21 reasons for Uruguay, or 8 why it’s not all that?

A follower of our Uruguay Expat Life page on Facebook asked me to comment on this Global Post article 8 reasons Uruguay’s not all that; as a counterpoint to the Buzzfeed 21 reasons to move to Uruguay one that went viral last month.

Other than that he was kind of setting up the strawman fallacy, with that “in light of the Buzzfeed”, because I never said I really liked that Buzzfeed. I don’t. The Buzzfeed piece was a snarky silly goof article on unimportant stuff, because, Buzzfeed. I made fun of it at the time in various places, on some networks shared it much like a “Mujica smoking out in sandals” goof. Lisa and I shared it, but for fun. The articles shared about ratings on peace, freedom, economic stability, the Economist country of the year, the Economist’s good but not top level rank on countries likely to have protests – sure, serious discussions. But that Buzzfeed 21 reasons most involving pot, sandals, and what’s ol’ Tio Pepe growing out on his flower farm? But this Global post article is nearly as bogus non-serious as that. Or if the author of it, currently living in Uruguay, is, I have to say, “Surely you can’t be serious” about some of his complaint. Not all, but, the Post Office lines? Using this picture as argument?

A bunch of packages, 3 people, and actually nobody waiting in line.
Post offices everywhere. This one happens to be in Uruguay. That’s your argument?

I actually agree with much of this Global Post piece. But it, itself, is also a bit of a strawman fallacy. Which is why I don’t like all of it, but it’s a good “Whiny part-BS article” counterpoint to “Silly part-BS article”.

I don’t love Uruguay because of the Mujica hype or the legalization. I don’t really do that, and if I did –  I had been living both in Colorado and Washington State in the US in recent years, so if I wanted pot-haven, I’d be chillin’ in Breckenridge or toking in Tacoma.

Uruguay bureaucracy isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be by Global Post bloggy whiner Will Carless. If you are in the process of residency, yes, you need to get a Permisso de Reingresso “permission to reenter” that means you are not giving up your “I’m becoming a resident” status. BFD. It’s not a big problem, and you can get several at once (no quantity discount). If you expect to go to BsAs 4 or 10 times per year, buy a few. They sped up the number system at Migraciones on Missiones (a few blocks down the hill from the busy cross street Rincon) in Ciudad Vieja, and once you’re in the door, they call out of line anyone there just for a Permisso and process them separately.

As a counterpoint, if we’re talking about bureaucracy or not at Immigration: Starting to be a resident is ridiculously hassle-free compared to elsewhere. You show up as a tourist (with no fee, no reciprocity payment, no visa) and by day 180, you waltz in with some, but no need to be all, of the requirements ready, and say in essence “I want to stay” – and they like it if you already have bought or leased property and have a permanent place to live before you even asked to live here!

Hell, if you overstayed the first 90 days and didn’t go get the 1-time-per-visit 90-day renewal, but still waltz in by day 180, they don’t even charge you the “multa” (penalty) for not leaving on time. They can, but I have it on eyewitness authority (my eyes, and no not me) that at least sometimes they don’t. So let’s not beat up on Migraciones that much.

Much of the rest of the GP article – yes, I agree. Tell somebody you don’t eat meat (my wife, Uruguay Expat Life co-owner Lisa Mercer, who just might have been on Day 172) and they offer pork or ham. Buy a pre-made vegetable lasagna, complete with ham. Ask for a chicken chivito, ham comes with it. Sometimes inside the breaded chicken milenesa. Spices aren’t spicy.

On the other hand, I am enjoying the free fast upgrade to Fiber optic internet at about 7 times my DSL speed. On my dirt road beach town street. From the government fixed-lines monopoly wireless semi-monopoly. With total telecom charges about only 60%, maybe even less, than what that total package would cost from the corporatocracy cabal of the US telcos.

The lack of online payments. Paying at Redpagos or Abitab, or mutualista medical society membership also right in the checkout line of the supermarket? Yeah, weird, different, not wrong. I could pay Antel (telco), OSE (water), UTE (electric) right from my bank account and control that via ATM or online, though there is a lot of paperwork to set it up. So half-an-issue not the full whine of the GP author. I can have Asociación mutualista directly debit my Visa or Mastercard debit card, including my USA credit union, if I want.

Garbage strikes? In one region, in 2010? Gimme a break, buddy, you ever live in NYC? Granted, Uruguay is a bit like USA pre-first-Earth Day, 1968, in terms of dog-poop-not-picking-up and littering. But slowly getting better, and there are nice big, German for efficiency!, new plastic dumpsters, plus increasing numbers of recycle bins in gathering spots and near supermarkets. Even one now right down at the corner by the bus stop. The bus to not-all-that-dirty Montevideo.

Weather? Only stupid people think “It’s in South America, so it’s South, so it’s always warm.” Granted with the low quality and decreasing knowledge and skills of USA public school students, that may be a lot of people. Maybe the Uruguayan public education system is bad, but the US hodgepodge and religious-fundy science-denier-influenced system is exceptional only in being pitiful for a “great” nation. Plus, Anglophone expats judging the all-in-Spanish (but with mandatory English nowadays as a foreign language, I believe) Uruguayan system? You’re working from a position void of cultural respect and likely ignorance, and full of cultural superiority elitism. Just because “trailing spouse and elementary school kids” may well be best off with kids in a private school because a native Uruguayan school might not prepare the kids for life back in USA, Australia, England, doesn’t mean that it is bad for the Uruguayan family.

Plus as to public schools, “You ever live in NYC buddy?” If you aren’t lucky enough to get your kids into PS87 on the Upper West Side and then into Stuyvesant down near Battery Park City in near the WTC, or one of a few others both safe and educationally acceptable public schools, you’re paying for private school if you don’t want a undereducated, and maybe raped and stabbed, kid. In the “greatest country on earth, ‘Murrica”.

I’ve ranted at length about the “Like for Like fallacy” – you’re in another country. Why do you NEED to buy the exact same brand – of soft drink, of TV, of blue jeans, of phone, of car, of stroller. We have other choices here, other places to buy, smart substitutions, ferias, local merchants with home-made, home-baked, home-canned goods. If you need a Coke, do you really need “Coke”? 2 liter Coca-Cola is 72 pesos, about 3.50 in dollars. It was 2 dollars in Tacoma Washington and 1.90 in Dillon Colorado, in 2011. Probably 2.50 now. But the tasty 2.5 liter Uruguayan brand, Uruguayan company,  profits stay in Uruguay Serrana cola in my fridge was 38 pesos.

MSI, EnergySistem, Olidata PCs and tablets at not as horribly high markups. Bought one Olidata PC here, with all the baked-in IVA/duties, ok price, cheaper than US brands, works fine. Bought an Acer for our home office in the States in October, a bit cheaper, but add tax, shipping. Acer owns 29% of Olidata anyhow. All made in China by contract manufacturers. Probably in the same factories as the other Acer, next to the Dells and Toshibas and Apples being made in China. There are no “US brands” anyhow. Big deal. How often do you buy PCs.  Minor adjustments to your basket of goods and services can get you a good life here for less than the USA for an equivalent life (NOT EQUAL IN ALL THINGS INCLUDING BRANDS AND CHOICES).

I’m paying, in the third year of our lease, still under 500 dollars a month except when the peso drops way down to around 19 to the dollar, for a modest casita that is still a far better living space in a nicer safer area than $900 gets you in much of the USA. Relatively recent datapoints in the Greater Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, and Colorado areas, with having lived there, Florida and California with family, and friends who keep telling me to move to Iowa or Spokane. Geez. I’m three blocks from the beach and in “let’s go into major fun city” range,  for less money, and I feel as safe or safer than I felt in any of those places. Safer than in the cheap US places people push.

This Global Post article gives good counterbalance to the Buzzfeed BS. But it has its own exaggeration, spin, and Like-for-Like bias and expat arrogance in the same measure as the Buzzfeed hipster smoker attitude. Both are true, both are false, both are hype, both are factual, depending on perspective.

I’m really starting to get tired of the bullshit about the bureaucracy down here. Not the bureaucracy itself – the bullshit tired old expat whining.  Because I haven’t seen it from Migraciones, Registro Civil, MRREE, OSE, UTE, ANTEL. Different way of doing things, yes. Different pace of life, yes, But “terrible inefficient bureaucracy”, no way.  Plus, “You ever live in NYC, buddy?”

Except BROU – Banco República. “Terrible inefficient bureaucracy” is a compliment. But I’ve written about that before in one of our highest-viewed posts. Worse bank I’ve ever dealt with, worse than Citibank in the 1970s in the US with the “screw you if you don’t have 50,000 USD in the bank and our ATMs hate you too”. Though that does describe almost perfectly part of the problem with BROU. But not all. And it’s the only bank that US citizens can use anymore. Nobody else will take us.

But that’s Obama’s fault. (Really – FATCA and its implementation rules are on his watch, his Treasury Department.)

Stop the Uruguay hype? Absolutely. The pot and sandals stuff is embarrassing and is not the point of living here. But stop the expat whining too.

Published by

Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at http://about.me/MarkMercer. I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at https://google.com/+MarkMercer

10 thoughts on “21 reasons for Uruguay, or 8 why it’s not all that?”

  1. Very moderate response to the two blurbs that are so typical of what tries to pass as journalism nowadays.

  2. Thanks for the article! I wonder why some people move to other places and expect them to be the same as their old place. If you want the same, stay where you are. Saludos!

  3. I appreciate your addressing the whining nature of that GP article, but would suggest, regarding the bureaucracy complaints, that you compare what the locals say about “their” bureaucracy: they think it’s absolutely ridiculous. I think they’re right. When family members recently went to the States—including my son, closing in on FOUR YEARS waiting to get an answer on permanent residence (so inefficient that we had to have all papers re-notarized since they had expired, rotting in the Ministry of the Interior—we went to the airport office of migración to get the Permiso de Reingreso. Took about ten minutes, a little bit of which involved a mini-lecture about how we should have gotten it downtown (but they’d make an exception). Yes, I should have spent four hours accomplishing something I could do in ten minutes. That—locals will agree—is how much of Uruguay works. Take a number, stand around, watch hours pass by: they’re used to their time having little value. We northerners aren’t.

