ll give you some money to help make up the difference.”

        I wouldn’t want to do it, as an employer, and I don’t think it’s generous, but I can understand the logic.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s bad logic. At home, I am not forced to go to restaurants to eat, and I can choose where I live and eat – I don’t have that choice on business travel.

        2. Sunflower*

          But it’s really not logical because the price difference in making your own food vs buying food can be and usually is astronomical. For me to make my own tea at home can cost less than 1 cent. It costs about $3 at Starbucks. Making a chicken Caesar salad at home probably costs me less than $1 and buying one is $9. Plus most people have items in bulk at home so even if I wanted to buy the ingredients to make a chicken Caesar salad while on the road it’s going to be pretty much the same price as buying a single one. It just doesn’t even compare.

    8. hermit crab*

      In contrast, the 2016 US government maximum meals and incidentals per diem for Germany (which you would get, for example, as a government contractor on travel there) ranges from about $95 to $125 depending on the city!

      1. OP*

        Hi all,

        Actually I’m the OP and thank you so much for your input.

        Some of you have raised some of my concerns:
        – able to survive with Doner and other fast food. I understand the money I’m given would be able to give me two meals a day if I opt for things like a doner or check out some cheap restaurant (if I’m lucky to find one). At a long day at work, all I hope would be to walk somewhere (not expensive) and just order perhaps a Schnitzel and an apple juice without bursting my budget.
        – moreover, the allowance also includes transportation fee. As I’ll be spending a weekend there, it’s either I stay in the hotel to have the food or travel out somewhere central to have something. I’m not sure how allowances normally work – one of you pointed that it’s more like a token or subsidy to help with your expenses abroad on top of you salary?
        – air tickets – the reason of opting for something a bit more expensive to cut down on travelling time wouldn’t be valid as I’ll be given a day off to fly. On top of that, I was given a budget for the air tickets and even the cheapest that I’ve found exceeds my budget. :(
        – reason why I’d rather opt out than to see what I can do is because it would make it clearly that I’m rocking the boat since nobody complaint. And partly also because all that went were management level who enjoy a more generous allowance. To many, it may be a great opportunity (I see it that way too) but I’ve to think about the practicality considering that I’m just a fresh grad.

        Germans, how much does the food in a restaurant in Germany normally cost? Perhaps for a schnitzel and an apple juice? I’ve been to the more expensive part of Germany (Munich) so I would love to know if the living expenses in Hannover and Hamburg are similar as in Munich.

        Thanks all!

        1. De (Germany)*

          I am actually in the Hannover region, so that’s where my numbers in other threads come from.

        2. Meg Murry*

          If you were the only non-management employee that went, I think it’s valid that you ask to have a per diem to match the managers – after all, are they going to a nice restaurant after a full day of meetings but you can’t join them because you are over your per diem?

          On the other hand, maybe there is an expectation that management will be picking up some of your expenses for meals, etc.

          Everywhere I’ve worked if a group of people are going on a trip together, they are given the same flights and general accommodations. The C-suite might get an upgrade to first class or a slightly nicer hotel room, but otherwise everyone travels together. There was also a policy everywhere I worked that the most senior employee at the table put the meal on his/her credit card and handled the expense report.

          If you won’t be with management all day, can you at least ask if you have the option having EITHER a per diem or being able to submit reasonable receipts for reimbursement? That was the policy everywhere I traveled, although I know some places are strict about per diem, period.

          Last, honestly, as much as you say you don’t want to be out of pocket for this trip, I would probably be willing to pay $150 out of my own money to get back 7 hours of my life not on an airplane if management insists that I MUST fly on the absolute cheapest flight available.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I was given a budget for the air tickets and even the cheapest that I’ve found exceeds my budget.

          Wait, you CAN’T get ANY ticket within their budget??? I would definitely turn it down…but then, I work for the US government, and as you’ll see below, our per diem and travel is a lot higher than what you’ve been offered.

          1. OP*

            Yes. The cheapest that I found exceeded the budget they gave me and it’s OK for me to get it (all at the company cost) because there’s no cheaper option.

            As for Meg Murry, I can see where you’re coming from but sadly my company isn’t so great as we are hoping it to be :( I’ve been to several business trips and what happened was we split the bills. And there isn’t room for negotiation to up the per diem because the budget was actually higher but some people miused it or management just became to a sudden realisation that people are have too much (which is double of what we are having now).

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Oh, good, I would have had a fit if they wouldn’t even pay for the cheapest ticket! But just that they didn’t budget enough for it tells me that they’re being unrealistic.

              Oh, and I can get reimbursed for any taxi trips related to the work I’m doing…usually to and from the airport, plus two per day if the conference is not at the hotel I booked. Although they used to pay more than the Federal hotel rate if it was at the conference hotel, because it saved on taxi charges, but now they just would rather pay for the taxi, even if it costs more! Bottom line, you should NOT have to pay for unavoidable travel costs like taxis. (Although sometimes I also found hotels that have free shuttles…and free breakfast!)

        4. Stranger than fiction*

          If you go, Op, I’d definitely track all your expenses and if it ends up going significantly over the allowance, I’d turn that report in to your manager, so maybe at least next time they’ll make some adjustments.

        5. Myrin*

          As for your last question: A general rule of thumb is that the more south (and west) you go in Germany, the more expensive stuff gets, with Munich being the centre of that. Of course big northern cities are sure to be more expensive than northern rural areas but I’m almost willing to bet that Munich takes the cake so yay, you’re already bound to be doing better in Hannover and Hamburg! :D

          Personally, I’m in the rural area south of Munich and a Schnitzel and apple juice would cost you 15.50€ at the inn I work at. So I guess it would be something like 13€ in the north?

          And I’m just seeing that De is in the Hannover region and gave concrete examples of the prices there, which align with my estimation. Good luck OP, however you decide to go forward!

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            Yes, I sometimes go to the cities along the Rhine (Cologne and Dusseldorf) and a Schnitzel and apple juice would be around the EUR 12-13 mark.

            On the few occasions I have been to Switzerland, the prices are eye watering. As my hotel would include breakfast, I would hoover up the buffet.

        6. TootsNYC*

          “able to survive with Doner and other fast food. I understand the money I’m given would be able to give me two meals a day if I opt for things like a done”

          Holy Toledo, for a minute, I thought you meant “Donner.”
          That would probably help with a low per diem.

    9. Cautionary tail*

      I had a time when I was given $25 US dollars for 3-meals a day per diem. I was working in an expensive part of Canada and the Canadian dollar was worth about 30% more than the US dollar so I got less than $20 Canadian dollars to spend. I ate grocery store cereal and milk in my room for breakfast, ate a sandwich at lunch and went to a normal (not expensive) restaurant at dinner. Every single day the per diem would not cover the meals. I could not get it raised no matter how much I tried – corporate policy. The project I was on was so phenomenal I looooved it and the area in was in was so gorgeous so I basically rationalized it as my adding in $10 or more per day to eat was the price to be in heaven.

      Ten years later, I don’t have any regrets about going there or the project, but I still get pissed at my company for not covering their own expenses.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      I was in Berlin last year and found it pretty reasonable. The hotel we stayed at also included a large and substantial breakfast buffet, so honestly I often did not eat lunch due to the big breakfast. Dinner was usually work functions (paid) or room service, and this may be the case with OP. If this is the case 25€ is reasonable.

      I understand about the flight. We are also supposed to choose the cheapest ticket. However, if the cheapest flight is way too long or has too many connections, we can switch as long as the upcharge is within reason (say about $200).
      I think you need to ask about the variables, perhaps some things are included while you’re there.

    11. Kassy*

      Our per diems in Missouri (US) are $6/$10/$18.

      I just figured per diems were always low. We’re used to eating fast food for breakfast and lunch and having to chip in ourselves for some of our dinner. According to this thread, I should probably be horrified.

      (I understand the US is not really comparable to Germany or anywhere else in Europe – it’s just my two cents.)

  2. Steve*

    Regarding he Asian business man, he needs to speak up and be somewhat assertive about the unreasonable request of the business trip.

    I’m wondering how much of this is the culture in Asian countries?

