Things You Didn’t Know About Uruguay

Quick, name 3 things about Uruguay. Name even one thing about Uruguay. If you’re like most people, including myself up to a couple weeks ago, I doubt you can. Before I came down to South America I’m not even sure I could find this tiny country on a map, let alone tell you the difference between it and Paraguay.

Now, after a week exploring this wonderful little country, I have a lot to say. I have the knowledge now and I can tell you that you are missing out. If you come to South America and ignore Uruguay for it’s flashier neighbors Brazil and Argentina, you are missing out.

Here are some things you probably didn’t know about Uruguay:

It’s the Most European Country in South America

This title usually goes to Argentina, and it’s true that Buenos Aires does have an elegant old world feel. Uruguay is similar to Argentina linguistically and culturally, with a large percentage of the citizens having emigrated from Europe in the past couple of centuries. You can see it in the cuisine, in the plentiful bakeries and the architecture.

Uruguay however has that more modern, socialized Europe vibe going on. It’s super clean, it’s super organized and it feels super safe. Drugs are decriminalized and church and state are kept apart. The people are friendly.When you cross the street, cars actually stop and let you by. Without honking! In South America this is nothing short of a miracle. Basically Uruguay is the Canada to Argentina’s USA.

They Eat Ridiculous Amounts of Meat

Again, I didn’t think anywhere would top Argentina for this, but Uruguay did it. They are one of the highest consumers of red meat per capita in the world and it shows. The country’s national dish is asado, or barbequed meat and it’s not abnormal to just order up a big plate of assorted cow parts.

Even though by the end of the week I was desperately craving a salad, I must say that the meat in Uruguay is probably the best I’ve ever had, anywhere, in my entire life. Yum.

 There are Some Amazing Sunsets

I don’t really understand the science behind this, but despite Uruguay’s coast facing west, I captured some brilliant sunsets over the ocean.

  There are a Lot of Hippies

Maybe it’s some sort of cultural movement, maybe it has to do with the decriminalized marijuana (which you’d often catch a waft of walking down the street), but Uruguay is full of young, twenty-something hippies. The further up the coast of Uruguay you go the truer this gets, with seaside towns like Punta del Diable and Cabo Polonio as laid back hippy havens.

I thought I’d encountered a lot of white guys with dreadlocks in Montanita, but Uruguay introduced my to a new hairstyle I’d never even thought to dream of: The white guy, dreadlocked mullet. I didn’t get any pictures but I swear this is a real thing. A disturbingly popular thing.

They are the Mate Kings

I wrote about mate’s cultural ubiquitousness (link) and it’s even more true in Uruguay. People carry thermoses of hot water and their stylish mate cups everywhere. You could see them on the bus, behind the counter at work, even school kids on their lunch break sitting on the stoop sharing a mate. I honestly can’t think of any equivalent in US culture to the obsessive nature of mate drinking (on the flip side barely anyone smokes, so I guess it’s a good trade off).

So there are five things about Uruguay that make it great. There’s more, which I’ll be elaborating on in later posts, but the point is that this is a special country, unique in South America, and it should not be overlooked.


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31 thoughts on “Things You Didn’t Know About Uruguay”

  1. The author has done an excellent job of compiling a wide range of interesting and surprising facts, from Uruguay’s pioneering approach to democracy and social reform to its thriving wine industry and unique culinary traditions. The article is well-researched and engagingly written, making it a pleasure to read from start to finish. Overall, this piece is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to learn more about Uruguay and its many hidden gems, and it is sure to inspire a sense of appreciation for this small but mighty South American nation.

  2. Hi! I´m uruguayan and I´m so thankfull for the things that you wrote about Uruguay. It´s very nice to see that there are persons from diffrents part of the world that are interested in our little and unknowed country 🙂

  3. Hahaha the dreadlock mullet is also popular in Spain!! I traveled there last summer and saw it everywhere. After a while it doesn’t look that bad, I swear!

  4. Mr. Uruguayan Mate

    The “mate” we have here in Uruguay is more prevalent, less sugary (sugarless unless you want to spoil the gourd, or you feel like a granny, cause grannies tend to add sugar), hot always( as oppossed to paraguayan) and we use a different blend of “yerba mate” than the one in Argentina. Our blend ( grown in Brazil since we do not grow it) has a much more grinded aspect as oppossed to argentinian favoured blend.

    We here have a wide variety of blends and we all have our favourite, the main difference (taste buds aside) is the percentage of “mate” leaf in the blend.
    Mate is also an addiction in the sense that you may suffer from withdrawal if you are used to have it everyday and quit cold turkey.
    Mate has aside from its estimulant properties( similar to caffeine I guess) some laxative properties too.

    Mate is also a social trait in our culture, it is so prevalent in our society that we all from upper to lower economica stratta tend to like it. That been said some people just don´t like it at all …and that is all I have to say being an “addict” to it.

    It is very much fun to read how our country is viewed from a foreigner travelers´point of view. Thanks for writing such warm reviews.

  5. I have a warm place for uruguay in my heart. Been there many, many times, have close friends from the States who live there and have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the country. If anyone ever gets the chance, do go. My favorite route for getting in is the ferry from BA to Colonia and the guys at the thrifty rent-a-car there speak pretty good english and can hook you up with a great car… just get behind the wheel and drive, the very best way to see the country.

    1. the mate is a beverage(similar to the tea,but no same).Hot water,yerba mate,sugar(or without it) and a method of preparing the same.

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