Selena Travel

Dos and don’ts while you’re in the countryside- Mongolian customs

Posted by Selena Travel / 04 30, 2019

DOs

1. Ovoo: 

When you go to the countryside, you would see a little heap of rocks sometimes decorated with a blue or yellow “khadag” or a piece of cloth. Usually located on top of the mountain, these are called “ovoo”. Most of the time, you don’t have to stop at every one of them, but when you do, or when you climb a mountain and get to the “ovoo” you should carry three rocks with you and round the ovoo for three times, throwing a rock for each of your round.

The “ovoo”s  have several purposes- to pay respect for the local deities, to mark geographical locations etc. The coolest story of them all is that during the war time, each one of the soldiers would put a rock on their departure from their home town and get it back when they come back from the war.

The remaining rocks would be memorial for the soldiers who have lost their lives during the war. It may not be true, but it’s something that Mongolians believe and respect, so it would be rude to get a rock from the ovoo, or disrespect it in any way.

2. Bathroom situation:

You should say goodbye to your comfort of the bathroom long before you head out to the countryside. Since Mongolians employ nomadic lifestyle in the countryside, it would be useless to build a bathroom and whole sanitary system just to leave the place in three months.

So, Mongolians usually use the mother nature as their toilet, or build a little wooden shading and call it a day. Obviously, there would be sophisticated bathrooms in the tourist ger camps and resorts, but if you want to experience a real authentic Mongolian lifestyle and go deep into the countryside, you should get your body used to the ways that your ancestors used to be in. Carrying enough toiletries and hand sanitizers will help you a lot.

3. Food:  

Even though you can prepare your food fully before you hit the road, Mongolians would most likely offer food, or at least a tea with some snacks. Not offering them when any visitor comes seems as the rudest thing Mongolians can possibly do. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s pretty rare that you won’t be offered milk tea or “boortsog” when you enter a ger.

Mongolian milk tea is salty and delicious so you might like it, and also it’s rude if you don’t accept when you’re offered one. You should take the tea even if you’re not going to drink it. Now when the formalities are over, the main course would most likely include lots of meat and carb. So if you want a light meal or want to have your daily nutrition- don’t hesitate to grab some supplements before you go on a tour.

Since Mongolian weather is pretty extreme and planting is not the primary source of the Mongolian diet, it might be hard to find vegetables when you’re deep into the steppe. Most important thing is to tell your guide if you have any allergies. We’re not sure about the exact reason, but allergies are pretty rare in Mongolia, especially in the countryside, so Mongolians don’t usually realize that eating certain type of food can be as harmful as to kill you. Also because of the exact same reason, it’s unlikely that homes would have necessary pills for the allergy.

DON’Ts

1. Around the ger: 

First of all, when you enter the ger- be aware to not to hit your head. You shouldn’t step on the sill while you’re entering. This is because Mongolians usually use one ger to carry around for almost all of their lives and the sill weathers the fastest. So, we try to keep them in good condition for as long as possible.

Once you enter the ger, you shouldn’t go straight to the back of the house since that is where Mongolians keep their god and the most respectful ones sit there. Also, you shouldn’t walk between the two columns holding the ger together since it symbolizes the husband and wife of the house.

There are tons of other little customs in the ger such as not whistling inside the ger so as not to attract the snakes, and not sitting in the table- but you would be fine if you follow the ones above.

2. Around the livestock: 

As we have mentioned in our previous article, horses are more than just a pet for the Mongolians. We treat them with respect and love them since there are lots of stories of how the horses have saved the lives of their owners. So, if you ride a horse or try to pet them, always treat them with respect. Also, you shouldn’t walk behind one if you don’t want to get kicked by one.

3. In the nature:

First of all, you need to remember that for Mongolians nature is part of them. Surely, we love and respect the nature, but mostly we think of them as a part of our life, our family or even us.

We look at the stars to see whether tomorrow will snow or not and the way birds fly tell us when the blizzard is coming. Most of all, we love the water. The nomadic life has taught us that when there is water, there is life.

So obviously you shouldn’t put any garbage in water, also dairy and blood. If unfortunately, something happens and you bleed, make sure to take some water with some kind of bottle or literally anything you have and wash your wound away from the river.

There are much more customs, but with these in mind and understanding that nomadic lifestyle is a minimalist one would help you get through the trip of your lifetime without embarrassing yourself. Basically, if you love nature and try to keep it as natural as possible- you’ll be fine. Good luck!

Written by Sainbilig


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