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Sunday November 21st 2010

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Time and Business Hours

Like the Chinese, the Mongolians use a lunar calendar to celebrate traditional holidays, such as the lunar new year. Years are traditionally grouped into five blocks of 12 years. Each block is named after one of the elements (Earth, fire, water etc) and each year is named after the 12 animals of the zodiac.

Nomads divide winter into periods of time in multiples of nine, the lucky number for Buddhists. The winter is 81 days long (nine times nine). At the end of the 81st day, Tsagaan Sar (White Month), is widely celebrated as the start of the lunar new year.

Government offices are usually open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays and lunch hour is 1 pm to 2 pm. Banks are supposed to open from 10 am to 3 pm weekdays. Mongolia introduced a five-day working week in 1998. Most private and state-run businesses open at about 10 am and close sometime between 5 and 8 pm. In the countryside most guanz: (canteens) seem to close for dinner (and often lunch as well). In reality, opening hours are often at the whim of staff.

Most shops and businesses will close for an hour at lunch, sometime between noon and 2 pm. In Ulaanbaatar, many restaurants especially the good ones – will be busy and often full between about 1 and 2 pm. It pays to get a table before 12:30 pm to beat the rush. Museums have contracted hours in winter and are normally closed an extra couple of days a week.

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