Jette Virdi

Jette Virdi

28 September 2010 Interviews & Editorials 20

YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and from where did you move?
Jette: In October 2010, it will be 3 years since I moved from England.

YL: Why did you move?
Jette: I had just gotten back from travelling around the world for a year after University and was working three completely uninteresting jobs in England to make some money. One day my father called and told me he had found this cool old property outside of Merida, that I should come fix it up and make my dream of running a hotel/hostel and organic farm a reality.

YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
Jette: No choice really it was purely an opportunity that arose and I jumped on it.

YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?
Jette: I rented for a year and after realizing I was going to be here longer I moved into an old property in Centro.

YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here? If not, why not?
Jette: Yes, even though Hacienda Cuch-Balam doesn´t open until October, we are well on the way to being ready and have our organic weekly hamper service starting shortly. Im happy with how things are going.

YL: What are the most interesting things about living here for you?
Jette: Too many things to choose from!

YL: What do you absolutely love about living here?
Jette: The weather

YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
Jette: Marmite, sausages and real Cadburys chocolate!

YL: What don’t you miss from your "former life"?
Jette: The weather!!

YL: What is your favorite local food?
Jette: The fresh fruits such as mangoes, dragon fruit, papaya...yum!

YL: What is your favorite time of year here and why?
Jette: I don´t really have a favourite season although I’m not a huge fan of the rain.

YL: Where do you take guests who visit you here to show them something really special?
Jette: The three cenotes in Cuzama, which are 10 minutes away from Hacienda Cuch-Balam.

YL: The last time you went out to dinner, where did you go and why?
Jette: The new sushi place next to Wok to Walk, off Prolongacion on a date.

YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Jette:This is so tough to answer. Its completely different and also depends on what type of resident you are. Tourists get to see a lot more of the things that happen here in Merida and the surroundings than I do as I work. But they probably also tend to hang out in the centro, not meet locals and not really experience life here in Merida, which as a Spanish-speaking foreign resident I get to do.

YL: Do you have friends from the local community or do you pretty much hang with the expat crowd?
Jette: When I first arrived I purely met expats. Now I have my group of local friends and tend to hang out more with them.

YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here? How is it different from doing the same thing in your country of origin?
Jette: I've got to say that I've actually found starting a business here super easy. Running it has not been super easy, and the pressure of starting a business by myself has by far been the hardest thing. But you know, you get on with it. You make mistakes and you learn and you come out tougher and hopefully wiser than you were.

I would say that the only other thing that has been hard has been people’s attitudes towards me and what I´m trying to achieve. For the first year working out at the Hacienda, every single time I would give direction or tasks to guys that work out there they would always say things like "Well, I´d feel a lot happier if we could speak to your dad or your husband". A year later, they now realize that I´m the boss and what I say goes. There is no husband or father to give them confirmation, just little me. For the first couple of months I constantly questioned myself , but I dealt with it and grew in confidence. You have to be aware that its still a hugely macho culture here, and to have a woman as your boss is a real change and something that the locals have to get used to as well.

YL: Do you find it more or less difficult to make a living here than in your country of origin?
Jette: What i’m doing is so different to what I was doing in England that I can´t really answer this question.

YL: Are your work habits different here?
Jette: Yes for sure. I work for myself so my work day is 24 hours. I never stop thinking about what needs to be done, stressing if something is not going quite how I want it and I don´t think I´ve slept through a whole night since starting this project... which would account for the wrinkles and the grey hair! If I was working for someone else, work would not be on my mind when I have a beer at the end of the day!

YL: Did you speak Spanish when you moved here? Where did you learn Spanish (if you did)? Is the language barrier a problem for you in your daily life?
Jette: I could say my name and of course ask for a beer in Spanish when I got here. But it took me 3 to 4 months to become really competent. And that was only because every day I spent five hours speaking Spanish with the workers at the Hacienda. I didn´t take classes at all. Maybe I should go to a class now to tweak my grammar but I don't have the time and I’m happy with my level. Spanish is definitely my main language now. That was also a massive plus about moving here: getting the opportunity to learn a new language in its own environment is amazing and the best way to do it.

YL: What interesting Spanish word or saying have you learned lately? What does it mean and how did you learn it?
Jette: I love the phrase no mames which has the effect of 'no way!' or ' I don't believe it!'.

YL: Are you a Mexican citizen? Do you plan to become one?
Jette: I have an FM3 visa at the moment, but who knows in the future...?

YL: Have you traveled much within Mexico? If so, where and what has been your favorite location to visit? What did you see there that you liked so much?
Jette: I wish I had travelled more. Hopefully in the next year or two, I´ll have some time off to do that. Taxco and Guanajuato are amazing and if you get the chance to go to those two cities, do it! I´ve also been to Chiapas, which is also beautiful. When I get a chance, I´d like to go over to the West Coast and see how different it is.

YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
Jette: To be honest at first a little bit of both. I felt welcomed because of the new ideas and opportunities I was bringing and resented because I was a foreigner bringing them. It was definitely harder when I didn´t speak Spanish, as the Mexicans felt I was just another extranjero coming to take advantage of them, and not even bother with their language. That was tough for me to hear. I hope I have won people over by showing them how willing I am to give back to the local community.

YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Jette: The future is bright for the Yucatan, there are so many opportunities here for everyone.

YL: What are some changes you are hoping for in the city in which you live? Do you see any progress towards these changes?
Jette: I would love to see people looking to use solar power, water recycling and LED lights rather than halogen. We have so many natural resources that are free here in the Yucatan. It's a shame that people don´t take more advantage of those and become more conscious about their environment.

YL: What are your plans for the future here?

Jette: Well, in October, Hacienda Cuch-Balam will open as a 100% eco-friendly boutique hotel, solar-powered, with recycled water... all set in an amazingly tranquil and beautiful setting. An organic farm forms part of the Hacienda property and we will be starting, in September, weekly organic hampers delivered to your doorstep that will include organic meat. We will also be offering a number of courses throughout the year such as yoga/massage, cooking, luxury boot camp, holistic, team building and much more.

YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone buying property and/or planning a move to the Yucatan?
Jette: Learn Spanish and realize that Mexico is a different country. It is not going to be the same as where you are from and the sooner you get over that, the better. Oh, I cringe thinking about the number of days I lamented about Cadburys chocolate!

YL: If you could say something to all the people of Mexico, what would you say?
Jette: You have a truly amazing country and its such an exciting time to be here. Thanks for having me!

You can reach Jette via email at


  • Rene R 12 years ago


    I am a Yucatecan that has been living in Toronto for (too many) years. I am actually planning to go back to the Yucatan (I miss the panuchos...). I just laughed so hard about the "no mames" expression. Yeah, it can be quite vulgar, but used in the appropiate context is quite funny. I think Jette has a good grasp on how it is used in lively informal conversations. As Carlin used to say, there is no word that cannot be said, it is all about the context.
    By the way, solar power is about to boom in Mexico, as all the conditions are right for it now, and I am hoping to be involved in that industry. This is my expertise, to make a contribution to a shift in our energy sources that makes a lot of sense.

  • Jorge Herrera 12 years ago

    jette, believe me "no mames" it´s a very vulgar expression, you better dont say it because it is offensive for most people if someone else want to use that word it´s okay but i am a yucatecan native and i don´t use it, you better say "no inventes" wich means the same.

  • Tami Arbour 12 years ago

    Good for you! I just moved here from Canada. I had a totally Green/vegan spa in Canada. It was great. I miss it. I will certainlty visit your Hacienda. It sounds lovely.
    I wish you much success. Cheers!

  • Lucy Chapela 13 years ago

    Jette: I loved the interview...I am impressed with your work...Congratulations and good luck on your project.

  • Joel Crowe 13 years ago

    Congratulations and Good Luck! You've been an inspiration. Everything you've been through did pay off. All the best to come!

    Perth tourist guide

  • Melissa 13 years ago

    For me it is a VERY vulgar expression and I know that a lot of mexicans use it....and I am a Mexican, too!

  • toni 13 years ago

    Melissa, No mames is a very common expression among every economic or social circles in Mexico. The fresas, meaning the rich young people hijos de papi use this as a daily expression, and the albaniles or other workers from the mercado use it a lot too. It is probably not in the vocabulary of most grandmas or grandpas...and of course, it is not a good phrase to use in professional interactions. But it is very common among friends and young people, and in a casual environment, it doesn't sound vulgar. So Jette, go for it! I wish you all the success in your business.

    I'm a Mexican living in Denver, and I go to Merida every year for family visits and vacations.

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    Actually, it is a common expression in slang English to say something "doesn't suck" to mean "it's not bad". Even educated people, like us, are sometimes known to say it...

  • Melissa 13 years ago

    I am a mexican and living in Europe but I will move back to Mexico in some months. I was reading your article and it was very interesting. When reading about "no mames" I had to laugh because I think she doesn't really know what it means, this phrase is used by a lot of (mostly young or uneducated) mexicans and in my opinion this phrase should NEVER be used in public :-)

    "No mames" comes from mamar which means to suck, so you can imagine what "no mames" means. If you want to talk a little bit more educated, you can use "no manches" instead, which is not so uneducated and has the same meaning.

    Or would you use "Don't suck" instead of seriously in english?

  • jette 13 years ago

    Thanks everyone for your kind and encouraging words. Its been a tough struggle but finally reaching the end is amazing!
    John: Marketing is just being done through magazines, friends and the internet.
    Dciro dciro: with regards to solar panels, I have my very own solar system…we are 100% solar panelled. Where the Hacienda is we did not have electricity and the only options were paying CFE to lay cables or go solar…easy choice seeing as I wanted to be solar powered anyway. I have a fantastic guy here in Merida that does all my system work from water pumps to maintenance and other goodies. email me and I will send you his contact info.
    Thanks again everyone and please pass our info on or at least come visit!

  • dciro dciro 13 years ago

    We will be expats in a few short months. We have two houses in Merida and they both will be under a remodeling and new construction soon. But the older house needs new construction. One house will become our studio, with some living areas. The other house is in an old colonia, My question relates to your solar system???
    When we were in Merida last Jan. I asked arround about solar and was it possible to find anyone building a system???? All I heard was that the gov't would not allow it for fear of losing the money for electricity???
    So how did you do it??? Import from another country??? or did you find someone here building solar???
    Thank you for your help or suggestions.

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