On a first trip to Mongolia many surprises await the traveller. Mongolian hospitality is one of them!
The surprise will probably be the great Mongolian hospitality, it is very specific!
Here hospitality is a pillar, a foundation of the Mongolian identity. It is unthinkable not to open your yurt to the traveller. The climate in the country is so harsh that no one can survive here without the unconditionally outstretched hand.
So open your tent to all who need it. What will surprise the visitor is the style: it is not about being polite and nice, and even less about having a conversation
In a Mongolian yurt, which is called a ger here, you enter as if you were in a train station, but not only somehow, you have to follow the strict rules. “Sleeping?” and the master of the place, without conjuring a smile, stretches out his hand for a bedor, if you’re not lucky, a mattress on the floor, a pile of blankets… and that’s it.
The Mongolians also offer food and drink unconditionally from tourist yurts. The snack consists of Mongolian tea, the famous and confusing Süütei tsai, cheese made from camel milk and a curiosity: steamed brioche bread, Mantuum, with fresh yak butter.
If the Mongolian welcome may seem cold in the European way, it is not
“Where are you from, O great traveller, mi casa es tu casa“, nooo, nothing is said here. Once the accommodation is arranged, don’t wait for the residents to have a nice little chat. Mongolians are loner packs. So they all go about their business without paying any more attention, and so, the yaks are well guarded.
These attitudes must be considered from a cultural, identity-creating point of view. Mongols are not Americans who welcome you with honey, darling. Mongols are heirs to ancestral traditions rooted in a very old nomadic root. And to the nomad, nothing is permanent, everything is temporary. Don’t feel unwelcome in all this.
I have seen Mongolians entering yurts, muttering just a few words, eating, sleeping, eating again and leaving the place without any other polite ways, thats it!
Instructions for yurt in Mongolia
There are many rules related to Mongolian symbols, they are dear to the inhabitants. We don’t play around with them, so study before you go, otherwise you won’t make friends.
- Do not knock on the door of the yurt when it is closed, never, just go inside. Knocking on the door, a courtesy obligatory for Europeans, is here a sign of aggression.
- Step carefully over the wooden threshold, in Genghis’ time the clumsy one was threatened with the death penalty, you are warned.
- Step with your right foot and right foot only.
- Always step on the left side, never on the right unless you are specifically asked to do so.
- Sit in the guest seat on the left side.
- Do not waste time sitting down, do not chat in the lobby. In a yurt, you must be either inside or outside.
- A visitor who, even out of shyness, stands there swinging from one foot to the other will make everyone uncomfortable: This is the sign of messengers bringing bad news.
- Wait until the yurt master finally invites you to sit next to him, facing the door. Hurry and accept his offer, for he will give you a place of honour.
- In the yurt, between the two central pillars, there is a sacred place. Therefore, it is strictly forbidden to sit there or pass through it, otherwise beware of the wrath of Tengri.
- The yurt is sacred, intimate, never enter it with an object that resembles a weapon: knife, whip, spade, halberd, Kalashnikov, etc.
- Respect the welcome rituals.
After and only after, the conversation can the conversation begin.