    1. Business Traveler*

      I am not sure the request for the business trip is unreasonable. This seems in agreement with requests even not in Asia. I agree he should speak up regarding the flight as $150 (USD?) isn’t such a large amount, relatively, and will shorten the long flight quite a great deal. If the shortened flight also eliminates a layover, there is additional rationale as it minimizes risk of further delays, lost baggage, etc, which a friendly company/boss may understand as beneficial for the employee to be at his/her best upon arrival.
      As for the 25 Euros per diem – I don’t see any issue with this. It is a little stingy in my opinion, but it is reasonable.
      Lastly “of course I’m not compensated for the lost time I could spend with family and friends”. Yep, that’s what happens with a business trip. It sounds like you don’t take many, so be thankful for that.

      1. Artemesia*

        25 Euro is an absurd per diem and requiring a circuitous air route is also absurd. The flight requirement is the most absurd — to ask someone to spend 7 additional hours in a coach seat to shave off a few bucks is breathtakingly disrespectful of an employee. Eating sandwiches pales compared to that.

        1. MK*

          25 euros is stingy, as BT said above and AN below, but it is not absurd, generally speaking. It might be absurd in the OP’s particular circumstances, but that’s another issue.

          1. fposte*

            I think that’s fine as long as you can get food for that much in the hotel or easily within under 5 minutes’ walk. If you have to hunt for it, or it’s common but not within the hotel area so you incur costs traveling to it, it’s insufficient.

            1. Artemesia*

              I spend a lot of time in Paris and would be hard pressed to find a decent dinner (especially limited within walking distance of the hotel) for 15 Euro. I suppose if you subsist on really bad tourist food you might. But the 7 hours in a coach seat is nasty. At minimum their rule should be the cheapest direct flight or most direct flight.

        2. the gold digger*

          The only way I would not mind an extra seven hours traveling is if I were being paid by the hour for my travel time and could get OT.

          However. My 13-hour flight to Dubai in a coach middle seat on the Friday after Thanksgiving was just business as usual. I do not miss that job.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Everyone else seems to think this is reasonable, so apparently there’s a consensus on it, but I was shocked. The US Federal per diem for Germany starts at 87 euros, and is as high as 115 euros (link to follow). I wonder if the OP could show that to their employer? It probably won’t help if their company is following the lead of others in their home country.

            1. Tammy*

              This link doesn’t produce the warning, and this is the site my company uses for our per diem rates:


              I’m of two minds here – I totally get the OP’s concerns, and at the same time, when I travel I never expect that I won’t be out of pocket at least something on food. The last business trip I took (to Seattle) I actually spent quite a bit more than my per diem on meals – but then, I took the team member who went with me (not quite a subordinate, but sort of – it was a weird arrangement that’s beside the point now) out to a nice seafood dinner so we could talk about work things in a relaxed, comfortable, informal setting.

              There’s another option, though – could you ask your company, in lieu of a per diem, to reimburse what you actually spend? This is what my company does. You get to choose before each business trip: Accept the per diem and not have to provide receipts, or decline the per diem and submit receipts for reimbursement. I think there are some parameters on the latter option, but I don’t know because I’ve never done it. The hassle of saving receipts and tracking them has never been worth it for me. But this might be an option for you.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Yes, but that link is for domestic travel AFAICT. The one I posted is for foreign travel by US government employees, which tends to set a standard (maybe an upper one) for private businesses.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        25 euros strikes me as okay in if you buy a sandwich for lunch, eat a simple dinner at a casual restaurant (no beverage), fill up a water bottle at your hotel, get coffee at your meetings, don’t have any snacks, and spend the evening in your hotel. But it does mean you are going to be choosing your food on the basis of what’s cheapest, not what tastes good or is healthy.

        But I find that on business trips or conferences a lot of useful stuff happens during after hours socializing. And a 25 euro per diem is not going to stretch to going to a decent restaurant with colleagues, and maybe a drink with conversation afterwards. The LW will be paying that out of pocket. And there’s usually little expenses that you wouldn’t have at home that add up as well.

        A few years ago, I went to Germany from Asia for work. Right at the time we were to leave, a typhoon was bearing down on us. I was flying on a reputable airline, and they got us where we were going with minimal delay. A colleague was flying with a much cheaper airline, scheduled to leave at about the same time, and arrive three days after I did. It took over a day for her to get through to the airline customer service. So cheapest possible route is not always the best idea.

        I don’t think this is an Asian thing though – there are lots of Americans who write to this site, wondering how to approach their bosses about inconvenient or unfair policies.

    2. Daisy*

      There’s been plenty of AAM letters from Americans asking ‘is this business trip reasonable’/ ‘do I have to go’/ ‘can I ask about expenses’. What about this do you think is an example of Asian culture? (I also don’t think the per diem here is outrageous for Germany. Not generous, but doable.)

      1. Steve*

        I think is is unreasonable to make an employee pay for food on a business trip.

        I know that some Asian cultures are grounded in respect and speaking up and being direct are less acceptable than in America.

    3. OP*

      I don’t think it’s common only in Asia. It really depends on the company. Some local companies are actually more generous than multinational corporations, to my contrary beliefs.

      In addition, it’s also the perspective of money. Food is really cheap in Asia and you can find delicious and healthy ones at about 5 euros? If a German comes to Asia with 25euros, he probably find that he has quite a bit of leftover. His choices to eat at places that won’t exploded his budget would be much more than an Asian going to Europe.

  3. Maybe Tomorrow*

    It is really rude to talk in another language in front of coworkers that don’t understand. Tell him that. He is just excited to practice the language. Would you be willing to engage him in it during lunch and translate if people ask?

    In a previous job, I was the only non-spanish speaker, and the other ladies loved to talk crap about customers and me in front of us but pretended it was work related. I can’t speak it very well but I do understand it. It stopped after our new boss busted them one day by responding angrily in their language to what they had just said about her. They were shocked into silence. She explained that it was not allowed and that there would be consequences of it continued to happen. I don’t think they spoke in spanish again at work.

    To be clear, the boss meant talking crap about workers and customers in spanish in front of them. They could speak in spanish if it was just them and not customer-facing. (Breaks, lunches, in back rooms.)

    1. KiwiLib*

      I agree nd it can cause issues with other team members. At OldJob, team of 6 – 3 were immigrants, who often spoke with each other (both work-related and chit-chat) in their native language. I discussed with them why they had to speak in English in the workroom /back rooms, whilst still valuing the importance of their culture and the fact they sometimes conversed with clients in their native tongue. Reasons included if discussing a work problem, others might know the answer or be able to contribute;speaking non English made others feel excluded; they needed to improve their English, so speaking it constantly would help (esp being able to articulate the problem in English). The message did sort of get through, though they often lapsed. For breaks, we had no problem with them conversing in their native language in the cafeteria.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Be aware that you might be on shaky legal ground there! Federal law in the U.S. prohibits rules requiring employees to speak only English at work unless limited to the circumstances in which it’s truly needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently. The EEOC says: “Circumstances in which an English-only rule may be justified include: communications with customers or coworkers who only speak English; emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency.”

          1. KiwiLib*

            You’re right, Alison, I’m in NZ. Though I did check with HR before I approached the subject to check there were no concerns.

    2. Erik*

      Tell me about it – I worked at a company with a lot of French-speaking Canadians, mostly from Montreal. They would often have meetings in French without even including us non-French speaking people in the conversation. What didn’t help was that my boss spoke French too and wouldn’t step up to tell them to speak in English when we were in the meeting.

      If they’re all by themselves, that’s one thing. Yes, it’s just rude.

      1. Zahra*

        What is rude is complaining about people talking in the official language of the province, in my opinion. Only New Brunswick is officially bilingual. Quebec’s official language is French and the rest of Canada is English.

        No one would dream about complaining that a meeting (in the USA and most of the rest of Canada) was in English even though most of the speakers were natively French-Speaking. There are so many stories of Quebeckers being stuck in English meetings because of the one anglophone who doesn’t have a passing knowledge of French, even though some francophones in that same meeting do not understand English very well either.

          1. Ashley*

            How is that rude? It’s like visiting London from Spain and being mad they’re speaking English. It’s a French speaking province!

            1. Beth*

              Agreed! I work in western Canada and whenever I work with Quebec venders I do my best to work in French. Why not, if I’m going to work in English with Alberta?

        1. Oryx*

          Actually, I don’t think Erik said where the company was located. All he said that there were French-Canadians from Montreal, but that’s not the same as the company and other employees also being in Quebec.

