If you have seen TV documentaries and/or movies, you most likely have an image of a Mongolian being tall, dark, and bulky, but is that actually the case with Mongolians of today?
In short, no, Mongolians don’t all look the same and an individual Mongolian can look very different from another Mongolian depending on their ancestry because the Mongolian Empire that was formed in 1206 did in fact comprise of many different tribes ranging from North Asia to Central/West Asia.
Stereotypical Facial Features of Mongolians
However, we are going to backtrack a little and talk about some common facial features a majority of Mongolians will have. Though it’s not necessarily a guideline, these are what most foreigners would use to describe the overall Mongolian look.
If there is one of the most heard stereotype and usual facial trait of Mongolian people, it would be the high and big cheekbones. Though other Asian types of people do share this facial feature, it seems to be more common among Siberian types of people from Northern and Northeastern Asia.
There is some truth to Mongolians being bigger than your average Asian, though I wouldn’t say it’s always the case, Mongolian diet and climate play a big factor. Usually the Mongolian nomadic diet is heavy in proteins and dairy which results in better bone development. Also people living in colder climates do have bigger bodies to retain heat.
Lastly I also hear frequently that Mongolians have rounder faces faces and have bigger heads. Not sure why that exactly is, but if you look at miss Mongolia, she does embody all of the above facial traits somewhat.
Why Are Mongolians So Dark?
Usually most people I meet during my travels comment on my fair and pale skin. Their expectation of what a Mongolian should look like is painted by TV documentaries or some exposure to Mongolian nomads.
Though there are certainly plenty of tanned and dark Mongolians, there still a lot of pale and fair skinned Mongolians as well. However, it seems Mongolian people in general do have the ability to tan really easily and have a healthy glow.
In fact, having some tan is encouraged and seen as healthy in Mongolian culture unlike other East Asian countries.
3 Most Common Types of Mongolian Look
Although each and every individual is different from one another, you could seperate them into 3 different types of stereotypical look. Perhaps it could be hard for foreigners and non Mongolians to tell apart Asians, even moreso for a specific ethnic group, but we’ll try.
Nomads or People Who Live In Villages/”Soums”
These people live the simpler lifestyle. Nomads especially who live out in the countryside don’t have the luxuries of modern day life, so there is no such thing as moisterizers, creams, etc that they use too often. Hence, their skin has more of a rugged and rough look.
Because they are also exposed to the sun more frequently, overall they are much darker and tanned with red blushed cheeks. However once they no longer live that lifestyle their appearance do tend to get softer and the red cheeks go away.
Mongolians Who Live in Urban Cities
They look much more paler and perhaps look more similar to Korean and Kazakh people. Obviously you are going to have different mixture of people from various ancestry such as Central Asia, Western Asia, Eastern Europe, Northern China, and Siberia.
How Eastern European, Central Asian etc they look depends on their ancestry and their overall genetics, because it is not uncommon for some Mongolians to have light brown/blondish hair and hazel or green eyes. Unless they have distinctive features, city dweller Mongolians most likely will be mistaken for Eastern Asians by most foreigners.
Western/Minority Ethnic Groups in Mongolia
Believe it or not, although there are only about 3 million Mongolian citizens, there are still around 20 closely related ethnic groups of Mongolians. From Durvud, Halimag, Buryat, etc the Kazakh people in Bayan Ulgii, and other various ethnic groups in Uvs regions look a mix between East Asian, Central Asian and Eastern European.
As stated above, before Mongolia’s founding, different tribes from Eurasia fought, intermarried, and allied with one another, so it does make sense for some Mongolian people to have very distinctive Eastern European and Western Asian look about them.
The further west you go in Mongolia, it will become more noticeable.