I have always been amazed by the way an environment and its people change the minute you cross a national border. Crossing into Uruguay from Argentina is no exception.
Uruguay and its people are very distinctive and dramatically different than their neighbors in Argentina (and, I suppose, even more different than their Brazilian neighbors). I’ve often observed how some nations that are considered regionally ‘dominant’ are often more ego-centric than their smaller and less dominant neighbors who are often more subtle, more open, and less ego-centric.
As a Canadian, I notice this difference with the more dominant United States as our neighbor. We are accustomed to being overshadowed, ignored or bypassed by major global responsibilities, events, or outcomes. Our media, our businesses, and our government is constantly under siege from the larger and more powerful forces down south. Yet the result is usually a blessing. We have the good fortune of not being in a position to tell others what to do.
A similar relationship can be seen with Australia (dominant) and New Zealand (less dominant, smaller population, less ‘weight’ on the world stage and less economic force). In my opinion, from an outsider’s perspective the culture of the lesser dominant neighbor is much more appealing; the people tend to be friendlier and harbor less of the close-minded center of the world syndrome that plagues dominant cultures with large populations who are accustomed to pushing others around or “leading by force”. While I don’t see Ozzies as being “pushy” by any means (I have great Australian friends), the Kiwis are just different… nice, polite, easy going, funny.
I believe a similar parallel exists between Argentina and Uruguay. Uruguay being tiny in relation to Argentina, the Uruguayos come across more open and friendly, and, dare I say it? Happier. Hmmm… happier. There’s an observation. Let’s face it, living among happy people makes it easier to be happy yourself. Well, for me anyway, Uruguay felt lighter, more easy going, and as a tourist, I felt more welcome.
Uruguay’s banks and property market have the benefit of being a safe haven for Argentinians and Brazilians to store their capital. There’s a lot to be said when you trust your neighbor’s government more than your own. The implications of this are far reaching and beyond the scope of this article, but let’s just say that Uruguay has managed to maintain a high standard of living, a relatively stable and self-sufficient economy, and a stay out of other people’s business attitude that is very refreshing. Pinned between the two largest economies in the region, Uruguay maintains its independence and need not choose sides to protect its interests.
Rumors that the recently elected leftish government in Uruguay might change all this remains to be seen, but Uruguay deserves top marks as an easy place for expats to feel welcome, and when you are choosing a new place to live, feeling welcome is what matters most. Thanks for a great time Uruguay, I’ll be back.
View the Slide Show below from Punta Del Este, Uruguay, or click here for a larger version.