          If that was the case — that Erik was an English speaking employee at a company in a French speaking province, then yes, I agree with you. But from all that Erik wrote we don’t know that’s the case.

          1. Felicia*

            I actually assumed the meeting being referred to wasn’t in Quebec, or a French speaking province, or even necessarily in Canada. He didn’t specify, and in Quebec especially but also other French speaking provinces and parts of provinces that are very francophone (Northern Ontario, parts of Nova Scotia, Ottawa area, etc.) that would be so expected that it would be weird for people to even comment on it. I actually thought it wasn’t Canada where this happened because he specified they were Canadian.

            1. Oryx*

              I assumed that, too, but Zahra seemed to come from the perspective that it wasn’t just in Canada, it was in Quebec.

        2. Anonsie*

          You didn’t say this directly, but I wanted to make it clear that English is *not* the official language of the United States–the US does not have any official language. I hope it stays that way, since “let’s make English the official language” promoters are usually promoting “and let’s make it illegal to provide government services in languages other than English” policies as well.

      2. Aim Away From Face*

        Yep, had the exact experience on a training course in Montreal recently.

        Extremely rude and disrespectful, but – sadly – expected.

        1. jhhj*

          If you were IN Montreal, it might have been a case where it was illegal to ask them to speak English, depending on what exactly you were doing.

          1. Minion*

            I’ve never been to Canada and I don’t know the laws there, but I’m wondering why it may be illegal to ask someone to speak English? Does it matter if the person asking is an English-only speaker and can’t understand what’s being said if it’s all in French? Or are you talking specifically about an employer asking employees to speak English?

            1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

              There are a lot of really complicated laws surrounding usage of French in Quebec and especially in workplaces. Depending on how many employees it has and francophone to Anglo phone ratios it may end up being illegal to ask the group to speak English. It’s all rooted in laws to protect the rights of francophones to speak their own language after many years of English being the only acceptable workplace language there.

            2. Canada 2 official languages*

              closer look at your language rights
              Canada’s two official languages, English and French, are a fundamental characteristic of Canadian identity. Throughout its history, our country has passed laws, like the Official Languages Act, and adopted policies to better protect and promote its official languages for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada plays a critical role in ensuring that language rights remain a priority for government leaders.

              1. jhhj*

                That’s not really relevant except for jobs in the federal government, though (and some things with the provincial and territorial governments).

                1. Hmm I have heard*

                  That was in response to the comment that French is only ‘official’ in NB. While the various rules and practices around language is a somewhat complex when you break it down into various workplaces or provinces, the country still has two official languages.

                  I could say that where I live it makes more sense to have Mandarin as a second language because it is far more commonly spoken than French but that reality doesn’t change the fact that the country’s two **official**languages are English and French.

                  Now I will stop responding to this admittedly off topic thread. When I saw a comment about on NB being ‘officially’ I found it hard to just let it pass. :)

                2. jhhj*

                  Yeah, only one province is officially bilingual. I think all the territories are officially bi- or multilingual.

                  I don’t know if other provinces have rules about being allowed to work in some specific language at private companies.

                3. Zahra*

                  Only businesses governed by the federal law (for federally regulated private sector companies) are automatically exempted from the Official Language Act (of Quebec). The federally regulated activities are the following:
                  – international and interprovincial transport (by air, rail, road and marine)
                  – postal services and pipelines
                  – telecommunications and radio broadcasting
                  – banking
                  – grain handling
                  – undertakings declared by Parliament to be for the general advantage of Canada, such as uranium mining and processing
                  – Crown corporations (such as VIA Rail and Canada Post)

                  According to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages:
                  “The Official Languages Act does not apply to provincial or municipal governments or to private businesses.”

                  For more details about the provincial official languages:

                  By the way, other multi-lingual countries have the same situation: some federal official language(s) and a different list of official language(s) per province/state, which usually includes part of the federal official languages.

            3. jhhj*

              In Quebec, with few exceptions, it’s illegal to require people to speak any language other than French on the job.

              (There may be details about this training course which I don’t know, making it more or less reasonable that people spoke in French.)

            1. TheSnarkyB*

              If you’re a higher-up, a request is almost always going to be heard as a requirement, and that will hold up in court.

        2. Pierre*

          I don’t agree with you. In Montreal, it’s fairly common to have people speak both French and English in a office. (Sometimes in the same conversation.)

          It would not be considered rude or disrespectful to speak French if you were in Paris. Why would it be in Montreal? Quebec province is still officially francophone as far as I know.

          For those wondering why the province has laws protecting French usage, it’s really a question of being 8 millions French-speakers in a continent where there is around 350 millions English-speakers.

          1. Joie de Vivre*

            There’s also large portion of the Montreal population who have a native language different from both French and English. This means, in my Montreal office in a week I will overhear conversations in a multitude of languages. This morning alone I’ve heard Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Romanian, Italian and Spanish in addition to the standard English and French.

            While it can require more effort at times to communicate, to me it’s really not that big an issue.

      3. Felicia*

        This would happen to me , with people who spoke a language other than English, and I was the only on the who didn’t speak that language. When they were doing it when everyone was in the lunch room it just made me a little sad, because they were obviously excluding me from the conversation and it sucks being excluded but they don’t have to include me. But when they’d talk the other language in business meetings i’d be really upset because that was supposed to be work time and I think work should happen in a language everyone understands.

      4. Canada 2 official languages*

        Canada’s two official languages, English and French, are a fundamental characteristic of Canadian identity.

        Throughout its history, our country has passed laws, like the Official Languages Act, and adopted policies to better protect and promote its official languages for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada plays a critical role in ensuring that language rights remain a priority for government leaders.

      5. Marcela*

        French people do that all the time too, in my experience. I’ve been in a room with French and Belgian friends of my friends, being the only unable to speak French while all of us speak English (for all were scientists), and all the conversations were in French. It was very strange and not very nice, but the fact that I was the only one thinking that it was rude makes me think that for them the rule is different.

        1. Kraw*

          I think the rule for them is different. Just because they can speak English, doesn’t mean it’s easy or comfortable for them. They likely felt that you were the exception, the only person who hadn’t bothered to learn the others’ language, and didn’t want to change everything just for one person. It’s a lot of work to speak in a non-native language sometimes–which I’m sure you know, as you weren’t able to speak in their language at all–it’s tough!

    3. New Bee*

      I don’t think it’s rude–when I was a bilingual teacher several of my coworkers were from outside the US and had moved here as adults, and at the end of the day it was cognitively easier for them to communicate in Spanish (plus my Spanish was better than their English), especially when they were struggling to follow rapid conversation in English. It sounds like gossip was the problem, and that would be true even if your coworkers had been talking about people in English.

      On a related note, I wonder if the leap from “person speaking a language I don’t understand” to “she must be talking about me” is related to widespread American monolongualism? I think there’s something to unpack there about language dominance and status, but that’s for another thread. :)

      1. matcha123*

        I agree with you, I don’t see it as rude. If someone is speaking to another person in a different language that I cannot understand, I don’t have any “right” to know what they are talking about. Heck, they could be saying I’m the worst person in the world to my face, but in a language I don’t understand, and that’s their right.

        I’m not entitled to be able to eavesdrop on someone’s conversation.

        1. MK*

          When people are having a conversation with you there, you hearing them is not eavesdropping. And badmouthing someone in front of them in a language they don’t understand is rude, because there is a definite element of redicule to it: you are insulting them to their face but using their ignorance to get away with it. I don’t think it’s rude to speak in a language someone present doesn’t understand, unless it leads to them becoming generally excluded, intentionally or not. But I wouldn’t say anything that I would be willing to repeat in a language they understand.

        2. Mookie*

          I agree. And I think for Anglophones, generally, this resistance to multi-lingual office spaces stems both from insecurity over being mono-lingual and paranoia that they’re being talked about.

          1. Kelly L.*

            And sometimes…you really are being talked about. I had one job, ages ago, where two men I worked with spoke a language that I knew, but that they didn’t know I knew, and I caught them making gross comments about my anatomy. Ew.

            (Did I do anything about it? No, because this was back when I was about 20 and had no spine, and also because the bosses were horrible in their own unique ways. I sure didn’t last long there, though.)

