Mongolia Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

Due to the specific market, language barrier (knowledge of languages ​​is weak) and cultural differences, it is not easy for Czech entities to do business on the Mongolian market without a local partner. Business opportunities are usually provided by a Mongolian company, in the case of capital participation or production cooperation, it is advisable that in addition to the Mongolian partner, a Czech representative is also present, either because of the Mongolian habit of prioritizing personal negotiations, or the need to professionally guide local employees.

Addressing

Mongolians traditionally have 3 names – a Christian name, a patronymic (paternal name) and a tribal name. However, they systematically use only their first name, even in addressing and official communication. On business cards, the first name is usually shown in capital letters, the patronymic in small letters (but it is not used), and in ID cards and passports the family/tribal name is also shown, which is generally closest to our surname. However, the family name is otherwise not used at all and does not even appear on business cards. Mongolians are addressed by their first names without indicating their academic degree or position in the company, and this also applies to being addressed by a foreign partner.

When greeting a handshake is the rule, if you want to impress, you can also use the Mongolian word “hatagtai” (madam) when contacting a woman, or “noeyen” (sir) with a man. At the beginning, business cards are exchanged during greetings and introductions, giving and receiving them with both hands is a sign of respect.

Business meeting

It is ideal if someone introduces you to your partner in person. If this cannot be arranged, write a formal letter or email well in advance. Remind yourself again closer to the expected meeting date.

Tuesday is superstitiously considered a bad day, so it is better not to force Mongolians to go on business trips or start important projects or activities on Tuesday. The suitable time for the meeting is otherwise not limited by anything, but rather only after 10 o’clock in the morning. It is usually a rule that no one is worried about being late, but even in Mongolia it is true that by keeping to the agreed meeting time, you show respect for your partner and testify to your seriousness.

In negotiations, Mongolians tend to appreciate an informal approach, they don’t put up much with etiquette. Mongolians often smile, joke, enjoy listening to the jokes of others, talk loudly and laugh. In sparsely populated Mongolia, life competition was not as high as, for example, in China, and therefore it did not force so many “self-defense” clichés, such as constant smiles, bows and superlatives, typical of, for example, the Japanese.

It is favorably regarded when a foreigner invites his Mongolian partner to a business lunch or dinner. Choose the meeting place with your partner in mind, so make sure that the food selection is rich in traditional Mongolian dishes. Foreign representatives of companies dealing with local partners usually have two-sided business cards prepared in Mongolian and English. Business cards are of a standard type, they contain the name, position and company with an address including e-mail and telephone number. Business cards, as well as various attentions and gifts, are accepted with respect, given and received with both hands at the same time.

Already during the first meeting, Czech entrepreneurs may be surprised by questions of a rather personal nature. Their purpose is to identify points of contact for building a relationship and gaining trust. This is because, unlike us, Mongolians do not separate their personal and work lives too much. These worlds often overlap, and this is most evident during a business meeting. Mongolians, like other inhabitants of Asia, in an effort not to put the other party in an unpleasant situation, are not very good at saying “no”, although it is not always in their power to arrange what is promised. Dials and a certain game of hide and seek should already indicate to the European that the Mongolian partner is unwilling or unable to say “yes”. But if we get him to say “yes”, it is necessary to be prepared for the above and to verify the information from several sources. However, honesty and openness is higher than elsewhere in Asia.

Mongolian business culture is based on a clear vertical hierarchy, only the very narrow management of the company has real decision-making authority. Therefore, it is important not only to study the official organizational structure of the given company, but also to find the people who actually have decision-making power and focus on them right from the start.

A typical Mongolian businessman uses indirect communication during negotiations, you will often not get a direct answer from him, especially on issues where your opinions differ. You will often encounter the fact that your partner promises something to your face, which he does not fulfill later. It’s not because he wants to trick you, but because he doesn’t want to reject you for the sake of saving face. It is best not to get into a similar situation at all and to estimate in advance with your partner his (dis)interest from the context of joint communication.

The factor of saving face, which is deeply rooted in Mongolian culture, is most reflected in business negotiations. It is necessary to work with this and adapt the communication strategy.

Certain behavior is perceived as rudeness in Mongolia. This is mainly overuse of the left hand, not giving or receiving anything with the left hand, blowing the nose loudly (but not clapping while eating), standing in the doorway or walking between the pillars of the yurt, throwing an object while serving. An unwanted kick under the table or stepping on your foot causes an interesting reaction. If you accidentally touch or kick someone, the actors will automatically shake hands. Not shaking hands after accidentally stepping on another person’s foot is then perceived as impolite. This already completely automated gesture then creates nice social difficulties for Mongolians when traveling in the west.

