I’m back home in Halifax after an exhilarating week in Paris that went by far too quickly. After traveling for 24 hours yesterday, my brain is mostly mush and the only thing I can recall (presently) is my many experiences with customs and passport control.

There is only one reason this is noteworthy: customs and passport control is normally the second-worst part of the travel experience, after security screening before getting on the plane. This time, however, France, Canada, and even the Americans seem to have adopted a new approach. One that my mush-brain calls “being nice.” Here’s how the three countries I visited stack up:

  1. Homeward bound: United States – Philadelphia Airport. Wow, Philly, the Fresh Prince was right about you. Arriving after an 8-hour flight, I was prepared for Customs and Border Patrol officers who were cranky and, frankly, jerks. The line was long, but moving, and the officer who processed me couldn’t have been friendlier. He asked about my trip (obviously), and made some friendly chit-chat related to the weather. I got sent over to the food inspection area for some cookies, and they were  even friendlier. One of the agents went out of her way to make sure I knew the directions to the nearest coffee shop. Bonus points for the TSA security screening staff at PHL, who were also nice and friendly. Prediction: more travel through Philly in my future.
  2. Homeward bound: FranceCharles de Gaulle Airport. Upon seeing my passport, the officer said loudly, “Bienvenue Canada! Celine Dion!” That’s enough for #2. Vacation bound: Glanced at my picture and stamped my passport. Should probably be #1 for that reason alone.
  3. Homeward bound: Canada – Halifax Stanfield International Airport. This was around 11:30 pm last night, the officer was professional and processed me quickly. No hassle, greatly appreciated.
  4. Vacation bound: United States – Halifax. Their job is important, but, man alive, they could tone down the inquisition. I recommend chatting with their CBP colleagues at PHL.

To sum up, my enduring thanks to customs and passport control agencies in Canada, the United States, and France – you have taken an experience that was recently grueling and unpleasant and made it perfunctory and tolerable. Bravo!

After getting some sleep and regaining some coherence, I’ve got lots more to share about the trip. Stay tuned!

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