When we travel to other countries we often do not want to look like foreigners. Sometime because we don’t want the locals to take advantage of our “gringo look” – which happens all around world. Sometimes we just want to keep a low profile. However, as the old saying says: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you want to be in tune with the local culture while travelling to Uruguay, check the following to ensure you will look like a true Uruguayan!
How to look like a local when you’re travelling to Uruguay?
– When you speak Spanish in Uruguay, be sure to use the word “ta” as much as you can. For a Uruguayan,“ta” means okay, but it can also mean stop or enough. For instance: ¿Vamos a la playa? Ta, dale. (Let’s go to the beach? Yeah, okay) ; Ta callate me tenés podrido (Enough keep quiet, I am fed up with you) ; Nos vemos de noche ¿Ta? (See you tonight, right?).
– Another word you should learn to use is “salado”. Apart from meaning salty, it can also be used to talk about something difficult or impressive, or just as a confirmation. For instance: El examen estuvo salado (The exam was difficult) ; ¡Qué calor! Si, salado (It’s hot! Yes, terribly) ; Francisco es un salado ; (Francisco has an impressive curriculum); La situación de Camila está salada (The situation of so-and-so is complicated). Use those words during your trip to Uruguay to sound like a true Uruguayan.
– Take a thermos and a mate with you every time you go out. It doesn’t matter if it is 30 degrees outside, if you have just eaten or if you prefer to keep your hands free to take pictures of your trip to Uruguay. They’re essential.
– Be offended when they think you are from Argentina. Even if you have a lot of Argentinian friends you love: to be truly Uruguayan you must still consider it as an insult.
– Convince yourself that Gardel, the famous tango singer, and the dulce de leche are 100% Uruguayan. The best meat in the world is from Uruguay too. If you do not believe that … You are not Uruguayan!
– During your trip to Uruguay, make sure you do not have dinner at 7:00 pm. Have a mate, cup of tea or a merienda. In Uruguay, dinner is between 9:00 pm and midnight: if you go to a restaurant earlier than that, it will be closed. You have been warned!
– Your weekly menu should always include there, milanesas (a sort of escalope), asado (a type of barbecue) and pasta with tomato sauce. You should put meat in your tomato sauce as well: do not forget, it takes meat to make a meal.
– Try not to shout or call too much attention to yourself during your trip to Uruguay. Uruguayans like to keep a low profile and do not like to be noticed.
– Uruguayan women don’t usually put a dress on to go out to dinner, the pub or even a club (called boliche in Uruguay). Uruguayan women have simple taste: jeans or black trousers (or shorts during the summer) and a tank top (called musculosa in Uruguay). If you really want to wear jewellery, you can, but it should be discreet.
– If you are a man, you are not going to seduce a Uruguayan girl by showing your awesome salsa skills on the dance floor. When Uruguayans go out, they don’t dance – this one of the differences between us and the other “latinos”!
– If someone praises you, pretend they didn’t and don’t revel in the compliment or any sort of flattery. Uruguayans hate to be envied, you must always look worse than you actually are. Some examples of answers that will be useful to you during your trip to Uruguay: ¡Pero hace años que lo tengo! (I have been wearing it for years!) ; Me lo regalaron (They gave it to me) ; ¡Lo encontré en liquidación, tan barato que no vas a poder creer! (I bought it at a clearance sale, so cheap you would not believe!)
– If you see someone who doesn’t respect the former and is being insultingly happy (and besides he probably has a new car or house…) say something like: Este seguro que jodió a alguien (he must have ripped someone off); En algo raro debe andar (he must be mixed up in something); Lo habrá acomodado algún político (surely he knows some politicians).
If you are going out with a group of Uruguayans, check the newspaper quickly before and think of 3 or 4 subjects to complain about. If you do not have time, complain about the weather: heat is never a good thing in Uruguay. Nor is the Cold. Nor the Rain. No, rain even worse.
– Choose a team between Peñarol and Nacional, then become a passionate fan of one of them (but you have to hate the other one as much as you can). Remember that SPORT is FOOTBALL. Other sports are less important or just a pass-time.
– Luis Suárez is sacred. This guy came from a low-income household and became one of the most important football players in the world but remained very humble. Do not even think about mentioning his “biting habit”.
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In any case, the best part of travelling is being a part of different cultures and learning to accept our differences and quirks with a little bit of humor. It does not truly matter if you have a mate and a thermos or not, Uruguay is a very welcoming country and its inhabitants are very nice with their visitors. We love to hear about everyone’s origins and to share stories about the different peculiarities that exist in every country.
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By Carina Fossati, Uruguayan, journalist and author of Hills to Heels / Translated to English by: Grégory Noël