Imagine a group of humans and aliens talking about their home worlds while in the ship’s canteen. One world is covered entirely by water (the crew members from there have to wear special masks to help them absorb the oxygen they need from the air); one is full of rare minerals and littered with what, on any other planet, would be precious stones and one is carpeted with dense vegetation and has the more biodiversity than any other planet.
Once they’ve all finished talking about their own planets, everybody turns to the humans and asks them what Earth is like. They’re only doing it to be polite though. They haven’t heard much about humans (except the usual stories, and only fledglings believe in those) and they can’t really believe that these fleshy bald looking things come from anywhere even remotely as interesting as their own planets.
There’s a pause and then one of the humans speaks up, “well, I come from a part of Earth called ‘England’ and, to be honest, it’s nothing like as cool as your planets sound. It’s alright though. We got some snow last year, so I’m hoping that we’ll have some this year as well when I get back.”
“Snow?” one of the water breathers asks, hissing slightly through their mask, “what’s that?”
“Frozen water that falls from the sky.” The human explains, “it’s really fun to play with. It’s only called snow when it’s soft though— when it’s hard it’s called hail. Nobody likes hail, you can’t do anything with it and it hurts if it hits you. I looked up during a hail storm once,” she adds, “when I was a kid. Huge hailstones and one hit me right in the eye! Hurt like Hell.”
“Is your planet really cold then?” one of the aliens asks, sounding doubtful since nothing has looked less equipped to deal with cold weather than a human.
“No,” she says, “not everywhere. England’s pretty cold, but in the Summer sometimes we get heatwaves. Last year I went out in one and forgot to wear suncream and got sunburn all down my arms.”
“Your planet’s sun… burned you?” a horrified creature asks, “was it painful?”
“Not really, just stung a bit,” she shrugs, “it was fine once the skin started to peel.” (At the back of the crowd that has now amassed around their table a voice says “I didn’t know humans moulted.” and another, horrified sounding voice replies “that’s because they don’t!”) the human continues on regardless. “It was really annoying actually, because it meant I couldn’t go out for a bit without wearing a jacket. Then when my burns had finally healed, I wanted to go to the beach, but when I got there there was this huge thunderstorm and I had to go home again.”
“Thunderstorm?” the word is whispered, mainly because the person asking secretly hopes the human won’t hear them so they won’t have to know.
“It’s when the clouds get all dark and it starts raining,” the human explains and everybody sighs with relief. Most planets have rain. “The clouds make these really loud banging noises,” she continues, “that’s the thunder, and electricity shoots down from the clouds— that’s called lightning. Sometimes people get hit by it, a few people even survive. I once—”
But one of her human friends cuts her off. “God,” he says, “you Brits are so boring, always talking about the weather!”
While she argues with him, the creatures seated around the table stare at them in astonishment and start to give a little more credit to those old stories. Because, though they look pretty harmless, a species would have to be tough to be able to survive on a planet where a person could be pelted with ice, burned by the sun and nearly electrocuted by the sky and then have another person describe those experiences as boring!