by Ayano Nagaishi, Arizona State University

In my past 21 years, I have moved all around the world. In every country that I lived in, I learned a lot about its culture, language, life style, people, economy and more. However, I never learned specifically about money. When I was younger, it was common for me to get allowances from my parents and it was my decision to either spend or save it. I always had something I wanted to buy so I barely saved the money.

In Japan, there is a cultural tradition called Otoshidama. This is when your relatives give you a certain amount of money based on your age. You get less amount of money when you are younger and more as you get older. I didn’t have the luxury of getting Otoshidama every year since I lived in a different country. So when I finally moved to Japan and experienced my first New Years with my relatives, I got overwhelming amounts of money. However, my parents would end up exchanging that money to U.S. currency since we would often move back to America. At that time, my father would say, “the yen is stronger right now,”or “the dollar is weaker so don’t exchange it.”I was very clueless of what he said and decided to ignore it.

I decided to visit Japan alone during winter break when I was 17 years old. I hadn’t gone back to Japan for a long time and I was excited to meet my relatives. Of course, I was excited to get some money but I went back for a family matter. I didn’t realize how much more my relatives gave me since I was older. Around this age, I started working and learned how money was pretty much essential to our lives; therefore,I decided it would be a good idea to save it.

After the winter break, when I got back to my home in America, I decided to exchange my yen to dollar. Of course, still clueless about how currency works, I thought however yen I have will be the same amount in dollars. When the currency exchange service told me the total price I got in dollars, I didn’t question because I was overall happy. I kept the envelope and the money that the currency exchanger gave me since I knew I was going to keep the money to save it.

Pretty soon, I had to go back to Japan again for a family emergency when I still kept the money with the envelope when I exchanged the money the last time I came back from Japan. I didn’t think much about the currency rate because all I needed was the money. When I got my yen, I felt like I lost some bet at a casino because I lost about $200 through that currency exchange.  That was the moment when I learned my lesson with money and its currency. I should always check how much a yen is to a dollar and vice versa. I wished I asked my father what he meant when he talked about currency being weak and strong.

Ayano Nagaishi is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.