Mongolia's basic Do's and Don'ts
Mongolia is a country of strict Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to traditions and lifestyle, specifically in the countryside. Some of these rules are of religious background, and others derived from the practical necessities of the nomadic culture. And obviously, there are also examples of superstition. Though in the city, these practices are less strict and one might see a few of the city people not following the rules. However, it does not mean that you should not follow the rules.
The Mongols have lived in a solid harmony with the Mother Nature for millenniums, and most of the Dos and Donts rules are related to respecting the nature, and also about etiquettes in the Ger. Ger also means home in Mongolian, and is considered as a sacred place. So whether it’s a Ger or a house it’s a home, and whether you are a Mongol or not these rules are for everyone...
Here are some of Mongolia’s basic Do's and Don’ts (indoors and outdoors both). It sure will come in handy when you’re visiting this ancient and diverse land of nomads. Take in mind, that depending on the reqion you’re travelling there might be stricter rules, so please ask your tour guide for this. Enjoy your travel in Mongolia!
- Stand on the threshold when entering the Ger/house
- Refuse offered drink or food in the Ger/house (it’s customary for Mongols to offer tea and food as a welcoming omen), at least try to enjoy a sip or two.
- Whistle inside a Ger
- Lean against the pillars in the Ger
- Throw water or any rubbish into the fire (fire is sacred!)
- Pee in any waters in nature such as lakes, rivers, streams ever! (Water is sacred!)
- Touch other people’s hat or especially, man’s head
- Walk over the Uurga (horse catching pole)
- Point at someone with a single finger
- Spill milk/dairy in river, well, or lakes
- Talk or joke about bad things that may happen
- Estimate travel hours as drivers believe it brings evil on the trip
- Ask names of big mountains while the mountain is still in sight
- Say thank you too much or for small gestures (Mongols are often shy)
- Greet the people when entering the Ger
- Give/receive presents with both hands
- Hold a bowl by the bottom, not by the top rim.
- Try to speak Mongolian even it’s just Hello (Sain bainuu?), Thank you (Bayarla!) or Bye (bayartai!)
- Enter or leave Ger through the left
- Accept food or drink with your right hand or both hands
- Receive the snuff bottle and gently loosen the top without removing it
- Bring some small gifts such as stationary for children
- Always get on horseback from the left
- Watch over your wallet/purse. Pick pocketing is common in crowded places
- Shake the hands of someone who you have accidentally bumped feet with
Photo: Venetia Menzies