Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The survey says: America unfriendly, suspicious

A recent travel industry study finds that tourists entering the US find America unfriendly, suspicious, arrogant... unfortunately, I can see how they might arrive at that conclusion.

Having traveled internationally quite a bit over the past 10 years or so, the impression one gets when arriving in the country, especially in Atlanta, is not a good one. Here's the routine in Atlanta:

Upon arriving at the gate, you make your way off the plane and head for passport control. There's always someone there directing people to the appropriate (US citizen/non-US citizen) line. This person is not congenial. He or she is bellowing, over and over, "US citizens over here, non-US citizens over there!". Even to an English-speaking American, they're barely understandable. The passport check itself, for an American citizen, is pretty painless.

Next is baggage claim. You have to claim your checked bags before going through customs. The wait there can be lengthy, but certainly not (much) worse than, say, Frankfurt or Gatwick.

You then take your bags through customs, where you hand your customs declaration card to an unsmiling customs agent. A side note here. If you've purchased antique firearms abroad and are bringing them through customs, you will have a bit of a delay at this point.

If your trip ends in Atlanta, you're good to go. But if, like most people, you're connecting to another destination from Atlanta, the gauntlet continues with baggage re-check. Again you'll be faced with barely intelligible people bellowing instructions on what to do.

Now that you've re-checked your bag, you've got to clear security...again. Since so far you haven't left a security-sterile area, I can only assume this is because you may have taken something from your checked baggage that's not permitted in your carry-on baggage. Once more, you'll be subjected to high-volume abuse exhorting you to remove laptops and camcorders from your carry-on bags, remove your shoes and jackets, etc.

If such was my first impression of America, I'd probably head right for the ticket counter and arrange for a flight back home.


Rancher said...

And yet we remain the third most visited country in the world.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric

Would be interested to get your views on the goings on in Lebanon and the murder of the Russian in London. Lot of people forget that Putin is ex KGB and he doesn't take any criticism. Re immigration I have always found the US to be hard but fair that includes JFK, LAX and Boston. My American friends flying in to Heathrow tell me that the Londoners could do with learning some manners.

Eric said...

Re. travel...I haven't been to the UK in a little over a year, but on my last trip, the immigration folks at Gatwick were professional, if a bit brisk. The return trip was the time I had antique pistols I'd purchased during the trip. I thought it would be a huge deal, but it wasn't. The security guys looked them over, oohed and aahed a few times, and once satisfied that they weren't going to be fired any time soon, sent me on my way. (They were in my checked luggage.)

I'll be getting some posts up soon on Gemayel and Litvinenko soon.