The handshake: In Mongolia, when someone’s foot is stepped on, or bumped under the table, the two people shake hands immediately. No words are needed. I did it with my host family pretty frequently since our dinner table was cozy for the usual 3, sometimes 5, of us. I’ve also done it with strangers on a crowded bus. Some people are more casual about it, others are super serious. Either way, it is an easy habit to develop, and an easy way to impress the locals.
The touch: In Mongolia, when the candy dish is presented (and even when the candy dish is already on the table), the guest first touches the side of the dish with the palm up, before taking a piece of candy; always with the right hand. Our instinct seems to be to grab (or at least take) what we are given. I’ve witnessed this appreciative moment, this reflective pause, taught to small children. I love it.
The sniff: Americans kiss one cheek. Europeans, kiss twice (sometimes, thrice). Mongolians sniff. Similar to smelling the clothes of a loved one to trigger that scent memory (the one that Fergi sings about). I think of it this way: a kiss is from me to you, but a sniff is from you to me. It’s a completely different sentiment. Almost like the difference between “remember me” versus “I want to remember you.” When I left my training site, my host mom sniffed me goodbye. Some of the other moms did, too, as they called me sain ohun (“a good girl”).
Sunlight: The days are getting longer now, but without Daylight Saving Time and only one time zone in Mongolia, sunrise in my Southwestern Aimag is around 8:45am (sunset is around 6:45pm). It is incredibly difficult to wake up (at 7:30am) in what looks to be the middle of the night. But, this is The Land of Blue Sky!! And my apartment makes the most of that. It is perfectly situated, such that one window gets the morning sun, and the other window gets the afternoon sun.