Irene Mardi in Mexico

Living in another country. A dream for some and a reality for others. What is it like to emigrate and live as a vegetarian or vegan in a country other than the Netherlands? We set out to find the stories of women who eat vega(n) and decided to take the plunge and live abroad. What is their story?

Singer Irene Mardi in Mexico

Today the singer Irene Mardi. Meanwhile, she no longer performs in the Netherlands, but si si: and Mexico! Read how she got there and…does this nightingale now sing in Spanish, too? And does she manage to keep eating vegetarian Mexico?

Who are you and how did you end up in Mexico City?

I am Irene Mardi (Hartkamp), lived in Utrecht until a year ago, but now in Mexico City. Worked in Holland as a singer and singing teacher and I do the same here in Mexico. Having been to Mexico several times to perform, I thought it would be nice to stay there for a longer period of time. I expected to have more gigs than in the Netherlands (because: more audiences, more places to play) and fortunately that idea was completely true. By now I speak fluent Spanish and am getting along very well here!


I just find it ridiculous and ethically very irresponsible that we treat animals this way.


Why did you start eating vegetarian or vegan?

In recent years, I have started eating less and less meat. It just feels increasingly crazy actually to eat an animal. Although I’m not exactly against that, but the more you know about the whole process before it ends up on your plate…I don’t get an appetite for that and I just think it’s ridiculous and ethically very irresponsible that we treat animals this way. That’s why I (almost) always eat vegetarian.

What is it like for you to live Mexico City as a vegetarian?

In Mexico, I still find it difficult to be 100% vegetarian. Sometimes you are invited to people’s homes (wonderful spontaneous culture) and then there is a dish on the table with meat that they are so proud of. Then I’m not saying I don’t eat it. So at such a time, it is out of respect for people here and for the food culture.


Fruits and vegetables here are fantastic, much tastier than in Holland and also cheaper.

And very occasionally you’ll eat at a restaurant somewhere where they just don’t have veggie options. Then I usually choose something with chicken. So in practice, I think I’m 90% vegetarian. I do consume eggs and cheese, but also definitely less than I used to.

Although Mexico has a real meat-eating culture with its tacos, here in Mexico City there are plenty of restaurants where you can eat delicious vegetarian food. Fruits and vegetables here are fantastic, much tastier than in Holland and also cheaper.

How do people in Mexico react when you tell them you are vegetarian or vegan?

Here in the capital, no one looks surprised. But do many people have opinions about it and may even react somewhat offended. In other big cities, it’s not really a problem either. But something more in the province? Surely they find it very strange there. I actually think that’s kind of the same in the Netherlands. But one difference with the Netherlands is that the Dutch are not offended when you don’t want to eat their croquettes. Unlike Mexicans. They do feel stepped on if you don’t want to eat their delicious tacos (or other meat dishes). And many Mexicans simply do not consider a meal without meat to be a full meal.


What does it cost to eat a healthy and varied diet as a vegetarian or vegan?

Life here is cheaper than in Holland, especially when it comes to food. For 3-4 euros you can eat a three-course meal in a “fonda,” a restaurant where they cook large quantities and have a menu del dia. There are more and more fondas that have a vegetarian option. Furthermore, if you buy fruits and vegetables at the market you will have delicious and varied food for little money.


What did you find most difficult about your emigration? And what did you like best?

Missing family and friends is what I find most difficult. But other than that, living abroad is an amazing experience that I am learning an awful lot from! Thus, I learned a new language and a new culture. You definitely become a richer and more beautiful person because of it.

Do you plan to return to the Netherlands someday?

As much as I like Mexico, I don’t believe this is forever. A great experience for now, but in the long run I would like to live closer to family again. That could be in the Netherlands (although I find winters terrible) or in a country in southern Europe.

Has foreign countries changed your view of the Netherlands? How do you look at the Netherlands now?

Mexico is a great country, but living here also shows me very much the good sides of the Netherlands. And there are many of them! It is well organized, the government takes care of the residents (though they keep complaining, it is never good enough) and there is reasonable equality of opportunity for all. That is different here.

I also notice that the Netherlands is much more advanced in terms of environmental awareness, taking your own responsibility, giving others space… Are generalizations of course, in both countries you have plenty of exceptions. But it certainly strikes me.

What tips do you have for other vegetarians and/or vegans to when they come to Mexico City?

Vegetarian restaurants in Mexico City that I frequent:

  1. Tulasi (Narvaste), restaurant of the Hare Krishnas.
  2. Elihir (Roma), next to mercado Medellin
  3. Restaurante vegetariano Motolinea, oldest vegetarian restaurant in Mexico, since 1936.

And otherwise just enjoy going to the market or buying fruit on the street at one of the many stalls.

Music by Irene Mardi

Do you enjoy listening to Mardi’s music? Listen to her songs on Spotify. Her album is called Expectations, Irene Mardi.

Her beautiful Spanish song:
Or her entire album:


Emigrating abroad is not something you do lightly. There is often a story behind this. A dream, love, work or other reasons. Do you enjoy telling your story and inspiring other people with it? Or do you know someone who should tell her story? I’d love to hear about it! Send an email to: