Diana B lives in La Paloma in a house near the Beach with her husband and three sons. Find her facebook page Uruguay-Beaches.com for more great pics and information. Here she responds to a basic question in many of our minds as we consider moving to South America, “Why did you decide on Uruguay?”
Five Years Later – Then and Now
We moved to Uruguay in 2010. Given the economic climate in the US back in 2008, my husband wanted to move to a more economically stable country, so he started researching. A year later, we eventually chose Uruguay. Why?
- is pet-friendly. (Our sons refused to leave our beagles behind.)
- has had steady economic growth since its crisis in 2002.
- is disaster-free, no hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, or earthquakes.
- has a temperate climate. (my personal favorite)
- requires its beef to be grass-fed.
- properties were more economical for ocean-side living than in the States.
- offers free and reasonable college tuition.
In fact, the first painting I bought when I married 36 years ago was an ocean landscape. When we decided to settle in La Paloma, Rocha, Uruguay, I found a beach called Playa Anaconda that bears a striking resemblance to my painting. It seems that I have been manifesting that dream forever. I never thought about making it come true.
Overall, the country seems and is much healthier than the States. People ride their bikes here. Uruguayans don’t seem overly obsessed with eating, other than meat, and they seem to live a more natural, down-to-earth lifestyle.
There were unexpected benefits, things we found here that we had not expected including:
A Healthier Lifestyle
We did not live very healthy lives in the States. It was too convenient to drive through and pick up dinner or eat out. Although it is cheaper to eat out in Uruguay, a retired income doesn’t really allow for those habits, and honestly, there isn’t the variety of foods here as there is in the US. As a result, less than a year later, the boys had all lost more than 150 pounds among the three of them. They are so much happier now. They exercise more doing simple chores like riding their bikes to the store or spending some time on the beach.
Life at the Beach
La Paloma is a summer beach resort, so the town is always clean and landscaped with fresh flowers year-round. It has a steady influx of tourists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and numerous European countries, which makes for interesting multicultural encounters. This summer my sons met three Chilean pre-med students, and shared a beer with a Russian student here on holiday among others. I’m all about expanding knowledge and life experience.
I’ve always been an outdoor girl. I loved gardening, sports, and being around animals. In Texas where we lived, the most pleasant season was fall and one week in spring. I must have planted at least 30 strawberry plants throughout the years, but either a late snow or a windstorm always killed them. Here in Uruguay there are two growing seasons, so when I planted just five strawberry plants by the end of the first seasons I had 20 daughter plants. Yeah! I was a success. A hot summer on the coast is five days in a row of low 90s temps. Overall, I figure we have at least eight months of outdoor living, and that suits be just fine.
Yes, it’s been a pleasant surprise in many aspects, but I want to give you a balanced picture and share about the problems that we’ve faced as well.
Honestly, I thought we would be living in our own home by now, but I was hesitant to buy when we first got here. The houses we looked at were too small, had only one bath, and electrical wires rigged everywhere. The nicer ones were out of our price range. I’ve seen The Money Pit once too often to risk the plunge. (It’s a funny movie until it becomes your life.) Since then property prices have shot up with Uruguayans taking full advantage of the Argentinian economic crisis, so buying a home isn’t a smart move right now. It will be better when the bubble bursts though, so we’re waiting.
When we applied for residency, the boys were school age and required to attend Uruguayan school. That didn’t work out too well. They didn’t speak Spanish, two of them were shy, and one of them had had SPED (special needs) services in the States. There are no such services here. Fortunately, here in Uruguay, students are not required to attend 12 years if they wish to attend a trade school or simply drop out. Unfortunately, our residency has stalled and their transcripts have to be apostiled, translated by a certified translator here, and evaluated by the Uruguayan school authorities before they can be properly enrolled in a trade school or even receive credit for the year they spent in school. In the meantime, they are working on their high school diplomas from the States.
Mold and Winter Heating
We were “mold stupid” when we came here. It took us five winters before we finally figured out how to keep warm during the winter in Uruguay. Although it doesn’t freeze here, the humidity makes for some chilled-to-the-bone winters. That’s because the houses are mostly concrete and poorly insulated. Our present home has a fireplace, but my husband is asthmatic, so we don’t use it. Last year, we purchased three dehumidifiers and three propane heaters called estufas de gas. We used plastic over the drafty windows and finally, we were comfortable and for the first time none of us had winter colds.
Five years later
I believe we are all happier and better off than we were five years ago. I’d like to say that our lives in Uruguay are hunky-dory, but we still struggle with some things. I do know, however, that not all expats have the same experiences. Today two of my sons speak fluent Spanish. We rent a two-bedroom house less than two blocks from the beach. We have nice neighbors and the people are very nice and accepting of us. La Paloma is a beautiful little town with its clean air, a constant ocean breeze, and pristine beaches where flowers bloom year-round. We’re glad we moved.