Living in Mongolia: Culture Shock

Living in Mongolia: Culture Shock

For some people as soon as they land and step off onto the tarmac, culture shock smacks them in the face. Others, like us, are eased into it slowly like being immersed in purple jelly centimeter by centimeter; it feels strange but weirdly exhilarating. But enough of the food metaphors.

I wouldn’t say I’ve had to deal with culture shock as much as feelings of surprise; ranging from mild to “what the beep”. All of us volunteers have come here with the same attitude in mind, be flexible and expect everything; and this has gone a long way into helping us settle in. There are now many things we don’t think twice about including:

1. The insane amount of spit everywhere. Mongolians spit outside on everything, pavements, steps and seats. Oh I still think it’s gross but if you got all holed up in your “germaphobe” argument you would actually never leave the house. So everyday before I go outside I just slap on an extra bit of hand sanitiser and hope for the best.

2. The traffic. Police direct cars against the traffic lights, there is no respect for the green man and Mongolians only need 3 cars and they manage to create an insane traffic jam. The rule is of course to be ever vigilant should you suddenly be hit from whatever side but it’s nothing to worry about anymore. Common sense will in most cases see you across safely. You might step in some spit when you’re not looking where your going but these are the prices we pay.

3. Temperamental electricity and water. We’ve lost track of the amount of days we’ve had to work from home because the power goes out. No one knows why or for how long. And in the coming summer months, a section of the city loses their hot water for 2-4 weeks while they do repairs on the pipes for the winter. Oh yes I said 2-4 weeks. We are hoping ours will be on the former. Otherwise there will be some interesting smells and bad hair days coming from our apartment…..

4. Dining out. While we have eaten at some great places during our time in UB, there is always the possibility you will face the moment we have all come to dread. “Oh I’m sorry we don’t have that. Oh and no your second choice either. And we’re out of pineapple juice. Oh and did I mention the coffee machine is broken?” In a land locked country, they do pretty well to offer the range of food they do, but occasionally you are met with defeat in the face of the dinner you REALLY want but just can’t have. I have coined it a #firstworldMongoliaproblem

Despite the slight nuances and massive difference, life in Mongolia is all the more entertaining for it. You realise Western life is so boring when everyday activities each become their own individual adventure.

Oh and you think Mongolians have weird customs? Have you ever tried to explain to someone from a non Christian country about the Easter Bunny? Do you know how ridiculous it sounds when you actually say it out loud? I mean a bunny? I may as well have said the Easter Alien….. and why chocolate in the shape of eggs? It’s because Bunnies lay eggs right?
Oh wait no they don’t. Now who looks like the stupid one?

Much love and till later

Sez x



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