Montevideo, Uruguay Report of what it's like to live there - 01/20/09
Personal Experiences from Montevideo, Uruguay
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I've lived in Asia.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
American Airlines from Miami, 10 hours.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
For people associated with the U.S. Embassy, either an apt. in town or house on the outskirts near the airport.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Expensive, given the 22% tax on everthing which diplomats are not excluded from.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Spices (Uruguayans don't use), toilet paper, cleaning supplies (especially a Swiffer or good mop! Try to find a mop here!), Puffs kleenex, makeup, SUNSCREEN!!! -- at least 50+ SPF! And a wide brimmed hat.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's and 1 Burger King. Limited. You will NOT find a Starbucks, TGIFridays, Pizza Hut or anything of that sort in Uruguay. You'd have to go to B.A. or better Santiago, Chile if that's what you want. Few decent restaurants and almost NO ethnic food. They pretty much just like their parilla = unseasoned beef as tough as leather. Oh, and mate! They cradle those mate thermoses like babies.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None that I know of.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Limited equipment at post, some people attend a local gym for cheap.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
You can use them, but I'd be wary of visiting any ATM here given the high crime.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
No newspapers, satellite available from Puerto Rico (with ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX etc) or Argentina.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A LOT! Uruguayans don't speak English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Difficult. The city is not well kept. Sidewalks are very poor.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis seem to be ok. I wouldn't take a city bus. I've heard decent things about long haul buses to Punta or Colonia though.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Something you don't mind banging up. There are no lanes here! But on the plus side, you can probably sell your vehicle here for what you paid in the States and the end of your tour.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, various price options but average is $45 or so.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual. You won't see anyone wearing bright colors here. Black and grey. Nothing too happy!
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
2. What immunizations are required each year?
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Rated high for crime. Minors are not prosecuted and thus can commit any kind of crime, from petty to violent, without consequence. There have been some robberies in houses and purse muggings in nice areas, for example. You definitely have to be on guard at all times.
4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Skin cancer is a real concern not to mention premature aging due to the sun. It's not uncommon to see women look 10+ older with leathery faces. But you can get plastic surgery cheap, and many do here. Personally I'd think twice before going under the knife here. It's not horrible but some have reported doctors cutting corners on routine check ups.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot in summer, cool in winter (winter coat required). Seasons are reversed since it is in the southern hemisphere.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Uruguayan American School. Mostly Uruguayans attend. I have heard varying stories. Some people have sent their kids back to the States because they didn't feel it was adequate, but there are some that think it's ok.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
I've heard of some at the Uruguyan American School.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
SMALL! No real socializing among diplomats.
2. Morale among expats:
Depends on who you talk to, but I'd say fair to low. A few like it, but I know many more who don't. It's not unheard of for people to curtail. Anybody who tells you it's a "garden post" is WRONG! Most people are disillusioned to discover that Uruguay is not tropical, has terrible bland food, and the people are cold, aloof and unfriendly as a whole. There's really NOTHING to do here.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
I've pretty much said it -- very limited.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families tend to like it although I know some who don't and the kids are bored. BUT DON'T COME HERE IF YOU'RE SINGLE! You've been warned. The locals are not too friendly and there are very few, if any, singles at post.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I have heard some prejudice against people ofAfrican descent and other races. Uruguayans are proud to be "European." Although they certainly don't act European, unless you mean Eastern Europe! They are a pretty depressed people.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Not much. Punta del Este is 1-2 hours away, but VERY expensive and not much to see other than the beach. And the sun is SO strong here because of the hole in the ozone that most find it uncomfortable to be outdoors for great lengths of time. Colonia, near Argentina, is nice but you can see it in 1 day. Otherwise, take the 3 hour boat to Buenos Aires as often as possible.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Mate, but I wouldn't recommend it!
9. Can you save money?
If you don't make any trips out of the country. But you'll need it for your mental health.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
NO, NO AND NO!
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Ideas of South America. Think Eastern Europe!
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and spices.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
7. Do you have any other comments?
Bad for singles, some families like.