Uruguay factoids

Squinting at coffee packages in the supermarket the other day triggered this train of thought.


  • Unless you look very hard for otherwise, the coffee you buy in a supermarket will have sugar in it (“glaseado”)
  • cuts of beef are at right angles to what northerners expect
  • It is almost impossible to buy a long-handled shovel (“you can buy a regular shovel, remove the handle, and put a long handle on it” – yes, I was actually told this)
  • A vehicle with automatic transmission is considered a luxury and taxed higher (in one instance, a mechanic refused to drive a customer’s car onto the rack in the shop because he “didn’t know how to drive an automatic.”)
  • (For North American drivers) Right on red can get you an expensive ticket (I just added to Wikipedia that right on red is not allowed in UY 😉
  • If you take driving school in Uruguay, you will not be told:
    • you should stay in lanes / that lanes have any significance (seriously)
    • what distance to maintain between vehicles
    • after passing, that you should wait until you can see the car in your mirror before pulling back into the lane
  • If Uruguayans say they lived in the United States, you can almost never go wrong by asking “New Jersey or Rhode Island?”
  • If you miss Uruguay in the United States, go to Elizabeth, New Jersey
  • If Uruguayans say they’ve recently been to the United States, you can almost never go wrong by asking “How was the weather in Orlando?”

Feel free to add to the list. I expect I will.

18 comments

  1. Syd says:

    Add to your driving that nobody will explain who has the right of way in a round-about, or anything about how you should drive in or out of one. Also, what the driver should do at PARE and CEDA EL PASO signs.

    • Doug says:

      Almost daily I drive with right-of-way past yield signs (Ruta 11, Pinares), and always with hand on the horn, ready to blast it, and frequently having to. I have had an instance or two where the other driver belatedly realizes he has done something wrong. An instance. Or two.

  2. Paul says:

    Mentality in Uruguay is “manana” (tomorrow), it’s o.k., but they don’t tell you “which year” tomorrow.

    Because drivers don’t know how to use an indicator (means what is right or left, because the switch
    is only going up and down), they don’t use it at all, or they switch on the ALARM and leave it to you.

    Riding on bikes (motos) in Uruguay is without a limit for persons. The average you will see is ,
    2to3 adults and 3to4 kids – same time, on same bike. No helmets, no security, but full speed.

    If you like it quiet in Uruguay, pick your walks or shopping early morning, you will be alone. Nothing
    happens before 10.00am or 11.00am. Montevideo is “dead” before 11.00am. Never plan relaxing
    on weekends, whole UY-population is working on weekends, switching on all machinery they’ve got.
    We love it, we are retired and can pick the right time – 2 days work and 5 days weekend.

    The favorite color in Uruguay is “mold” (a mix of different greys up to deep black). You will see it everywhere,
    in- and outside houses, even in hospitals and clinics!!! The moldy smell must be loved like a perfume.

    Preferred restaurant opening hours:
    Summertime – 01.00pm-04.00pm for lunch, 09.00pm-01.00am for diner.
    Wintertime – Closed !

    Closing the gap and back to your coffee with sugar. Everything is over sweetened , sugar everywhere.
    The worsted thing is dulce de leche in kilo bars ! Healthy ??
    Therefore is , BY URUGAYAN LAW, salt banned from restaurant tables, because of the health risk.
    Of course you can order it separate.

    Should we go on ?????

    • Doug says:

      Have I by any chance struck a nerve here?

      One of my neighbors is German, and having lived in Germany, I know about ruhetag [rest day: no gratuitous noise allowed], so I always think of it on Sunday, which is the day of the week it finally occurs to me to do some noisy yardwork.

      Living in town, this time of year it’s pleasant to sit outside and wind down with a glass of wine while it’s still light, but the day is cooling off. Which is exactly when the gardeners arrive at all the neighbors’ houses, cranking up their whining and smoking weed-eaters.

      Good point about getting things done in the morning. Especially when the people renting the house next door have been partying until 5 AM. I suddenly remember that I need to cut up some oversized firewood. With the chain saw. Before 9 AM.

      • Paul says:

        “” A “” nerve ??
        No, my friend – ALL nerves !!
        And if you read good, we have a 5-day-weekend here.
        You know my motto : “Uruguay – love it or leave it !”.

    • Patrick McDonnell says:

      When visiting restaurants nowadays, I take a carrier bag containing my preferred condiments with me and deploy them on the table. I was asked for a borrow of them by 4 other customers when last I visited The American Bar in Valdense. 🙂

      From the Montevideo’s State Nannies… Lord deliver us.

  3. Savyra says:

    Okay the bad driving in South Africa is the stuff of legend. But it’s a different *kind* of bad driving. Had thought of riding a motorbike in Uruguay when we get there but maybe not, hey? Defensive driving at a whole new level. :O
    But UY still sounds like a lot of fun. Hugely enjoying your blog.

    • Doug says:

      You will find extremely few motorcycles in Uruguay over 250 cc. I can’t recall right now exactly why, but trying to ride a 250 cc bike on a highway with buses blasting by with no regard to safety is, I’m told, a hair-raising experience. In a city environment. car drivers treat motorbikes with their characteristic oblivion. Apparently it’s gotten better, but a few years ago I almost never drove to Montevideo without passing one or two incidents of police car, stopped car, motorcycle on its side, perhaps ambulance. That was after the Chinese introduced cheap consumer credit to sell motorbikes, and before the gubmint decided that maybe these people buying them — many of whom grew up with no expectation of ever driving — should have at least cursory training in how trafic works.

  4. ufn says:

    Your are right, I am uruguayan and have uncles and cousins living in Elizabeth, New Jersey. And yes, many people here take their children to Disneyland or whatever in Orlando. And no, everybody knows what to do in a rond about and everybody knows that you must use only one lane. This is the book that you must read and study before your driving license exam;http://www.imsj.gub.uy/portal15/images/stories/pdfs/manualdelconductor.pdf
    All the questions in the exam are answered in this book.

    • Doug says:

      I actually did read that from cover to cover when I thought I was going to have to take a driver’s exam. While I generally concur with respect to roundabouts, staying in lanes (and honoring Yield signs, as Syd points out) remain completely alien concepts. I’ll dig into my dash cam footage and start collecting examples.

  5. Patrick McDonnell says:

    I live in Colonia and being Colonia, we have a different set of rules of the road to MVD. Because I’m a pensioner, I have to retake driving tests more frequently than younger residents and when I retook the test a week ago, I noticed that the two former methods of undertaking left hand turns (the rural version where you pull off on the right hand side of the road, wait until the road is clear and dash across and the urban version where you pull into a mid-road position, wait for a break in the oncoming traffic and dart across) have been scrapped and we are now expected to do the urban version only. IMV its a bit of a shame that nobody seems to have told existing drivers about this change. 🙂

    • Doug says:

      Good information. I recall Syd telling me about someone running into him from behind because he was making a “city” left turn on Ruta 11 — which is the interior, seeing as anything on the inland side of the Interbalnearia is interior. “You shouldn’t be stopped there, so it’s OK to run into you.”

      Other friends were turning left into their driveway, left blinker on, on a small Atlántida dirt street, when someone on a motorbike decided to go around them, on the left of course, and ran into the side of the car.

  6. Syd says:

    “….And no, everybody knows what to do in a rond about and everybody knows that you must use only one lane. This is the book that you must read and study before your driving license.” – Sorry, I can find little supportive evidence in far too many drivers.

  7. Nanci says:

    What drives me crazy is that everything has additives. I can occasionally find juice that’s 100% juice, but that’s the exception, not the rule. And yogurt either has sugar or artificial sweetener, no “plain” unsweetened yogurt that you could use like we use sour cream in the states. Grrr!

  8. Doug says:

    Nanci, I don’t think there’s any expectation of “natural” in manufactured products anywhere. I have witnessed one comercial yogurt going from being “real” to adulterated since we’ve been here – 5 years+. Still, you can start your own yogurt from even commercial bullshit yogurt. Every generation is cleaner. That’s what we do.

    I may some time soon do a trip to the Brazil border, at which point I will observe with interest the availability of fresh tropical fruit. Odd that is has no market beyond the border in Uruguay. Es lo que hay: Acceptance of mediocrity.

  9. Syd says:

    Actually, ´twasn´t me that got rear-ended, but a German woman driving a friend´s truck. The truck was in plain sight, with left turn signal on, and the car that rammed had more than enough time to avoid the hit (on the right) or even to stop completely, but, of course, chose the option of ramming into the truck. In the aftermath, the driver demanded compensation for his car which was ruined by hitting the truck. He didn´t get it, but I don´t think the owner of the truck ever got compensated either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *