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What a snowbird is, Phoenix, Arizona

A “snowbird” in Phoenix, Arizona is a term that is used by the locals to describe someone who visits Phoenix only during the winter. It's not a polite term, so I can't recommend using it around strangers, but I often called my parents “snowbirds”, in an affectionate way.

I live in the desert year-round, which seems impossible for my friends back east, or in California, to understand. I call myself a “desert rat”, but really, I've always worked in offices with air conditioning, etc., so I'm not all that tough. When you see people doing repairs on roofs in the summer in Phoenix, those are the tough guys!

The regular migration of snowbirds from back east has supported the economy of Phoenix since the 1920s. They bring in so much money, so fast, that the economy just glides along until they come back. They arrive in October and leave in March.

The snowbirds are here to get away from the snow and cold back east. If you've ever gotten off a plane in Phoenix after flying in from Minneapolis in the winter, you know how magical that feels. And if you've lived in Phoenix all of your life, it may be impossible to understand. And therein lies the conflict between the locals and the snowbirds.

Locals are, for the most part, unimpressed with scenery. They just need to get to and from their jobs. They need to get in and out of grocery stores, do errands, that sort of thing. And the snowbirds just get in the way.

Snowbirds are so busy loving the beauty of the desert that they often fail to move quickly in turn lanes. They are astonished by things that locals take for granted every day, like that it's seventy degrees in November, and that there are palm trees, and cactus. Snowbirds will often slow down to look at this stuff, much to the annoyance of a local who may be late for an appointment, or on their way to Starbucks.

I've lived in Phoenix since I was a teenager, so I consider myself a local. But I grew up in Minneapolis, and then I watched my parents “snowbird” into Phoenix for many years after they retired. And I can see it through their eyes.

Image above - my parents as snowbirds many years ago. They migrated back and forth from Minnesota every year, and helped remind me what a beautiful place Phoenix is.

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