Here are a few Mongolian customs we have studied in the past couple days at language school. This is my rough translation for Mongolian, so there are bound to be some errors, but I think I’m generally pretty close.
1. The best food and drink is given to the head of the house. If the head of the house is gone, his plate is traditionally filled with the best food.
2. If you are offered tea or snacks and don’t want to eat them, don’t say so. You begin by tasting some of the cream from the white foods plate.
3. Don’t leave dregs in your cup; drink everything.
4. Don’t eat with one chopstick.
5. Before you go out, sit and eat your tea and food.
6. Don’t give a knife, fork or other sharp object with the pointed part facing out.
7. Don’t put water on top of milk. You can put milk on top of water.
8. Don’t throw things from the whetstone. Give things with the right hand.
9. Put meat, fat, oil, cream, and butter in the fire. Don’t put milk, water or soup. Old people say these will blind the fire’s eye. Don’t put bad things in the fire.
10. Men don’t dump the dirty water or trash.
11. When you enter a house, the lady of the house should fling the best tea upwards.
12. Don’t enter a ger with a gun, whip or shovel. Put them on top of the ger.
13. When you enter a ger, step with your right foot first. Sit where the head of the house tells you to sit. Stand up when older people enter the ger.
14. The older person should enter the ger first. The younger person should sit to the lower side of them. In western Mongolia, the people entering the ger traditionally bow to each of the people in the ger.
15. Listen to people first; don’t interrupt.
16. Don’t put your hands behind your back in the ger.
17. Don’t grab or lean on the support poles in a ger.
18. Don’t sing or cry in your bed. If you’re happy, don’t sing in your bed. If you’re sad, don’t cry in your bed.
19. Don’t point at people with one finger; use your right hand palm up to point.
20. Don’t kiss babies too much. Kiss babies on top of the foot. Don’t praise babies as “beautiful,” “smart” or “nice.” If you praise them, they will have a “white tongue and mouth.” When children play outside at night, put soot on their nose. When children don’t say “thank you,” say “Grow up.”
21. Don’t walk in front of a pregnant person. You need to respect her child.
22. When you are going on a trip, if you meet a wolf, it’s a good omen. If you meet a fox, it’s a bad omen. You need to go back and start again.
23. When you go to the countryside, if you encounter an ovoo, place 3 rocks and walk around it clockwise three times. While you are walking, say “The ovoo becomes big, and I become lucky. The ovoo becomes tall, and I become lucky.”
24. Don’t let your shadow fall on a bird’s egg.
25. When you give a gift to someone, say, “We’ll hold one thing for you.” Say, “Let’s hold one small gift. Give cups, shoes, pants, etc., because something that has an opening to the top is a good omen.
26. When you step on someone’s foot, say “Please forgive me” and take their hand.
27. Mongolians say that 7 is an unlucky number; 9 is a lucky number.
28. Don’t block the door. Don’t step on the threshold.
29. When people go to a far place, kiss them on the right cheek. Stroke them gently on the left cheek and say, “When you come back, I’ll kiss you.”
30. In the daytime, walk behind teachers and older people. Don’t go ahead of them or walk beside them. At night, you must walk in front of them.