5 ways to become a Uruguayan
Updated: May 8, 2020
I'm a first generation American. My mother was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and immigrated to the states in the 80s. Being Uruguayan has always been a huge part of my identity and I grew up experiencing much of the culture. My most recent visit this past February brought me even closer to that part of my life. If you're planing a trip to this beautiful country here are a couple tips to help you fit in!
Mate is a traditional Uruguayan caffeine infused drink. It is prepared by steeping dried yerba mate leaves in hot water and served with a metal straw (bombilla). Typically the cup is a hollow calabash gourd that is shared among the people drinking it. Similar to a tea, sugar can be added but a majority drink it without (mate amargo).
Mate is consumed on the beach, at the toblado during carnaval, and even at soccer games. If you're a fan of tea, try mate out you’ll feel like a true uruguayan.
Eat from a Parilla
Think of a barbeque/brick oven combination and that’s a parrilla. Typically designed with a hearth (bottom of the grill) that allows hardwood to be burned to embers. The embers are pushed beneath the cooking surface which heats up the different type of meat (steak, chorizo, morsilla). Uruguay is one of the top 5 beef producing countries in the world. It is a country where the number of cattle outnumber the people almost 4 to 1.
Uruguay is also the only country in the world with a completely computerized system, which means you know exactly where their meat comes from and how it was raised. With prices so low, there’s no question to why it is the main course of every meal. If you're headed to Uruguay make sure you check out a typical uruguayan parrilla, your taste buds will thank us!
Dale Besos a todos
Like many other South American and European cultures, kissing someone's cheek is a greeting as well as a sign of respect (especially when visiting family). Even if there’s 20 people, it’s expected for you to greet every single one of them. Being hispanic I always knew this, but this was atypical for Madison. She slowly became accustomed to it and actually enjoyed it because it creates a sense of comfort between people.
WhatsApp is a very popular messaging app in South America. It allows you to call, message and video chat among international numbers for free. So if you're traveling to South America we recommend downloading it. It is good for anywhere you travel, especially if you do not have phone service. You can communicate with anyone around the world through your wifi connection. If you're staying at airbnbs or have to communicate with people in the area this is the best way to go about, this way you don’t have to worry about international calling codes or messaging people with different types of phones (iOS v.s Androids).
Eat torta fritas when it’s raining
Oh how i love eating torta fritas! Similar to a flattened round biscuits, these are crunchy pastries sometimes topped with powdered sugar or dulce de leche. It has been a custom to make and eat them as an afternoon snack when it’s raining outside alongside mate. You can find them at fairs or markets. Even if it’s not raining try these delicious treats out!
Go to the Toblado during Carnaval
Carnival is a festival that takes place every year for 40 days from mid January to late February. Similar to other Carnaval celebrations you can find drummers, dancers, and singers all dressed up in beautiful and colorful costumes. The biggest carnival celebrations are located in Montevideo in tablados, which are shows put on at different sports clubs around the city or the more famous teatro de verano (summer theater). At these stages you’ll experience singers, drummers, dancers, and comedians all putting on an amazing show. Every February the llamas parade takes place, showcasing different murgas groups (performance groups playing candombe drums, dancing and sometimes singing). If you happen to be visiting during this time check out a toblado. Tickets are relatively cheap and you’re sure to be entertained even if you don’t understand the language.