One of the more significant architectural choices I’ve noticed in Mongolia is having a prominent threshold in just about every building. Shops, homes, and most businesses with have a threshold that you will have to literally step over in order to enter the building. As it turns out, it’s more of a cultural expectation than design aesthetic.
Some important things you should know about entryways in Mongolia include the following:
- Tripping when you come inside is not only hilarious, but good luck. Tripping symbolizes bringing something with you. Thus, when you trip while entering, you are bringing something from the outside into the home.
- Conversely, tripping while you exit is considered bad for the same reason: You are taking something out from the house. Ways to remedy this include coming back in and putting a piece of wood into the stove fire, or simply coming back in and trying to exit again. It depends on the owner of the home and how much stock they put into this, really.
- You shouldn’t stand in the entryway, most obviously for safety reasons. You should probably avoid stretching your arms out if you’re standing in a doorway as well. It is considered bad luck because at one point or another, having a cross or the “t” shape on your doorway signaled to those outside that someone had died in that home. Recreating that “t” shape invites death, some might say.
- Don’t stand on the threshold. It’s there for you to pass over, not stand on. Plus, it blocks the doorway.
There are also quite a few rules and traditions that are rather interesting about living in a ger, but since I live in an apartment, I’m not made privy to those rules. One other behavior related to entryways worth mentioning is the door knocking. You can tell if a Mongolian person is at your door by the lively rattling of rat-a-tats you hear. Most Americans will knock two or three times, wait a while, knock similarly again, then be on their way. Not so in Mongolia. I believe it may come from the herding lifestyle of old, where the one ger you find while riding in the countryside is literally your last bastion against dying from exposure, so you make sure your presence is known. I have had Mongolians knocking at my door for 30+ minutes, and when I say knocking, I mean knocking for almost the entire time. Persistence is definitely one of their strong suits. I still didn’t answer the door, however.
Does everyone in Mongolia follow these (non door knocking related) rules? It would be a stretch to say that they did, but most are aware of these rules. It’s like the “no elbows on the table” rule back home. I know the rule, but I also know that I most certainly put my elbows on the table.