Whilst travelling in Mongolia your journey and the experience of your hosts will be enhanced if you make an attempt to respect the local ger etiquette.
There is no need to knock on the brightly painted door of a Ger. Instead, call out "Nokhoi khor" which literally means, "Hold the dog". Say "hello" (Sain Bainu) when you arrive, but don't repeat it to the same person later.
As you enter a Ger, avoid stepping on or leaning over the threshold or knocking your head on the doorframe.
- Never lean against the support columns of a Ger.
- As a guest, go to the back of the Ger in a clockwise direction. Try not to turn your back to the altar or religious objects.
- Try not to point your feet at the hearth, the altar or at another person.
- If you have stepped on someone, or kicked their feet, immediately shake their hand.
- Keep your sleeves rolled down so as to avoid exposing your wrists.
- Pick up everything with an open hand, with your palm facing upwards. Never take food from a communal plate with your left hand.
- Hold a cup by the bottom and not by the top rim.
- Always receive gifts with your right hand supported at the elbow by your left arm.
- Avoid touching another person's hat.
- Try not to spill milk - it is sacred.
- Try never to refuse what is offered to you. If you don't like what you have been given, take a small sip or bite (or pretend to) and leave the rest on the table. An empty plate is seen as a signal that you are still hungry and your plate or bowl will be refilled.
- An older man may offer his snuffbox to a male visitor. If you want some snuff empty a tiny portion onto your hand between your downward facing index finger and thumb. Raise your hand to a nostril, take a long deep inhalation and smile widely. If you don't want any, just go through the motions and smile appreciatively. If the snuffbox is empty, don't make any comment and pretend there is some. Pass back the snuffbox in the upturned palm of your right hand.
- It is not rude to come and go as you please in a Ger. Even taking a short nap is considered perfectly acceptable.
- Sleep with your feet pointing towards the door.
- Leave weapons outside. Don't point a knife in any way at anyone. Pass a knife handle first and always use the knife to cut towards you.
- Mongolians are superstitious of any writing in red ink.
- Avoid stamping out or putting water or rubbish on a fire, for fire is sacred to the Mongolians.
- Avoid walking over an uurga (a lasso on a pole).
- Avoid walking in front of an older person.
Rest assured when you join one of our journeys in Mongolia you will not need to remember all of these points and you won't cause terrible offense if you don't follow these guidelines. You will however please your hosts if you make some effort to respect and take on board Mongolians quirky ways.