Posts Tagged ‘not working’

If you spend any time in Latin America, you will find that things happen with a bizarre, backwards-zero-sum lack of logic that makes your head spin. Part of understanding this has to do with understanding the Viveza Criolla and its influence on the way the people think.

The Viveza Criolla, also shortened to “Vivo” is a behavioral phenomenon in Spanish-speaking, Latin-based cultures, whereby an individual tries to screw someone else over before his victim has a chance to do the same to the perpetrator. They brush off the guilt by saying, “Si no robo yo, robará otro (If I don’t steal from you, someone else will),” as if you should thank them for the privilege of being robbed by someone you know!

It is their way of forcing a zero-sum outcome to snag it away from the other guy before he even has a chance. It has become a way that society rigs outcomes in favor of schemers and shysters, and punishes the honest. It is to blame for the tiring plague of ingrained lack of trust, the penchant for socialist nonsense, and the laziness, lack of work ethic, and disdain for self-starters and those who wish to excel.

There is no literal translation for Viveza Criolla that fits, and the best a local has ever come up with to explain it to me is to describe it as a “Wiseguy” mentality. Some describe it as “artful lying.”

The term Vivo can be used as a noun for the act itself, or as the formal title of its perpetrator. The Vivo is viewed by its winner as, well, a way to get ahead. The Vivo is viewed by bystanders as a “good for him,” one-up street cred for the winner. The Vivo is seen by the loser as a part of life, and a learning opportunity not to be repeated (so he is more apt to pull the Vivo on someone else before the Vivo is pulled on him).

The Vivo, when caught, is a sort of wink-wink-nudge-nudge situation that is treated with an “oh, haha, you got me!” attitude, whereby both the victim and bystanders are expected to catch it first; if they fail to counter-Vivo, they are expected to take blame for losing because they were not sharp enough to see it coming. It is a bizarre backhanded outsourcing of responsibility.

Regardless of the result, the dynamic of the Viveza Criolla places more importance on getting away with the heist, than the actual fruits of the labor.

In the Vivo game mechanic, the instigator of the Vivo has nothing to lose, and is, in fact, strangely one-upped for being caught (you charming devil)! The loser, if he catches it, is also one-upped for catching the instigator. However if the instigator does not get caught, he is one-upped while the loser is one-downed. Heads I win, Tails you lose. It is, quite literally, nonzero game mechanics turned inside out.

And no, the bystanders will not necessarily warn the victim of his impending fall to the Vivo, for it is his responsibility and his alone to see it. After the fact, oh yes, they will all come by and say “Oh, yeah, we knew about that but we didn’t want to seem nosy.” Which flies in the face of Latino culture because they are the most inherently gossipy bunch of people I have ever encountered.

If the victim is lucky, someone might pull him aside and say something like, “Ojo, es muy vivo ese (Watch out, that guy is very untrustworthy).”

The Viveza Criolla is a negative, destructive cancer upon the social and economic fabric of Latin America, and one of the reasons the region cannot seem to pull head from ass and get its act together. It is the reason why Latin Americans do not trust each other, and, as the Peruvians are apt to say, “Your own hand cannot even trust what the other one is doing.” It is the reason for short-term profit taking with complete disregard to future business prospects, and lack of customer service.

This trust issue is not just between buyer and seller; it can happen with any agreement, from simply getting together for lunch, to major property deals, to selling a car, to employing someone, etc. To keep it elementary I will just describe the parties as “buyer” and “seller.”

Often times the seller, after making an agreement, will pull the Vivo and actually sabotage the deal, thinking that he is getting undercut somehow by the buyer, after they have already settled on the details of the deal. Thus, when some are negotiating prices (for real estate in particular), the seller jumps the gun on the Vivo, thinking he can get a better deal because “hey, there’s interest shown in this thing, that means I am not asking enough!” Counteroffers then come back to the buyer higher than the original asking price!

Often times the seller will simply kill the deal because he gets too nervous, thinking that smooth sailing means the worst, and that he will get really screwed in the end. It’s almost as if they cannot contemplate a square deal at all.

Sometimes the buyer, despite wanting what it is that he is after, will sabotage the deal after the fact because he thinks that it is too good to be true. Or something about the seller makes him question the quality of the merchandise. Both parties will analyze and re-analyze every little interaction until they have made themselves paranoid. This is why there is no such thing as customer service in Latin America. You are expected to deal with it if the seller fails to provide, because after all, it is your responsibility if you got stuck with the wrong end of the Vivo.

Another aspect which the Vivo invades is employment and contracted relationships. The roundabout Vivo thinking will invade the mind so much that if a mistake is made, the party at fault will feel the need to blame the wronged party and create extra drama around the whole situation whereby the one at fault will attempt to shift the blame and make themselves appear the victim. “I am being exploited! How dare you demand I show up at 9 and work until 5?! How dare you hold me accountable when I say I will be here tomorrow and I don’t show up until next week!”

