Michael Olenick is an attorney and financial researcher who was living near Parkland, Florida, with his wife and 6-year-old daughter when the mass shooting in Newtown, CT claimed the lives of 20 first grade children and 6 adults. He and his wife decided shortly after that shooting to relocate to France, so Michael took a job with INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France, about 45 minutes from Paris by train. They have lived in France since 2014, and haven’t even been back to visit the US since.

In my interview with Michael, we talk about:

  • How emotionally difficult it is to prepare children for shooter drills in the US, and our appreciate for the fact that schools are much safer in France.
  • When the Fontainbleau palace was built, the difference between a castle and a palace, and what happened to King Louis XIV’s architect after he built the magnificent Fontainbleau palace.
  • Why you should get a Navigo pass for public transportation in Paris, even if you’re only visiting for a few days.
  • How his family adapted to living in France, and how his then-8-year-old daughter Sienna adapted and became bilingual after being thrown into a French school without speaking any French.
  • The benefits and drawbacks of sending bilingual children to bilingual schools in France.
  • How French high schools and university admissions procedures differ from high school and college admissions in the US, and how that affects kids’ education and career plans.
  • Michael’s Passeport Talent – Carte Bleue Européenne visa, the most difficult and most prestigious type of French visa, and how his employer handled the relocation process.
  • How his now-14-year-old daughter has become very French, yet still embraces her American identity and teenager attitude.
  • Why minor children who move to France with their parents at young ages have to pay close attention to the rules for becoming naturalized French citizens – or risk having to start the immigration process over if they leave France for higher education.
  • How many boulangeries are within walking distance of his apartment and his daughter’s school, and why he still loves to visit Costco now that it’s in France.
  • Why he hasn’t been tempted by opportunities to travel back to the US since he’s been here.
  • The cultural expectations that can cause Americans to say the French are “rude.” (They’re not!)
  • How he’s learned to get good cheese and the perfect wine to go with his meal.
  • French and American approaches to eating, snacking, and wine.

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