Interview with Maciej Okraszewski about life in Spain, the myth of the okupas and advice for Poles who want to live in this country

The Foreign Section is one of the best-known podcasts covering Spain and Latin America, but also more than that. In his podcast, as the creator claims, “we talk about things you won’t hear about in the Polish media”. We had the pleasure of being at Maciej Okraszewski’s lecture and interviewing him right afterwards. The article below summarises the most important themes raised by the Polish journalist – talking about his adventure in journalism and his stay in Spain.

Who is Maciej Okraszewski and why did he set up the Foreign Section Podcast?

Maciej Okraszewski grew up in Lodz, where he took his first steps in journalism. Already in his young years, he proved to be not only a curious journalist, but also a good organiser, working for his first editorial offices. Today, he is quite critical of the direction of the Polish media, emphasising the emphasis of many editorial offices on shallow but popular content, aimed at the masses. The ossified system of many editorial offices has effectively deterred him from pursuing a career as a journalist in large Polish media outlets. His idea of journalism covering social issues in many countries – including even the most distant ones – has successfully led to success. Today, his Foreign Department is active on a number of streaming platforms – including reaching over 38,000 subscribers on Youtube and 3225 patrons on Patronite.

Maciej Okraszewski – Specialist in Spanish affairs

As Spain holds a special place in Maciej Okraszewski’s life, the author is known for his in-depth reports on the country. Not surprisingly, his most popular episode on Youtube is the one about the political situation in Spain after the recent elections, where the author analyses the intricacies of the country’s specific politics in a solo episode.

Read also our other article on the Spanish Elections.

We spoke to Maciek about what specific things he noticed in Spain during his stay that might surprise the average Polish person. Maciek drew attention to the collective life of the Spanish. And although it is commonly believed that Spanish people stay up late, Maciej denied this. Instead, he admitted that it is standard to have dinner at 9 pm and to meet late at evening events. Another feature of Spaniards is their family life – where native Spaniards eat meals together, the whole family, go out to venues and go on holiday. The tendency to spend time together is evident in every generation. “You won’t notice a lonely child here sitting in a primary school somewhere,” – he adds.

Advice from Maciej Okraszewski to Poles wishing to live in Spain

We also asked what a Pole should do to assimilate faster in this country. According to our expert, it should be learning Spanish at a general level and getting to know the local dialect to get closer to the locals. In turn, you can meet them in local cafés and bars, where you will learn the most things. “That’s where all the neighbours come, either in the morning or in the evening. And that’s the centre of life. And you’ll find out from such a bar that, for example, they’re disconnecting the electricity tomorrow in the neighbourhood because there’s going to be something done. You won’t find that out anywhere else, only in this bar Is that where you find out which doctor to go to with your child …” – he admits with a smile – “(…) for Spaniards it is very important whether they are able to get along with you.”

Maciej points out that Spain is very open to different nationalities and there are no ethnic neighbourhoods like in France, for example. There may be areas where robberies and thefts are common – but they are multicultural, so we do not encounter racism in Spain as in other countries. To our question about attitudes towards Poles, he replies: “Poland is non-existent for Spain. It is an outgoing market in the sense that Spaniards used to go to Poland for work during the crisis, because there were many such opportunities financed by European funds. We were talking about engineering professions in particular, so a lot of Spanish engineers came here, met girls and stayed. That is why we have some Spaniards. And Poland is for Spain a country like Portugal is for Poland, that is at the other end of Europe, which you don’t know much about and which you don’t deal with to any great extent. And politically we are not particularly important for Spain either.

Below Maciej Okraszewski in Maciej Orłoś’s podcast

The ransomware problem – myth or real threat

According to Maciej Okraszewski, the problem of ransomware is highly inflated by the foreign media. Statistics are unknown, but according to unofficial data, several thousand families across the country are involved. Maciej mentions various cases – occupyas, i.e. people illegally occupying flats in the absence of their owners, can often come to an agreement with the owners of repossessed flats. In the case of bank repossessed flats – the owners are often not even aware of their presence. And on top of that, they are not at all a big problem for their neighbours, who have warmer homes thanks to the fact that the previously unheated flat has stopped cooling their own.

The legislation in Spain is also very clear on this issue. Once the owner has reported the occupation of such a flat – the police intervene immediately. All you need is proof that it is your permanent residence. If it is a tourist rental, the case goes to court, where it can take several weeks, while the police can evict you in the meantime anyway.

And although the phenomenon of ransomware occurs on a micro scale, it does exist and is a real threat, mainly in tourist destinations. The problem is when illegal occupants barricade themselves in a flat and the police cannot kick down the door without a warrant. Then such an owner has to wait for a warrant.

In addition, it has already been proven in several court cases that extortion then often occurs. Ransomware asks the landlord for a ransom to voluntarily move out. In the meantime, groups dedicated to eliminating delinquents from the flat come forward – but as Okraszewski says, there is evidence that these groups work together. Even so, such situations are marginal and one should not become paranoid. Finally, he adds that the Spanish police are quite effective and many such groups have already been broken up.

Where you can listen to Maciek Okraszewski:

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