Traveling abroad inevitably means you fly home and go through customs, unless you have a boat or something. But for most of us we get home by coming through one of our many international airports. I am sad to say but most of my experiences going through this process have been bad. For example, this is the interaction I had with the customs agent when I recently returned from central america...I walk up to the guy and he looks at my paper and passport and comments on the fact that I have been gone for 6 weeks. Then he asks if I am carrying any fruits or vegetables. I say no, why would have fruits or vegetables? His response, Why not? I say, I just don't understand why you think I would bring an orange or banana back when I know I'm going through customs, who does that?. He says, well I don't believe you traveled for 6 weeks and didn't bring back anything like cigarettes or alcohol. I respond, well I don't smoke or drink so there's no reason for me to bring back either. He continues, so your saying you didn't bring back anything? Me, nothing I need to declare. Again he asks, No cigarettes or alcohol? I just look at him, then say no, again. He stamps my paper and finally I am allowed to continue. His tone of voice, which you can't hear, obviously, was very accusing which might have sparked my slight attitude.
And to show you the alternatives, this is what I experience in other countries: I walk up, they usually smile or act like I am one in a long line and do nothing. But usually they take my passport and paper look at it, stamp it, and I go on with my life. Sometimes you have to let them look through your luggage but it is rarely invasive, or at least compared to the U.S.
I just gave one example. Just one of many I have experienced. Here is another from a friend of mine so you know its not just me. My friend walks up to the customs agent and hands him his documents. The guy looks at them and then asked him what he was doing in Panama. The friend answers, I just went there to check it out, just traveling. The agent answers, so you're telling me you just went there, no other reason, you didn't do anything else? Response was yes. And you have no drugs, no weed? The inquisition continued on in this manner. You get the point, right?
I wonder what it is about the career of being a customs agent that attracts people who get on power highs and are so accusing. I know it is an important and serious job, I am not trying to downplay that, but does that take away common sense and just plain friendliness. Or is it the training they go through that makes them so paranoid to a point of rudeness and distrust? I just feel like you can't just assume everyone coming through has some illegal plot behind their travels. And its not right to treat people like they have already done something illegal and you are just trying to get it out of them. I am sure not every single one is like this, but most of the ones I have come in contact with were.