When I left Mongolia over 10 years ago I never read any travel books and knew nothing about travelling and other cultures. I learnt through my experience. Here are some customs I had to alter and change living abroad. In Mongolia:
1. Shake hands if you stepped on someone’s toes. You can say ‘Uuchlaarai’ meaning ‘Sorry.’
2. Spit over your left shoulder three times in order to avoid bad luck, either when you mention good luck that you have had in the past or when you mention hopes you have for the future. Similar to ‘touch wood’ in Britain or USA. Please don’t take it literally, when I say spit I mean imitation of spitting.
3. Use both hands, or the right hand, to offer or to take something. Using the left hand is offensive and it is thought to be bad for the person who is giving. They are giving away their luck and fortune, well, metaphorically.
4. Don’t say ‘No, thanks.’ when the host offers tea, food or dairy products. You should accept it and taste (or pretend to) before putting it on the table. They usually prepare for your arrival, so it’s rude to reject their hospitality.
5. It is normal to hold hands with your friends, you don’t have to be in a relationship. Putting their arms around each other’s shoulders is alright, too.
Do you know any other weird and wonderful customs? Please share with us, leave a comment.