I lived for 3 months in Uruguay: this is my experience

Ale (Alessandro, my boyfriend) comes from Uruguay. He now lives with me (Laura) in Switzerland but Ale grew up in Montevideo where he has all his family. In December 2017, we were living in Barranquilla, Colombia. We were about to launch a restaurant project when a problem arose. The Chef made a terrible event and we had to fire him. At that time it was impossible to find another Chef, this is why we decided to go to Uruguay.

Why Uruguay?

It is in Uruguay that we decide to launch Alau. This small country between Argentina and Brazil is very developed and it follows the global trends. For example, we found a lot more designer markets in Uruguay than in Switzerland. We met quite a lot of strangers who decided to move to Uruguay and who were delighted with this mix of European and latino lifestyle.

Uruguayan people

Most of Uruguayan people are very similar to you and me. I mean that a large part of the population is white. I see more black people, Asian people or Arabic people in Geneva than in Montevideo. It comes from the massive immigration from Spain and Italy after the Second World War. Even Swiss people migrated to Uruguay and Argentina in the 1920s when there was absolutely nothing in Switzerland. Nowadays, there are still some Swiss colonies in Uruguay with some chalets and fondue restaurants. Uruguay is even called the “Switzerland of South America” because it is quiet. Uruguayan people are very nice and kind. They are a mix between Italian and Spanish people. They really look alike and share similar traditions.

A typical house in Cabo Polonio

A small restaurant on the Atlantic coast

The mate with the thermos

5 key facts about Uruguay

  • There is only 3 million inhabitants
  • A large part of the population has immigrated from Italy and Spain
  • The capital city is Montevideo
  • Uruguayan people drink a lot of mate
  • Uruguayan people love meat, they eat asados (barbecue) once a week

 

The food and the mate

Uruguayan people eat a lot of meat. Even if I am not very carnivorous, I have to admit that meat in Uruguay is excellent. They cook it on an asado, a barbecue with wood, for at least one hour. The meat takes the wood flavour and remains juicy because it is cooked at a low temperature for a long time. A lot of Italian descendants live in Uruguay, fresh pasta and pizza are very popular too. Uruguayan people eat at the same time as Spanish people, very late. They eat dinner at 11 pm just before going to bed. At 8 pm they have their “cafe con leche” which is a coffee with milk and some pastries. Uruguayan people drink all day long mate. It is a kind of tea in a specific pot with a straw. It is a very sociable beverage. Students share it at university and families go to la rambla (the coast) to drink mate together with bizcochos (pastries).

A real Uruguayan Asado

My grandmother drinking mate

The countryside

Uruguay has a long coast on the Atlantic ocean. It starts from Punta del Este until el Chuy at the border with Brazil. It is full of large sand beaches. The coast is very popular for holidays. A lot of Brazilians and Argentinians come in January (the summer in the southern hemisphere) to Punta del Este. This small city is comparable to Saint Tropez in Europe, there are a lot of boutiques, luxury houses, fiestas and nice beaches. A little north of Punta del Este, Cabo Polonio is very different. It is much more ecolo, bobo and trendy because there is no electricity. The only way to access the village is with an SUV truck. Houses are very expensive in this atypical village. The country is mostly flat, perfect for growing cows.  

A love story in Uruguay

When I met Ale, I was living 6 months in Buenos Aires. I was in Argentina for an exchange program with my university. Just before my exams, I was a bit tired and I decided to go to Uruguay for a few days. I was alone and I wanted to visit Punta del Este during the winter because there is no one. After taking the boat crossing el Rio de la Plata (a really large river between Uruguay and Argentina), I got to Colonia. While I was in the bus to Punta del Este I felt released thanks to the countryside and the cows. In fact, Buenos Aires is an amazing city but very chaotic and full of people. I had forgotten how good it was to see nature. After the feeling of soothness, I went out to visit Punta del Este. I was walking along the coast when I saw a car with 3 surfboards on the car roof. 3 guys were drinking mate (Uruguayan tea) after their surf session. I was wearing a long scarf because it was quite cold. One of the guy comes to me and tells me that I have a nice scarf, this guy was Ale. 2 years later we went back to Punta del Este to launch Alau, our fashion love story project.

On the way to the beach

This is on a beach in Piriapolis