How to Visit a Mongolian Nomadic Family Respectfully

Vegetarian Options in Mongolia
January 12, 2024
Sunset over Buir Nuur in Dornod Aimag - Mongolia's eastern most province.
Explore Mongolia’s Lakes With Us: Our Comprehensive Guide
February 1, 2024

How to Visit a Mongolian Nomadic Family Respectfully

International travellers are increasingly drawn to Mongolia, seeking to immerse themselves in the enduring legacy of its nomadic culture. For those in pursuit of an authentic cultural encounter, the opportunity to visit a Mongolian nomadic family is not just a highlight, but a privilege. This experience, however, comes with a responsibility. As guests in their homes, it is crucial to approach these visits with a sense of respect and ethical consideration. Our guide is designed to help you visit a Mongolian nomadic family respectfully.

If you’re planning on visiting the Tsaatan reindeer herders then follow this link to our guide, or this link for our guide to visiting the Mongol Kazakh eagle hunters.

Understanding Nomadic Culture

Before embarking on your journey, it’s important to gain an understanding of Mongolian nomadic culture. Nomads move seasonally with their livestock, living in traditional circular felt tents known as gers (yurts). Their lifestyle is deeply connected to the land, the cycles of nature, and their animals. Understanding their customs, social norms, and lifestyle is crucial to appreciating the nuances of their daily lives.

Mongolian gers in our guide on How To Visit A Mongolian Nomadic Family Respectfully

However, this timeless way of life faces modern challenges, particularly from the climate emergency. The impact on grazing pastures and unpredictable weather patterns has put immense pressure on these nomadic herders. Their existence, though seemingly serene, is increasingly tenuous, balancing delicately on the knife-edge of environmental changes.

The renowned hospitality of Mongolian nomadic families, a hallmark of their culture, has its roots in the harsh necessities of steppe life. This hospitality, while generous, is not an open invitation for prolonged intrusion into their lives. As international visitors, it’s crucial to recognise that their primary focus remains the welfare of their livestock. While you may be warmly welcomed and offered the famous Mongolian hospitality, it’s important to understand the context of this generosity. Each interaction, each invitation, must be approached with sensitivity and respect, acknowledging the differences in cultural and social dynamics.

In preparing for your visit, remember that your presence as a guest should bring mutual respect and understanding, rather than an imposition. Being aware and considerate of these aspects is key to ensuring that your experience with Mongolian nomadic families is respectful, both for you and your hosts.

Planning Your Visit

Finding a Responsible Tour Operator

  • Choose a tour operator committed to sustainable and responsible tourism. Look for those who have established relationships or partnerships with nomadic families and contribute positively to the local community.

Small Group Size

  • Opt for a small group tour to minimise environmental and social impact. Larger groups can be overwhelming and disruptive to the family’s routine.

During Your Visit

Accept That Plans Change

  • It’s important to recognise that Mongolians are not a tourist spectacle but individuals leading real, multifaceted lives. Just like in any corner of the world, Mongolians navigate the complexities of earning a livelihood, maintaining family relationships, and coping with daily pressures and responsibilities. Their lives are not staged for the benefit of visitors; they are genuine, marked by the same unpredictability and vibrancy that characterises life everywhere.
  • This understanding must shape how you interact with and respond to your hosts. Recognise that plans can change – sometimes at the last minute – not due to any lack of hospitality, but simply as a reflection of the ebb and flow of real life. Flexibility and adaptability are key when visiting a Mongolian nomadic family. Your ability to adjust your expectations and plans with grace and understanding will not only enhance your experience but also show respect for the lives and challenges of your hosts.

Respectful Interaction

  • Always ask for permission before taking photographs. Show interest in their way of life by engaging in conversations (with the help of a translator, if necessary) but be mindful of their privacy and comfort.

Cultural Sensitivity

  • Make an effort to learn a few of the customs of Mongolia. It not only bridges cultural gaps but will help you to connect with Mongolians on a more personal level. While you may observe some Mongolians occasionally deviating from these traditions, as a guest, it’s important to honour these practices. For example, it’s a well-established custom to accept offerings like food or drink using your right hand, or better yet, with both hands as a sign of respect and gratitude. Even if you choose not to partake in the offering, receiving it graciously before gently setting it aside is a small gesture that holds significant cultural value. Such actions demonstrate your respect for Mongolian traditions and your earnest desire to engage meaningfully with their culture.
  • You can learn more about the traditions and customs of visiting a nomadic family’s ger here.

Environmental Consideration

  • Be mindful of your environmental impact. Dispose of waste properly and use resources like water sparingly, as they are precious in these remote areas.

Gifts

  • Bringing small gifts can be a kind gesture. You can use our guide for ideas.
  • For longer stays, consult with your tour guide on appropriate compensation options. If you’re travelling independently, a reasonable guidelines for a one-night stay with a nomadic family would be $20 to $50 USD per person.  However, it’s important to recognise that this figure is an approximate range and can vary significantly depending on various factors unique to your stay. These might include the location, the level of comfort and amenities provided, and any special activities or experiences included in your stay. The emphasis here should be on ensuring economic fairness. The payment you offer should be a true reflection of the value of the entire experience. This includes not just the basic accommodations and meals but also the deeper cultural insights and personal interactions that are part and parcel of living with a nomadic family.

After Your Visit

Sharing Your Experience

  • When sharing your experience, focus on the cultural exchange and learning rather than perpetuating stereotypes. Be respectful and thoughtful in how you depict the family and their lifestyle.

Supporting the Community

  • Consider ways to support the community, like purchasing local handicrafts or donating to reputable local NGOs that work with nomadic families.

Visiting a Mongolian nomadic family can be a profound and enriching experience if done responsibly and respectfully. It’s an opportunity to connect with a unique way of life and contribute positively to the preservation of their culture. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your visit is beneficial for both you and the nomadic families you encounter. Remember, responsible tourism is about creating meaningful connections, respecting cultural differences, and leaving a positive impact on the places we visit. If you would like to travel with us, then consider the experiences we offer.

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

 

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
Sign up to our Newsletter

Written by Jess - the founder of Eternal Landscapes - there's no spam, no sharing your details and no random offers. It goes out once or twice a month. Hopefully enough to be of interest but not too much to annoy.

We respect your privacy.