A handshake is the most common greeting in urban areas of Mongolia. A standard greeting in formal situations or among strangers is Ta sain baina uu? (“How do you do?”). Acquaintances prefer more casual greetings such as Sain uu! (“Hello”) or Sonin yutai ve? (“What’s new?”). In rural areas, people exchange their pipes or snuff as a form of greeting and ask such questions as how fat the livestock are or how favorable the particular season is.
Mongolian names consist of a patronymic and a given name. All people are called by their given names. The patronymic is rarely used in ordinary speech and never alone. Its purpose is to distinguish between people who might have the same given name. It is the possessive form of the father’s name. For example, a person named Demchigiin Batbayar is called Batbayar, and her father is Demchig. A title often follows the given name in addressing a person. It is used to recognize a person’s rank, seniority (in age or status), or profession. For example, a respected teacher might be addressed as Narangerel bagsh (teacher), or an honored elder as Dorj guai (“Mr.”). Guai is also used for women. Sometimes a person who is close to an older person will call that person father or mother, or uncle or aunt, even though they are not related.
There is a long tradition of hospitality, and impromptu visits are common. Guests are usually greeted by the host and family members at the door in modern apartment buildings, or, in rural areas, outside the ger. When entering a ger, people customarily move around to the left. During formal visits, the host sits opposite the entrance; women sit to the left, men to the right. Tea with milk is served to guests. Airag might be served instead of tea during summer, and vodka may be served at any time. Guests often bring the hosts a small gift. On very important occasions, a khadag (a blue silk band) and a silver bowl filled with airag are presented to an elder or a person of higher social rank as a sign of respect and good wishes.