Arkhangai, Dalanzadgad, and South Gobi - Custom & Culture


The performing arts are prevalent in Mongolian culture. By using their own body as a medium, the Mongolian people create art in the form of music and acrobatics. Mongolian music is unique in that the sounds are mostly vibrational tones made by using vocal cords. While the sound is unlike traditional western singing it can be compared to vocal play. Mongolian throat singing or overtone singing is in most cases combined with varying versions of base guitar and a morin khurr or horse-headed fiddle with two strings. Acrobatics, the performance of balance, agility, and motor coordination, is also a very popular performance art in Mongolia. Each individual performance illustrates both the flexibility and strength of the performers.

To celebrate or welcome a guest in Mongolia it is a cultural practice to offer a one-ounce glass of vodka to the guest upon arrival. Throughout the years this tradition has become commonplace and not participating in the gesture is considered disrespectful. However, over time a social conundrum has emerged. It is expected of the host to first serve the guest of honor and then themselves. At a point in history, the hosts began using this expectation to serve their guest poison. When the populous discovered this tactic they created the vodka salutation. The "blessing" is a solution for Mongolian people to both honor the earth and divinity while testing the vodka for nefarious substances. The salutation combines two competing energies. One energy is an energy of thanksgiving, welcome and friendship. The other is self preservation. The technique involved bonds two counterparties and builds trust through proving integrity by giving.

One of the cultural icons in Mongolia is the ger which is a conical tent-like living structure. This structure is known as a yert in some parts of the world. While it provides shelter, it also allows for a cultural protocol to be developed allowing families to organize a small space into living cooking and sleeping quarters. All activities inside of a ger follow a protocol. Once inside the ger there are specific locations for dwellers to walk based on gender. Women are to walk around the the left near the kitchen equipment while men are required to walk around to the right to help keep order in the food preparation process. Most of the kitchen utensils, food storage and fuel access are on the door side of the ger. There are also special procedures for guests. If a guest enters the ger, the guest is invited to sit on the chairs or bench opposite the door.

The driving patterns in Mongolia are unique and focus on maintaining social and environmental structure rather than allowing for speed. Most driving done in Mongolia is done on country roads. Most roads are not paved; rather they are worn down tracks made by tires of cars, jeeps, and trucks. Over time, travel has pre-cut lanes into the natural landscape and the paths can range from extremely bumpy to smooth. Rarely do more than 8 pre-cut tire tracks constitute a path. While drivers realize that the bumpy tracks cause the vehicles to move more slowly and that driving on the flat grass would allow a vehicle to drive faster, most drivers for the sake of preserving the environment adhere to the cultural norm which sticks to travel only using the pre-made tracks. The best track amongst the viable tracks is picked, but rarely do drivers deviate from the tracks. If there is a deviation, it is not for very long.

Date Entered: July 2010