Living and Retiring in Uruguay 2016
by Linda Wilson
Before we came to Uruguay, we heard all about the “low” prices here. That’s not true any more.
We live frugally on around $2000 a month (that’s for two people). However, the truth about things like small appliances (food processors, blenders, etc.) is that they are about the same price as in the states. But they ARE available here! Since electrical power is 240 and not 110, I tried using power converters that ended up not working properly and burned out four different small electrical items! I replaced those appliances with others that I purchased here.
We found out that large appliances were a bit cheaper here than in the states — washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove. Those are brands that are available here — either made in China or Argentina or Brazil (brand names like James, Whirlpool)
The catch to the appliance situation is that if you are looking to purchase the same brands you had in the states, you will pay dearly to do so — if you can find them. I’ve heard expats talking about how they can’t find this or that item and then complain about how expensive it is here when they do.
Lifestyle Adaptation Issues
If you are a “regular person” (meaning you are not coming because you have barrels of money to retire on), then when you move to another country it must already be with the understanding that you are also choosing to adjust your lifestyle to another place.
It is foolish for people to consider relocating without understanding that no matter which country outside the USA you move to, you will have to make adjustments. Some will be bigger than others. And some will be huge! Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Prepare your family — this is a great adventure.
For example, your new country may not offer your particular peanut butter. If this is a crisis for you, then maybe you should consider the fact that most Latin countries may not have your favorite brands of anything for the same price as the USA because they have to pay import taxes. However, many of those USA things are available –just more expensive.
Consequently, since I have a thing for peanut butter, I make my own in my blender or with my hand blender. Easy recipe – add roasted peanuts you can buy here, add salt to taste, add sunflower oil little by little and grind to your creamy-chunky level of satisfaction. Ahhh what a delight! I swear peanut butter is a food of the gods!
If you want food that is labeled “organic”, the price will be nearly the same as the states in some cases. But if you find a place that sells fruits and vegetables where the owner is conscientious about not using pesticides in the garden, you will find the quality terrific and the food not covered with poisonous stuff. Food tastes better here!
As in the states, it is a bureaucratic nightmare to get a small farmer certified as organic here in Uruguay too. In Punta del Este there is a great little organic farmer’s market every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. next to the Cantegril Club.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if a person chooses to move to a foreign country they must remember it’s called “foreign” for a reason: it’s not a copy of the United States, nor is the food, nor are the things that are available. So if there is something you cannot live without, think about it before you move to your chosen country, and take it with you! Or go live in the country for six months before you move your entire life to it. See if you can stand — no, a better wording — accept the life of that particular place.
With all the angst about the way governments operate, and the desire to “flee the evil”, it might be good to remember that corruption is a matter of degrees — because it exists everywhere! Check how the country where you are going operates, and then make an educated, intelligent decision. Okay — you know that.
A Question of Communication
Some expats who are here in Uruguay seem astounded at the “adjustments” they’ve had to make. A large number of them only speak enough Spanish to go shopping a bit or ask where the bathroom is. Certainly they do not speak enough to get to know anyone here as a friend! Go figure.
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We find some of the prices here high — gasoline is high — so we drive a small car. We also drive a small car because cars don’t seem to loose their value. The $7,000 we set aside to buy a used car here in Uruguay would have bought a really decent one in the states — here we got to buy a lovely car — but smaller and more expensive than we had planned.
Rent prices are terrible – (average seems to be $1000/mo. for 800 sq.ft), but we ended up in an 800+sq.ft. house that is a lovely little thing– 2 bedroom, 1 bath, living, and kitchen/dining are for $575 a month. This came about because a new Uruguayan “acquaintance” told us about it.
Is Social Security Sufficient?
Because our Social Security doesn’t provide us the kind of life we want to live in Uruguay, I decided to un-retire and go back to work full-time doing something I love — teaching. I don’t have to teach here, but since it is more expensive to live in Uruguay than we had thought, and since this is absolutely one of the most wonderful places I’ve lived in my life, I’m willing to change the plans I had.
As a result during all vacation times — paid vacations due to my new job — or any other time we’re invited to do something special, or to travel, I decided to change my plans and go back to working at something I love anyway, and not have to worry about having the funds to do so!
Between the time we made the decision in the States, and the time we arrived in Uruguay, prices had jumped considerably. We decided to give it two years, which has expanded to three now since we love it here, and I will have a super job!
I’m not reading about Uruguay being such a cheap place to live anymore, thank goodness. We live more reasonable because we choose to shop in some of the lesser known (to expats) areas where the Uruguayans shop because the prices are considerably cheaper.
But I can speak basic Spanish (more or less) and I always attempt to build relationships wherever I go. Therefore, my new Uruguayan acquaintances are happy to share their contacts with me.
We have satellite, cable TV, direct TV, high-speed internet and access to Netflix, Amazon Prime and movie theaters. Personally we don’t have a TV because we didn’t want one right now. We do watch a movie now and then by way of computer. But the question is always how good is the service?
Those who live along the coastal areas are fortunate because tourism pushes certain services to be better there. We have decent service though not the best. Some can get very fast service because they have access to fiber optic installation. The best suggestion is to ask before you buy or rent. (key word being “before”). You will want to buy a printer here because you can’t get cartridges for the stateside printers. Most computers will work on 110-240 so you don’t have to worry about it.
When I get tired of hearing (or reading on forums for expats) how the prices are high, the quality is low, all you can find are things made in China, things break more easily, etc., etc., etc., — I say — “adapt or go home.” I rarely say that because it sounds so rude. But the truth of the matter is this: Are you moving to a new country so you can spend all your time focusing on what you don’t like? Are you going to live in this new place and spend all your emotional energy on the negative aspects of everything?
Yes, the magazines and travel brochures paint beautiful pictures of living near a white sand beach and having maids doing your bidding (if you have the money), and enjoying the sun and surf. Do your homework. You can’t blame them if your “paradise” turns out to be not quite so like paradise!
Then again, it wouldn’t look too appealing if travel magazines were to say how bad some things are or that you might have a heck of a time finding a decent rental for a decent price, or a car, etc. now would it?
PS – after all we read, and after all we studied, and after moving here and finding out all we have discovered — both positive and negative — Uruguay has not disappointed me in any way. We absolutely love it here.
Maybe you would too!
Linda Wilson came to Uruguay a year ago from Michigan. She also has lived in Brazil, is fluent in Portuguese and now learning Spanish. Linda had some teaching experience before coming to Uruguay.