Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ten things I love about living in Uruguay

I told you already the ugly part, the ten things I hate about living in Uruguay, which sparked a couple of mails with a worried tone.

Now it's time to talk about the other part. Why despite all the bad things I told you about, I still choose Uruguay for a living.

So here I go, this is my top ten list of things I like about Uruguay.

First things first

My family, and dear ones. I was born and raised here. This may be of no value for someone coming from abroad, it may not be part of the "official" list, but I would be hipocritical not to acknowledge this is the greatest asset Uruguay has for me. I get to see my family whenever I want, I can watch my four months niece grow. I keep in touch with people I met when I was four and five years old. It's difficult to put it into words but here I feel at home.

Uruguay Family values

In Uruguay family comes first. Weekly family gatherings to have pasta or asado, sometimes including friends are something to enjoy, and miss when not around.

Uruguay Weather

In Uruguay the sun shines generously and regularly all year long, what's that worth to you? Lots of "great" places with huge average income rates, and great life expectancy just don't. Here summer is hot, and you go to the beach, while winter is cold and you cuddle by the fireplace. You get both, and in spring you see stuff blossom. Every season is different, and lasts more or less the same.

Uruguay Beaches

400+ km of beach coast, with white sand. You've got calm river like beaches, you've got as well surfing oceanic beaches. I personally like to have the sea at hand, otherwise I miss watching a water horizon from time to time.

Forget traffic jams in Uruguay

We are very few. This may be a drag for the economy, but it sure helps life quality. There are almost no traffic jams in Uruguay. You almost never have to wait for a table in a restaurant. It's not the sahara desert either, but it's just not crowded. I like it.

Uruguay life costs

Life cost is comparatively cheap. In a globalized economy, you could work remotely, earn an average income, and live very well with it in Uruguay.

Uruguay Culture

It's not an image worshiping culture. The whole world is everyday more image aware, but in this as in other lots of things we are a few steps behind. So if you have a few extra pounds, is not the end of the world.

It's not a money worshiping culture. For the most part people don't measure others by their income, or if they have the right brand of sport shoes or whatever.

Time is not money in Uruguay. There's a bad side to this but there's also a good side. People take due time for zero revenue activities like spending time with their families, or just walk and have mate with bizcochos in la rambla.


It's a relatively secure place. It used to be even more, but that is true for the whole world. In Uruguay people don't get kidnapped. High schools don't have metal detectors, and car glasses are not bullet proof. In the scalation of violence, we are a few steps behind.

Uruguay Food

Some countries have a tendency to include a lot of fried stuff in their diet, or frozen precooked, microwave oven targeted food. I'm under the impression that cooking here is still more of a home made thing, thus more natural, and healthy. Obesity is not a problem in Uruguay as it is in other countries.

Have a bigger relative impact, make a difference

The effort required to change Uruguay in some way is say, less than changing that same aspect in Brazil. We are small, so (and this is a feeling) actions have a bigger relative impact. If you choose to teach in the university, you'll be one among tens, and not one among thousands as it happens in other countries. Bottom line, it's easier to make a difference, it's a smaller system, and this pays off not in cash.


I'd say Uruguay has a good balance between life costs, and life quality. Sure there's struggle, and you may have to effort more than usual to buy/have/own things. But it's a place in the world were you can enjoy life in relative safety, make friends without much problem, raise a family, make a difference, be recognized and loved. Well, isn't that pretty much what life is about?...

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ten things I hate about living in Uruguay

I've been writing about Uruguay for a little bit more than a year and a half now. The topics range from places, to food, to customs but the perspective has always been a positive one. For a change I've decided to write about the ten major things I dislike about living in Uruguay.

So here I go, this is my top ten list of things I DON'T like about living in Uruguay in no particular order,

Poverty in Uruguay

More generally speaking would be lack of resources at all levels. The consequences of this can be seen everywhere. From beggars in traffic lights, to children begging in restaurant tables, to public buildings in need of restoration, like el Palacio Salvo, to lousy salaries for university professors and doctors. It can be depressing.

Conservative & lazy mentality

This one is hard to explain. There's a popular phrase that portrays it well, which is "es lo que hay"(…valor). Translated would be something like: it is what there is, it's the way it is, meaning don't complain and put up with it. If something is wrong, sometimes the answer is not let's change it, but rather "es lo que hay" it's the way it is. This is one part of the problem.

On the other hand lots of people look up to bankers and public employees as low effort, high paying jobs. Like they are the role model to follow. It's a twisted logic, where the "smart one" (el vivo) is the one who works less and gets more, to put it somehow, and if he cheates the state in the process and gets away with it, then he's even smarter.

Risk taking and enterpreneruism is not encouraged in Uruguay to say the least. There's a rather pesimist mentality regarding endeavours, business in Uruguay doesn't work, and if it work is because there's some monkey business going on. That's pretty much the Uruguayan mentality regarding business.

Uruguay services

Uruguayan services are usually not good.This is not a service oriented culture. Here the customer is NOT always right, in fact he seldom is.

One example, sometimes in restaurants the waiters make you feel like they are doing you a favor putting up with you. If your request is not standard then you've gained an enemy. If you phoned the empanadas delivery and they brought you something wrong, or in a bad state, you don't have many options. Being a small population, there are few service providers, and sometimes you don't get to complain, you put up with it, or you quit consuming the service, which sometimes is just not an option. Picture that with cable, phone, electricity, water, restaurants, food deliveries, and you'll get the idea.

Uruguay's Taxes

Added value tax stands for a 23% of the total value of most products. This makes for expensive imported products, which are 99% of them. Buying tech stuff is a matter of waiting for someone you know to travel north and buy one of whatever for you.

Lack of jobs and opportunities in Uruguay

Uruguayan market is very small, if you specialize in some subject chances are that the market won't pay your specialized skills, meaning if you are a PhD and you stay in Uruguay don't expect to make money. This is another emigration helper.

Public transport sucks

Schedules are not strictly respected, frequently services are missed, buses travel packed. Some neighborhoods are very badly connected, and on top of all this is a expensive service. One urban bus ticket is worth 0.65 USD.

Old population

Uruguay's population is old, we are only three millions and 12.8% has more than 65 years old, and it's stands out.

Public employee's inamobility

This was born as a solution to a former problem, but the cure ended up being worse than the original disease. Years ago every new government would change all the public institutions staff. To restrain this from happening they passed a law that makes virtually impossible to fire a public employee. No matter how inefficient an employee is, he will never be fired. The result is bureaucracy hell in Uruguay. Again, you can complain, but you feel like won't gain much.

In theory is possible to fire a public employee in Uruguay, but I guess in practice there must be a huge felony involved, and tons of evidence to support it, like videotapes, and an army of witnesses.

Increasing insecurity

Uruguay is known to be secure, and comparatively I guess is still is, but everyday less, and if compared to the Uruguay I was born it's very insecure.

Money is expensive in Uruguay

Getting a loan to buy a house or to start a business is very hard to get.

Some of the provided loans to buy real state require an income that only has like 20% of the population (1000 usd) , plus they don't lend the total of the amount of the real state, but more like 70%, meaning you have to save by yourself 30% of the total.

Final thoughts and conclusion

I know, I know, you are thinking: if it's so bad what am I still doing here, right? Building this list wasn't easy, there's a lot of subjectivity involved. Sometimes it's hard to separate syntomps from causes, plus some of the items are related, I feel I could go on ranting for ages. There's a good graffiti here that reads: "Don't complain, emigrate!"

The truth is there are a lot of good things also, that I'd like to write about in a future post.


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