Sunday, February 04, 2007

Is there even a right answer to this?

The discussion below about horrible things happening at customs/immigration reminds me of the all-time weirdest comment I ever got from an immigration officer.

I was at passport control waiting to enter New Zealand last year, on a short trip to visit my mother.

Immigration guy: "What are you doing in Australia?"

Me: "I'm at university there."

Immigration guy: "Why? Aren't our New Zealand universities good enough for you?"


Propter Doc said...

Dr R and I are used to being 'interrogated' by overzealous immigration people about what kind of research we do. i always have teabags and chocolate with me which usually promts immigration people to tell me about all the great chocolate/tea brands/shops in town that I 'just have to visit'. The net result is that they usually think I am too stupid to do research and far to stupid to be carrying 5 bottles of wine in my suitcase (which I am usually not dclaring). Because when someone declares a small bar of chocolate, they are clearly niave and honest!

Twirly said...

When I went to France to study abroad during college a girl who went with me brought with her like 30 pairs of giant men's socks. She was bringing them to relatives in Germany who were not happy with the availability of giant men's socks in Germany. Why I'm still not sure, as I think Germans tend to be big people - so the no big socks things was weird - but nonetheless this is what they really wanted. Anyways when going through customs when we got there - they ask your purpose and what not and we said students and then they looked through her bag. They asked are you bringing these socks to sell (cause not legal I guess) and she told them the truth and the look on their faces was priceless.

grace said...

Yeah, I suspect he was just trying to get a rise out of you, Styley. It's so hard to know when someone in authority asks you a question, if it's actually an Important Official Question...or whether they are bored and wanting to have a laugh with you.

StyleyGeek said...

So true, Grace. I find customs people are the worst for this, because with a police officer and other authority figures, I usually know my rights, and I have an idea why they are asking the question they are. With customs people, I have no idea, and suspect I don't have many (any?) rights at all to refuse to answer real questions.

So when they ask why I'm entering the country, obviously that's a real question, and if they ask if I have a boyfriend, that presumably isn't. But what if they ask why I'm travelling alone? Or if they ask whether I still have family living in New Zealand and how often I visit them? These sorts of questions seem really probing to me, and I can't imagine a good reason for them, so they are probably just small talk. But sometimes I don't want to make small-talk to strangers (like, after a 24 hour flight...)

Badaunt said...

The funniest immigration story I heard here was from a friend who had an unfortunate abbreviation on her Japanese visa. I wrote about it here.

I wish I could use the same abbreviation, but I have permanent residence so there is no job description on my visa.