Uruguay triggers strong reactions from her current and former expats. Some think they’ve found Utopia. Detractors believe it’s Hades on earth. Somewhere down the middle lies the truth. Carolina de Robertis, author of The Invisible Mountain, sums up Uruguay in one tweet:

“God I love this odd, marvelous, imperfect, maddening, gorgeous little country.”

Those of us who love it here accept Uruguay’s maddening imperfections. Others, not so much. Will Uruguay meet your expectations? That depends on your reasons for moving here. Peruse some of the expat social media pages, or attend an expat gathering, and you’ll hear facepalm-inducing reasons for moving to Uruguay. Here are some of them.

We Can Smoke Weed, Man!

Stop right there, dude! Did you know that:

1. The results of a recent survey indicate that over 64 percent of Uruguayans are opposed to marijuana legalization
2. In the upcoming election, some of the candidates might repeal the law
3. Even though Frente Amplio candidate Tabaré Vázquez won’t repeal the law, he sees it as an addiction. If elected, he wants to set up programs to cure people of their “pot habits.”
4. Want to buy pot? You must register with the government, who will track your usage.

I Can Set Up a Bank Account and Hide My Money from the IRS

That’s why they call it the Switzerland of South America, right? Wrong! Uruguay’s history as a social democracy earned this distinction. The fact that the Uruguayan military is involved in peace-keeping – as opposed to war mongering missions – probably helped. Note to soccer fans: Biting an opposing player on the shoulder does not countv as waging war. Moving on.

Think you can set up the equivalent of a Swiss bank account in Uruguay? Wrong Thinking! Why? Because, FATCA. In a classic, “we are not amused” moment, some Uruguayan banks closed the accounts of US passport holders. So no, you can’t hide your money in Uruguay.

I’m Sick of Winter! I Want To Bask in the Sun All Year Long

Not gonna’ happen. During the Uruguayan winter season, temperatures can drop as low as 0 °C. That’s 32 °F, in case you don’t know the metric system. Adding insult to injury, Uruguyan winters are damp and clammy.

I Want to Teach the People of This Undeveloped Country the Power of Religion

You’re kidding, right? Let’s start with undeveloped. Did you know that Uruguay has a 98.1 percent literacy rate? Now, let’s talk about religious missions. Uruguay is a secular nation. In fact, the country established its separation of Church and State in the 1919 Constitution. A group of fresh-faced missionaries is not going to change this.

I’m Sick of the Left Wing Government of the United States

Have you read your history books? Uruguay is a socialist country. We have a social medicine program. The current president, José Mujica was a member of the Tupamaro. During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, this group of Marxist insurgents staged a revolutionary uprising. While it’s possible that a more conservative candidate might win the upcoming election, the possibility of a complete change of political climate is highly unlikely.

Should You Move to Uruguay?

Move here if it’s a place you are moving to. Don’t come if you are fleeing from somewhere else. Move here for a peace-loving government, cost effective Internet with wifi on the buses and fibre optic Internet in many neighborhoods. Move here for an affordable health care system that trumps Obamacare. Move here for the feria markets, the culture and the amazing people, who will tell you that your neighbors are your family.

As poet Veronica Pamoukaghlian writes:

“In the past, Uruguayans used to migrate to Spain and the US. Now, we are getting lots of Americans and Spaniards. When our people migrated to those countries, they lived like outlaws, doing jobs that locals wouldn´t do; the dirty work. When Americans and Spaniards come here, we welcome them, we have no barriers, they can work here, stay as long as they like, etc. While I agree with this policy, asymmetrical as it may be, when I read about this American who complained that he was not able to bring his weapons in through Uruguayan customs at the airport, I started thinking that maybe we should have some sort of barrier to keep people who love guns and whose church is a supermarket far, far away from our little paradise, flawed as it may be.

Our streets are paved with gold alright, but only for those who have eyes to see it.”


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Written by Lisa Lisa Marie Mercer
From the heart of New York City, to the ski towns of Colorado, to the expat life in Uruguay, Lisa Marie Mercer reveals her diversity of experiences in her writing. She and her husband run Southern Cross Web, a social media company, and manage the Uruguayexpat.info website.

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