Culture Shock

Meet me in the hours of the mouse

Andrew Cullen
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Before Mongolia was introduced to the clock, people told time by the movement of the sun, and broke the day into 12 roughly 2 hour chunks, which had names that correspond with the Chinese animal year cycle. So, a meeting in the hour of the mouse could take place anytime between, say, lunch and late afternoon. Although Mongolia now uses a 24 hour day like the rest of the world, the ambiguity of the old time system remains, and time and punctuation is flexible. Especially for events like concerts, "on time" is an hour or so after the advertised time. Other time words have alternate meanings: "margaash" (tomorrow) often means "probably never, and, perhaps most frustratingly, "odoo" (now) means "anytime between this very minute and tomorrow."

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