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Culture & Identity of Mongolia

Introduction

Mongolia is a huge country with a huge amount of open space. Historically the people were nomads who lived off the land as they often lived as herders, moving from location to location with the seasons and weather. Today the people are transitioning as many people still live in this traditional way, but urban growth is occurring and even many of the people that live in gers are settling in the outskirts of the cities as this is where most economic opportunities are.

Today nearly 70% of the people live in an urban setting, and most of those people who don't are working in some form of agriculture. Nearly a third of the working population is employed in agriculture, which is still based on herding and mobility, but settled farmers are common in many areas as well.

For these people working in agriculture their way of life is heavily dependent on the weather, the seasons, and the lands. They move to make the most of the lands, but today most lands are privately owned so space is more limited, giving them one more outside source that dictates their way of life.

For the Urbanites most jobs are in the services sector and many of these jobs have fairly standard working hours. This gives these people a much more predictable income and regular work hours, setting their daily schedule and way of life to a great degree. Although hours are often more predictable, there is great variation on working hours, which generally run from about 10:00 am to sometime between 5:00 and 8:00 pm.

Schools also tend to have regular hours, but the hours vary. In many cities there is a limited number of schools so many young children attend school in the afternoon, beginning at about 1:30 pm and the older students go to school in the morning, from about 8:00 am to about 1:00 pm. Most older children are mature enough to get themselves home, do their school work, and organize the house prior to their parents arrival from work.

When the entire family is together there seems to be a huge number of things that the people do, but they all seem to be family-oriented and many are in the home. There is little discretionary income in Mongolia so there are few opportunities to get out to spend and enjoy the money the people make. Rather the focus is on supporting one's family and this often comes in the form of time at home with family.

Identity

The Mongols have a proud past, which both of their neighbors discourage. The people view themselves as "Mongols," but their strong neighbors in Russia and China were the victims of Genghis Khan's conquests so have tried to suppress Mongol history, culture, and pride at varying times in the past. Despite these efforts, the people of Mongolia are aware of this great past and that past is arguably the root of their identity: the life of strong, powerful, proud, people who used the land and animals for survival as the seasons changed. Although the identity is arguably first based on culture, lifestyle, and attitude, other important aspects of this identity include being an ethnic Mongol, speaking a Mongol language, and ideally also being a citizen of Mongolia.

This page was last updated: November, 2013