Thieves, when caught, will become angry and try to turn the situation around, claiming “faltándole el respeto,” that you are disrespecting them, as if they deserve any.

The Vivo thinking is a source of much of the “Mañanismo” (tomorrowism) that has killed the work ethic, since it provides an excuse for them not to do anything. Why, they will be exploited for sure– better to screw the boss over first, before he can exploit the workers!

It’s very hard to explain, and I have tried my best, but there it is. You will encounter it if you venture into Latin America, so watch for it; maybe you can see it coming, maneuver it to your advantage, and get Vivo street cred for cutting it off at the pass.

Special thanks to BeelzeBob for helping me to understand 🙂


PS. The book is at 85 pages and counting…

Ahhhh, when one thinks that one is done with something in Uruguay, just when you think you can finally relax, one is always slapped in the face by the turds of slothful, knuckledragging mouthbreathers from the shallow end of the gene pool.

I present to you another chapter of the Neverending Story of Uruguay that I thought I had left last year.

MexicanBob’s family has been living at the old beach house for months. They have been very good at paying the bills and keeping up with things there. Up to, and including, the payment of various and sundry bills and utilities including the alarm.

Not that this is any of my concern, as the house is no longer mine, BUT, it’s in Uruguay, where things are never done, never finished, and never correct. In communist Uruguay, house lives on YOU! What a country!

So, because the tenants were paying the alarm bill, which was previously never automatically debited from my credit card as it was requested many many times to the point where I gave up trying years ago, suddenly the alarm company decided that it would charge the year’s bill automatically (to the tune of nearly USD$600.00). This is after MexicanBob paid the bill in cash.

I saw the charge on my bank statement and inquired about the situation. Seems it was double-paid and I never should have been charged. Bless their hearts, the MexicanBobs been attempting to rectify the situation. So they went in and explained what happened. “No problem,” said the alarm company, “we will set up a credit refund and it will show up in his account in a few days.”

So a few days pass and no refund. MexicanBob goes in again. “No problem,” said the alarm company, “semana que viene (next week NOOOOOO NOT SEMANA QUE VIENE PLEASE NOT SEMANA QUE VIENE those words are the fucking curse of curses!!!) it should show up. If it does not, please let us know.”

So a few more days pass, and a week, and no credit shows up in my bank account. Que sorpresa!!!!!!!!!

MexicanBob goes in again, to find out what is going on. Nobody at the alarm company seems to recall any requests for a refund. At this point, MexicanBob goes postal.

“No problem,” says the alarm company, “We will issue a check for the refund. It will come in from Montevideo in a few days.”

MexicanBob, knowing the score, asked them a pertinent question: “How will you know what name to put on the check?” to which AlarmBob responded, “Oh, they send us a blank check and then we write your name on it.” MexicanBob smelled bullshit but left without murdering anyone. A blank check for $600 is going to arrive ANYWHERE near where it is meant to be sent? HA! HAHAHHAAAAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA  HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA! The concept fills me with mirth. As you can see.

Days later, MexicanBob actually received a phone call, notifying him that the check had arrived. He asked them what name was on the check, and AlarmBob said it was in the name of WifeBob. To which MexicanBob goes postal again, as he has no way of cashing or depositing said check, and WifeBob will probably never return to Uruguay unless it is to sign the bulldozing orders for the beach house.

To date, the refund issue remains unresolved. And it began months ago.

Further notes…

Said alarm company called MexicanBob to inquire if everything was OK because the alarm was going off, only that it was not; it was going off at the neighbor’s house. “Isn’t this (neighbor’s house)?” asked the alarm technician…

“No, it is not.” Lord help the neighbors if they ever have a break-in.

Then the MexicanBobs had another scheduled technical visit from the alarm company, whose truck arrived at the neighbor’s house. MexicanBob went over to explain to them that they were in the wrong place. “Oh, it says here in the GPS system that it is attached to (neighbor’s house).”

“No, it is not.”

Keep in mind that it has always been a separate structure on a separate lot and since its construction years ago, we have been using the same alarm company and only now is it somehow magically listed as attached to another structure.

Gee, I am so glad I decided to leave that dreadful place so I wouldn’t have to deal with the native morons anymore!

Seriously, no wonder Punta Del Este gets robbed bare every single year at Christmastime. If this is how the security companies really operate, when you are on top of them daily?


About 3 weeks ago I received a call from a representative from our home insurance company in Uruguay, with information about the upcoming expiration of our homeowners policy and how to deal with the bill payment. As I had wanted to find a new, different agency, but had run out of time, I simply let it slide and decided to renew it. So I explained that I am leaving within 48 hours and have no time to deal with running around doing bank deposits, so can I do it online,? The lady said yes, gave me the account number, and her email, etc. so here I thought I would be slick and technology-oriented and do the transfer online and have it done without needing to drive to the bank, like the way it is done in the rest of the world.