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Unfortunately, that has been my experience many times, as well. Mostly when I was working in restaurants and a lot of the staff spoke Spanish natively. They assumed I didn’t understand what they were saying, but I speak a little Spanish myself, and understand even more than I speak. But I’d always call them out on it and say something like “Hey, I heard that” or “I know what you just said” and give them a dirty look. After that they usually straightened up, at least when I was in ear shot.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Don’t any of y’all have kids? If so, then surely you’re familiar with the fact that it’s an ENORMOUSLY useful thing if the parents have a shared secondary language that the kids don’t speak, so you can talk privately in front of them – way better than spelling words out.

              And of course it encourages the kids to learn that language. ;)

      2. Helka*

        Yeah, I agree with all of this. A coworker of mine is a relatively recent Russian immigrant, and I know she’s found it a huge relief to have someone else in the office (especially since it’s one of our main IT guys) also fluent in Russian, so she has at least one person to talk to in her native language.

        And yeah, I think you’re onto something with the monolingualism thing. I’m also bilingual and I’ve definitely had people immediately get defensive at me when they heard me saying things they didn’t understand.

      3. BritCred*

        The other issue is how animated the type of conversation is. Plus you never know if its work related or gossip or just a story about something that happened at home last night.

        A certain group of people in a friends workplace talk with their hands in their native language. Often if things aren’t going well that day and there are certain words heard (swear words, names etc) it riles people as well (and some of the people doing this do it for that reason but management won’t crack down).

        I’ve heard of three workplaces where it caused issues. One where people were not getting instructions because they were English and the supervisor was giving them in the other language. Second where it was more a management issue and the two groups felt they got treated differently doing the same jobs. Third the one above where they talked with their hands (in a manual role) and due to the work were not doing as much so the english felt they were doing more work due to it as well as the other issues I already mentioned.

        It can speak of a management problem but can, if its prevalent enough, can also become a morale issue as well due to things becoming a “us and them”.

        1. Kat*

          Good point. I speak one Arabic dialect which a coworker at my former company also spoke. It’s my second language, his first.

          For him, his job was so strenuous and meetings so heavy, it was a relaxing time for him at breaks to speak in his native tongue–like a brain break from constantly translating everything.

          But it made people extremely uncomfortable with all of the stereotypes currently facing Arabic men and several people complained to higher ups. Our HR tried their best to squash it and defended his right to speak Arabic, but it still caused some ill-will with other employees.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think a person could defuse some of that by occasionally translated some comments, or maybe a joke that was told, into English for the other folks in the room.

      4. Pipette*

        I don’t find it rude either when my coworkers speak with each other in their native languages, but then again, we are all fairly mature professionals who trust each other’s integrity. It is interesting to observe when people switch languages in social and professional settings – it says something about language/culture statuses, but also a lot about the setting itself, especially workplaces. If speaking in another language is seen as bad even when it doesn’t impact others directly, then there is probably a general trust deficit in that place.

        1. INFJ*

          Interesting analysis. Similar to if you saw two coworkers whispering together; if it’s a high trust environment, you assume they’re keeping it down so as not to disturb others. If there’s low trust, you assume they’re talking smack about someone.

          1. Tau*

            I’m a bilingual who code-switches sometimes (if not right now due to a lack of other German speakers around), and this is basically how I view it. Thinking I’m talking about you when I’m speaking German is really not much different to thinking I’m talking about you if I whisper, or use IM or text without you seeing the screen. If you demand I stay in English so you know I’m not talking about you, me code-switching is not the problem in this environment. (Also, I’m going to feel seriously insulted at the accusation that I’d do that in the first place – I’m not that rude and not that unprofessional.)

      5. Allison*

        “I wonder if the leap from “person speaking a language I don’t understand” to “she must be talking about me” is related to widespread American monolongualism?”

        I do think it’s a common reason why so many Americans get mad at people for speaking their native language in public. I think it’s a good idea to try to speak a language everyone can understand when you’re, say, at the dinner table or you have a guest over, and at work it can be a good idea to make sure everyone can understand each other, but sometimes it’s just easier for people to speak the language they’re fluent in, especially if they need to get a job done. I might get mad if I’m hanging out with two people and they decide to speak a language I don’t understand, but I don’t get mad when I’m at Wendy’s and the people prepping the good are speaking Spanish to each other. Who cares if they think my burger order is weird?

        1. fposte*

          Yes, whether it would be rude depends very much on the situation.

          However, the OP doesn’t want to speak this language and is uncomfortable being asked to do so, and that’s enough for her to refuse whether it would be rude (which it might or might not be, depending on who else is around and what the situation is) or not.

        2. New Bee*

          Agreed, and I bet those people wouldn’t group themselves with the “this is Amurr’ca; speak English!” xenophobes, but it’s often the same sentiment in nicer words.

        3. Artemesia*

          I have a fair understanding of French and Italian although I don’t speak it beyond minimal tourist level, and a good understanding of German which I once spoke fluently but not anymore. I have often sat in places in France or Germany or Italy like say a hair salon, train compartment or even a cafe where the staff chattering in their language with Americans who apparently don’t understand as customers where in fact they are talking about and making fun of the apparently monolinqual person. I vividly remember in Italy having my hair cut and hearing the staff disparaging another customer and making fun of her appearance in Italian thinking no one understood them. I remember a French rail compartment where a person entered our compartment and heard me speaking in English with a French person and immediately made snotty comments about me and my husband in French. It isn’t paranoia in a gossipy workplace to think that co-workers who constantly natter on in a language you don’t understand are talking about you — they probably are.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I once worked at a job where most of my co-workers were native Spanish speakers. On one shift with a friend who doesn’t speak Spanish, a couple of co-workers came in animatedly chatting about how one of them had just gotten her pregnancy test results back, and what a pain in the ass it was, and was she going to have to get an abortion, and all kinds of other deeply personal stuff that they obviously wouldn’t have said if they knew I understood them – but there was no polite way for me to say “Uh, I just understood every word you said.”

            My friend saw the look on my face and wanted to know what was up, and all I could do was say ‘tell you later’.

      6. Ad Astra*

        That’s an interesting point about the monolingualism. In general, it’s rude to make people feel left out, and speaking in a language that you know someone else doesn’t understand is one of a thousand ways you can make someone feel left out. Obviously sometimes it can’t be helped, and other times there’s no reason to make someone feel included (like a stranger in the waiting room — who cares if he can’t understand your private conversation?). It’s something to keep an eye on in work and social situations, but it’s certainly not inherently rude in all cases. And of course a simple “Here, let me tell him in Spanish” or “Sorry, we’re talking about [subject that is definitely not related to gossiping about you]” goes a long way to make people feel more comfortable.

      7. Maybe Tomorrow*

        I understood what they were saying, the new boss was bilingual but white….so it was assumed she did not speak spanish. It was an assumption on their part.
        They were talking crap, but please..lecture me on unpacking my language dominance privilege. Oy.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Probably because there’s a nasty tone of ‘oh, you poor ignorant Americans, you just don’t understand‘ in it?

      8. Lynn Whitehat*

        I don’t find it rude per se either. I work at a software company with people from all over the world. On a given day, I might hear people talking among themselves in Spanish, Chinese, or Tamil. I guess if I wanted to worry about whether they’re talking about me, my proof that they’re not is that proper names don’t change, and I hear lots of “Java” and “Windows” and very little “Lynn”.

        Of course it can be done in a rude, exclusionary way, but so can lots of things that aren’t inherently rude.

      9. neverjaunty*

        The ‘American monolingualism’ thing is just an elitist repackaging of “oh, if you were just more evolved you wouldn’t let this bother you”.

        It’s certainly not true that every instance of two people speaking a language others don’t share is rude. (For example, people conversing with each other in public places.) But when you’re in a group, it is absolutely exclusionary to speak a language others in the group don’t – it’s really no different than spending the entire conversation talking about family members or work issues nobody else knows a thing about, with the added element of “you don’t even know what we’re saying”.

        1. aebhel*

          Americans are vastly more likely to be monolingual than pretty much anyone else in the world, and we also have an unfortunate culture of treating people like shit for not speaking English exclusively, probably because we aren’t used to being around people who speak a language we don’t. That’s a legitimate criticism, IMO.

          /American monolingual English speaker here.

