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  • maverick
    replied
    we came back this morning through newark liberty international airport. we wrote on the customs declaration that we are carrying food. the customs officer routed us through a second scan which took just two minutes. they asked if we were carrying fruits and vegetables and we said no. they asked what we were carrying, and we said cookies and crackers purchased abroad, and lara bars, instant oatmeal, trail mix and hard candy purchase in the u.s. (food unused on the trip being brought back with us). they said okay, sent our bags through another x-ray and sent us on our way.

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  • peregrina
    replied
    Originally posted by maverick View Post

    but i don't agree the way in which they manage these situations. the officer was yelling at them. they were separated and questioned individually, and you could see the girl was scared out of her mind and crying. this was probably her first time in the u.s. the officer was in a room with the door closed, and you could hear him yelling at her in the waiting area. that is not right.
    You are right. There's absolutely no reason for them to behave like that. You can do your job efficiently as an immigration officer without being rude or yelling at people. I was yelled at once by US customs for absolutely no reason. I had forgotten to fill one line on the customs form and the lady at customs said "you forgot to fill this line. Go and fill it in." Since there was a pen right there I reached for it and started filling the form. All I had to do was write my name. She yanked the pen from my hand yelled "Not here! Go over there, fill your form and get back in line!" while she pointed to the tables at he end of the lines where people can fill in their forms.

    In another occasion, I crossed the border with 3 friends by car. The four of us were going to an academic conference in Michigan. I wasn't Canadian yet at the time but I had a visa to visit the US. They made me go inside the immigration office at the border to pay a fee. There were at least five officers inside and they all looked extremely bored and uninterested in their work. The man I dealt with asked me where I was going and after I explained he said "tell me, what will this conference do for you?" I wasn't sure how to answer that but I shouldn't have worried. As soon as I started mumbling something he turned his back to me and went to do something else. Actually, I shouldn't say he turned his back literally as he wouldn't get up from his chair, he just kept pushing himself around on his chair. They finally let me go. At the other end of the room there was this other girl who was being given a really hard time. I kept wondering if it was because she was a visible minority.

    Honestly. The whole experience left me with a really sour taste in my mouth. Immigration officers have an important job to do but they are also the face of your country as far as visitors are concerned. And the first impression many people get is a very negative one.

    It really doesn't need to be that way.

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  • Just
    replied
    Originally posted by moriond View Post
    Probably there are concerns over pirated movies, computer games, and music that are in violation of copyright
    Exactly. Previously, my mom would have brought over like a hundred or so of these... at like 1 USD (or less!) each! Of course they were for personal viewing (vs. selling), but pirated is pirated.

    Originally posted by moriond View Post
    although the NAXOS brand of highly regarded budget classical CDs has its headquarters in Hong Kong, and widely distributes legal recordings in mainland China.
    I didn't know that! But I still bet it'd be hard to convince Customs officials.. like anyone could probably fake a NAXOS label/packaging? We just kind of took the safer route. Though on my most recent trip, I did buy a legit music CD... only to return to the US and order a better version (more songs/extras) online through YesAsia. Sigh.

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  • moriond
    replied
    Originally posted by maverick View Post
    chocolates from europe are also really yummy. i am not saying one is better than the other, but there is a difference between european chocolates and indian chocolates. have a cadbury dairy milk chocolate bar from india and from the uk, as an example, and you will taste the difference.

    i'm not sure why chocolates in the u.s. taste different. while a lot of it is just awful, you can get really yummy, organic chocolate here. there is a brand i buy regularly at whole foods. i forget the name - i will look it up and post back here with it. another really yummy chocolate is green & black's milk chocolate bar.
    This New York Times article details some background for the differences between Cadbury's chocolates sold in the UK and elsewhere. This may also address peregrina's comments about Kit Kat bars in France.
    Originally posted by maverick View Post
    why is there a concern over carrying discs?
    Originally posted by Just View Post
    and I believe we were already thoroughly cautioned about bringing anything on a disc (CD, DVD, VCD, etc)
    i didn't this time, but when i am carrying my laptop, i'll often pick up a dvd or two to watch inflight.
    Probably there are concerns over pirated movies, computer games, and music that are in violation of copyright, although the NAXOS brand of highly regarded budget classical CDs has its headquarters in Hong Kong, and widely distributes legal recordings in mainland China. I think that dissident groups like the Falun Gong also used to target foreign travelers in airports and hand out DVDs and VCDs of their material.

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  • maverick
    replied
    Originally posted by Just View Post
    because we list the catchall categories of "gifts" or "knickknacks"
    thanks! that is good to know. i thought they wanted a more specific listing, so i have always been specific about what i purchased.

