So much to learn!

"The sausages and beers only taste good to me in Germany," says Tomás Elejalde


Tomás Elejalde has the responsibility of leading the success of mobility in the Aburrá Valley from the management of “Metro de Medellín”, a distinction he reached after passing through technical positions as Chief Engineer, Operations Manager and Planning Director of the same entity.

Specialist in Senior Management at the University of Antioquia, Elejalde lived in Germany from the age of 3 to 4 and returned at 18 to study Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne (Germany), Business Administration and Economic Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Mönchengladbach and work for 4 years and 11 months at the company Nordmann KG in the city of Cologne. During this time, to avoid gastronomic nostalgia, he cooked a whole pressure cooker full of beans and froze it in portions for the whole week.

Convinced that "sausages and beers only taste good to me in Germany," Elejalde says that we have a lot to learn from the German culture and social organization.

YACA: What is the biggest impact of German culture on your life?

Elejalde: Germans have a much more regulated way of life, they have very clear objectives of life and this impacts on aspects such as the model of schools where they bet on the methodology of learning by playing and for permanently articulating theory and practice. Another aspect to emphasize is that Germans keep the history of the last century alive and is kept in mind with a clear objective: we are going to understand what happened so that it does not happen again. It is key so that the same mistakes are not made again, but, in addition, it teaches something fundamental for life: humility, the possibility of recognizing that they are not a superior people, but a very hard-working, consistent and resilient people to advance in processes such as their reunification.

YACA: How did it impact your professional training?

Elejalde: It has been enriching to study there and combine theory and practice: being taught about robotics, industrial manufacturing processes and metalworking and being able to get to know factories such as Audi, Mercedes Benz, BMW or Siemens and, thus, one can see perfectly what one is studying for and what the application of that knowledge is at the forefront of technology. It is too enriching when one studies applied sciences! 

YACA: What learning about German culture would be key for us today?

Elejalde: There is no space there, there are 82 million inhabitants in what is a third of Colombia's territory, and their care for the environment is admirable. There is no atomic energy, it is already prohibited by the Constitution, but they have so many renewable energy methods such as windmills, solar panels, and biomass, that there are times of the year when there is so much energy in the electrical network, that it has a negative price; likewise, their care for water, recycling, and betting on vehicles with renewable energy.

YACA: What aspect of Colombian culture would you share with a German?

Elejalde: Values such as family and the way we take care of our old people. For a German, it is very surprising to see the everyday life of a Medellín neighborhood, to see that neighbors get together to talk on the street, that families meet several times a year (not just for Christmas) and that personal relationships are so strong.

YACA: What aspect of Germany is complex to explain in Colombia?

Elejalde: Here it is difficult for us to understand that the strength of the industry is based on a level of education that we have not valued enough here: the technicians and technologists. There you can live very well being a technician or technologist and that allows a large part of the population to have the resources to live with dignity and to have purchasing power, which translates into greater equity in the population and that does not exonerate the fact that there is a very clear culture of higher university degrees, so in Germany you don't call anyone a doctor.

  • A value with deep roots
  • A dialogue that builds bridges