The bank deposit went without a hitch, I made a PDF of the transfer receipt, sent it via email to her, received no bounce message, so I assumed it was done. However, you must do everyone else’s job for them in Uruguay, even if you are not in Uruguay, so I called her today, 3 weeks later, to verify that the funds were properly received and credited. No sign of anything from her end. No checking of email, nothing. So of course she says she must search her records and call me back, so she takes my number and I know I will not hear from her until… never.

I am beginning to think that Uruguay cannot cope with technology and only understands grunts, simple hand signals, and pieces of paper with stamps and foil seals.

Meanwhile… is my house insured? Nobody seems to know. If a tree falls our your house in Uruguay and nobody is there to insure it, does it still make a sound?

Uruguayans return to find: expensive country, and little work.

Original article here on El Pais. Thanks to Beelzebob for the link. Awful translation by yours truly with help from The Google.

Gustavo came to stay, but only for seven months in Uruguay. Claudia took a year because she could not afford to buy a ticket to return to Canada. Returnees say they arrived with “false expectations,” and many decide to leave.

“The reality slaps me. Wakes me from this patriotic dream that I had. What was I thinking when I? (…) Today it starts all over again, my second migration (…) Uruguay has perfect sunsets on the Rambla, and then you have a barbecue with friends, mates, the stars of Cabo Polonio, it can be an enjoyable vacation.” This is one of the messages posted on her blog; it summarizes the feelings of many Uruguayans who returned to the country from abroad and clashed with a reality that was not what they expected.

They say that the consulates lied because the country is not better, as they were assured. “What has improved? You might find a job but you have to work three jobs to pay the rent, bills and eat” says Claudia, who lived in Canada for ten years and then came to Uruguay, where she says she is “just surviving “.

“As survival here is appalling, I am making plans to leave,” she says.

Claudia works in a mall, earns $10,000 (USD$500 per month), lives in a “horrible” pension apartment because, she says, it is all she can afford on her salary. She regrets that she made the decision to return. “This is not my country, my country is Canada that gave me everything and opened my doors. Uruguay gave me nothing,” she says with absolute coldness.

The housing and wages are the two major difficulties faced by returnees who come to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “For income, the Housing Ministry will ask for a deposit of $60,000 and that your balance is above who knows how many thousands of dollars. It’s Ridiculous,” says Claudia.

Gustavo spent seven months in Uruguay, after living eight years in Spain, and was able to rent an apartment from a former neighbor. “As I lived in that building for my whole life and the owner knew me, I was able to rent it, but it did not meet any of the standards that the State promised me,” he says.

Gustavo returned to Uruguay in January. He left Barcelona because he said his country was “very nice and very good to work in.”

“Then I found everything horrible. Aggressive people, dirty city, a lot of crime, and all expensive. It’s a very expensive country to live in. Food in Barcelona is half cost. You take 50 euros ($ 1,300) to the store and you leave with the car full, “says Gustavo.

His contact with the State was asking for help with housing. And the answer was the same that Claudia received. <the following untranslatable due to some weird bureaucratic Uruguayan thing which makes my brain derail, something about the Montevideo Intendencia and possibly an inheritance?>

“In the Administration, I was told that if the estate had no money, my wife should put a notice in the newspaper offering to work. That was all the advice,” he says.

The inheritance did not last long and the only job he got was as a watchman in a building, which received $ 11,000, less than he needed to pay his rent. Gustavo does not regret having returned to the country. “What happened to us was something we had to do to see for ourselves, and unfortunately Uruguay is lacking in many things. We arrived in late July, and we are here today, installed with all the things necessary for life,” he says.

ORGANIZATIONS. Organizations or groups returned to the country say they have made progress but are missing a lot because Uruguay has no return policy. “There is goodwill but that is not enough. The only place that does anything is the Foreign Ministry, which basically solves emergencies” commented the organization “Retornados a Montevideo” which represents 700 people.

The organizations recognize that the advice we must give today to the Uruguayans abroad is, “if you do not have jobs and money to afford safe housing, do not come.”

“From what we can see, most are leaving; and as many turn to go, because the advice we have to give, some people are angry because they don’t want to hear that in this country”, they say.