    4. Lionness*

      I don’t think it is inherently rude to speak a language in front of coworkers that don’t understand. Your coworkers were rude no matter what language they were speaking.

      We have a team in one of our offices that, for work purposes, speaks another language. They are all native speakers of that language and English is their second language (although all live in an English speaking country and are quite fluent in English). They almost exclusively speak their native language with each other. I cannot understand a word of it. Neither can most of the rest of their team. But because they are otherwise friendly, outgoing and inclusive no one seems to mind. I think it depends on the dynamics of the team and how the language speaker behaves otherwise.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Agreed. Talking crap is rude whether they were whispering in English or saying it in Spanish in front of you. If a bunch of people are all sitting together at lunch or a meeting and not translating for the one person who doesn”t speak the language, that’s rude. But if it’s just 2 people sitting and chatting in a foreign language, whether it’s at lunch, or in the office, work-related or personal (as long as it’s not impacting productivity), I think it would be pretty weird if someone asked them to translate. But certainly if the OP doesn’t feel comfortable speaking her native language at work, that is her right and should make that clear to the coworker.

  4. DropTable~DropsMic*

    Anyone reminded of Phoebe from Magic School Bus by #1? “This isn’t how we did it at my old school.”

    1. bridget*

      I was legitimately coming to comment only to say that. And have spent the past 10 minutes in a phoebe .gif hole.

      Although if I had to choose a magic school bus kid as a co-worker, it would probably be Carlos with his never ending puns. Or Dorothy Ann, because she’s done her research.

      1. Prismatic Professional*

        I did not have to study for a single science test before high school because I watched Magic School Bus and Bill Nye religiously.

        I’m completely with you on your choice of coworkers. Though, I’m pretty much my work place’s DA (no pigtails though).

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      Honestly, if spanking a plankton is part of your job duties, normal workplace norms no longer apply.

  5. SusieSnowflake*

    #3, it may be worth (if you would enjoy speaking your native language more in general) making it clear that you don’t want to have work-related discussions in your native language, but you could go out to lunch or something similar where you do that. I speak German (not natively) and work with a coworker from Germany and desperately want to go out to lunch with him and speak German, but wouldn’t want to do that at work since it’d be rude to others (like Alison mentioned)

    1. Curious?*

      Your lunch is your own time. Why would it be rude t? Is lunch in the company cafeteria? Would you 2 be at a table by yourselves?If you are, I don’t think you are required to have a conversation in a particular language so others can eavesdrop with ease.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Well, it’s not only rude to others, it’s commandeering your co-worker to be your unpaid personal language coach – as well as making your understanding of their language (rather than their understanding of English) the ceiling on the conversation.

      If you’re already friends with the co-worker, I don’t think it’s a big deal to ask them once in a while if they could help you practice the language – but that’s different than putting them in the position of conversation practice partner.

  6. Kiwi*

    #2: Is that per diem meant to cover food? Most corporate travel would provide a guide amount for food, which you expense claim following the trip, with the per diem being paid additionally on top. Perhaps OP needs to go back to their boss (or read through the travel policy, if available) and confirm. They should also speak with the boss about the $150 to take the 19 hour flight to 12 hours. That would be a pretty standard policy waiver. If they stand firm on policy, and it’s affordable, they could also ask if they are permitted to personally pay the difference. I’d do that to avoid 7 painful hours extra transit!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve always had either/or. Either it’s a fixed per-diem, which covers all food plus minor expenses, or we submit a claim for what we spent (sometimes with an upper limit).

      1. fposte*

        That used to be ours, but when I just checked, it looks like they’ve moved to a straight per diem allowance. I think probably so many of us found it easier than piling up receipts that it made sense.

  7. KH*

    OP#3 I kind of have some sympathy for your coworker. I’m currently learning a language that is very rarely (read: practically never) spoken in the US and if I found someone who did speak it natively, I would very much want to speak with him/her and practice as much as I possibly could. His saying he “needed” to speak with you even more may be from his feeling that holding actual, real-life conversations is increasing his abilities by leaps and bounds more than just tutorials or classes have done.

    That said, I do agree that speaking a language no one else speaks in front of them is totally rude. And he might also be showing off a little in front of co-workers that he knows and can converse in this relatively rare language and they don’t, which is also rude (he might not – but it’s possible).

    But giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he just REALLY wants to learn this language and be fluent and conversational in it and is enthusiastic about that … could you let your co-worker know that you’re uncomfortable having “private” conversations in front of other people, but that you’d be happy to speak with him in your language any time someone else is not around, so as not to be rude. Or would you be willing to have lunch or spend some time with him allowing him to hone his conversational skills? I’m not saying it’s your responsibility to help him learn, but I know if it were me I’d do pretty much anything to have someone who I could converse with even once in a while.

    1. KH*

      Also I pretty much just assumed he was still learning (or had learned and didn’t have opportunity to converse and didn’t want to lose his faculty with the language) because that’s the situation I’m in. If I’m off base, feel free to ignore all of the above. :)

  8. Also new*

    Regarding #1… I think it depends on how the comparison is being done. Talking about your past experience if you’re hoping to positively influence the new one isn’t a bad thing, is it? And isn’t it normal to couch new experiences in familiar ones, to relate the two? What if she is describing situations to underscore her new understandings?

    1. Artemesia*

      Even if it so it would be a conversational tic guaranteed to provoke ridicule and drive co-workers crazy. There is a big difference between offering an example during problem solving of how it was done somewhere else and responding to every direction with the apparently critical and resistant ‘we did it this way at band camp.’

    2. MK*

      I would say it’s totally inappropiate during orientation; when you don’t even have a good handle on how things are done in the new place, you have no way of knowing if your suggestions are possible or that they are indeed better than the way things are done. Also, you need to offer concrete reasons why your way is better, not simply say it’s how you used to do it.And it’s always obnoxious if done all the time.

      1. NicoleK*

        Totally agree. There’s nothing more annoying than a new employee spouting off “ideas” the first day they are in their role

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Gah. This reminds me of a staff meeting where the dean asked for ideas and input about a certain issue. Most senior people who had been there for several years had one or two ideas to contribute, and a scattering of more junior people who had been there for two or three years had one or two ideas. And then the brand new assistant who had been there for less than two weeks had, like, twenty ideas that she spoke about at great length while eyebrows around the table went up, and up, and UP.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I totally agree. It’s like they haven’t checked their baggage at the door, so to speak. It’d be fine to bring ideas to the table once he or she is more established in their role, but this does sound over the top and obnoxious. And actually, I’ve worked at places that prefer to hire people outside the industry for just that reason, so they’re less likely to want to bring their “bad habits” from competitor to your company.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      It’s pretty much always as a Really Bad Thing to Do. It’s a major red flag that this new employee won’t work out.

      There are exceptions that you can employ after you’ve been in the new job for a few months, and depending on your title and role. Job 1 when you are new to a place is to learn their company/industry/processes. Once you’ve learned, again think MONTHS, you can start to pull out your old experiences and see what they can contribute to your new place of work.

      Two red flags will get a new employee terminated in the “this isn’t going to work out for us” way: constant references about old job while debating new job practices (instead of learning new job practices), and blame shifting defensiveness. These flags go up, we try to fix, does not fix, it’s best to end things.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Right. And there’s a big difference between “At my old job, we did X” and, at a situationally appropriate time, “I see that when we do A, we have problem B. In the past when I’ve run into problem B, I did X. Would that be worth trying here?”

    4. SystemsLady*

      When you’re saying that during orientation on a level that’s annoying people or, say, you’re trying to change the standards on an ongoing project that’s already started three days into your job just on basis of being the “teapot design lead” (despite people above you having set those standards years ago), it definitely is not a good idea.

      (A customer of mine is totally not dealing with somebody like that right now…)

    5. Kyrielle*

      Generally, as a new employee, you don’t understand the whole picture at the new company well enough to try to positively influence it, because you don’t know what you don’t know. Saying “we did it this way at my old job” and expecting people to go “oh, you can do that here” or “oh, that’s better!” is usually a red flag for someone who is going to have a very hard time learning how to do things the way the new company wants them done, someone who will make trouble by not following procedures (or by wasting time arguing over them first) just because “That’s Not How We Did It There” (and “That’s Not How We Do It Here” is bad enough, but dragging the past along with you is worse).

      They may be genuinely good ideas or they may not, but the new employee doesn’t have the knowledge base to know and should spare her coworkers all those “brilliant” ideas (that probably aren’t, although in some cases they are). If they’re really helpful or useful, they’ll still seem that way in 6-12 months and can be gently suggested then, NOT as “$LastCompany did it this way” but as “what if we changed this process so that we….”

      That said, it’s not ALWAYS horrible to mention the previous job, but it’s VERY much in how it comes off. There’s usually very little reason to say it – you can mostly relate new things to tings you already know to figure it out just by thinking about it, not talking. But if you’re not sure of the parallel, then I think asking is reasonable – with phrasing along the lines, “I’m trying to make sure I’m not confused here – this sounds a lot like what I’m used to from my last job, which was X, but is that accurate?” Because then you’re clearly asking for help understanding, and providing context of how you got there.

      And I confess that once or twice – perhaps awkwardly, but unlikely to upset anyone regarding their procedures – I have said, “Oh thank *goodness*. At my previous job they did X…this makes so much more sense to me.” Or we were discussing problems and someone said, “I don’t think Y is a good idea, because of risk Z,” and I would chime in with having seen Y at my previous job and indeed, Z resulted. But in neither case was I suggesting they change a course of action. (If Y had worked well at my previous job, I might have also mentioned it, but prefaced with ‘of course, it is a different environment, but as a data point’ or the like. But that’s in an explicit discussion of something that has not been implemented but might be – and it was several months after I’d joined.)

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, to all of this. Also, if the new employee is spending so much brain energy on constantly making comparisons like this, they’re not as open and receptive while training, which can slow down their learning and getting up to speed.

  9. Carrie in Scotland*

    #3 – my manager and the person I sit next to at work are both from Finland and sometimes chat in Finnish. I don’t find it rude, more like it’s good to have a connection when you’re so far away from your home country. But they mainly speak English it must be said.

    Actually, coworker goes to a Finnish group monthly, maybe there is something like that you could suggest to your coworker?

    1. hermit crab*

      Right — I think the key issue in this case is not that chatting with a coworker in a minority language is rude. The issue is that the new coworker is making OP1 uncomfortable with their requests/presumptions!

  10. Chris*

    First, as Allison said, I think the decision is entirely up to you, but I think some occasional chatting in your native tongue isn’t a problem. If ALL your interactions were in that language, well, it might be a bit weird to your coworkers. But personally, I wouldn’t really think about it as one of your other coworkers. I was learning Russian when my job happened to bring in a new hire who was Russian, and had lived in the States for over a decade, with Anglophone husband and children. She was delighted to occasionally be greeted with здравствуйте in the morning, and chat a bit. I can imagine how nice it feels to be able to do that when surrounded by people who speak another language, and I don’t think there’s any harm in some chatting.

  11. Nobody*

    #1 – Ok, I’ll confess that I often bring up how we did it at oldjob. Even though I know it’s a little annoying (I had a coworker at oldjob who came from another company in the industry and was always taking about how things were done at HER oldjob), I can’t help it! I consciously try to avoid it as much as possible, but sometimes it just comes out. When you’ve been working at a similar company for years and years, that’s the lens through which you look at everything at newjob, and it’s hard not to compare and contrast.

    Now, to be fair, I work in an industry where it is highly encouraged to do benchmarking to find the industry best practices and use them, and I was told that I was hired in part because they wanted me to bring my experience from oldjob and use it to suggest improvements. There are a couple of other people in my department who were hired from other companies in the industry, and we will often compare stories if we think something is being done less than ideally at newjob (e.g., it seems like TPS cover sheets are a waste of time and paper, and three other companies don’t use them, so maybe we should evaluate whether we really need to use them here). On the flip side, sometimes I comment on how much better our way of doing things is than oldjob’s way, and I wish I had thought of that when I was there. Sometimes I’m just making conversation.

    It’s hard to say based on the information here, but maybe the OP is making assumptions about the new person that aren’t necessarily true. It seems like the OP is assuming she is saying that to criticize the new company, but maybe she’s just making conversation, or maybe she really does have a good idea. Maybe if you give her the benefit of the doubt, you’ll find it less annoying?

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      First of all how new are you? And this:

      I was told that I was hired in part because they wanted me to bring my experience from oldjob and use it to suggest improvements

      That’s a totally different situation from a typical employee who is going through orientation and training.

      I’ve successfully hired people to come in and make changes before. Because these were good hires, the first thing they did was come in and learn how we do things, without constantly referencing old job in the process (and possibly alienating people who were trying to train/orient them). You can’t know what to fix, change, improve until you learn the new and why it’s done. After the new is absorbed, then bringing in the old (if you’ve been hired to change improve!), that’s when to do it.

      Training people is hard. It shouldn’t be a battle for the trainer to get the new employee to focus on learning the new. Trainers burn out if they have to fight for a new employee’s attention or “defend” why practices are done the way they are done in the first few weeks or months a new employee is on board.

      1. Graciosa*

        I think your comment about learning the “new” system *before* referencing that of the previous employer is key.

        Once the new employee understands it thoroughly, it will be possible to make some suggestions – but there is no reason the suggestion has to reference the previous employer.

        “Have you thought about attaching the spout after the handle instead of before? That might allow the Teapot Spout Attacher to grip the teapot by the handle during the attachment process and cut down on color spoliation in the body” is a perfectly fine suggestion.

        I would even be okay with a more neutral reference to the previous employer along the lines of “Cocoa Teapots cut spoliation by 10% when they adopted this system.”

        But “Cocoa Teapots would never do it that way,” just sounds obnoxious. Constant references to another company make it clear that the employee believes the other company is the source of all truth and goodness, as apparently the name alone should be enough to inspire everyone to genuflect.

        With what’s happening here – the remarks coming during training – it’s pretty clear the new employee has no interest in learning the current employer’s system. Although to be fair, the remarks may be defensive; she may be afraid she can’t learn the new job and referring back to something she did do successfully almost as a reflex. However that doesn’t make it less obnoxious.

        Whatever the reason, I would be very tempted to tell her that since she would clearly be happier at her previous employer, we’re going to free her to seek employment there.

        1. CADMonkey007*

          I think it gets lost on a lot of people that doing something differently is often not better or worse, but just different. Or perhaps there are different circumstances influencing office standards you are unaware of.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          “But “Cocoa Teapots would never do it that way,” just sounds obnoxious. Constant references to another company make it clear that the employee believes the other company is the source of all truth and goodness, as apparently the name alone should be enough to inspire everyone to genuflect.”

          Ha, this made me think a great retort would be “but you don’t work at Cocoa Teapots anymore, do you?”.

          1. neverjaunty*

            “Gosh, maybe you should go back to Cocoa Teapots, where they do everything the right way” would be my thought.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Same here with regards to benchmarking. And in my case, I worked for an industry leader in the past (as have my bosses) whereas for most of my young co-workers this is their first and only job in our industry. So there is often conversation about how we do things here vs how we did things there – both in a “why do you do it like X and not Y?” with the implication that doing it Y way is better, and in an “ugh, MegaCorp made us do ABCDEFG, which is stupid and ridiculous but it was they way it was because they were a MegaCorp – I’m so relieved to only have to do ACF and then G as needed”.

      However, as others have mentioned, when I was hired, it was with the understanding that I would be mentoring some of the younger co-workers, and helping them to understand which things we did our way because that was the way everyone in the industry did it, and which things were unique to our company and the more common/general way to do it/say it is like this.

      I am also of the opinion that sometimes it is nice to be shaken up a bit by an outsider that says “why do you have to have TPS cover sheets?” because then you can determine if cover sheets are wasting time or not – or if there is a back story as to how cover sheets came to be, because people often forgot ABC and the coversheets clarified that.

      I will also admit that I worked at a place where I constantly bemoaned why we were so paper heavy and printed out and filed and photocopied every darn thing – until 6 months in when an entire week’s worth of interoffice mail envelopes went AWOL and those paper copies saved my coworker and my butts. Same thing with when the coworkers computer went down and IT just said “we’ll take it for a few days and let you know what we can salvage” – we were able to reconstruct the info we needed from the paper copies when a few days turned into 2 weeks. Lesson learned – paperless systems or relying on “just send the original to Account’s Payable, they can pull back the originals if we ever need them” don’t work at places with very broken basic infrastructures.

