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Blog: Ger Etiquette


Oct 2016

Ger Etiquette

Here are a couple of tips about how to behave when you pop in to a ger in remotest Mongolia while on a horse riding adventure.


Family ger in Mongolia

Tip 1: arrival. How should you get in? Visitors don’t knock on the door they simply call out “Nokhoi khor” which translates as “Hold that dog”. A wise precaution; and then step in saying “Sain Bainu” to the occupants, but avoid saying it twice during any one visit to any one person.


Tip 2 crossing the threshold. Step over the threshold, not on it. And don’t lean on the door frame or bang your head on the lintel which is a bad omen. Whilst on the subject, it’s bad form to lean on any of the ger supports (which is common sense anyway!). And don’t forget to leave all weapons outside!


Tip 3 internal navigation: as you walk in you should go clockwise around the ger and head for the back. It’s also important to clock where the family altar is and never turn your back on it. Avoid walking directly in front of an older person and don’t tread on an uurga (a lasso on a pole).


That’s the entry preliminaries dealt with, now for the social etiquette:

Tip 4 is all about your legs: avoid pointing your feet directly at the stove, the altar or another person; that can be challenging! If you inadvertently kick someone’s foot and knock into them, immediately shake hands.


Tip 5 table manners: your wrists should be covered, so keep your sleeves rolled down. Only use your right hand to take food from a communal platter and hold your cup by the base, never the rim. Be careful not to spill milk, which is considered sacred. Never refuse what is offered to you: if you don’t like what you’ve 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’re still hungry and your plate will be refilled.


Tip 6: how to handle a knife. Never point a knife at anyone and when slicing your food always cut towards yourself, never away from yourself. If you need to pass a knife always offer it handle first.


Tip 7 the fire: is generally a potbellied stove in the centre of the ger; the fire itself is sacred, so don’t put rubbish on it.


Tip 8 how to relax: it’s not rude to come and go as you please during your visit; even taking a short nap is perfectly acceptable, but sleep with your feet pointing towards the door.


Tip 9: you should never touch another person’s hat.


Tip 10: red ink is the devil’s work, so avoid using a red pen or brandishing any document with red ink (my bank manager should take note).

If you have the presence of mind to remember all this, you’ll love

Cavalry Line - Mongolian style

Cavalry Line – Mongolian style


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