Sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in South America – but it squeezes tons of natural beauty and rich culture into its borders! Uruguayans often take pride in being one of Latin America’s more culturally advanced and socially progressive nations, while the rolling plains and hills of their landscape make the perfect place for an adventure of a lifetime. Uruguayan culture is deeply connected to their land, with the gaucho (a cowboy-like figure) being held as a symbol of the country’s resilient independence, while delicious asados (barbecues) of beef and lamb create wonderful opportunities to bond with the locals!

People & Culture

Uruguay is a nation of immigrants and a considerable percentage of its population comes from Italy, Spain, and other European countries. Uruguayan people tend to be politically aware and socially conscious with progressive attitudes, and often place a large value on individualism and education. They can also be opinionated – it is common for Uruguayans to show their passion or enthusiasm for a topic by interrupting others mid-conversation!


You won’t go hungry in Uruguay, with main courses like asado (traditional barbecue) and chivito (a sandwich of sliced beef, mozzarella, ham, tomatoes, mayonnaise and olives) followed by delicious treats like churros with dulce de leche! Uruguay’s food is often focused on meat, especially beef, pork, chicken and lamb, so vegetarians, vegans and pescatarians may prefer a different host country.


Spanish is the main language of Uruguay, thanks to its colonial heritage. Uruguay shares a similar dialect to Argentina, known as Rioplatense Spanish after the Rio de la Plata Basin. This Spanish dialect is sometimes considered “Spanish with an Italian accent”! Indigenous languages like Quechua and Guaraní have also shaped the Uruguayan language.

Culture and Hobbies

Football is a passion in Uruguay, from watching local games and national matches to playing with friends at the park or in a local club. Dancing is another national pastime, with music like tango and candombe keeping everyone dancing until the early hours! Both tango and candombe developed from African roots, and both have been recognised by the UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Host Family

In Uruguayan culture, families are interwoven tightly together. The average Uruguayan family has one or two children. It’s common for families to have grandparents living with them at their home. Parents and children tend to have an open relationship in which they discuss their opinions and plans, and the parents usually have the final say. Uruguayan parents seem to always emphasize what their children don’t do, or what they do poorly. It’s somewhat normal for Uruguayan children to be lectured. This attitude doesn’t represent a lack of trust or respect. On the contrary, in Uruguayan culture, it is a sign of attention, and above all, affection and care. Parental decisions are respected and followed, and parents have the last word in family matters.

Uruguayan teens have very active social lives, meeting with friends after school and going out to eat, the cinema and dancing on weekends. Friends are around so often in fact, that teens seem to lack much privacy and may consider their friend’s property theirs as well. Most teenagers are a part of sports teams. In Argentinian culture, teenagers are expected to help their parents with chores around the house.

Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure

Go abroad with AFS to discover who you really are, make new lifetime friendships and immerse yourself in a fascinating intercultural experience.

In the months before your departure, AFSers have the opportunity to participate in various preparatory activities, including an online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to learn how to develop essential global skills, intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact. This journey will help you maximise your experience, cope with the challenges of navigating a new culture and community, and gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding throughout your time abroad and as you return to your home country. AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you and your host family the whole way through.

Explore the Programmes Available in Uruguay