Family Matters

Posted on April 22, 2007
Filed Under Culture | 4 Comments

Children with KiteUruguay is a family-oriented country where family bonds extend much wider and deeper than what is common in North America. Even though most families have few children (2.04 on average), the extended family includes distant cousins and is augmented by neighbors and childhood friends that are often treated essentially as members of the immediate family.

Due to economic conditions and because of the family-oriented culture prevalent in Uruguay, it is common to see grown children, parents and sometimes grandparents living in the same residence (average of 3.94 persons per household vs 2.59 for the US). Actually more than 50% of the homes have four or more people and 17% six or more. Children will typically live with their parents until they get married or until they are well established in their careers. Since unemployment is high and salaries low among the young, moving out is often delayed into the late twenties, or later. That’s why it is so common to see three, four and even five bedroom apartments in Montevideo, something that is rare in North America.

As a result of the close family ties, there is a stronger involvement of the family in the decisions young adults make. So it is common for parents to meddle in the private lives of adult children. Boyfriends and girlfriends have to be adept at charming the whole family in order to have a chance. This constant interaction with a large extended family ends up generating strong rules of behavior so everybody can live in relative harmony. Like everywhere else, from early on there is a constant training on how to properly greet people, how to interact and to entertain, what is polite and what is not, what is acceptable and what is rude. The difference is that in Uruguay this process continues until you are in your late twenties and never really ends. So the rules are much more uniformly followed by everyone.

Maybe because of this, making new acquaintances is easy in Uruguay. Not much effort is needed. The habitual politeness and the customary friendliness towards strangers make it simple to meet people. However transforming an acquaintance into a permanent friend is more difficult. The truth is almost everybody will already have more friends and relatives than they have time for, and family comes first!

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4 Responses to “Family Matters”

  1. la vieja on April 23rd, 2007 10:37 am

    Well explained as usual, Brazzie. The family structure, inclusion of children (young and adult)in the social setting, and the maintenance of family ties is, to my mind, the single greatest selling point of Uruguayan society. It is precisely what is so visibly lacking in the urban US and, INMHO, one of the major factors in the crime rate and lack of education in 2007 America. Indeed ‘Family’ First (including life long friendships and more distant relatives!)

  2. Ant on April 25th, 2007 4:08 pm

    Hi Brazzie… I finally landed in UY this week after a *LONG* 50 hour journey. and this is something that I was pleasantly surprised with people here. They are Extremely friendly and are always ready with a ‘hola’ even for total strangers. So far so good :)

  3. Brazzie on April 25th, 2007 4:15 pm

    Great to hear you are there. Now you need two days of solid sleep.

  4. Shirley on May 2nd, 2007 11:44 am

    I was having a conversation with a Urugayan about our respective familes. I mentioned that my brother has four daughters, and he politely asked, “Oh, is your brother religious?” (meaning that in Uruguay, having such a “large” family is usually associated with certain religious beliefs and customs, which in turn is the exception rather than the rule) Volumes of insight into Uruguayan (and US) culture in that one brief exchange!