Thursday, 26 September 2013

Customs officers

There maybe a border control or customs officer reading this blog, who knows.  I have to ask, why are UK borders and customs officers always so bloody miserable?

I went to France last weekend - FRANCE reputed to be the rudest country in Europe by some - and yet the customs officer bade my family and I a happy "bon jour" and cheerfully wished us a pleasant stay in his country.  I've been to France a few times and mostly they are always reasonably cheerful.

I was in Germany a year or so back and despite my stupidly buying a novel to take with a big swastika on the cover the border man was pleasant, albeit a little surprised.

I've visited Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Spain and Poland where everybody we met was pleasant.

In the USA even the stern border control officer managed a smile when he realised I wasn't a terrorist merely English.

Yet no matter how many times I go away I always have to come back and every time I do I'm met with a difficult unpleasant and occasionally rude customs officer.  On one occasion while travelling with friends I met the rudest official I've ever come across.  He actually shouted threats at my friend as my friend walked away and offered to fight him after work!!  My friend is the least offensive man you could ever meet - and at the time was a senior executive at the airport!

Honestly, the most pleasant experience I've ever had at passport control in the UK was at Heathrow when I found a machine that could check my passport for me.  No messing about demanding I remove my passport from its wallet (I only ever have the front cover slipped into the wallet so it can be read by the machine and every country I've ever been to manages to read it without a surly demand that the passport be removed from the wallet). The machine didn't ask any stupid questions about where I'd been, what I'd been doing, who I was travelling with, etc.  It just checked my passport, had a look at me and showed me a little green light to tell me to carry on.

When a machine is the most friendly border control officer in the UK something is clearly wrong.


  1. You must remove your passport from its cover fully in countries such as Japan and South Korea, but they have racist border fingerprinting so there might be a link there.
    Psychological examination of British border officers shows that they are bureaucratic types who like inflicting petty miseries on travellers as a way of compensating for the fact that they hate their jobs. After all, who becomes a UK border officer? Answer: people who can't find any other type of work. No one wants to be a customs officer when they grow up.
    (BTW, it's "border", not "boarder"; the latter is a lodger.)

    1. Yep thanks for the spelling correction... *** red face ***

  2. Interesting isn’t it about the French reputation for rudeness. I am retired in rural France after working as engineer for a U.S. company in Paris. In my experience, generally, I would say politeness and good manners are the norm take you a very long way. It is quite normal to wish anybody you meet good day and at the bakers most of the necessary conversation is politeness.
    You certainly can run across rudeness, but with the possible exception of taxi drivers it is usually provoked. American red neck tourists shouting at Parisian waiters, they are going to lose, are possibly the worst, with English football supporters coming a close second.

    1. I agree. Went to Paris a while back and everyone was very polite and friendly.

      Stayed in La Rochelle and got some abuse from a very drunk elderly Frenchman who clearly hated the Brits since he kept shouting abuse thinking we couldn't understand him although everyone else on his table and the staff all looked mortified by him.

      On the whole I can't say the French live up to their reputation at all.

  3. Politeness is a simple way to lubricate the interface between strangers who for a fleeting moment have something or some task in common and to smooth that moment to their mutual benefit. It is usually an age related learning experience.

  4. Unless you're talking about kids who stay overnight at school, I think you want 'border control'

    1. Ahh yes... I'll blame that one on auto-correct

  5. The politeness went noticeably downhill when they decided to put them into uniforms.

    After a trip abroad, dealing with uniformed goons at every border (IME the US ones are often the worst), coming back to Blighty and being greeted by normal people at the border used to be a pleasant sign that you're back in civilisation.

    No longer, sadly.