Home Institution

Indiana University

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Mongolia: Culture and Development


Migrants represent the future of Mongolia. They are those members of Mongolian society who pursue, and often achieve, a better life by choosing to uproot themselves and their families to move to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Along the way they face many obstacles, and are in turn blamed for many of the problems that plague the city. However, they do not face these obstacles on their own. Migrants succeed with help, be it from society, friends, or family. Family in particular plays an important role in the lives of Mongolian migrants, creating important, nationwide networks which can support individual members. Migrants use these networks to adjust to their new surroundings.

In order to examine how this process of cultural change occurs, nineteen interviews with migrants aged 18 and over were collected over a two week period. These migrants were questioned on issues of their family relationships and the process of adjusting to city life. The informants confirmed that reuniting with family is often an important reason behind the decision to migrate, and that family can also figure into this decision in other ways. Once the migrant has settled in, their relationships with their family can change drastically, though. Some retain their strongest ties with the countryside, keeping in regular contact with their relatives there in lieu of other, more city-oriented relationships. Others seem to rely on few people outside of their immediate household. Still others have built up new networks of family members or friends in the city itself. These networks grow, change, and move with time. As more family members come to the city, the earlier migrants themselves will take on the role of teachers and helpers.

These processes often have a direct effect on a migrant’s success in their new home. Those who manage to expand their networks more completely into the city generally face fewer problems than those whose networks remain small or centered in the countryside. However, regardless of location, family is still of primary importance to most migrants.


Human Geography


Article Location