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Jim Anderson's blog

Mongolia’s Transitions: from Baikhgui to Baigaa

Jim Anderson's picture
Also available in: Mongolian
Sometimes insights come from unexpected sources. Ever since returning to Mongolia some months ago I have, naturally, been observing how things have changed since I last lived here in 1990s. Many of the changes are immediately recognizable and even foreigners arriving for the first time could guess that the high-rise buildings and cafes are new. But it was a chance conversation with a fellow foreigner that drove home just how dramatic those changes have been.
Mongolia's black market in 1994
Mongolia's black market in 1994
photo: James H. Anderson
When I moved to Mongolia in 1993, the first Mongolian word every foreigner learned was baikhgui. Not there; don’t have any; absent. With this simple utilitarian word, one could concisely express the verbal equivalent of a shake of the head.

“Do you have any bread?”
“Baikhgui.”
“Rice?”
“Baikhgui.”
“What happened to the water/electricity/heat?”
“Baikhgui.”