Stuck in New Zealand Customs
I’ve been in New Zealand less than a day and I admit, the friendly stereotype is true, even when they threaten people at customs. That fellow got the silent treatment for hours because he was hiding something, whereas the customs officials questioned me for hours, because I have a tent, or maybe because I look borderline homeless; I don’t know. This wasn’t the welcome brigade I anticipated yet here’s what to expect and how to prepare for it, if it happens to you when you land in New Zealand.
I’ve never understood what it means, or what needs to be declared. Just like flying back to the States from overseas, New Zealand gives you a declarations form to prepare. All I had were some crackers and chocolate bars, I wasn’t sure if those counted, so I checked ‘No’… And then, I changed it to a yes.
After I got my luggage and confusedly went through the ‘Nothing to Declare’ lane, the customs official told me I was in the wrong land and sent me to the inspection lane where I sat, oblivious to my ordeal ahead.
Customs officials are good at smelling bull shit, so when an official seated me at a table and another official grilled me “When’s the last time you did drugs?” I chose to reply with a mix of honesty, “I smoked pot last week in Barcelona.” “Where did you buy it?” He continued. “Buy it?” I replied, “It’s practically legal there. Someone had it so I took a puff.” He grinned and asked, “So, if someone here tokes up and offers you a hit, will you take it?” – Turns out they appreciate honesty.
From that point on, I was the poor soul answering questions as the official emptied every item from every pocket. She flipped through the pages of my notebooks looking for LSD, she swabbed my bags for drug residue. My LinkedIn profile mentioned something about IoT Hacking so she grilled me about being a hacker, before checking my phone messages to confirm what I told her before was true. Another official took my tent away to inspect for foreign cultures. Almost two hours in total until she says “You can pack up now.”
As I waited to pick up my unraveled tent from the foreign cultures booth, a German lady whined about her fine after officials found a teeny bit of honey that she didn’t declare. As much as it sucked to lose two hours of my day, at least I didn’t pay a $400 fine.