After living in China and teaching English for a little over a year, we learned a lot about the Chinese customs and ways of life.
We loved living there and since then have also enjoyed a month spent travelling through Mongolia.
Even though these two fabulous countries are neighbours, they are light-years away from each other.
We’ve made some observations about Mongolia and have discovered many differences between the Chinese and Mongolian cultures, people and customs.
Here’s a list of a few differences that stood out for us:
1. Mongolians are bigger. A major contrast between the two countries is the appearance of the people. Chinese people tend to be quite small framed, slight and short’ish. The Mongolians are a hearty breed of people, the men are muscular and stocky, while the women are voluptuous and curvy. Also, the Mongolians have darker skin and aren’t as concerned with being white and fair-skinned, as Chinese people are.
2. Chinese food is much better. We’re all about eating the local cuisine of a country we’re in and even though there are some seriously strange street-foods in China, that cuisine is one of our favourites! Mongolian food is basically just meat and dairy. It seems that Mongolians (in the countryside anyways) eat out of necessity rather than for enjoyment.
3. There’s no smoking in Mongolia. In China, it seems like every man smokes. Whether it’s in restaurants, in shops or on buses, they all light up. In Mongolia, there are “no smoking” signs everywhere and the rules are obeyed.
4. English is more widely spoken in Mongolia. Apart from being in the major cities like Beijing or Shanghai, English wasn’t readily spoken in China. Even though it makes travelling to China more for the intrepid traveller and it was great to try to learn Chinese and fit in with the local people, it’s sometimes nice to have people understand what you want and need!
5. Chinese people have their own fashion style. The people in Ulan Bator (the only major city in Mongolia) dress quite trendy and have a very western sense of style. Out in the countryside, they don their traditional, and beautiful, clothing. The men and women of China have a very distinct, funky and fashionable style of dress, which makes them different from what we’re used to seeing in the west.
6. The air quality is better in Mongolia. This goes without saying. There are about 1.5 billion people in China compared to only 3 million people in Mongolia. Travelling through Mongolia has definitely been a breath of fresh air.
7. China has many cities. Mongolia only has one true city, Ulan Bator. The rest are considered small villages. Compare that with the zillion (or something like that!) cities in China and it makes for a more peaceful, less chaotic and less polluted country.
8. Mongolians are nomadic. Ok, so they aren’t many true nomadic people in the world, but this is especially true for Chinese people who predominantly live in populated cities. Mongolian people in the countryside live in gers and pack up their homes to move to greener pastures 2-4 times per year.
9. Chinese people love to eat fish, pork and chicken. Mongolians do not. While the Chinese enjoy lighter proteins like fish, pork and chicken, Mongolian people love their red meats! They typically eat sheep, goat, yak and horse. Hearty meats for hearty people, a must for keeping warm in the freezing cold winters.
10. Chinese people are fascinated by westerners. I can’t count the amount of times we were the main attraction at a particular touristy site in China. We had our photos taken numerous times while living and travelling there and almost caused a few car accidents because of people staring at us, rather than the road! In Mongolia, they give a quick glance at us and carry on about their business – no staring and definitely no photos. Call us narcissists, but we kind of miss the attention.
Even though there are many, many differences between these two neighbouring, Asian countries, there are a few similarities that stand out as well:
1. Both languages are extremely hard to pronounce and learn.
2. Buddhism is a prominent religion.
3. Mongolia and China have very family oriented cultures.
4. Chinese and Mongolians are both extremely hospitable and friendly people.
We miss living in China so much! The experiences we had there were life changing and unforgettable. Even though it was hard to say goodbye, making the choice to travel to Mongolia after completing our contract in China was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
We had a blast travelling through Mongolia for 30 days. The off the beaten path moments we had and the nomadic families and ways of life we encountered are some of our fondest memories, ever.
Have you ever been to China or Mongolia, or both?! What do you think of the culture and the people? Tell us below!