Mongolia is a country with strict taboos when it comes to tradition and lifestyle, especially in the countryside. Some of them are of religious background, others derived from the practical necessities of the nomadic culture, and of course, there are also examples of superstition.
Though in the city, these practices are less enforced and one might see a few city dwellers not following the rules. However, it does not mean that you should not follow suit.
Everything starts from entering the Ger/house. Ger refers to home in Mongolian.
Here are some of Mongolia's basic dos and don'ts. It will come in handy when you're visiting this ancient land of nomads.
- 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 gesture)
- Whistle inside a Ger
- Lean against the pillars in the Ger
- Throw water or rubbish into the fire (fire 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
- Urinate in any waters in nature such as lakes, rivers, streams ever (Mongolians consider water to be sacred)
- Spill milk/dairy in rivers, wells, lakes
- Talk or joke about bad things that may happen
- Estimate travel hours as drivers believe it brings evil on the trip
- Ask for the names of big mountains while the mountain is still in sight
- Say thank you too much or for small gestures
- Greet people when entering the Ger
- Give/receive presents with both hands
- 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