      Can OP suggest that to the employee that right now her main job is to listen and learn the new system, but that maybe the coworker can keep a running list of suggestions for efficiency improvements and in a few months maybe OP and the employee can review and determine if any of those improvements are worth implementing, or if there is a barrier to implementing those improvements that a new person just can’t see?

  12. BRR*

    I can feel obnoxious sometimes at my new job because I do bring up how I did things at my old job but only because I’m introducing a new process at my new job. Most of the time I just suggest things but sometimes I need to reference old job like comparing my productivity to something. I’ve tried to make it clear that I know it’s obnoxious to compare things to a previous job though.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      When you are hired to introduce new processes based on your previous experience, it may or may not be obnoxious to reference Old Job. I can think of two very different examples in our place.

      One, we hired a production art manager to come in and change everything that needed to be changed, eventually make a lot of improvements. So her first job was to learn what we do and why we do it. There was not a small amount of resentment from her staff that we’d hired management from outside, so, when it came time for her to start making changes, referencing Old Job wouldn’t have been a good idea.

      Two, we hired someone to set up and run an SEO department. His Old Job (old experiences) were the reason we hired him. After he spent some time learning the teapot industry, it was completely appropriate for him to reference Old Job (old experiences) when starting new things, especially because his interactions were with upper management and that’s what we hired him for, what he was bringing with him.

      All of this still is after awhile and not in the first couple weeks somebody is being oriented.

      1. fposte*

        Also, a lot of those comparisons can happen inside your own head; most of us will do a fair bit of mapping the new onto the old that way, after all. It’s just that some people don’t realize the difference between a reference that’s useful enough to make out loud and the running narrative that isn’t anything other people need to hear.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I’m always worried about being that person when I’m new to a job! I’ve found that I tend to process things verbally, so I often find myself making comparisons between the old way and the new way that are really not interesting or helpful observations for the people around me. I’m working on keeping that stuff to myself, and when that doesn’t work I try to phrase it as a positive, like “My old job did it this way but I can see how your way would give me more flexibility, so that’s cool.”

      Correcting the orientation materials is a little weird, though. And I’m a copy editor.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Correcting the orientation materials is a little odd. Maybe she was asking “did I get the corrections down properly?” I know if I’m told something verbally that doesn’t jibe with what is presented to me on paper I like to make sure I heard/understood it properly.

        Or was she hired to be the admin to the person who does the orientation? Because I could totally see that person making notes so that they could put “update the orientation materials” on their to-do list.

        I have to say, I’ve worked at companies that used completely out of date orientation materials and were constantly saying “ignore this, we don’t do that anymore, and that 5 should be a 7 now”. Seriously, unless the info just changed yesterday – don’t do this, it makes a horrible first impression on your new hires.

        1. Tau*

          Your last paragraph, so much. Especially when nobody *tells* you to ignore it until you’ve already tried doing it, failed, are looking for help and get “uh, why are you doing X? Nobody does X. You mean this document we sent you and explicitly told you to follow says to do X? Huh. Well. Don’t do X.”

          I may be a little bitter.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think it might be wise sometimes to say, “I’ve had good results when we did this” without mentioning specifically who “we” is. Because you’re talking about your own personal experience, not about the other company. Or about your other coworkers’ experience–but not about the other company.

  13. misspiggy*

    I’d suggest OP2 loop a manager into the conversation about flights and per diems, as well as the administrator who may be approving travel arrangements. The manager should be able to make a judgement call about how best to apply the rules to get a good outcome (a rested, well fed employee delivers a successful set of meetings in Germany), while the administrator will have to stick to the letter of the law.

  14. UKJo*

    OP3 – I may be way out of line here, and I am certainly making a huge jump, so if this does not apply please do disregard. However something in your letter made me wonder if you were perhaps a woman, with whom the new guy was insisting on interacting with in an intense and private way (due to the language matter) and this was contributing to your discomfort. This still means Alison’s advice is just fine – but if the conversational turn in this rare language is making you uncomfortable because of the tenor of the discussion (rather than just a fear of alienating your coworkers) then that to me would seem like a subtly different matter. It would then be positively advisable to keep all your interactions understandable to all, and strictly along professional lines in order to set appropriate boundaries.

    Again, a million apologies if I’m so wrong it’s scary, and wishing you good luck in sorting it either way.

  15. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, I think the LW is really overthinking this. A system in which references are only provided with the candidate’s permission does not make any sense. How could you ever expect to get a complete picture if you cut off most of your sources? I think this is true even in larger industries, but the concept is even more ridiculous in a small one.

    On this board, we are constantly reminding people that reputation matters, and that behavior in the work place is being viewed and assessed by everyone around you. Your current subordinate may turn out to be a future peer or even a superior. If you perform and behave well, you should be willing to live with that. If you perform and behave badly, I think you need to live with the consequences. Giving the latter individual the right to keep any negative information a secret seems bizarre.

    The person giving the reference has a reputation too. If you want your judgment to be valued in the industry, you need to be fair in providing it. There is also an element of reciprocity at play – if you want to hear the truth about potential hires (even if less than fully positive) you need to be willing to provide it.

    Saying that you only provide references with permission is declaring that you are opting out of the normal way this works entirely. My eyebrows would go up if I heard this, and I would give serious thought to whether this was a coded concealment for what would have been a very negative reference.

    In this case, however, there is nothing to indicate the reference would be negative at all – which makes all of this even more confusing.

    – But my basic, standing advice is to be willing to provide fair, honest and truthful references without allowing the candidate to impose the professional equivalent of a heckler’s veto.

    1. OP #4*

      Oh, I don’t disagree that I was overthinking it. One thing that I failed to make clear in my message to Alison is that I wasn’t giving the reference to my friend as she had nothing to do with the hiring process. She asked if she could give me contact info to a colleague I don’t know in her department so that this person could contact me for the reference. If it had been my friend, then I would not have had an issue at all as she and I had had discussions in the past about our respective bosses and our issues with managing up. And I was also struck by the fact that my friend’s email said that Old Boss had not given ANY references from our site. If it had been more of a “we just want to gather as much info as possible” thing I would have been less on edge. Knowing that he had left our site out of his references even though it was the most recent long term thing that he had done (3 years) just struck me as odd and I was second guessing if I would be stepping in anything.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “The person giving the reference has a reputation too. If you want your judgment to be valued in the industry, you need to be fair in providing it. There is also an element of reciprocity at play – if you want to hear the truth about potential hires (even if less than fully positive) you need to be willing to provide it.

      This happened to me just this week. I got candid information from the other person because we know each other. (Even though the candidate gave me the other manager’s name as an official reference. I think the other manager was more candid with me than she might have been if we didn’t know one another. )

      And I know that when I call someone that *I* know, whose name I did not get as a reference from the candidate, I *want* them to give me a behind-the-scenes reference, without even tipping the candidate off necessarily. I’m calling in a marker; I actually expect our relationship to be primary here. If you think highly of the other candidate, you’ll say so, and you won’t feel you need permission to do so.

  16. Argh!*

    #1 #2 & #3 are me! Well, maybe I was #1 but not so annoying. I’d like to think that, anyway.

    Re #3: In one job I had Spanish-speaking co-workers and I asked them if I could speak Spanish with them to practice. Since there were Spanish-speaking clients that seemed reasonable and they were happy to help me. Perhaps it was because my Spanish was really bad! They taught me some vocabulary that was specific to the job, which did help me help people, but I could always have asked someone to translate. It was a long time ago, and I think we may have spoken mainly English after I learned those things. I do remember often stopping to ask “How would I say that in Spanish?” If it doesn’t relate to the job, then English would be the way to go for the sake of the non-native speakers.

  17. OriginalEmma*

    OP #3: Please don’t feel rude about politely asking him to speak English with you, period. Repeat and reinforce as needed! You’re his coworker, not his own personal Muzzy.

    I appreciate his enthusiasm. I’d love to chat in French with my coworkers but I don’t, because I feel like I’m putting them on display and on the spot to perform. If he lives in or near a moderately-sized city, he should scour the internet for local language groups (including MeetUp groups, adult community education groups, university language clubs, etc.) that cater to that language. He’ll have the benefit of speaking the language with multiple people and learning different accents, affects, and slang.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        He’s the mascot of a language learning program, first created and aired by BBC but available in the U.S. in the 90s. Do you recall the “Je suis la jeune fille!” adverts on basic, non-cable American TV?

