18 October 2014

The American Meat Market

I was back in the USA recently. I flew to Buffalo for a conference. I arrived in Chicago O'Hare International Airport, and sure enough, the moment I stepped out of the plane, it felt like a market. A meat market, metaphorically, so to speak.

See, I don't understand why there is the need for airport staff to shout at everyone. Do they think that incoming passengers are dumb and need to be shouted at? Sure, immigration procedures can be confusing, not to mention a new environment. But does that merit you, the airport staff, to just treat incoming passengers like cattle to be auctioned, while directing them to which line they should queue up? It really doesn't make a good first impression.

See, not everyone is a first-time international traveler and visitor to the United States. I for example already has been to 36 countries. If I link all of my flights together, I could circumnavigate the earth more than 9 times, and it can already reach the moon. I have seen plenty of different new and unfamiliar things and places, so I know how to deal with them. I don't need to be shouted at.

And no, even if it were my first time to enter the USA, or even if it was my first time to enter a foreign country, I still don't need to be shouted at. Shouting just scares people, and unnecessarily stresses them. I can keep my cool, even if I got selected for random secondary screening, I don't get stressed and still act with dignity. But not everyone is like that, and I honestly don't see the point of airport staff just shouting at everyone repeating which line they need to queue up in, since there are signs all over the place saying where they should go.

Yeah, it is so different from European airports, I should say. The immigration process in airports such as Zurich, Munich, or Vienna are more smooth and human-like compared to the USA. It doesn't make a good first impression, you know.


  1. I've had mixed experience entering the US. Overall, it has gotten easier with my Canadian passport. The worst was in Detroit, coming from Canada by Greyhound. We (all the passengers) were searched and questioned one by one. It was... weird. One officer shouted at me for a good ten minutes in 2004 as well, because I hadn't gave back the green paper I had filled in when entering the US months ago. I didn't know I was supposed to hand it over when leaving the US, we had entered Mexico without even seeing any border officer!

    Canadian customs can be pretty tough too, as well as British and Australian.

    1. Zhu,

      To be honest, though, I think things have improved if we're only talking about the customs and immigration officers. I entered the USA in Chicago the last time, and the people looking at your passport were actually polite, same thing with the immigration officer in London's Gatwick airport. Sure, they do ask plenty of questions, but as long as you have the right answers, they are polite. What I find disturbing is that it's actually the mundane airport staff, whose only role is to make sure the passengers are lining up in the correct lines, these people controlling the crowds, these are the ones that act like they're hoarding cattle instead of people.