    Originally posted by Just View Post
    Of course, you don't really want to be arguing......
    no, you don't want to be arguing. you want to always be respectful and polite.

    this happened many years ago. before i was a u.s. citizen, i had a green card - meaning i was a permanent resident. at one point, my green card was being renewed. so they had stamped my passport to indicate that i was a green card holder. i was returning to the u.s. at dulles airport, and for whatever reason, i was asked to go to this other room for further verification before i could clear immigration.

    while i waited in that room to be seen, i witnessed some rather unpleasant situations. the officers talk to some of the people quite rudely and roughly. they are in a position of authority, and perhaps as an intimidation tactic to break you down if they suspect wrong doing, they really put a fear in you in the way that they talk to you.

    i remember there was a couple who were newly married abroad. i guess the immigration officer suspected whether the marriage was genuine or whether the guy was trying to just get this girl into the u.s. and understand that this is with reason - there are people in this world who don't exactly follow the law.

    but i don't agree the way in which they manage these situations. the officer was yelling at them. they were separated and questioned individually, and you could see the girl was scared out of her mind and crying. this was probably her first time in the u.s. the officer was in a room with the door closed, and you could hear him yelling at her in the waiting area. that is not right.

    on the occasion that i was returning with rugs and waiting to pay the import duty, i saw what was actually a bit more comical. this guy had arrived with cardboard boxes as his luggage, and they had been taped crazily. i think he ended up being inspected because they suspected he may have been carrying something he shouldn't have. the officer pulled out all sorts of things - i don't remember all of it now. but i remember one very odd thing. the officer pulled out a chicken. this was the whole bird. not a leg or a wing or other part. a whole chicken. now, i don't know what was inside of it. but the officer said to the man, i'm going to turn around, and you're going to put that into the trash. and then we'll continue. i think that was nice of the officer.

    but the way in which this man's articles were opened was not nice. most of the time, the officer was cutting into packaging with a knife - not just the boxes, but items taped up that were inside of the boxes. i would protest and ask to speak with the supervisor if an officer brought a knife anywhere close to any of my luggage.

    so, yes, you don't want to argue. if you upset someone, you could be handled in a not so friendly manner.

    Originally posted by Just View Post
    and I believe we were already thoroughly cautioned about bringing anything on a disc (CD, DVD, VCD, etc)
    why is there a concern over carrying discs?

    i didn't this time, but when i am carrying my laptop, i'll often pick up a dvd or two to watch inflight.

    Leave a comment:


  • Just
    replied
    Buahaha.. usually we don't have to worry about listing trinkets or such when coming back to the US.. because we list the catchall categories of "gifts" or "knickknacks"

    We were subjected to a thorough (not as thorough as yours, maverick, but thorough just the same) search coming back from China a couple years back. Since we had visited with many friends and such throughout our trip, we brought back a good portion of China. =) But really, unless they are identifiably foreign, you won't need receipts and such... you could have argued that you bought _(particular item)_ in Chinatown back home! Of course, you don't really want to be arguing......

    Anyhow, all we got asked about was a tea (one of the Chinese characters on the package appeared similar to the character for "cow"), and I believe we were already thoroughly cautioned about bringing anything on a disc (CD, DVD, VCD, etc)

    The most recent trip we brought back preserved fish (NOT MY IDEA!) but Customs was fine with it, as long as it wasn't fresh..?

    Leave a comment:


  • peregrina
    replied
    I agree! I really don't like candy bars in general - I much prefer a good quality dark chocolate. Perhaps a dark chocolate with some form of nut or fruit but none of those candy bars filled with stuff inside...

    and after a year in Spain, where chocolate houses like Valor are everywhere, I became even pickier

    Leave a comment:


  • backpack
    replied
    There is a difference in taste everywhere because of the soil, weather and way of producing the item.

    Thanks a lot Maverick and Perigrina, I now have cravings for chocolate, dairy and ice cream.



    In the U.S, it is much better to stay away from candy bars because they are all sugar and fillers with a little coating of cocoa powder to look like chocolate.

    I thought I was dreaming when I felt there was a difference in the taste of name brand candy bars between the U.S and Europe but I guess, I was right.
    As Peregrina noted, it is probably because of cocoa and milk fat content and especially the fact that Europeans frown on fillers.
    Last edited by backpack; 03-08-2009, 06:19 PM.

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  • peregrina
    replied
    Originally posted by maverick View Post
    otherwise, the $100 or $200 i spend on gifts and such when traveling is not an issue. you list it and you walk right through.
    Oh ok, that must be the difference then. Here we only list if it goes above the limit, otherwise, you don't write anything...

