I recently sold everything we owned and moved to Uruguay. (November 6, 2013 to be exact.)
I can tell you from first hand experience that Uruguay is AMAZING.
But it is very different than North America. So if you actually LIKE North America or Europe and that first world way of life, DO NOT move here. But if you dislike that way of life and find it to be completely unnatural and unhealthy, by all means, pack your bags.
Here is an honest break down of the good and bad that I have encountered thus far..
1. THE PEOPLE here are unbelievably warm, hospitable and will treat you like family. Seriously. I met two complete strangers off of couchsurfing.org who have completely blown us away with their love and openness toward an American foreigner.
One picked me up at the airport at 5:30 am, helped me with our luggage, paid for my bus back into the city, took me to his home and offered me a shower and a nap, bought us breakfast, took me to the rambla (a boardwalk like structure near their beautiful beach), gave me yerba mate, and then took me in a taxi to another couchsurfer’s house who agreed to let us stay with him.
Then I arrived at our host’s house (yes, a complete stranger from the internet. No I was not scared.) He cooked me an amazing lunch, offered me nap/shower/tour and proceeded to give up his bedroom/bed and slept on the floor for the next 3 nights.
He then took me to his beach house in La Pedrera for 10 days.
He helped me find an apartment, acquire a warranty from an insurance company, get a lawyer, start to open a bank account, and translate documents. That is the equivalent of me letting someone stay with me for 2 weeks free of charge in the US and then OFFERING to take them to the Social Security office and the DPS about 10 times. And he does it with a smile.
Everyone hangs out outside, friends and neighbors say hi to each other on the streets, and they all greet one another with a kiss on the cheek.
People stop and actually talk to each other and have real conversations. I am the kind of person that hates small talk, so it was heavenly to discover that people here actually hold meaningful and deep conversations about stuff that really matters. When I did that in the US, I was usually met with the “crazy eyes” or a swift change of subject.
And let me just be upfront…back home, many people think my husband and I are CRAZY. Literally. We have been labeled conspiracy theorists and just plain “out there.” But honestly we just care about the world and want nothing more than to activate positive change and progress.
That can stir up emotion in people who would rather not know certain uncomfortable truths. We understand that and hold no grudges. So if you can identify with that, you will definitely fit right in!
Uruguay is the most political country in South America and a great majority are committed to social justice and positive progress.
2. THE FOOD is wonderful. It is fresh. It is delicious and it’s cheap. You can find street ferrias (think Farmer’s Market) every day of the week near every block.
People don’t go to the super market and buy a week’s worth of groceries here. They go every day or two and just get what they need.
The majority of their diet is fresh meat, vegetables and fruit — stuff that actually spoils. It doesn’t have a 3 year shelf life like the food many Americans consume.
Their national food is a chivito sandwich which consists primarily of a thin slice of filet mignon (churrasco beef), with mozzarella, tomatoes, mayonnaise, black or green olives, bacon, and commonly also fried or hard-boiled eggs and ham. It is served in a bun, often with a side of French fries.
At least half of the population here is of Italian descent so expect to find a lot of red wine, pizza and pasta dishes too. Pizza is my favorite food so major bonus points for that one.
3. THE POLITICAL SITUATION is muy bueno. From their president refusing to live in the presidential palace and living on $800 a month, to the new marijuana law, I find the government here to be stable, balanced, and oh so refreshing.
Their public schools are good, they offer free college to all residents and citizens, and health care is affordable and accessible. Joseph and I pay only $25 a month each and can see a doctor for $1. Doctors even do house calls for $10. It’s crazy!
4. IT’S BEAUTIFUL. The beaches here are clean and EVERYWHERE. The architecture is very cool. They don’t tear down old buildings and build new ones here. Everything is very unique–quite the opposite of the common American suburbs.
1. Some things are very EXPENSIVE here. All the common things that I left behind are going to cost me a fortune to replace when compared to prices in the states.
A normal woman’s top from a store costs about $40. A crappy towel from China is about $12. A set of low quality pots and pans cost $200. A blender $150. Cars are about 3x the price of cars in the US.
So if you’re moving here, bring your high quality sheets, towels, and home goods if you can. It will be worth it!
2. Life is SLOWER and much DIFFERENT here. I find this to be a POSITIVE but many people will not like it. People here don’t eat dinner until 10pm. Seriously. Restaurants don’t even open until 8:30 pm. At first, this was hard to adjust to but we are completely adjusted now and don’t mind it at all.
The shops here seem to be closed a lot too. In the US, we are used to stores and shops being open every day until about 10 pm. Not the case in Uruguay. It will be daylight on a weekend and the majority of shops will be closed. I guess people would rather spend time with their family instead of feeding consumerism. I can support that.
3. APARTMENTS here come completely empty. In the US, you can move in with some furniture off craiglist, get your electricity hooked up and you’re golden.
In Uruguay, you have to buy your water heaters, stove, fridge, and washing machine. And they are NOT cheap. That just sucks. And when you move, you have to haul all that stuff with you to your next place. That sucks even worse.
It is hard for foreigners to rent here if you want your own apartment. You have to get a warranty through a place like Anda (basically the equivalent of a co-signer in the US.) We have to pay Anda $50 a month and we had to put down a deposit of three months rent that we can’t touch until we move out.
So if you plan on renting your own building, make sure you keep that in mind and bring A LOT of cash.
4. There aren’t a lot of YOUNG people (but we can change that!) and there isn’t much opportunity for work here unless you speak Spanish. They have one of the lowest unemployment rates but don’t expect to come here and make a lot of money.
There is opportunity here for building your own business or selling hand made goods or art on the street, but there aren’t a lot of large corporations ready to steal your soul for a big pay check.
If a lot of money is important to you, definitely don’t move to Uruguay. If happiness, simplicity and community are something you crave, Bienvenido!
I hope this helped some of you!
Peace and blessings,