Just a couple of days into my new life as an expat in Uruguay, I was having lunch on the patio of a restaurant in Punta del Este. I had ordered by pointing to an item on the menu that I imagined was a large Italian-style salad… Ten minutes later, however, the waiter set a large glass serving bowl of sliced beets in front of me.
“Okay,” I thought to myself, “time to get serious about learning Spanish…”
Knowing Spanish in Uruguay has helped me to learn about Uruguay’s culture. For example, Uruguay has more social formalities than in the U.S. Linguistically they maintain the formal form of “you” and familiar forms of “you” for friends and family.
People usually don’t greet strangers on the street. If one does approach a stranger, say, to ask street directions, they will first indicate they have a question to ask, or request a consultation before stating the question.
At the same time, once a relationship develops, such as becoming a regular customer, neighbor, or friend, Uruguayans are very warm. They stand close together, touch a lot, and greet their friends and coworkers with a kiss on the cheek.
I know enough Spanish to get by and have several bilingual friends. However, I am discovering a new drive to push forward in my Spanish studies, for the interesting people and situations I have ahead of me in this precious little country called Uruguay.
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