Chinese and Korean control almost all the shops and restaurants in Asunción.
"In Paraguay, there is no way to withdraw money from an ATM without the local bank retaining the equivalent of just over $6. It’s impossible to bypass: even with a Citibank card, at the one Citibank ATM at a remote, suburban location, you still get charged. Paraguay is the only truly bilingual country in America, a place where ninety percent of the population speaks both the language of the Spanish explorers and that of the Guarani natives. Jopara is a creole of the two, and incomprehensible to those who only speak Spanish. Following colonization, the language of the colonizers prevailed almost everywhere, and it is a definite rarity that here the foreigners adopted the language of the locals. The presidential palace in Asuncion overlooks a dirt-poor city of tin roofs. Thanks to German immigrants, even cheap Paraguayan beers are absolutely fine.
There can be few countries in the world where smuggling plays such an important role in the national economy as in Paraguay. Today, the situation is one degree more orderly than in the eighties and nineties, but the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este, located on the Argentine-Brazilian triple border, basically exists to facilitate smuggling. All sorts of electronic items are much cheaper in Paraguay than in the two big neighbors, so it’s worth buying many goods, even a Playstation, across the border. It follows from the same that in Paraguay, even those in the lower middle class have a lot of modern gadgets, almost only manual workers use a mobile phone worse than a Blackberry.
Paraguay’s climate is close to unbearable. The temperature in Aunción was well above 30 degrees celsius in the first week of spring. No sane tourist has any business here in the hot, dry summer when temperatures can soar to 45 degrees. Due to the populous Arab community, doner kebabs, which are very popular in Paraguay, are called lomito árabe here. There are so many German communities in the country that there are children who do not even learn Spanish until they are 18 years old. School can be taught in German as well, and everyone in the area speaks German anyway. Paraguay and Bolivia are the only two landlocked countries in South America. Unlike Bolivia, Paraguay never had one. Accordingly, this has always been a good place to hide away from the world, whether one was a Jesuit monk, a Nazi war criminal, or a cocaine smuggler. Who knows which country has the highest number of plastic surgeries, but Paraguay must be a contender at least. The presenters seen on TV are practically composed of silicone and Botox.
Paraguay is the second poorest country in South America after Bolivia. Nevertheless, poverty here somehow doesn’t seem as hopeless as it did in its western neighbor. Maybe because there is no real metropolitan poverty anywhere outside Asuncion, as there are no big cities. Or perhaps because corruption is even more common than the Latin American average, the booming smuggling and cocaine businesses simply do not appear in official statistics. Looking at the Paraguayan Mega Dance, I just couldn’t decide who was the professional dancer and who was the celebrity in each pair, everyone danced so well. Paraguay has a population of around six million, while half a million Paraguayans live abroad as guest workers. Everyone is laughing about the fact that eighty percent of the whores in Buenos Aires are Paraguayan, and that no one who comes home from Spain in suspiciously good clothes is ever believed when they say they worked as a babysitter.
Both national dishes in Paraguay are pretty weird. One is the chipa, which is made from cassava flour, a fairly simple pastry which, if your lucky, is enriched with cheese. The other is sopa paraguaya, which, contrary to its name, is not soup at all, but a corn-based mash, a bit like polenta, and also served with cheese. Both are pretty good when eaten fresh, but a bit underwhelming as a national dish. At least beef can be found in every city, and the fish in river areas is good.” (2011)