Café Stories: Juan Jose de Blas

Today we’re proud to share the first of a new series profiling our RhineBuzz members. Over the past few weeks we’ve had the great pleasure of sitting down to coffee with this interesting, inspiring and, let’s face it, downright fun group of people. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing these profiles here and on Facebook. Check back each Sunday to meet someone new and also discover some great café recommendations along the way!

It’s a grey Saturday afternoon in March when we join Juan José de Blas and his partner Jan for coffee at Woyton am Tausendfüssler. Juan is an inner city dweller, so Woyton is practically his ‘local’. On a sunny day he considers it the perfect place to sit outside and enjoy the passing crowds. Today we keep reminding ourselves it’s Spring and that at least it’s not snowing!

Many people describe Düsseldorf as a village. For Juan, Düsseldorf is not a village, Fuentenebro, Spain is a village. With a population of around 150 (“every winter the population drops by one or two”), Juan’s home town is a tiny community where everyone knows everyone, and where he could hear the call of Madrid loud and clear. He moved from Fuentenebro to Madrid and then to London, acquiring a degree in engineering on the way, and a brief stint behind the counter of his local Starbucks. While moving to London in 2008 in the midst of the economic crisis seemed like a foolish decision at the time, it ultimately worked out well, leading to a job in London with Centrica UK and then a transfer to Düsseldorf to take over from a risk assessment manager going on maternity leave. That job led to another with E.ON Energy. In 2016, when the Uniper Group was spun off from E.ON, Juan went with it. Like many people, he came to Dusseldorf for a year and hasn’t left yet.

1. What keeps you in Dusseldorf?

“Düsseldorf traps you”, it’s a “gilded cage” where you can hear the call of a bigger city but the “quality of life here is amazing”.

2. Outside of work what are you passionate about?

“Ask me again in six months and it will be something different. I get bored easily and do a lot of very different things.” Those different things have included reaching yellow belt level in Taekwondo, starting an LGBT Internations group and more recently helping to establish Changemakers Düsseldorf – an group connecting the international community with opportunities to volunteer and support local charities. That focus on social activism has had a positive impact both in Düsseldorf including providing support for recently arrived LGBT refugees and further afield with LGBT groups in other countries reaching out to connect and seek advice on establishing similar LGBT support groups in their own cities.

3. If someone gave you 100K for a legacy project what would you do with it?

“Support an Italian friend Sergio who moved to Conakry, Guinea to work for the Ministry of Energy. In his spare time he started Wakilare an organisation supporting handicapped people to make leather sandals and handbags.”

4. Who do you admire most?

“Ask me in six months and it will be different!” The first one is close to home: Aurora Gonzales, a woman he greatly admires, and is excited to work on projects with. He (and we!) particularly respect her for her ability to run 100km marathons!

And Elon Musk – an “impressive man with a clear vision.”

5. Favourite possession?

“A painting by Jan of a street in my home town of Fuentenebro…It’s a long term investment!”

6. Where are you happiest?

“I’m from Spain. Put me where there is sun!”