I’ve been home for almost a month now, and Uruguay still lingers in my daily language, interactions, and food cravings. I didn’t think that six weeks in another country would impact me so much, but Uruguay’s unique and beautiful culture is hard to forget. I thought I would write about some of these cultural differences and “Uruguay things”. So here we go. Here are 10 signs that you recently visited Uruguay.
1. You crave Uruguayan food. (Ansias comida Uruguaya) Maybe you find yourself wandering through the pasta aisle of Walmart looking for ñoquis. Perhaps you Google nearby Italian restaurants because you’ve been craving calzones ever since your last dinner in Uruguay. Whatever it is, you’ve gotten so used to pastas, meats, and other Uruguayan foods that they’re the first thing that your stomach wants when it’s hungry.
2. Half of the money in your wallet is Uruguayan Pesos. (Una mitad de la plata en tu cartera es pesos Uruguayos) If you’re like me, you waited almost a month before you actually took your pesos out of your wallet. Every time you purchase something, you must dig through your mixture of American coins and Uruguayan pesos. Perhaps you’ve even jokingly asked if the cashier would take your foreign currency.
3. You experience dulce de leche withdrawals. (Experimentas el síndrome de abstinencia de dulce de leche) Dulce de leche is a gift from the heavens. It’s likely you consumed a lot of this caramel-like substance during your time in Uruguay. You would buy the treats from the bakery that were filled with dulce, and you always had a jar on hand to enjoy with your snacks. You undoubtedly stuffed a jar or two in your suitcase to bring home with you. If you’re like me, you finished one container and are nearing the end of your second (and final jar). It’s a sad feeling to limit your dulce de leche consumption, knowing you only have a small amount left. Soon enough, it’ll all be gone and you’ll really be lost.
4. Greetings and goodbyes feel weird. (Los saludos y las despedidas parecen extraño) Uruguayans have such a charming and loving way of saying hello and goodbye. They give people their full attention, greeting them with a big smile and a kiss on the cheek. Goodbyes are just as warm and friendly. Everything is so authentic and genuine. Leaving these greetings can be difficult. It feels uncomfortable returning to a country where people don’t greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. Now that you’re home, you feel rude approaching a group of people or leaving a group of friends without talking to each person personally. You fall in love with the Uruguayan way and it’s hard to go back.
5. Spanish phrases are a part of your vocabulary. (Las frases de español son una parte de tu vocabulario) I was at a concert last week with my mom, and this couple behind us volunteered to take our picture in front of the stage. As the husband handed the phone back to us, I had to stop myself from saying “Gracias. Qué lindo!” Little phrases like these come to mind before English phrases. It’s so easy to say things like “Hola”, “Cómo andan?”, “Nos vemos!”, and there’s a 100% chance that some of these phrases have spilled from your mouth while talking with your gringo friends.
6. You struggle to understand and speak “Traditional” Spanish. (Te cuestas aprender y hablar español “tradicional”) When I arrived at the Miami airport after my time in Uruguay, I heard a lot of Spanish. It felt so different to me. I had become so immersed in Uruguayan Spanish that anything else sounded foreign. It’s funny how six weeks of a language felt more natural than almost six years of learning it the more common way. Even now, as I study my Spanish or talk with another person, it’s a struggle to not pronounce my y’s and ll’s with a “sh” sound. Perhaps you are experiencing a similar thing. Adjusting is weird. It’s like you’re learning Spanish all over again.
7. You drink mate when you need caffeine. (Tomas mate cuando necesites caffeína) This one may not resonate with you as much because unlike me, you probably prefer coffee or tea. Nonetheless, mate is a great beverage to give you energy for those long morning shifts. Perhaps you find yourself sipping mate throughout the day. Maybe you bring it to the local coffee shop with you and ask the barista to fill your thermos with hot water. Chances are you brought a bombilla, mate, and some yerba home with you, and you are excited to share it with your friends and family.
8. You run on Uruguayan time. (Funcionas con tiempo Uruguayo) After spending time in South America, you really learned to be more relaxed with your time. You would casually show up late to things, and you’d spend hours with good friends. Coming back to a country guided by busy schedules and detailed planning may have seemed overwhelming at first, but you haven’t conformed to it completely. You feel more relaxed and casual with your time now. You’re in no rush to leave a restaurant after eating. You’d much rather sit there for a while in good company.
9. You find bus passes EVERYWHERE. (Encontras pases de autobús en todas partes) You open your wallet, and two or three bus passes fall out. You find them in your pockets. You find them stuffed in your backpack, purse, and suitcase. They’re everywhere, and to this day, you are still finding them.
10. Autocorrect changes English to Spanish. (Autocorrect cambia ingles a Spanish) Autocorrect changes your words. It takes simple words like “reunion” and adds an accent to the U. “Haha” becomes “jaja”. You didn’t even use that much Spanish on your phone, but somehow it knows. Somehow Spanish comes first.
Well, I would just like to thank you all for reading these fun little thoughts of mine. I love remembering my time in Uruguay, and I enjoy sharing pieces of the country with you. Also thank you for bearing with my incoherent thoughts and poor translations (some of these were awkward phrases to translate, in my defense!)
I would love to hear your thoughts on Uruguay. Perhaps you have recently returned from the country, and some of these things resonate with you. Or perhaps you have something else that you would add to your list. Whatever it is, I would love to hear it. And for those of you who have not been to Uruguay, I would love to hear about your own travel experiences and the thoughts you had upon returning home.
Have a great day!