HOSPITALITY AND CUSTOMS OF MONGOLIA
“Happy is he, whom guests frequent, joyful is he at whose door guests” horses are always tethered” runs a Mongolian proverb. We consider it a discourtesy and a disgrace if a traveler or a visitor, however late at night he may call is not offered tea and a good meal. Should the host have nothing to offer his guests, his neighbor will always rise whatever the time of night, and give him all he needs to entertain his guests. The unwritten law of offering warn hospitality has evolved from the centuries in old nomadic life in the vast steppes where any herdsman may have had to cover hundreds of kilometers on horseback ir search of animals driven off their pastures by a storm. On his part a guest has to observe all the rules of propriety so as to not hurt his hot’s feeling.
An invited guest is greeted with special honors. The table is spread with great care. First, the host offers tea which is drunk whenever Mongols get together. With the tea the guests are offered dairy products which the Mongolians call “tsagaan idee” (white food). Next come the meat dishes. Mongolian cuisine consists of a great variety of foods, so more courses follow, including dainty dishes and wine. During the meal a special ritual is observed both by the hosts and the guests. As a token of respect and hospitality the host always serves all the dishes with both hands, or with the right hand supported at the elbow, or bowls or cups, with an open hand, wrist facing up. The guests for their part take the offered dish or bowl with both hands or with their right hand supported by the left one. This is a sign of the guests thoughtfulness and politeness.
The host also shows his consideration for the guest by offering special portions of meat and arranging the meat in a special way. In a Mongolian family a massive sheep rump with a fat tail, like a Christmas turkey or goose in a European family, is the central dish of the meal and is offered to the guest. If for some reason, it is not available then the host replaces it with a sheep’s shoulder with two pairs of ribs. The guest cuts the rump into long slices and offers them to the people gathered for the meal, expressing his respects. As token of respect for the guest.
The host offers milk in a silver bowl which is placed on a piece of light blue silk fabric called a “hadag”. The open fold of the khadag faces the guest as a sign that the host’ sincerely wish him happiness and that their hearts are open to him.
When accepting the Mongolian wine, guests, if they can should express good wishes in melodious verse to their hosts to which all present reply, may it be as you wish (Ter yorool bat orshig, yorooloor bolog).
A guest is always given a seat in the northern part of the ger, which is considered a place of honor for esteemed guests and elders. When bidding farewell to departing guests, Mongolians wish them a happy journey and repeatedly invite them to visit again and again.