    Leave a comment:


  • peregrina
    replied
    Originally posted by maverick View Post

    i'm not sure why chocolates in the u.s. taste different. while a lot of it is just awful, you can get really yummy, organic chocolate here. there is a brand i buy regularly at whole foods. i forget the name - i will look it up and post back here with it. another really yummy chocolate is green & black's milk chocolate bar.
    I read somewhere that it has to do with the fact that most of what gets labeled as chocolate in North America is not in fact chocolate, that is, it has no cocoa. In Europe, they tend to be a bit more purist about things although even there you might find something labeled chocolate that isn't real chocolate. When I lived in Spain I read about a movement led by Spain and Italy to pass a resolution at the EU that would prohibit anything that doesn't contain at least a certain percentage of cocoa from being labeled "chocolate".

    Leave a comment:


  • maverick
    replied
    no, you only pay customs duty on imports over a certain amount (i forget now what that amount is), provided they are for personal use or gifts. the only time i have had to pay duty was when i brought back some rugs from india. otherwise, the $100 or $200 i spend on gifts and such when traveling is not an issue. you list it and you walk right through.

    i try to purchase organic, locally grown and in season fruits and vegetables as much as possible. i have gotten some really delicious and juicy peaches and tomatoes over the summer at farmer's markets in raleigh, nc.

    chocolates from europe are also really yummy. i am not saying one is better than the other, but there is a difference between european chocolates and indian chocolates. have a cadbury dairy milk chocolate bar from india and from the uk, as an example, and you will taste the difference.

    i'm not sure why chocolates in the u.s. taste different. while a lot of it is just awful, you can get really yummy, organic chocolate here. there is a brand i buy regularly at whole foods. i forget the name - i will look it up and post back here with it. another really yummy chocolate is green & black's milk chocolate bar.

    Originally posted by peregrina View Post
    wow, that's quite an ordeal! So you have to pay customs over every item you purchase or is it just above a certain value? Here in Canada we only need to declare if we spend above a certain amount ($400 if you were away for 48 hours or $750 if you were away for more than 7 days)... Since my husband and I never really buy much, I confess we are not very good in keeping receipts...

    As for the real flavour of fruits and vegetables, stay away from industrial agriculture and buy your food in farmer markets or through a CSA and you'll re-discover what real fruits and vegetables, grown as they should and picked in season, should taste like. As for our milk and chocolate... most of the stuff available in North America is a far cry from the real stuff... The first time I had a Kit Kat in France, my jaw dropped... the difference is unbelievable.

    Leave a comment:


  • peregrina
    replied
    wow, that's quite an ordeal! So you have to pay customs over every item you purchase or is it just above a certain value? Here in Canada we only need to declare if we spend above a certain amount ($400 if you were away for 48 hours or $750 if you were away for more than 7 days)... Since my husband and I never really buy much, I confess we are not very good in keeping receipts...

    As for the real flavour of fruits and vegetables, stay away from industrial agriculture and buy your food in farmer markets or through a CSA and you'll re-discover what real fruits and vegetables, grown as they should and picked in season, should taste like. As for our milk and chocolate... most of the stuff available in North America is a far cry from the real stuff... The first time I had a Kit Kat in France, my jaw dropped... the difference is unbelievable.

    Leave a comment:


  • maverick
    replied
    i always bring back chocolates when i go to india. the milk there is different. even the ice cream is so much creamier. but i definitely cannot bring that back .

    the vegetables there are also better - fresher, more full of flavor. maybe the soil is different.

    i remember having saag (mustard greens, kind of like spinach) at my friend's grandmother's house in a small village in india some years back. i have never tasted saag like that anywhere else! it had been picked from the fields earlier that morning, and it had been prepared with such love.

    the food is delicious and full of flavor at fine restaurants and at small dhabas. but there was something special in that saag that i have not tasted any place else.

    stuff like that has to be enjoyed there. it cannot be brought back except as a fond memory. but the chocolates, they will be coming back with me every single time :-).

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  • backpack
    replied
    It was just the same before.

    The form is not long but complicated as it asks the same question twice in a different way.

    Coming from anywhere outside the U.S, it is always best to eat your food on the plane and dispose of any leftovers before customs.

    Make sure you declare everything you bought, even trinkets that sometimes get tossed in the checked bag, during the ever so pleasant shuffle associated with flying commercial.
    Keep the receipts in a secure place and the items in their original packaging if possible.


    If you buy dried herbs like herbes the Provence in France or dill in Scandinavia, ship them UPS before you leave.

    Do the same with fragile items like Murano glass or Provence clay figurines or Lalique glass.

    Many makers of European traditional crafts or vendor of products like the ones I mentioned above, have websites and will be happy to ship the items you like for you.

    Unless you fall in love with a unique piece, better buy the item online when your are back in the U.S. You'll have to pay custom either way.


    Maverick did everything right when he went through the custom inspection.

    Staying cool and stoic is the best way to go.

    Easier said than done, I speak from experience.

    Leave a comment:


  • KarlJ
    replied
    Seems like things may have been better when US Customs and US Immigration were under different auspices prior to Homeland Security overseeing it all.

    Leave a comment:

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