Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Mongolia - Answers & Video

Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business In Mongolia

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Cultural Etiquette: Doing Business in Mongolia

Mongolia, a landlocked country in East Asia, is known for its rich nomadic heritage, stunning landscapes, and unique cultural traditions. If you are planning to do business in Mongolia, it is essential to understand and respect the local customs and etiquette. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to navigating the business landscape in Mongolia.

Business Meeting Etiquette

When conducting business meetings in Mongolia, it is important to be punctual and arrive on time. However, it is common for Mongolians to be flexible with time, so do not be surprised if your local counterparts arrive a few minutes late. It is considered polite to greet everyone individually with a handshake and maintain eye contact during the introduction.

  • Exchange Business Cards: Business cards play a significant role in Mongolian business culture. Always carry a sufficient number of business cards with you and present them with both hands, ensuring that the Mongolian translation is printed on the reverse side. Accept business cards with respect and take a moment to examine them before putting them away.
  • Formal Attire: Dressing formally is appreciated in business settings in Mongolia. Men should wear suits or traditional Mongolian attire called “deel,” while women should opt for conservative business attire.
  • Respect Hierarchy: Mongolian society has a hierarchical structure, which is reflected in business settings. Show respect to individuals of higher rank or age by addressing them with their appropriate titles and using formal language.
  • Building Trust: Building trust and establishing personal relationships are crucial in Mongolian business culture. Take the time to engage in small talk and get to know your counterparts before diving into business discussions.
  • Gift Giving: While not mandatory, presenting a small gift at the beginning or end of a business meeting is a common practice in Mongolia. Gifts should be modest and well thought out, such as traditional Mongolian souvenirs or high-quality items from your home country.
  • Negotiation Style: Mongolians value patience and long-term relationships in business negotiations. Be prepared for extended discussions and avoid aggressive or confrontational negotiation tactics.

Communication and Language

The official language of Mongolia is Mongolian, and while English is gaining popularity, it is not widely spoken in business settings. Therefore, it is beneficial to have an interpreter present during important meetings or hire a local translator to ensure effective communication. When communicating, keep the following in mind:

  • Respectful Tone: Mongolians appreciate a respectful and courteous tone in business conversations. Avoid using direct language or being overly assertive, as it may be perceived as confrontational.
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Non-verbal cues play a significant role in Mongolian communication. Maintain good eye contact, nod your head to show understanding, and avoid crossing your arms, as it can be seen as a sign of defensiveness.
  • Use of Silence: Silence is not uncommon during conversations in Mongolia. Do not feel compelled to fill every pause with words, as Mongolians often take time to reflect before responding.
  • Respecting Personal Space: Mongolians value personal space and tend to stand or sit at a comfortable distance during conversations. Avoid invading someone’s personal space, as it may make them uncomfortable.

Business Dining Etiquette

Business meals are an integral part of building relationships in Mongolia. It is common for business discussions to take place over a meal. Here are some dining etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • Seating Arrangement: The host typically determines the seating arrangement. Wait for your host to indicate where you should sit before taking your seat.
  • Table Manners: Mongolian table manners are similar to those in Western cultures. Use utensils appropriately, keep your elbows off the table, and wait for the host to start eating before you begin.
  • Toast Etiquette: Toasting is a common practice during business meals in Mongolia. Raise your glass with both hands when toasting and make eye contact with each person at the table. It is customary to take a sip after each toast.
  • Respecting Elders: Show respect to older or more senior individuals by allowing them to start eating first and offering them food or drink before serving yourself.
  • Finishing Your Plate: Mongolians take pride in their hospitality, and it is considered polite to finish everything on your plate. Leave a small amount of food on your plate if you are full to indicate that you have had enough.
  • Thanking the Host: Express gratitude to the host at the end of the meal by saying “bayarlalaa,” which means “thank you” in Mongolian.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Gift giving is an essential aspect of Mongolian culture, and it can play a significant role in business relationships. When giving gifts in a business context, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Appropriate Gifts: Choose gifts that reflect your respect and appreciation for the recipient. Consider traditional Mongolian items, such as cashmere products, artwork, or locally made souvenirs.
  • Avoid Expensive Gifts: Mongolians value modesty and humility, so avoid giving extravagant or overly expensive gifts, as they may be seen as inappropriate or excessive.
  • Gift Wrapping: Take the time to wrap your gift neatly and present it with both hands. The act of unwrapping the gift is considered part of the gift-giving experience.
  • Gift Exchanges: If you receive a gift, accept it graciously and show your appreciation. It is customary to reciprocate the gesture with a gift of similar value.

Building Relationships

Building strong relationships is crucial when doing business in Mongolia. Take the time to understand and appreciate the local culture and customs. Here are some tips for building relationships:

  • Respect for Elders: Mongolian society places great importance on respecting elders. Show deference and seek their advice and guidance when appropriate.
  • Personal Connections: Establishing personal connections is vital in Mongolian business culture. Take the time to get to know your counterparts on a personal level and show genuine interest in their lives and experiences.
  • Patience and Persistence: Mongolians appreciate patience and persistence when building relationships. It may take time to establish trust and rapport, so be patient and maintain regular contact.
  • Follow-Up: After meetings or business interactions, follow up with a personalized email or handwritten note expressing your gratitude and reiterating key points discussed.

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Business Etiquette in Rural Areas

While Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, has a more cosmopolitan business culture, conducting business in rural areas may require additional considerations. When doing business in rural Mongolia:

  • Respect Local Customs: Rural areas may have specific customs and traditions unique to their locality. Take the time to understand and respect these customs when conducting business.
  • Building Trust: In rural areas, building trust and establishing personal relationships are even more crucial. Take the time to participate in community events and engage with locals on a personal level.
  • Gift Giving: Gift giving is highly valued in rural areas. Consider bringing small gifts that are practical and useful in the local context, such as tools or household items.
  • Language Considerations: English proficiency may be lower in rural areas, so having a local interpreter or translator can be immensely helpful in facilitating communication.

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Doing business in Mongolia requires an understanding and respect for the country’s unique cultural etiquette. By familiarizing yourself with Mongolian business customs, communication styles, and dining etiquette, you can navigate the business landscape with confidence and build strong relationships with your Mongolian counterparts.


  • Gobi Cashmere:
  • Mongolia Travel Guide:
  • Mongolian Customs and Etiquette:
  • Mongolian Cultural Center:

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