    But it gets better, my little airport story: as you know, the PdR from Migración gets printed on a very fancy little piece of paper…except when I’ve gotten them before at the airport; there they were printed on plain paper. This time, at the airport, it was on the fancy paper. So they’re fully prepared to issue Permisos de Reingreso at the airport (no line), with proper fancy paper, yet they now insist they’re doing me a favor?

    1. Emri, You raise a great point about also looking at what the local people feel about an issue and it coincides with the Ugly Americans’ POV who are maybe not so ugly in this regard after all. And further, if a local or foreigner has a time AND cost saving way to improve something then lets focus the spotlight on the beneficiaries of the policy: a power-aggrandizing bureaucracy that impoverishes more people than it gives paychecks for the soul-destroying work of a few.

      1. Great point. Let’s make it better. Of course, we can have some *fun with it* while doing so, right? Have to do something while waiting in line…

    2. I can appreciate that “doing you a favor” nonsense, you are absolutely right. But I think that’s “power-tripping functionaries with little real power” everywhere. I used to fly a lot, as in well over 100,000 miles per year across various airlines. United Airlines’ motto should be “one-time exception”. Even when I wasn’t an elite status member from lots of flying, you know how many times I heard “one-time-exception” from the petty bureaucrats of that major USA business?

      Now let’s talk about the New Jersey DMV. Or the New York DMV. Or if you want to deal with the supposed “Uruguayan”-only “take a number over here, then wait over there, then take another number”, I could tell you recent stories about getting a copy of a marriage certificate, in person, from the NYC Marriage Bureau office on Williams Street in Manhattan, because I just did only 3 months ago.

      Granted, that’s because the one a year earlier I sent for “Legalization” to the UY consulate in NYC in August 2012 got returned to my family in Florida (where my legal US address is and they handle my US mail), they then did what UY asked (some minor thing) and sent it back, and by the time it got to Uruguay’s consulate in NYC again, or at least when they got around to opening it, it was Oct 14, 2012 – the day they joined the Hague Convention on Apostile, so that USA docs did not get Legalized in the issuing country anymore.

      So they sent it back. They could have still Legalized it, they knew they had requested me to return it to them. But they didn’t.

      I waited another year until I was going back to the States, got one in person. Uruguayan-like bureacracy in NYC. Amazingly, the New York State SecState office a few blocks away was a breeze to Apostile it. But first, under US and NY State law, I had to go to the New York County clerk, because New York State does not recognize New York City officials as valid State Officials, but does recognize New York County.

      For those who don’t know NYC. New York COUNTY is a subdivision OF New York City! Not the other way around.

      That was USA-bureaucracy far worse overall than anything I’ve seen in Uruguay. Of course, the need for me to do it was CAUSED by Uruguay…

      But kinda makes my “You ever live in NYC, buddy?” point. This crap is everywhere. Whining about “Uruguay is so bureaucratic” as if that is so different from most other countries, is unfair.

  4. We arrived in Uy two days ago on our first visit and spent much of yesterday doing the ATM shuffle. Before leaving, we advised Wells Fargo that we will be using the debit/credit card and they assured us there would be no problem. After calling the bank yesterday, they continue to be oblivious to the banking situation in Uy. To say that we are not fond of banks is an understatement so the BROU run around and Santander shuffle were not a surprise. We were told we would have to go to the airport to use our card, an unpleasant prospect. Fortunately the staff at our hotel, The CrystalPalace suggested that we try the ATM at the casino down the street. Our first attempt yielded 5k pesos! I assume that it behooves the casino to facilitate gamblers access to their money! I thought that we had no use for casinos; how wrong I was. Fortunately we expected super slow machinations of everything, but the prospect of being cashless in a foreign land really rattled us.

    A years research has led us to UY, inb our quest to escape the USACORP fascist boot and the nanny state in general. Our dream is to buy a chacra where we can live a simple life raising most of our own food, free from the pressure to consume and incur debt.(judgement for not keeping upw/ the Jonses) We are both fluent in Spanish and appreciative of other cultures and look forward to our Uy experience.
    I would also like to point out the increasing manifestations of the third world nature of the USA. Upon renewing passports at the post office we were told that the passport person would not be in that day and to come back the next day, and that we could get our photographs at the Rite Aid. There we were told that the camera person was not in and, yes, to come back tomorrow.(so the store manager cannot operate a camera). The devolution of our Homeland is most distressing but intractable. Once one realizes that we are already living in a third world country, a move to Uy is not a step down.

    Thank you for this website and we look forward to meeting others and learning the ropes of life in Uy.
    Cuedense, Josh

Comments are closed.