        1. Kelly L.*

          I don’t! Thanks for explaining–there’s a really nasty term that’s started going around for a particular group, but I couldn’t figure out how it was even relevant. Sorry I had my pessimism goggles on!

        2. CheeryO*

          “Yes, that’s French they’re speaking, and no, these children aren’t French – they’re American!” That commercial is permanently etched into my brain.

      2. MsM*

        Muzzy was (is?) a series of kids’ tapes designed to teach children different languages starring an animated furry Bigfoot thing and his friends. You’d see the commercials all the time if you watched Nickelodeon in the 90s.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Right! My ex had a Francophone friend at his workplace with whom he had scheduled weekly lunches to practice his French during that time. This is the way to go. Not putting OP3 on the spot in front of the rest of the team.

      As immigrants, it’s already an uphill battle for us in the workplace. We already have to prove that we’re as good or competent as our colleagues who were born here. Forcing us to have conversations on work issues in front of the team in a language none of them can understand is not helping our cause.

      1. neverjaunty*

        +1000. And it’s distracting and demeaning to your role as Teapot Designer to have Fergus decide that your secondary duties include being his personal unpaid language tutor.

      2. OP#3*

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head actually–I don’t want to be seen as someone who is not confident enough using English all day long and would jump at the opportunity to speak their native language because it’s easier! The way I felt about this was very much a reflex, so thank you for actually helping me make sense of what is partly the real issue for me. I don’t want to form this special group that (I feel) would exclude me from the main group in my co-workers eyes (which sounds extreme but having lived in the UK for 8 years now, I don’t think it is).

  18. JC*

    #2: Do you think your organization is approaching your trip with the attitude that you should feel lucky to be able to go on an international trip? I have worked at places in the past that had this attitude about travel (especially about travel to interesting locations), and I could see a place like that reacting to your request for a more convenient flight with, “hey, you should be happy that we are sending you.”

    To be clear, I think that is a silly/shortsighted attitude for an employer to have. But it could give you an idea of what they are thinking. I think Alison’s advice to approach them with how a better flight will better meet their business needs (of having a well-rested and prepared employee attend your meetings) is an excellent one. I definitely appreciate that my current organization will typically give me an extra day to get over jet lag when flying overnight from the US to Europe before my meetings in Europe begin. Otherwise, what is the point of sending someone who is tired and frazzled?

  19. ThursdaysGeek*

    Decades ago I was sent on a business trip to Banff, staying at a hotel out of town. Management per diem was higher than for us worker bees, and I had an explicit limit for each meal. I was allowed $6 for lunch, which at that fancy hotel was enough to buy soup. I had no transportation or time to get to any other location, so soup it was. It made me understand the original meaning of “high muckety muck,” which came from Chinook jargon and meant “plenty to eat”. I wasn’t and didn’t.

  20. JennyFair*

    #1–I had a coworker do this once, and after some time and observation I realized she had Asperger’s, or was otherwise on the spectrum. Change is extremely difficult for people affected by Autism, and many also do their processing aloud. The rest of us might hear this and think it’s complaints or pushback, especially when you add in the tone of voice/social signal issues that may be present. Obviously, this might have nothing to do with your new employee, but I encourage you to do some observation and see if root cause really is obstinance or if this employee might just operate a bit differently. I would hate to see labeled ‘A Pain in the Ass’ as quickly as is being advised here.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Please don’t diagnose people third-hand over the Internet. And please don’t make assumptions about people on the autism spectrum, who are perfectly capable of both learning social mores and of being assholes in their own right. “Oh, this person is a jerk, have you considered maybe they’re autistic?!” is not helpful – and if the employee IS autistic, being clearly informed of the rules will help her.

      1. JennyFair*

        I did not diagnose. I suggested an alternative explanation for behavior other than being ‘difficult’, and here I’m applying the OP’s judgment of the behavior, not my own. Also, difficulty with social cues and change are not assumptions, they’re pretty standard issues for people affected by autism.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, I’m aware of that. Jumping to the conclusion that a co-worker behaving obnoxiously might be autistic because people on the spectrum could possibly have those issues *is* an armchair diagnosis and isn’t helpful for the OP or her co-worker. In any case the solution is the same – straightforwardly address why it’s a problem.

  21. Sam*

    #3 – I worked in highly collaborative department and my two team members and my boss spoke the same native language. In fact, this was the first time one of my team members worked in the US. Often my boss would pop around the corner, blurt out a few things, they would respond, then after he left the other other team member would translate it for me. It drove me bonkers. When I asked them to speak in English so we could work together in real time, I was told “it’s just easier this way”.

  22. jaxon*

    I disagree with some of your advice to LW#3, with the non-English-speaking coworker. Even if it were faster or easier to speak this other language, I still don’t think it would be appropriate given that they are located in a “packed open plan office.” Repeatedly speaking an unfamiliar language in front of 7 other people, even if it’s just to discuss TPS reports, could come across as remarkably hostile in such an environment. I’m pretty sure that’s what the LW is getting at.

  23. Tau*

    #2, I am horribly reminded of the time where funding rules meant that instead of a 9 hour direct flight from City A to City C followed by a ~3-hour bus journey to City B, I got to spend 22 hours flying from City A to B, changing twice in a way that made zero geographical sense whatsoever. And they lost my luggage on the last stretch. And did I mention I was leaving early to visit a friend in City C? All of which is to say, I feel your pain here and think it’s worth pushing back, but sometimes there’s not much to be done.

    #3, you can definitely shut this down. One thing I might think about if you’re up for it is talking to him in your native language sometimes when it *is* appropriate, e.g. over lunch if it’s just the two of you or the rest of the group are busy with something else. I know from experience how lonely it can be to have no one to speak your native language with, and I’m at least very fluent in English, and giving him an outlet may make it easier for him to stick to English during the workday (also, model for him what appropriate code-switching looks like in your office, as this can be pretty complicated and vary between organisations and groups.) NONE of this is your responsibility, though, and if you don’t want to get yanked into conversations in your language at all with this guy that is also fine.

  24. Snazzy Hat*

    #3: Depending on the setting, I would either encourage or discourage speaking in that language. I worked in a facility where on some days about ten of us had the same task, and other days we were split up into smaller groups for separate tasks, occasionally in different rooms. Two of my coworkers spoke Tagalog, which I thought was an uncommon language in my region, so I had no issues with them speaking it when we were working on a task as a larger group. One day, though, the three of us were on a small-group task in a separate room. I felt so awkward because it was obvious that I couldn’t be involved in the conversation.

    Conversely, I had several friends who were studying Mandarin together who also regularly hosted parties, and man did I feel like a dunce as I watched them speak Mandarin to each other. It came across as, “okay, now it’s time for our favourite party game, where the guests have to wonder what we’re talking about!”

  25. Cassie*

    #3: I actually don’t really mind when people talk to each other in a different language in front of me. Sure, they could be talking about me, but unless they’re glancing at me furtively and bursting out laughing, they are probably not talking about me. And even then, so what? If they really wanted to talk about me, they could just wait until I walked away anyway.

    I have a couple of coworkers that speak to each other in a different language and they frequently do it in front of me. I can almost always figure out what they are saying because there will be English words tossed in here or there. It would probably feel different if this was at a party or a more social event, though. It was awkward when a group of 4 of us (2 bosses, me and a coworker) went to lunch and the 2 bosses were talking in a different language which I speak but the coworker did not.

    For the OP – you can always do what I do with students who try to talk to me in a different language. They ask questions in that language, I answer in English. Actually, I do this with my parents too :) Which is why my fluency in that other language is not as great as it should/could be.

  26. veronica*

    The responses to #3 have been pretty shocking to me so far. I think every office I’ve ever worked at had people where English wasn’t their first language, and to say to them it’s “rude” for them to speak to each other in their native language is mind boggling to me. And I don’t really get the idea that it’s exclusionary either. If they’re not talking to me, it doesn’t really make a difference if they’re speaking English or not.

    As for the specific issue at hand, I’m curious if the man involved is a native speaker. If so, that certainly answers the “no idea why” he wants to speak to you in that language. English is not an easy language, and the relief of being able to speak your own language instead of translating everything in your head is probably a big draw.

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