10 reasons I love living in Uruguay: By a Uruguayan

Living in Uruguay, I also experience the same kind of small kindnesses and unsolicited courtesies Susana mentions almost every day. And I LOVE it too.
By Karen A Higgs
Reasons I love living in Uruguay - the friendly people Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius
Last updated on January 23, 2018

The following notes were written and shared in Spanish by a Uruguayan friend of mine, Susana. Like Susana, I live in Uruguay and I also experience the same kind of small kindnesses and unsolicited courtesies she mentions almost every day. And I LOVE that. 

  1. I was walking across a square eating an empanada and a bystander wishes me “Bon appetit, señora!” 
  2. When I get on the bus, the driver and the conductor greet me with a “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, “Good evening” or a jovial “Hola!”
  3. People give moms and dads with children their seat, and if they don’t move fast enough, the conductor says “Let’s be having a seat, porrrrr favorrrrr!”
  4. If you ask where you need to get off, the driver lets you know once you are close
  5. There are musicians (most of them really good ones) and actors who get on the buses and sing a couple of songs or perform short sketches
  6. I left my cell phone in a coffee shop and I realised half an hour later. When I went back, they had it waiting for me
  7. I left two full shopping bags in a cafe and only realised four hours later. I went back to look for them and the staff had kept them safe
  8. I left my credit card in a shop and didn’t realise till two days later. I went to look for it and it was still there
  9. I left my jacket in a restaurant and the waiter ran down the street after me to return it (these instances are all good indicators that I am starting to bat on in years!)
  10. At the end of the day as the sun disappears into the sea, the people on the beach clap.

What are the small things that you love about Uruguay? Tell us below.

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33 Responses

  1. The land is beautiful, great countryside, beaches, food. But the best resource are the persons, is like the culture and modals are part of the Uruguayan exquisite modality, and the friendship. Uruguay forever or like we say in slang: Uruguay QUENONINO!

  2. We aren’t living in Uruguay but have been in Uruguay for 2 weeks, first in Montevideo, then Punta del Este, Mercedes and now just arrived in Colonia until Sunday before moving to Buenos Aires then home to the UK. We have travelled by bus and are so impressed with the coach service here. Not fast but so efficient. We have stayed in hotels and in apartments and everyone has been so friendly. Any previous contact whether by email or whatsapp seems to turn you into old friends so are welcomed with hugs and kisses and first name terms. What a wonderful country.

    1. I just absolutely LOVE this, Bernice. I had never thought about there being an unintended consequence to Uruguay’s obsession with WhatsApp – you are instant friends even befor meeting. Thank you so much for sharing! — Karen PS If you’d like to stay in touch with all things Uruguay after you leave, then do sign up to get our monthly newsletter.

  3. I love so many things about my country! Most of them have already been mentioned. I agree with everything posted. I will add “la sobremesa”. That’s what I missed most the year I lived abroad as an exchange student. I just love remaining at the table after lunch or dinner talking about anything, nothing in particular: sometimes just small talk, sometimes ending up in deep matters like religion, politics, history or traveling.

  4. I am Uruguayan and I have traveled enough to have witnessed cultural differences which make other people in other countries great as well, and better than us in so many aspects – of course!
    For example, I wish the people in Montevideo would be more conscious about our dirty streets and that it is everyone’s responsibility and not just the government’s to keep it clean. If Montevideo became a cleaner city it would just be perfect. I believe it is a lack of respect to other’ well-being.
    Actually, we are a little contradictory in that sense, we would help anyone on the street, or drive them everywhere, share anything with someone in need etc…but we lack to realize how much we damage others and our city with our poor behavior – when we throw trash on the streets, park anywhere and other non-respectful things we do. Our government is not good at enforcing rules and applying fines to those not following the law.
    Nevertheless, I LOVE my country, I would not change it for anything.
    I agree with many of the comments here, and I also enjoy and appreciate the time we spend outdoors, how we gather with friends with mate as the only excuse (you can even self-invite yourself to someone’s home if you say: “I’ll stop by your house for a mate”…that’s it!). We do enjoy our beaches and I love the fact that people with a tight economic situation can still ride a bus to go to the beach and enjoy the summer. I love our city full of trees (even if they break all the pavements) …
    In Montevideo, people from all classes share a walk by the rambla , candombe, asado, football, a walk at the park, la rural del Prado, the Book Fair, Heritage Weekend (el dia del Patrimonio) etc. People are exposed to a lot of cultural activities regardless of their class and we all enjoy being part of it.
    I think we are nice people in general, we have a lot to improve…we are very critical – so I had to give a taste of uruguayan’s criticism in my post 🙂
    I love this site! Welcome everyone whom is willing to come and visit Uruguay!!!

