Say “Sain baina uu,” or ‘Hello’ when you meet a person for the first time. But do not repeat this
phrase when you meet the same person on the same day. Mongolians do not say, “Hi,” to each
other whenever they meet on any particular day. A small comment or smile will be nice greeting.
If you step on someone, shake his or her hand. There is a common superstition that if you do not
shake hands after stepping on someone, there will be conflict between you. Do not feel strange if
someone touches or shakes your hand. He or she must have stepped on you.
Try to use your right hand when passing something to someone else.
Never touch another person’s head. Mongolians believe that one's head is the most sacred part of
the body and they do not like it touched by anyone.
Do not walk over an "uurga,” the long pole with a lasso on it which horsemen use to catch horses.
It is alright to refuse if you are offered alcoholic drinks or fermented mare's milk. But to show
respect, you may take a small taste or just dip your upper lip into the drink.
Never touch pictures of Buddha and other gods that most Mongolian families have in their homes.
Touching and showing interest in other items in a nomadic family ger (yurt) are allowed and
regarded as normal.
You will see many times Ovoo, a pyramid-shaped pile of stones and woods and placed on top of a
hill or mountain during your travel through the countryside. If you stop by at the Ovoo, try to add
some stone(s) to the pile and walk around it three times in clockwise direction. You can also
make a wish. Ovoos are sacred and they are erected in respect of the gods of the mountains,
rivers and lakes.
In Mongolia, shooting star represents a dying person. Therefore, many Mongolians (especially
older people) read some religious phrases. No Mongolian would make a wish if they see a shooting
Do not approach the horse from its right. Most horses are trained for approaching only from the
left. Also dismount a horse to the left.
When you enter a ger, try to seat in the space to the left of the stove when your back is facing
the door. The space on the other side is mainly occupied by the family members. This also applies
when you visit tepees of reindeer breeding people.
When you visit a ger, you do not have to knock asking permission. Instead say “Nohio horio,” or
‘Hold the dog’ loud enough that people inside the ger can hear you.
If you decide to try Mongolian traditional greeting, try to place both of your hands below the
elbow of your counterpart if he/she is older than you.
When passing knives, scissors or anything else with blade, offer the handle, but not the blade.
Do not whistle inside gers or any kind of building. Whistling inside is said to call bad-spirit in you
Do not put your feet or shoes on chairs or tables, especially showing the bottom of your feet to
It is unusual for a woman to sit cross-legged in any place.
Place hats open end down. Hats placed open end up said to ask for illness/misfortune from God.
If you use Mongolia deel, a traditional robe-like costume, your "bus" or belt, the long silk sash
tightly wound around the waist should not be put at arbitrary places when unworn. Try to place it
somewhere far from door and not on the floor.
Mongolians do not like to exchange hats. Do not be surprised if you see someone softly spitting
into another person's hat when they exchange their hats. Spitting softly said to prevent the
coming of bad-spirits of others that exist in their hat to you.
When you visit a Mongolian family living in a ger/yurt, you do not have to take off your shoes.
But you must take of your shoes if you visit a family living in an apartment or a house, especially
in Ulaanbaatar City.
If Mongolians offer you a food in a container that you can carry/use it outside of their home, try
to put some small candies or any other type of food in the container when you return it. It is a
sign of appreciation.
If you are not sure about what to do, imitate the Mongolians.