The First Mistake You Make When Trying A New Cuisine

Food can give us insight into certain cultures and bring people from different backgrounds together as they enjoy the cuisine. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a foodie, chances are you'll have the opportunity to try a new traditional dish in your life. No one wants to look silly when digging into an unfamiliar meal, which is why it pays to learn the first rule: ask how to eat it.

Asking the best way to eat a dish will guarantee that you get the full experience — and avoid any social faux pas. Most food doesn't come with instructions, so there's no shame in inquiring how to eat it. In fact, asking will show that you respect the culture enough to learn how to eat their food properly.

You may think that most dishes are self-explanatory, but that's not always the case. Australian Kylie Flett shared with EatingWell the story of their friend who got violently sick after eating a scoop of Vegemite, a super salty condiment paste. Flett recounts that they "tried to tell her we don't eat it like that in Australia, but she didn't listen. Any good Aussie knows you scrape [a thin layer of] Vegemite across pre-buttered toast."

Asking how to eat a new dish is a sign of respect and ensures a good experience

There may even be unknown practices for consuming cuisines that you eat regularly. For example, it's customary to eat Japanese sushi in one bite, especially if you're at a sushi restaurant or bar. That's because each piece is specially formed by the chef to be eaten all at once and will start to break apart if bitten in two. This rule applies mostly to smaller pieces of sushi, like sashimi and maki rolls.

Knowing how to eat certain dishes will also help you look less like a tourist when traveling abroad. If you're traveling to Italy, for instance, be very wary of eating a pizza with your hands. Not only will it probably fall apart, it will also signal to others that you haven't done your research on Italy's dining rules. When you get your pie (and yes, you will be enjoying your own pizza), use a fork and knife to dig in like the locals. 

People's cuisines mean a lot to them, so make sure you do your due diligence by asking about the proper way to enjoy a meal. There is dining etiquette that can be applied to most situations, but if you're unsure about a specific culture's customs, it never hurts to ask.