We get a lot of questions about Uruguay. Fair enough- we lived there for 18 months and wrote a lot about it while there. We've been in Argentina now for two years and to tell you the truth, we much prefer Argentina. There is no perfect place and not everyone will agree with the following, but here's our take on Uruguay.
- Uruguay Is Not Cheap. Maybe it was 5+ years ago and maybe it is for those coming from New York or LA, but prices in Uruguay, from housing, to electricity, to personal and kids items, were astonishingly high- even when we got there in March 2009.
- Humid & Rainy. Much more than I ever thought, Montevideo weather was brutal. Its coastal location means hot and humid in the summers and damp, dreary winters. Those damp winters created indoor mold and bone-chilling cold.
- Everyone Was Sick. Expats seem to be sick more often the first year as they are exposed to different 'bugs'. In Montevideo, it seemed like everyone was sick, all the time. Maybe it was the climate, the indoor mold potential and/or the fact that everyone shares mate (pronounced mah-tay, it is a traditional tea-drink that is shared in social settings). People always seemed sick with one cold or another.
- Residency Process Is Not Fast. We have friends who just got their UY residency after 2.5 years of paperwork and waiting. This used to be a much faster process (6-9 months) but we gave up waiting for ours after a year. The exception to this still seems to be with the purchase of property in UY, you can get residency much faster.
- Friendly But Not Welcoming. We met lots of nice locals, but those people were not as welcoming into their homes and social circles like we have found in Argentina.
- Hi-rise Jungle. Particularly Pocitos and surrounding areas are losing much of the gorgeous traditional Architecture to make way for more high-rise apartment/condo buildings. This is really a shame and I remember crying over at least one demolition of a beautiful home that was tucked between highrises surrounding a park.
- Goods & Materials. There were many Uruguay-made items, and imports from Brazil were prevalent, but if you are really interested in the same items that you are used to in the USA (or other country) you may be hard pressed to find them. The larger upscale grocery stores had import food items but there were not many.
- Strong Expat Community. Depending on your perspective, this could be either a pro or con. When we were there, it was a definite pro. We made some incredible friends who are now at all corners of the globe. They helped ease our transition and for that we will be forever grateful.
- Easy To Get Around. We walked, took public transportation and the occasional taxi all through the city and surrounding areas. We took the bus to Piriapolis and to Colonia. Once we rented a car, but transportation was easy without a car of our own.
- Ferias. Oh, the wonderful ferias, how we miss them! Montevideo had the best open-air markets that set up in the neighborhoods on select mornings. Our neighborhood had a feria on Sunday mornings where we bought all of our fruits, veggies, eggs, cheese and the occasional fish or cleaning products. There is a little of everything. It was amazing!
- Governmental Stability. Uruguay is known to be a stable government and the current president, Pepe Mujica is a breath of fresh air. Even if you don't like his policy, you have to agree that he is a president like no other.
- Green Energy Initiatives. Uruguay is making huge strides to add wind energy as a source for electricity. To read more, see this recent article.
- The Best Daycare/Jardin. We still rank Caminito as the best daycare/jardin experience that we have found. Hands down. It was perfect for us and it was completely worth the 20 minute walk each way from our house in Pocitos. I wish we could find something as good in Cordoba for our second daughter.
- Grass-Fed Beef. Uruguay and Argentina compete for which country consumes the most beef per capita. In Uruguay, the majority of the beef is grass-fed and it is not all allocated for export, like it is in Argentina. You can see fields of grazing cows if you drive east towards the coast from Montevideo.
- The East Coast. Upon visiting, I fell in love with the wild coastal villages of Punta del Diablo and Cabo Polonio. Both very different, they were fascinating, lovely and a complete, welcome change from life in the city. I can't wait to go back for a longer visit.
So, those are a few of the pros and cons from our perspective- in no particular order. Montevideo was an excellent jumping off point for us and we liked many aspects of it but as a place to live, we have been much happier with Cordoba Argentina, which has exceeded our expectations in nearly every way. More on that in our next post, the pros and cons of Argentina. We'll see how they stack up!