Mongolians perceive time differently than Europeans, the explanation being the earlier nomadic way of life, when people did not measure the time needed to overcome long distances in minutes or hours, but distinguished between the time before noon and the time after noon, depending on the current state of the weather. This “concept of time” has remained with the Mongols to some extent even today. Punctuality is not one of their strong points and they do not attach much importance to it (although the situation is improving, especially among the younger generation). It often happens that the contracted partner arrives at the meeting half an hour late and does not even think about it. Pre-agreed deadlines in business cases may not be respected due to this factor, and there may be delays both with payments from customers, as well as with terms of delivery of goods or services.

The Mongolian way of dressing was mainly influenced by the climatic conditions and the nomadic way of life. The traditional garment is called dél and is versatile. Thanks to its design, it can serve as a main garment, a coat, or even as a blanket. Its advantage lies in the fact that it protects its wearer well against the strong Mongolian frosts and the sharp rays of the sun. Nowadays, the length made of high-quality fabric and richly decorated with embroidery is worn at festive events, especially in the capital. In a business meeting, men wear a regular suit, mostly in dark colors. For the women, clothing varies, some dress in a completely European style (pantsuit or skirt) and others prefer the traditional length of silk with embroidery.

One of the leading characteristics of Mongolians is their hospitality. If your business partner invites you to a restaurant, expect traditional national cuisine. But Mongolians prefer to invite their business partners to their homes. The foreign party must return the invitation. Immediately accept the offered seat without looking around for another. They don’t leave the table until everyone has had their milk, when they sit at the table, they don’t cross their legs or extend them in front of them, if they sit on the floor, we have them under us. Eating or drinking while standing is impolite, drinking glasses are served with the right hand, which is supported by the left hand below the wrist, we accept things with both hands. It is extremely rude to refuse any offered food, if you show interest, you can politely return it afterwards.

You will very likely be asked to drink alcohol, if you don’t drink it’s much easier to get poured and not finish the glass, an empty glass signals that you haven’t had enough and it’s the host’s custom to keep it full for you. The same goes for food, if you don’t want to add, leave something on the plate. Another specific feature widespread throughout the region is smacking, which is understood as perceiving the food with all the senses, i.e. that it tastes good to you.

Communication

The official and most widely used language in the country is Mongolian. Of the world’s languages, English and Russian are most often used, some can also speak Chinese (Korean, Japanese). Up to 20 thousand Mongolians speak Czech. Knowledge of Mongolian is appreciated among foreigners. However, it is still true that the majority of Mongolians do not speak foreign languages, or do not know them at a sufficient level, so we recommend using the help of an interpreter during negotiations. Mongolians prefer positive topics during the debate, avoiding topics such as death, diseases, which are generally perceived as negative. Keep the conversation in a positive spirit, it is advisable to start by asking about the health of the family, possibly about the business, the running of the farm and others. Like many other East Asian peoples, Mongolians prefer a face-to-face meeting that helps them build trust with their partner. Therefore, if our possibilities allow it, it is beneficial to meet your partner at least once in person. In impersonal contact, they prefer a phone call to a written form. Visit Animalerts for more information about Mongolia culture and traditions.

Recommendation

  • Respect the cultural differences and customs of the country
  • Find out the position of the partner in the organization and his powers
  • Establish a personal relationship with your partner
  • Be prepared for the time-consuming nature of business negotiations
  • Avoid direct negative criticism of the other party/putting the partner in embarrassing situations
  • Use the help of an interpreter

Public Holidays

  • January 1 – New Year
  • 1–3. the day of the first lunar month – the traditional New Year “Tsagaan sar” according to the lunar calendar. This is one of the most important holidays for Mongolians. It is also celebrated by some Turkic ethnicities.
  • March 8 – MDŽ
  • May – Buddha Day – a moving holiday dedicated to three significant events in the Buddha’s life (birth, enlightenment and departure from the human world)
  • June 1 – Children’s Day
  • 11-15. July – the traditional Naadam festival, the festival is also called “Eriin gurvan naadam” or “Three Men’s Games”. These games are Mongolian wrestling, horse riding and archery and are the only ones in the whole country. Despite the name of the festival, women also participate in archery and horse riding, but not in Mongolian wrestling. The biggest games are traditionally held in Ulaanbaatar between 11 and 13. July.
  • November – Genghis Khan’s birthday – a moving holiday
  • November 26 – Independence Day of the Republic – commemoration of the founding of the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924
  • December 29 – Independence Day – Commemorates independence from the Manchu Qing Dynasty in 1911

Office hours are usually Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break (12:30-1:30 p.m.); Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are free. The sales hours are similar, there are shops with 24-hour working hours, many shops are also open on Saturdays, and many of them also on Sundays.

Mongolia Culture of Business