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Janet Cook

Teacher/Bird Enthusiast
Honshu, Japan

What is your job?

I teach English to Japanese people.  My students range in age from 4 years old to some in their 60s.  I work with quite a few adults who are scientists—chemists, engineers, and doctors—because I am a scientist, too, so I can understand their papers and help them publish them in English journals.  It is important for them to get their work to people outside of Japan.

Do you travel because of your husband's job or your own?

We came here so my kids could learn Japanese.  My husband’s job allows us to move to a variety of places.  We chose here so our kids could learn social studies in real life.

What places have you lived in?

I’ve lived in California, Peru, Colorado, and now Japan.

Is it hard to move to a different country?  What do you do to prepare for the move?

If you want to live like a native, it’s not hard, just go. If you want to live like an American, you need to bring lots of things with you, shop on the Internet, and have things sent to you.  Most places don’t have all the “stuff” Americans get used to.  For example, when I lived in Peru, they did not allow imports from the US.  Here in Japan, they allow imports and have many things, but they’re much more expensive than in the US.  We live next to a US military base and can shop there, so it’s easier for us because they bring many things over and sell it cheaper than off-base.  But on our recent trip home, we still bought two big boxes worth of “stuff” we can’t get here easily—swim team goggles, large glasses (“large” to Japanese is 8 ounces—250 mL!), golf balls (one game of golf on a 3-par course here is $80!).

Is it hard to move back to the United States after living in other countries?

Some things are; some aren’t. It’s nice to get back to regular stores, cheaper prices, unlimited phone and Internet access, etc.  It’s hard to go back to always worrying if your kids are in danger, your house will be robbed, or your car stolen.  Northern Japan is very safe and calm.  You can walk around at night, the kids can play at the park by themselves, and you don’t need to lock everything up.  The big cities are not as good, but still much better than the US.  But all in all, living in the US is cheaper and more comfortable than in other countries.

What is your most memorable experience?

Here?  Too many cool things here.  I enjoy all the festivals they have here and the fact that young people are very involved in the country’s traditional culture.

What is the best and worst things about living in other countries?

See above—best is the safety, worst is the cost.  Phones charge by the minute in most places, so you can’t just leave your computer online all day like in the States.  No cable modems here.  Soon in the big cities, but Japan is WAY behind the US for technology to reach the common citizen.  Utilities are sky high.  Our heating bill was about $500/month in the winter.  Houses are not insulated and they are heated with room heaters (not central heating), so you only stay in one room.

Where do you think "home" is?

Southern California—that’s where we’re from and our moms still live there.

Do you have any advice for students?

Study hard, learn foreign languages, travel and talk to others outside your area as much as you can.  Become a world citizen, but be proud of your own country.

Janet's Biography
Her Interview from Germany (19 August 2003)

- 8 July 2001


Last Updated:
8 January 2015

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