Say Julley, please

There is this beautiful custom of greeting everyone in Ladakh, no matter a family member, friend, neighbour or a stranger. Greeting and smiling.
'Julley' is the Ladakhi word used as 'hello'. Actually it is very useful as it can be also used as 'good bye' or 'good night' and it also means 'thank you'.
I remember writing from Ladakh to a friend on my first visit here, that I was in the land where everyone smiles to each other and everyone says 'Julley!' to all the others. And these are genuine smiles: smiles - it seems - showing real joy of seeing you. I was quite moved seeing people being really happy to see me in their village in winter, Dec 2014.
It is not only about 'julley' and the smile. Often, you will be invited to drink tea and while at home, you will be offered at least something small to eat.
I remember my first visit to the Dibiling village in summer 2014, which is a remote and beautiful place, far from any other settlement as well as in distance from the main trekking routes. On entering the village I stopped to talk with a couple working in the fields. Immediately after the greetings they invited me to sit with them and drink tea. They had some tea and two chapatis which they took from home going to the fields. And they happily shared that with me.
Recently, I saw a woman in Kaya (in the Markha Valley) waiting for the bus from Leh to offer tea to all the passengers on a cold winter day!
And I was so much surprised and sad to hear people of a village on the Lamayuru-Padum popular trekking route saying 'bonbon' (a French origin word meaning a sweet) as an answer to my 'julley' greeting. It seems some tourists came to that stupid idea of giving sweets to people on the way and while offering them these they taught them how to say 'sweet' in their language!
There is this beautiful custom of greeting other trekkers and hikers met on the trail in the mountains. In most of the places the local language is used. I say '¡Hola!' when I hike in Spain, 'Hei!' in Norway, 'Ciao!' in Italy, 'Haste nabashid!' or 'Salam!' in Iran, 'Namaste!' in Nepal and 'Julley!' in Ladakh. This seems to be clear to most of the trekkers and hikers. In case someone does not know the greeting in the local language then - in most cases - English 'Hello!' or 'Hi!' would be used: it seems to be natural as English is recognised as the international language.
I'm always surprised hearing 'bonjour' as an answer (unless I'm in France) to my greeting which often happens on meeting people from France. I'm Polish, we have our own language which is - as French - quite different from English, but I don't see any reason to use 'dzień dobry' or 'cześć' to greet strangers on the trail unless I'm sure they are from my country or I'm hiking in Poland. Similarly I do not see any reason for the others to use their language to greet me or others in Ladakh as well as any other place in the world unless - of course - it is the local language - eventually - English.
I'm quite annoyed when I'm greeted in Ladakh by a Ladakhi with 'bonjour!' or 'Ça va?' which really happens sometimes. Dear Ladakhis, not every tourist is a French person and not every tourist speaks French (I believe, the majority of visitors to Ladakh do not speak this language)! There is not a single reason to use French language to a stranger in Ladakh! Please, simply use 'Julley'.
Dear tourists, please do not teach the Ladakhis your language unless they ask you to help them in English or you are a teacher on a course attended by students who have the intention to learn a new language to enhance their skills. Most of children in Ladakh - besides of the Ladakhi language which is their mother tongue, which despite belonging to the Tibetic group of languages is much different than Standard Tibetan - from their early childhood learn at school how to write their language using the Tibetan script, they learn English (another script) as well as Hindi (the major language of India - written in Devanagari script) or Urdu (written in Arabic script), which is the official language of the Jammu&Kashmir State which Ladakh is a part of. I'm sure the vast majority of the westerners visiting Ladakh can not read even two different scripts and do not speak more than two languages!
Dear visitors to Ladakh, do not mix children's minds with a new language, please. There are no many reasons for them to know your language (unless it is English or Hindi). Try to learn a few words in Ladakhi instead - you will see it is a fun and you will see how many more smiles you will get from the people seeing you trying to speak their language!
Please, discourage the people from asking for sweets, pens, etc. Probably non of us would like own children to go around their home town or village and ask strangers for gifts! Why do we make the children to do so in the places we visit?! Please, do not give sweets or any other gifts to children or adults met on the way. Please do not treat them like baggers! The people of Ladakh have rich culture and long tradition of hospitality! If you happen to have sweets, pens, books or other gifts that you brought intending to give to children, visit a school and ask a teacher to handle it to children or give it to parents in a family on a visit to their house.
Dear Ladakhis, please use your own language or English to greet tourists. Encourage the visitors to learn a bit of Ladakhi. Please do not ask for sweets or other gifts and discourage your children from doing so. Please cultivate your traditional of warmth and hospitality as this is one of the reasons we all love Ladakh!

I recently read the article titled 'Seven Secrets of Ladakh' by Lundup Gyalpo in the 'Reach Ladakh Bulletin' (November 1-15, 2014) which contains some remarks about the use of 'julley' and about Ladakhi smiles as well.

There is a copy of this blog and this post in particular at If you wish to comment this post, it would be probably easier to do it there.