    1. Cecilia, this wouldn’t be an article saying nice things about Uruguay, without a Uruguayan responding to say “hey, we’re not really that nice” – so *thank you*, I was waiting for this :))) Seriously though, your points about the littering (and I would add graffiti at least in Montevideo to that) are well-taken. I love your observations about the class-less nature of the enjoyment of public spaces (the rambla!) and cultural activities, many of which are free, and the fact that you love Guru’Guay! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences! Un abrazo, Karen AKA La Uru Guru

  5. I once left my debit card in the atm in a nearby grocery store and realized a few days later. When I went back to look for it, it was already gone. I left the grocery store in tears and while I walked the 5 blocks home every single person I passed saw that I was crying and stopped to try and help me!

  6. We (husband, 9 years old daughter and me) are not living in Uruguay yet but it’s work in progress. We’re just lucky enough to come there (from Germany) almost every year for a couple of weeks since 2011 😉
    The things that keep on delighting us in Uruguay:
    – the politeness of the Uruguayans, for instance saying “permiso” for like everything!
    – when they clap after a good meal to thank the cook/their hosts, I still get really emotional each time it happens.
    – the helpfulness. We have experienced different situations from car breakdown and guys coming from nowhere to help us push it to people we just met who would offer to drive us back to the airport.
    – hospitality: we’ve been invited so many times to share an asado with new acquaintances.
    We really feel like home in this beautiful and quiet country, whether in the countryside or on the coast. The friends we have there are mainly Uruguayans, they have become a second family for us now!

  7. I travelled from Canada to teach a group of Uruguayan instructors for 3 days. Unfortunately, I got food poisoning on the first night but they took such good care of me. One acted as a translator with the Spanish-speaking doctor and rode with me in the ambulance to my hotel. The instructors insisted I move out of my hotel and into the one where they were staying so they could take care of me. When the hotel had no vacant rooms, one instructor gave up her room and moved in with one of the other instructors so I could have a room to myself. I will never forget their kindness.

  8. I do sometimes forget to take my credit card out of the machine. As soon as I enter the bank, I clerk will call me and hand my card over. Or someone who was behind me in the line, chased me to hand over my card.
    Last week a taxi driver offered me to pick up a bottle of gas at the gasstation before heading to my beach town, because during high season, they sometimes run out of gas bottles at the beach. He took the empty bottle and handed it back at the gas station on his way back.
    When I forget I paid with 1000 pesos instead of 500 and the cashier calls me back to give me my missing 500 pesos change.
    My neighbour who sends me a message at 21 PM that tonight there will be a BBQ.
    The lady from the post office: she always gives me a call when there is package for me.
    The owner of a local shop who offers the sharpen my knife on his special sharpening stone
    The owner of another local shop, who arranges a ride to the farm when your car is broken.
    The lovely old man, who offered to walk with me with his umbrella when I jumped out of th e bus when it was raining.
    The chats and talks which can last half an hour at any shop, just to make a chat
    Antel (yes!) who came within a day after my modem was broken en fixed it.
    The relaxed, non material way of living in general!
    I could go on for ages……

  9. I have never felt taken advantage of by locals despite my poor Spanish. Just last week, I was buying eggs at the local street market from a small family with not more than a few flats of eggs. The price 75 pesos for 15 eggs was displayed so as they filled up the box I had brought with me I got out my money. The husband quickly shook his head and said “No, no, only 50 pesos, I gave you small ones which are cheaper” I would have happily paid the 75pesos but he would only accept 50 pesos and thanked me for stopping.

    1. That’s so typical of people here, Janet. And would not happen in a lot of places. The one area where you might be taken advantage of as a non-Spanish speaker could be by tradespeople in the building industry – but cowboy plumbers are a thing in my native UK as well, so that’s not something peculiar to Uruguay! Thanks for sharing. — Karen

    2. One cultural tip (in case you’re interested) is that now you should buy your eggs with them. That’s why, at the street market, you have to pick your vegetable stand and be loyal to them. Shopping around is not the done thing. If you want something that’s on another stand, then ask “your” grocer who will then procure it for you (from the other stand).

      1. Oh, dear me. I’ve lived here for 10 years and have been doing it wrong. To think of everyone I must have offended. 🙁
        Thank you so much for mentioning this! No one ever told me….

  10. I love how the culture is a beautiful mix between Lantin American and Europe

    How life is slow

    How many different classes ride the bus

    How welcoming people and and ready to have you over for a meal but they aren’t smothering either.

    How people just like hanging out together at parks and beaches without it being centered around food.

    How ready and willing people are to talk about everything.

    The BEACHES!!!

