In the late 1960s, Bonnie Dixon lived in Fukui on Japan’s north coast while her father, a Westinghouse Electric Company engineer, helped build a nuclear power plant. Running water was a luxury in her village, her classrooms were unheated and she sharpened pencils with a razor. With all the exotica, Dixon became fluent in both the language and culture.

So when her American colleagues make 1960s pop references, Dixon, a 49-year-old finance and securitization specialist, is lost. “I couldn’t name one Grateful Dead song,” she says. “I didn’t see ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Easy Rider.’ [But] I have the same records as my Japanese contemporaries.”

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