There are around 7-8 million ethnic Mongolians with varying degrees of physical and facial features. Historically and culturally being a nomadic type of people of Turkic origins, it was common for Mongolian tribes to intermarry within Eurasia. Hence, a small minority of Mongolians can have blue, grey, green eyes, and blonde or red hair.
However, to most people who are not aware of Mongolian culture and its people, your average Mongolian could be mistaken for other Asians, such as Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. It’s pretty understandable because we tend to associate similarly looking kinds of people together in one group and label or categorize them.
For someone who has extensively traveled through Asia as a whole though, it’s pretty easy to tell who is whom and sometimes even distinguish their ethnic roots in a more detailed level.
Regardless of whether you are reading this for fun or plan on traveling to Mongolia soon, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the different types of Mongolians since mistaking them for other East Asians can sometimes be taken as an offense.
Due to the harsh climate and weather, nomads tend to have rougher features with blushed red cheeks and heavily tanned skin. They don’t have the luxury of moisturizing their faces, applying sunscreen, so naturally they adapt to the environment.
As of 2018, there are about 1.5 million Mongolians living in the capital, and about 1.8 million Mongolians (60% of the population) are living in urban cities.
Depending on the individual’s roots, your average city dweller can look very different from one another. However, if we’re talking about the majority and stereotypical city dweller look, usually they are more fair than nomads who live out in the countryside and generally taller due to better nutrition. While most simply look “Asian” there is still some admixture of Eastern European, Central/Western Asian features.
Some of my friends think I sometimes look slightly Russian and some strangers have commented that I could pass as half Asian, but as far as I am aware, none of my family have Eastern European roots and I consider myself a very average looking Mongolian and overall just Asian in appearance. Here are some pics of me and a few other people who are not as pale as me but very Mongolian in appearance.
Lastly you have people with pronounced Eurasian appearance. This is very common the further west you go in Mongolia, where Kazakhs and other minority Mongolians live. It’s not surprising to see Mongolians with blonde, red hair with green or blue eyes within those regions. While they are not as common and prevalent compared to people such as myself and sedentary Mongolians with moreso Northeast Asian appearance, it’s still considered normal and nothing out out of the ordinary.
Now hopefully that gives a good insight into the different kinds of look Mongolian people can have, so please stop saying Mongolians are dark/tanned nomads who ride horses 😛 You have people who look somewhat similar to Korean Japanese and Northern Chinese, to very Eastern European and Central Asian to slightly Persian looking.