Mongolian cultural tips

This page is intended to help you to better understand the differences of Mongolian cultural which may help those who are planning to come or live in Mongolia. In general, Mongolian culture is similar to Asian culture but not as strict as other Asian countries.

 

  • It is the norm for Mongolians to not be punctual so be prepared if they are a little late for meetings, events or dates. Also be ready for last minute invitations as events are usually spontaneous.

  • When someone is speaking, pointing with your index finger is considered rude.

  • Most Mongolians cannot imagine meals without meat. Also, Mongolians like to eat meals without any seasoning which can taste bland for others.

  • The concept of personal space can be different for people in Mongolia. It might be due to lifestyle. So, it is normal to stand too close and touch the other person`s clothes or hair when they are talking to others, as well as leaning on the person next to them. Standing in queue, they tend to stand too close or cut the line.

  • Some Mongolians don’t obey the traffic rules when driving. Some joke that “Mongolians drive like they are riding horses”. But this might be influenced by underdevelopment of infrastructure and the public transportation system. That’s why locals prefer driving cars which is one cause of UB traffic jams.

  • Mongolians are proud. If you offer food or something else, they may say no, even though they want it. So, just give it to them without asking, if you want to give food.

  • Foreigners who are learning Mongolian often want to buy Mongolian children`s books in order to practice reading, however these children`s books are written in a formal written language which is very different from how people speak which can lead to confusion.Therefore its best not to buy these books when you`re a beginner.

  • Giving up ones seat up on buses or in public places too an older person shows respecting. Do not be surprised or offended if a seat is offered to you.

  • Breastfeeding in public places is considered ordinary in Mongolia.

  • Mongolians tend to drink a lot when they get together. They might insist that you also drink with (it many seem forcefully) them whether you like it or not. If you don`t want to drink, just imitate a sip and give the glass back.

  • Don`t be surprised if a stranger holds or touches your hands. It means they`re apologizing to you when they step on your foot.

  • Receiving a gift with two hands is respecting the person as well as expressing gratitude.

  • When Mongolians visit families, guests bring gifts and the hosts offers food.Or bring some small gifts or candy for children.

  • Mongolians love candy. Every family has a bowl of candy. They will offer you candy when you visit them. You can take one or just touch the side of the bowl if you don`t want to any to be polite.

  • When you visit Mongolian families, they don`t usually ask you what you want to drink. They just give you milk tea. Try to finish it. Or you can just taste it and place it in front of you.

  • When someone offers you a drink (like vodka) you should take the offering with your sleeves rolled down.

  • When cutting meat on a shared plate be sure to cut the meat with the knife facing you.

  • When something is said negatively about the future you should knock on something wooden.

  • After talking or joking about bad things that may happen, you should knock on something

  • If you see someone that is crying it would be considered impolite if you ask them what is wrong.

  • Don’t pour or spill milk into rivers.

  • Don’t urinate in rivers.

  • It is insulting if you point at someone.

  • Touching someone on the top of their head or their hat is considered rude and that you taking away their luck.

  • Bags shouldn’t be placed on the floor.

  • Mongolians are very hospitable. They will always offer bread, snacks and drinks.

  • Mongolians don’t say hi to strangers.

  • Mongolians don’t smile at strangers so don’t be alarmed when you notice customer service people not smiling.

  • If you need help in a restaurant or supermarket you will need to ask for assistance, assistance otherwise won’t be offered.

  • Mongolians don’t give eye contact.

  • It is not considered rude if someone doesn’t apologize or give thanks.

  • Mongolians respect their elders regardless of the age gap and may call you brother or sister as a sign of respect.

  • Don’t stand while eating or drinking.

  • Don’t lean on the support poles of a Yurt.

  • Guests should not sit at the back of the yurt facing the door.