    1. Hi Sharon, you’ve totally hit various nails on their heads. “How people just like hanging out together at parks and beaches without it being centered around food” made me laugh! “How many different classes ride the bus” – sooo true, I love this too. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thank you for all of the wonderful information about Uruguay. I have been following your site for a long time and will be using your suggestions during my trip to Uruguay three weeks from now! This will be my 6th time visiting Uruguay and thanks to your information in between visiting relatives we have new places to see every time. I want to share with you a short trip report I wrote about visiting Uruguay with my Uruguayan husband.

    A Gringa’s Reflections on Uruguay
    My heart is full. My mind is full – of the sites, sounds, tastes and people of Uruguay.
    Looking from the outside in, I see a people who have a great sense of self. They know their history, their culture, their art, their music, their foods – and they don’t talk about family values – they live family values. Each member of a family is treasured. From the oldest family member, to the newest born baby. An asado is not only sharing a meal, a bottle of wine, a whiskey, mate, but a sharing of life – a joy of living.
    As a norteamericana just returning to the United States after a short 10 days in Uruguay, I find myself reflecting on the places we visited and people we met. The time was short, but filled with experiences that will be with me for a long time. From Colonia, to Montevideo, to Punta del Este, this small country, with a big, big heart calls me back – there is more to see and do in Uruguay than this short trip allowed.
    How does one choose a favorite time spent. This I cannot do. It is a feeling which weaves itself throughout the country. It is the faces and acceptance of Uruguay’s people that makes this country so special. It’s a welcoming smile, an extra chair and an extra place set at a table for the unexpected guest.
    So Uruguay querido, save that extra chair for me. I hope to see you again soon.

  12. People share everything: their homes, their mate, their food, their recommendations, their advice, everything.

    The weather is (mostly) great. Clear, cold winter skies; clear and hot summer days and nights; torrential downpours; and thunder storms that seem to be coming from everywhere.

    Kids stay out later than most expats and are welcome everywhere.

    Friends are like family (and their family will probably become like family to you too).

    You can go to the beach after work.

    You can buy cheap, seasonal fruit and veg on your street.

    Everyone’s nice (in my experience this is not an

    Uruguayans can not believe you would choose to live here but when you explian why you love it they totally agree.

    Asados. Sunsets. Wine. Football. Meat. Mate. More football.

    People sing out loud when they’re riding their bikes along the Rambla.

    You can pop to bustling, busy, huge Buenos Aires for the weekend and then breathe a sigh of relief when you return to the calm.

    You can walk pretty much everywhere in Montevideo; you can cycle everywhere.

    At the weekend the sound of Candombe echos between buildings. People leave their houses to watch or dance.

    It’s easy to leave Montevideo for a weekend trip to visit amazing beaches.

    The people are the country. I love Uruguay.

    1. Jenny! ExACTly. I feel like I must have written that! lol. Your points are bang on. Uruguay has become my planet. I would like to add: festivales criollos (Uruguay-style rodeos). I love gauchos and sleepy-eyed, gentle caballos criollos–the uniquely Uruguayan horses. And the folkloric music. Zitarrosa. Amalia de la Vega. Julio Sosa. Daniel Viglietti. And contemporary artists like Jorge Drexler. LOVE murga.
      And the beeautiful architecture of Montevideo. My first visit was over 12 years ago. The streets were a ramble of rubble. To say that 18 de Julio had potholes was a gross understatement. Sherman tanks could disappear with one wrong veer. 🙂 The art deco beauties were looking time-worn and not long for this world. But happily, the capital city has experienced a surge of renewal and care. Not to mention the revitalization of the food scene. I used to be sad that the country had such limited offerings cuisine-wise. Then all of a sudden it seemed that fab little places began popping up all over. I read an article about how young people (foodies) were returning after years abroad and bringing new skills. New restaurants began to open their doors and these new young chefs were bringing back the traditions of their immigrant ancestors, celebrating local ingredients. Every day I love this place even more.

  13. I can’t wait to come back to MVD after spending a few weeks there in 2016. I would add to the list; sitting on the bus in the afternoon, seeing people holding lawn chairs instead of briefcases. They’re en route to the Rambla : )

  14. I had a similar experience in Montevideo, I wanted to take a cab to the big market on Sunday and the taxi driver could have easily driven me there and collected his fare, but he told me that I was too late to get to that market as it was already 2:00 pm and that market would be closed. He was a very honest cab driver!`I felt very appreciative that he had been honest with me.

    1. What a nice story, Elaine! I have sometimes written about my nice cab driver experiences here because people here are generally so critical of them. On another note, I just remembered I created a photostory of a small courtesy by the Montevidean police who helped me buy a litre of milk for a small baby on a Sunday morning when the shops were closed. Ok, you could complain and say the police shouldn’t be wasting their time on such trifles, but it’s the kind attitude that counts I firmly believe.

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