We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.
In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:
A primer on how to avoid mistakes in
Mongols traditionally live on the steppes, breeding horses, just like their ancestor Genghis Khan. Not surprisingly, following Western pleasantries will not have the intended effect in Mongolia. That being said, there are still a few rules to follow. Always receive items with the right hand, palm facing up. Drink from the right hand with the palm up as well.
It is very rude to refuse a gift. If offered a plate of hospitality munchies, take at least a small nibble from something. You should never point anyone with your index finger since it implies disrespect. Whenever you approach a nomadic family, or enter a ger, you will, without knowing, break one or several of the many traditional, religious and superstitious customs.
If you do become confused, don’t panic, minor indiscretions will be tolerated and forgiven. The following do’s and don’ts will help minimize cultural differences. Do[add listing] Say hello (sain bainuu) when you arrive (but repeating it again when you see the same person is considered strange to Mongolians) Take at least a sip, or a nibble, of the delicacies offered Pick up everything with an open hand, with your palm facing upwards Hold a cup by the bottom, and not by the top rim If by accident you tap someones foot with yours, immediately shake hands with them (failing to do so will be seen as an insult).
Don’t Lean against a support column Whistle inside a ger Stand on, or lean over, the threshold Stamp out a fire, or put water or any rubbish on it (fire is sacred to Mongolians) Walk in front of an older person; or turn your back to the altar, or religious objects (except when leaving) Take food from a communal plate with your left hand Touch other people’s hats Have a long conversation in your own language in front of your hosts
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Mongolia, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Mongolia food and drinks:
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Mongolia? Please comment below.