Multicultural Social Network for English Speakers in Uruguay to Celebrate 5th Anniversary

By - 27 November, 2010

Uruguay often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In reality this isn’t too surprising; it only has a population of around 3.5 million, less than 1/10th of Argentina’s population, it has very few natural resources which are desired by the global market, and as a tourist destination it has great beaches, national parks and a strong culture, but which are all over-shadowed by the beaches of Brazil, the varied landscapes of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina and both Brazilian and Argentinian culture which have received international popularity for many generations. Yet it’s a great place to visit, or even live, and thankfully more and more people are finding this out for themselves. These people even get a helping hand as a group of English-speakers in Montevideo has been bringing expats together for some time now.

“The Montevideo English Speaking Expat Meeting” was formed in November 2005. On November 21st, the Group will be celebrating it’s Fifth Anniversary of meeting for lunch every single Sunday without fail since 2005!

The group was the brainchild of Glen Roberts, who had moved to Uruguay a few months earlier from Costa Rica. He had started the website, TotalUruguay.com just before he moved. However, the website was just that–a website. It lacked the human element … so Roberts decided to bring out the human side by announcing a time and place for people to meet. The weekly meeting has since grown into a multinational, multicultural social networking event and social support group.

It started with only North Americans, but soon included other English-speaking foreigners, as well as local Uruguayans. The locals attend in order to enhance their English-speaking skills because it is hard to find native speakers to converse with. They also contribute their in-depth knowledge of the area and the rich history of their Uruguayan culture. Today the group is truly international. There is hardly a Sunday that goes by without people from three or four different countries attending.

Luncheons are strictly social with no business agenda. If you’re a world traveler, you most likely have already been to those groups where the entire purpose is to give you a sales pitch on this or that. Not much fun and often not very useful either.

Yet people in this group have found jobs, social support, business contacts, and romantic partners there without all that hype. The wide range of backgrounds, experiences, cultures and dreams of attendees always keeps things interesting. Like the website TotalUruguay.com there is no mailing list or sales agenda, however many notes with phone numbers, web pages and other information exchange hands.

Unlike many of the international relocation web sites or groups, this meeting takes no position on the benefits of moving to Uruguay. It is simply a social environment for people to share their experiences and information.

The allure of Uruguay hasn’t been just for baby boomers and others those looking to retire, but also for others who are high tech telecommuters who can chose to live anyplace that suits them.

One of the informal group’s attendees, Pete remarked, “When people like us, all over the world, find themselves in a position to travel or even emigrate to a new country, we’re met with a host of surprising changes. Sometimes those changes can be brutal.”

In a new country there is a great difference between the culture you know and the new culture you’re immersed in. The assimilation can be confusing and frustrating at times. What if you could be in a totally new place and still connect with people who are pretty close to you in a whole lot of surprising ways? That is exactly what TotalUruguay.com brought to life five years ago in Uruguay!

Think about a Social Networking Site with Real People! Put the human element back into social networking! How about one that even comes with Real Food?! Not just any food, but very delicious gourmet fare at reasonable prices? Facebook on steroids, right?

So, you sit down with a bunch of strangers and within moments discover they have become instant friends. You begin to find out all about the way they do things here. Not just how things are done, but a peek at the different experiences and perspectives of others that have already done what you want to do. The perspectives of a fellow traveler. Also input from Uruguayans who will openly share their ideas with you as a friend.

You learn differences in the legal system, how much cars cost, how to get residency, housing, and lots of other neat stuff. And the people you meet? If you need specific help to find some products or services, there is bound to be someone that can help you or give you a good referral.

Well let’s see, from world travelers just touching down for a week or two, to retirees seeking safe harbor, to college age young people in search of Samba and Tango… you bump into them all. At one meeting or another, most all cultural, religious and economic backgrounds have been present openly sharing. And lots more.

Ask someone at the meeting, “Where are you from?” You will most likely stump them! No one knows if you’re asking, where were you born? Where did you live last? Where do you live now? Or, What travels brought you to Uruguay? Often the complete answer is a long interesting commentary on ones life, all the different places they’ve lived, and a peek at the experiences there and why they’re thinking about Uruguay.

One couple stopped by while picking up supplies on the way back to the tropics after a skiing trip in the pristine mountains of Chile. Another rather lost but friendly fellow said, “My company transferred me here. I’ve never heard of the place, and I don’t speak Spanish at all.” Many people come here to retire because of the mild climate, great beaches, and beautiful surroundings.

No two weekends are the same. One native English speaker, living in Uruguay and speaking only Castellano for 9 years, said that after his first visit with the group he realized that he really did need to get back in touch with his native language. Europeans come by to share things on a number of topics. Asians, Africans and other South Americans often attend the meetings as well.

If you visit, you are guaranteed to feel like a friend among friends, whether you are Uruguayan or a total newcomer. There are normally 15 to 25 people in attendance, but there have been as many as 45 at a single luncheon. There is no RSVP or registration so each meeting comes as a surprise to all the attendees.

One regular attendee, Karin, told us, “I love the Sunday lunches! It is a great opportunity to get up to date with friends and meet new friends! And the food is delicious!”

So when you are in Montevideo, stop by, any Sunday around 12:00 Noon at Fellini’s Restaurant (corner of Benito Blanco and Jose Marti streets), in the Pocitos neighborhood of Montevideo. Fellini’s is a cozy Italian restaurant with a great dessert menu and wine selection. Please refer to our website for a map and any updates.


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