Wherever you travel, there are local rules and customs that you should research and know in advance. At least rudimentary. It is not necessary to become an expert in the local culture. But striving for correct behavior is something that should be in the list of priorities when traveling. Of course, small faux pas can always happen, but the Mongols are a hospitable people and are quick to overlook unintentional mistakes.
18 for Mongolia
- Give presents with both hands. It is considered polite to use both hands when handing over or accepting gifts, money or anything else.
- Always climb on a horse from the left side.
- Do not step onto the threshold. Always step over it and to the other side. This applies to monasteries, houses and gers (yurts).
- Never whistle when inside houses and gers.
- Always accept offered drink and food. Even if you are not hungry or thirsty at the time, accept it and at least taste it.
- Throw no milk, no water and no garbage into the fire. The fire is sacred to the Mongols.
- Never touch the head of a person. Not even a child’s. Patting children’s heads is a widespread custom in the Western World, but it is not welcome in Mongolia.
- Never point at someone with an outstretched forefinger, and especially not at a Buddha statue or an altar. If needed, you can use the entire palm to point to something.
- Never urinate in water (streams, rivers, lakes). For Mongols, water is sacred and alive.
- Never pour milk nor milk products into rivers, streams or lakes.
- Even if you think it is important, do not ask drivers and locals about driving, riding and in general traveling times. Doing this is to bring misfortune and put the journey in danger. Alternatively you can ask your travel guide. They are already familiar with this western “bad habit”. 😉
- Always move around a stupa in a clockwise manner.
- Take off your shoes when entering a yurt or a house. This is especially true for monasteries.
- Never step over the outstretched legs of a Mongol.
- Never stretch your legs in the direction of people, altars or Buddha statues.
- When eating, use your right hand or both hands.
- Never turn your back on an altar or a Buddha statue.
- Never go in front of an older person.