A recent study showed that immigrants who were given smart phones with a data plan adapted better to their new country while remaining connected to their loved ones in their old country. We are so thankful for our smart phones and data plans (which are way cheaper than in the USA) and the apps that make life easier.
We don’t have hard data to prove they’re the most useful apps for everyone….but they’ve been the most helpful apps for us and think (some of them) might be helpful for you too:
It’s not great at translating Mongolian, especially if it’s more than one word, but it’s getting better and it’s certainly better than nothing! With Mongolian, you have to type (or write) the word(s) and it will translate.
Using a multi-lingual app is more helpful than any of the Mongolian-English apps because the closest supermarket is Korean and a lot of groceries/goods (and words) are imported from Russia so if we can’t find a word in Mongolian, sometimes we can find it by searching for the same word in Russian.
In Google Translate, with Korean and Russian, you an use realtime translation on your phone (hold your camera over an word and it autormatically translates for you). This is handy, especially in the spice aisle where almost nothing is in Mongolian or with cleaning products.
The rough estimate of Tugriks to US Dollars is “drop the last three zeroes and divide by 2. So 30,000₮ becomes about $15. But the exchange rate is continuing to slide in the favor of the dollar and, today, the exact exchange rate is 30,000₮ to $11.30
This app allows you to translate one currency into 3 other currencies simultaneously. This has been super-helpful for us in at least two distinct scenarios:
- We were ordering IKEA furniture from the IKEA China through a Mongolian company. So we had to convert both Yen and Tugrik simultaneously.
- Our daughter attends a British school and is learning to count money in pounds.
We’d be lost (literally) without this app. We look forward to the day when it becomes integrated with the local bus routes.
ABA **UPDATE: This App appears to be defunct just a few months later**
This is a Mongolian equivalent to UBER (sort of). You can order a taxi and mark your pick up and drop off locations on a map, which is super helpful when your language is lacking. Most people just put their hand out (like a hitch hikers thumb) when they want a ride. We’ve done this a couple times and have never had any trouble–we’ve never been overcharged, taken to the wrong place, or otherwise victimized. But, until our language is better, I appreciate knowing that the app tracks distance, cost, and location.
Facebook is useful for reasons I didn’t expect.
- Not everyone has a texting plan on their phones, but nearly everyone has Facebook Messenger. People also often don’t have voicemail so texting (Messenger) is helpful.
- Even if they do have a texting plan, you can’t send picture texts (and people look at you like you’re crazy for suggesting this is even a possibility) so, again, Facebook Messenger.
- Business who don’t have websites (nearly all of them do not) will often have FB pages.
- We ordered a couple thousand dollars worth of IKEA furniture from China through a Mongolian Company via FB messenger. We paid by going to a bank and putting money in the account number they gave us. Sound sketchy? Sure, but it worked.
- Expats in Mongolia Facebook Group. This is a usually helpful, sometimes rude and snarky, Facebook Group where you can ask things like, “Where can I find decent cheddar cheese?” and “Does Mongolia prefer TESOL or TEFL certification?” or “Why are their fireworks today?” and usually get a helpful answer.
This is the app that tells us exactly what the Air Quality Index is outside. It doesn’t matter November-February (it’s always really bad) but in September, October, March, and April it’ll give you the AQI for different parts of the city and for our neighborhood letting us know if we can safely open our windows and if we should have our masks on when we go outside.
Any Weather App
Cory and I use different weather apps. The important thing is to have an app. They haven’t been super-reliable regarding snowfall, but the extreme temperatures, and the fact that we walk nearly everywhere, make knowing the forecast extremely helpful for determining exactly how many layers to put under your clothes, under your coat, which mittens to wear, and if you’ll need a hat or just want ear warmers. Also, letting us know the wind speed, because usually there is none and wind makes a HUGE difference in how cold the cold feels.
There are a few apps that have been helpful for language learning and for staying in touch with our friends and family back home (also, partnership development), but we’ll talk about those in another post.
Are you an expat in Mongolia? Or a traveler? What other Apps would you recommend?