“It’s hard to leave but harder to be back in Uruguay, I spent five months and still have no job”


“Whoever says that Uruguay is well, lies; work there does not offer salaries to live”


“This is not my country, my country is Canada that gave me everything. Uruguay did not give me anything”

Web retornados

“Today begins my second migration without the pebble in the shoe to look back and think of Uruguay”


“Living in Uruguay is very expensive. The city is unsafe, dirty and full of aggressive people. I found another country”


“Outside we used to get the basics covered very quickly and with less work”


The capital that saved him


He went to the U.S. with his wife in 2000 and returned to Uruguay eleven years later because he could never get their papers. “I could bring savings and the car, so I took another way to get here,” says William. He bought shares in a cooperative ambulances and so far works there. His wife, however, has no job. The member of the organization “Volviendo al Uruguay” recognizes that if he got his papers he would go back. “Two months ago my daughter told me ‘you never told me why you came here, I miss everyone`. It killed me. ”

Seven fateful months


After spending seven months in Uruguay and returning to Barcelona in July, Gustavo Lopez says he is newly installed in the motherland. “I have my apartment with all my stuff,” he says and claims that the “boom” of Uruguay is a terrible crisis for any European. “Now we are in crisis and I am now as I was before I left,” he says. He insists that Uruguay is a very expensive country to live and that following their experience contacted dozens of people wanting to emigrate again.

El País Digital

Cedula schmedula

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Life, Stupidity
Tags: , , , ,

Went in today to get my new cedula. It was uneventful and we got it done in 15 minutes. ImmigrationBob was there to help but didn’t need to do any fanagling to get things moving. There wasn’t a line of 5 bazillion people here like in Montevideo. The lady behind the desk was surprised I spoke Spanish. “Why? I’ve been living here for 5 years.”

“Yeah, but you’d be surprised the people who come through here who have lived here for a long time and don’t understand a word,” she said. Wow. Things are tough enough here when you can read and speak the local lingo; I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who doesn’t.

ImmigrationBob and I chat about the various hoops people now have to jump through to get their passports, and how the rules are always changing. It’s absurd the stuff they make you do now.

In other news, the new gardener showed up yesterday, not today like he was supposed to, interrupting my work building a staircase in the hillside out of bricks. Then they promptly went about weedwhacking my hops vines and digging up my bed of leeks in the garden. WifeBob gets on my case about being negative about it. I suppose I should be thankful that they have destroyed my plants? I make up my mind to just not plant anything I care about anymore.


I wake to the alarm. Not ours. Someone else’s. Close-by. It isn’t the neighbors to the south; we called that one in yesterday, because it had been going nonstop for 48 hours. Maybe it’s the neighbors to the north, whose alarm sounds every time it rains, or the power goes out, which is every day. I wake, at 2am. Then again at 2:15. 2:30, 2:45, 3am, and so on and so forth. Until I finally reach the point where the need to sleep outweighs the discomfort of the getting out of bed, I haul myself up, shut the windows and turn on the air conditioner to try and drown out the racket.

It’s really a charming place.

…except for the daily power outages.

…and the internet grinding to a halt repeatedly.

…the internet I pay US$200 per month for, for the fastest available connection.

But it’s really a charming place.

…where the property management company doesn’t manage the property.

…where the yard guy they said they hired, but really didn’t hire, never showed up and never mowed the lawn for months.

…whereby every creature in the surrounding area moved in and burrowed holes into our once golf-course-like lawn.

But it’s really a charming place.

…where the new gardener is trying to extort us with a US$250/month rate to mow our lawn and keep the weeds to a minimum.

…where we are still waiting for a replacement screen and a replacement mechanism to open our (new) warranteed windows that were promised more than 6 months ago and never delivered.

…where the gun shop guy conveniently lost 200 empty ammunition casings for my antique rifle, along with the dies to reload them, when I told him I didn’t want to spend USD$1200 to reload them at $6 per shot.

…that’s after the 9 months it took them to give me an estimate for the reloading.

But it’s really a charming place.

…where 400 grams of potato chips now cost you USD$6.00 and a chicken now costs you US$10 when before it was less than half that.

…where a pound of cheese now costs US$10.

…where it costs you a thousand dollars per month to keep your house heated to a minimum level of comfort but still at 99% humidity.

…where the new air conditioners you installed last year don’t work this year.

…where the technician you call to come fix them says he will be there later today but then never shows up, leaving you putting off your plans for no reason.

…where you have to sand and repaint everything metal outside because the morons who painted it last year used interior latex paint so it all rusted to hell.

…where you consider yourself lucky to only have a few meters of mold coverage in your house because you were vigilant in military fashion to keep it eradicated.

…where your friends and yourself are constantly being sued or dropkicked by the government or fined or the recipient of theft or extortion or other miscellaneous scumbaggery for no particular reason other than that we are viewed as ATM machines with arms, legs, gullible faces, and a foreign accent.

…where your friend is mugged right in front of the Conrad casino by a motorcycle thug, purse snatched, and by some miracle the morons took only the money and the sim card (!?) from her phone.

…where the President applauds his subjects for enforcing the tenets of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution and “securing” your goods for their cause.

I could go on, but Uruguay is just such a charming place.