An expat in Vancouver: at the Canada-US border

The Peace Arch at the US Canada border

As a US expat living in Vancouver, I travel back and forth between my home and the US quite a bit, mostly to my former home, Portland. The border separating the two has an interesting, complicated history and I enjoy mulling it over when I cross, and enjoying the sensation of officially moving from one country into another.

Sometimes I drive, other times I take the train, which is leisurely aka S-L-O-W, scenic and comfortable. This week I tried out the new BoltBus service, which is less comfortable but has advantages of shaving two hours off the travel and and being half the price of the train. I’ll be taking it again, for sure.

It is too expensive to fly — you can pay to cross the country for about the same.

The only real disadvantage of the bus is that you don’t get customs over with at the outset of the trip, but as you reach the border, at which point passengers unboard, pick up their luggage, wait in line and take their turns getting subjected to the unfriendly treatment of the customs agents.

I find that while the Canadians can be dry and unsocial, the US agents take the prize for outright incivility. (At the Victoria crossing an agent did not ask me to remove my sunglasses, she ordered me with a shout of “Glasses off!”) They have the intimidating dogs and heavy flak vests, and are masters of the game of power and submission. They have the power after all of detaining us without any charges indefinitely.

I ask: what is the point of this unfriendly manner at the threshold of a neighboring country? My response is to feel under unwarranted suspicion, disrespected and plainly unwelcome.

About kmazz

I spend as much time as possible pursuing my interests in global culture, photography, arts and politics.
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