What people from warm regions thought when they first saw a snowflake: Goats and soda: NPR

Are North America's string of snowstorms making you feel a little… um… squirrel? Imagine if this was the first time you saw snow in your life! We've reached out to people in the Global South and other parts to share their stories of the first time they saw snow.

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Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Are North America's string of snowstorms making you feel a little… um… squirrel? Imagine if this was the first time you saw snow in your life! We've reached out to people in the Global South and other parts to share their stories of the first time they saw snow.

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Is modernity over yet? Much of North America gets snow, and unless you're a school-age kid hunting for a snowy day, the white stuff can lose its magic by this time of year.

But what if you've never seen snow before? When we think back to when snow was a true wonder, we keep in mind a story we did several years ago: We asked people from hot climates around the world to tell us about the first time they encountered snow.

What we got helped us look at the snow with new eyes. There was a Brazilian college roommate who, “When it first snowed, [she] He ran outside and proceeded to fill an envelope with things. She was going to mail it to Brazil.” Or the man from Sudan who learned the hard way not to shovel snow with his bare hands. “I'm still so embarrassed that I tried.”

With the high latitudes once again being excavated from the last dump, we thought it would be a good time to reconnect with the feeling of seeing snow for the first time.

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Diana Gage, a doctor in California, sent us this story:

The first snowfall occurred on a quiet Saturday evening. We were teasing my father, who had ten months more American experience than us, about actually feeling the snow. “Is it like cotton?” We asked. “Do your clothes get wet? Do you have to carry an umbrella like you would on a rainy day?” Endless questions. On that quiet Saturday, soft, thick snowflakes fell from the sky. My brother and I rushed into our yard without a jacket or an umbrella and realized in that moment that the snow was pure magic. Our yard quickly turned white as if someone had picked up a paintbrush, dipped it in white paint, and made a few big strokes.

Anatole Manzideputy chief medical officer at Partners in Health and an Aspen New Voices fellow, told us about this terrible awakening:

My home country is Rwanda, where I spent my childhood. I've only seen the snow on screen, never in person. I dreamed of touching white chips when I moved to Boston. But as soon as I exited Logan International Airport, I felt a chill that made me doubt whether I was wearing any pants. My desire for a long snow adventure has faded. I missed the warmth and beauty of Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. I had to adapt to the cold. I switched from cotton pants to jeans and wore thick jackets and gloves. My friends taught me how to drink hot cider, use a weather app to plan, ski for fun, and build snowmen and igloos with my kids. I learned that [love] the snow.

Egerton Neto He grew up in Brazil before moving to the UK, where he is now pursuing a postgraduate degree at the London School of Economics. His first snow was a little…disappointing.

It was a very cold day in Oxford, UK. Although I hated winter in general, I was eager to see the white wonder I had admired in so many childhood movies. As I was returning from the gym, it happened: Small shards started falling on the car window. I called on my friends to stop the car. I wanted to experience it first hand. When we did, it was… okay. It felt like a lighter version of rain.

I decided to wait for it to accumulate. The next day, I went out to check it out. There was a fair amount of snow in the yard, but it got dirty and started to melt throughout the day. The scene looked rather sad. The magic I envisioned was lost in translation, from the cinematic wonderland to the muddy reality of Oxford Square. The rest of the year was spent with a new resolution: chase the sun and escape the coming winter.

Jane OtayProgram Director for Oradkaan urban research and development center based in Kenya and an Aspen New Voices fellow, first saw snow in 1991.

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This was my first time leaving Kenya to go to Europe. I went to Holland. I went in summer clothes, and when I got there, I remember feeling so cold and like I was about to die. When I looked at the snow, ice, and sparkles, I wasn't used to it. It was so strange that the sun was shining and it was cold. In Africa, when the sun shines it is hot. How is this right?

But the beauty of the snow, she says, has given her a new appreciation for the Biblical phrase “You shall be washed white as snow.”

When Otay's son moved to Canada, she made sure he was properly outfitted.

I had to look for winter boots, gloves and hats to cover his head. I called him every day: Did you go out, did you dress well?

Then there are the people who haven't seen snow in a very long time. Consider this story, which he shared Instagram Follow Justin Selmer:

My mom lost everything in the fires in Lahaina, Maui, so I flew her there [Washington, D.C.] To live with me and rebuild from scratch. This was the first time she'd seen snow in nearly 50 years, and it was fun to watch her wake up, look outside, and throw off every layer she owned just to sit on the couch and watch through the window because it *looked* cold. Every time she comes out I hear a loud “No!” Then close the door and make another cup of hot coffee.

This round of winter storms was also the young man's first encounter with snow in this tale, which reader Erin Bee shared via Instagram:

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One of my trainees is from Malawi. He had never seen snow until last week. He and the other trainees went out to play with it and their joy was so contagious that locals started coming out of their homes, offering them skates and enjoying it with them. There's just something about the first snow!

One Instagram follower, caroc.styles, wrote that she grew up in Ecuador and first encountered snow at an exchange program in Connecticut.

I was excited to see snow for the first time. It was very nice for about two weeks, then I realized the snow would last for about six months and the magic was gone. I was miserable after that and went back to a comfortable, idyllic Ecuador with 70 degree weather all year round. It made me realize that the grass isn't greener on the other side, and I never felt jealous again of people in other countries getting snow.

Readers! Do you come from a country where there is no snow? We'd love to hear your stories about encountering snow for the first time! Send it to gotsandsoda@npr.org, with “snow” in the subject and we may use your snow memory in a future story.

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