Although the Ladakhi culture is far more Tibetan than Indian, the two cultures have many features in common. The way people relate to each other is actually quite similar. And both cultures place a very great importance on serving guests. Visitors should note that although there are many subtle differences, the general guideliness that I have outlined in my book will generally stand you in good stead in Ladakh. It is especially important to note that modesty of dress and behavior is expected and appreciated here as it is most everywhere in India.
Ladakhis are warm-hearted, friendly people. People you don’t know will greet you with a cheerful Julley! Julley! as you pass by. The word Julley covers many meanings, rather like the Hawaiian Aloha. It means hello, goodbye, thanks, please.
It’s a strange thing, however, that here as in many other parts of India, a large percentage of visitors from other countries won’t even smile as they pass by other people, especially other foreigners. Why is that? Are so many of us from countries where we have to be suspicious of every stranger we meet?
Anyway, if you aren’t in the habit of smiling at people you don’t know, just try it while you are in India. You’ll find people throughout India, including Ladakhis, will generally smile right back at you. This isn’t like New York, where if someone smiles at you, they are probably plotting some mischief. Nor is it like France where smiling is considered frivolous. This is simply a place where most people are friendly, so go with the flow. You may be surprised at how much warmer people seem when you do.