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Mongolian Cultural Etiquette
HomeAbout MongoliaMongolian Cultural EtiquetteUpdated 2017 March
Mongolian Cultural Etiquette |  Mongolian TraditionsMongolian culture is the way of life of Mongolian people, the way of thinking. Learning about the Mongolian culture is an excellent way to understand Mongolian people.

Today, the number of visitors and tourists in Mongolia is visibly increasing day by day, most of them prefer to go to the countryside, and if you are about to visit or you are in Mongolia there is some advice that is good to know:

Travelers will find gers (yurts) or small wooden houses marked as "Цайны газар" in regular intervals near the roadside, which operate as simple restaurants. A guest entering a ger will always be given something to eat. It is extremely rude to reject the offer, but it isn't necessary to empty the bowl either. Taking a small bite or a sip satisfies the etiquette, and the rest may be returned without difficulty. An empty bowl will be refilled immediately. Food (as well as other items) are always passed and received with the right hand, while the left hand touches the right elbow for symbolic support.

When entering, never step on the threshold, or bad things will happen (different things depending on the source). Most likely the real background is this: A person standing in the door will block the sun in summer, and allow in the cold air in winter. Fire is sacred. It is never put out, but may die on its own when it isn't needed anymore. By principle, no garbage is ever thrown into the fire (animal dung is valuable fuel, though). Even when sleeping, the feet never point to the altar (in the back), but always to the door. The two center posts have symbolic significance. They support the ger like husband and wife support the family. For this reason, you'll never walk between them, but always take the way around. Even touching the posts can be considered impolite, let alone to lean against them.

When people meet, the conversation will at first always involve the obvious topics like the trip of the guest, the state of the host's animals, the quality of the pastures, and the weather. Only after quite a while is it appropriate to turn to more personal topics. Talking about bad things (sickness, death, accidents, etc.) is taken as a bad omen, and should be avoided as much as possible. If you ride in a car (or fly in an airplane), then you should never make any jokes about possible defects. The topic is too serious for that. A person doing something potentially dangerous has accepted the danger, and there's no need to comment on it further, not even in jest. As proverb says, "If you are afraid to do something, don't do it. And if you do something, don't be afraid of it". In the Buddhist culture (as well as in other Asian cultures) there's a distinct hierarchy between head and feet. The head is an elevated body part in symbolic terms as well, and the feet have accordingly lower status.

Understanding this basic principle can already help avoid lots of embarrassment. A hat is a very personal item, and is never lent to other people. If possible, you should avoid touching other peoples hats, let alone to sit or stand on one. Never point your feet towards other people or other important items like the hearth or the altar. If you accidentally touch someone with your foot, then you can balance this by immediately grabbing their hand. Mongolian people like the proverb that says: "usin uuval yosin dag" which the close meaning is, if you drink the water follow the custom of a particular country or if you live there, follow the rule of particular country. We hope the above advice is useful to know. Thank you and welcome to Mongolia.
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