Dry Days

The police hand these out to shops to hang over alcohol, apparently.
The police hand these out to shops to hang over alcohol, apparently.

To combat the alcoholism problem present in Mongolia, the Mongolian government has instituted days on which it is illegal for any vendor to sell any type of alcohol.

I first encountered this during our training. We had came home to our little village from Darkhan, and we wanted to spend some time together before returning to our host families. We walked to the closest shop, and were refused the sale of alcohol. Confused, we tried the next one. All of the beer and vodka was removed from the shelves, and stashed neatly away, out of sight. We weren’t quite sure what to make of it.

Upon my arrival to site, it caught me by surprise again. I went to my local shop to buy some bread when I noticed a large banner draped over their shelves of alcohol. It had some text in Mongolian, with a large red strike through a picture of a bottle. I purchased my bread and exited.

No booze for you. Have a nice day!
No booze for you. Have a nice day!

It took me a while, but I learned that alcohol is prohibited from being sold on the first and 15th of each month. You also cannot sell alcohol on election days. I thought I had this all figured out, until I recently discovered that, at least in my city, you cannot buy alcohol on Tuesdays as well. The number of days where buying alcohol was prohibited seemed to be increasing the more time I spent in country.

I then discovered, while visiting Darkhan again on a Tuesday, that I was able to buy alcohol. Then again on the 15th, they were selling alcohol! It turns out that each local government is in charge of picking their own dry days, but the election days are non-negotiable. I’ve come to find out that the first tends to be alcohol-free in most aimags.

Does this approach work? I haven’t been able to find any data on it, nor has anyone really been able to tell me much. It’s an interesting approach to curbing alcohol consumption, to say the least.

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