6 questions with… Colette Cote
NEW CANAAN — Colette Cote still recalls when the French national soccer team won the World Cup for the first time in 1998.
For her, it’s impossible to forget — she was in an Alpine village above Grenoble, a southeast region of the country, when France beat Brazil 3-0 in the final July 12, 1998.
“The night they won, it was fabulous, it was fantastic,” Cote recalled Thursday afternoon. “On Sunday, it will be their second.”
True to that prediction, the feat was repeated this past Sunday. The French team beat Croatia in a 4-2 goal fest that led to their second World Cup title.
A Darien resident, Cote volunteers at the New Canaan Library where she moderates conversation in French for an hour every other week.
Q: When did you learn French?
A: I came from a bilingual home, French-Canadian. I was born in Connecticut but my family is from northern Maine along the Canadian border. My grandparents only spoke French and few of the grandchildren could actually communicate with the grandparents.
My name is French. My mother had picked up a book by an author named Colette, liked it and said that’s how she would name her first child.
Q: You studied abroad?
I came back, finished my degrees and had one desire, which was to go back, and I did.
Q: How were you able to go back to France?
A: I landed an opportunity with an American company to go over and I lived and worked based in France with European-wide responsibilities for 12 years.
I was working for various high technology organizations. First I started out in Grenoble then moved to Paris for another American company then back to Grenoble again.
I was there for 12 years working in marketing and communications for American-based high-tech organizations.
Q: You were in France when they won the World Cup?
A: I was working for a public relations agency at the time and Hewlett-Packard was a sponsor for the 1998 World Cup. I was there. I was actually a few months pregnant at the time; I have a boy who has now become a soccer player.
We were living in “les hauteurs” de Grenoble, in one of the Alpine villages above the city. The night they won — it was fabulous, fantastic. The fire station had all their sirens going, the horns, fireworks all night long. If you saw the video footage of them making the final (last week), you can imagine how it was then.
Q: Was there a re-adjustment period when you came back to the States?
A: Absolutely, particularly because people see me and hear me as American, but I’ll never forget that first year when I came back. I could never find my words, it was the vocabulary. It was the reverse, people thought — I couldn’t find (the words).
I had spent the majority of my adult life in France. When I came here, I was a full-fledged adult who didn’t know how to do basic things in the American system.
It was very interesting and definitely a reverse culture shock.
Q: How has your experience at the library been?