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The friendly customs officer took a load off my mind

We came to Canada with eight large suitcases filled to bursting (two each for the four members of our family). The rest of our goods were being shipped to follow.

While packing to move halfway across the world, we had debated long and hard over what to take with us for our immediate needs and what could come later. Even the stuff that was to follow generated heated discussion. Did we need to take every cooking utensil or should we buy new? What about clothes? The kids were going to need new ones based on what their peers wore to school, but we could surely save by not rushing out to buy new clothes for my wife and myself. Fortunately, there was no argument over furniture. We stored a few favourite pieces at my parents’ home, gave away a few and sold the rest. With no idea of the size of accommodation we would be able to find (and afford), there really was no point in carting furniture from Delhi to Toronto.

Even so, with all this paring down, there was still a substantial amount of personal effects being shipped. We got notification of the arrival of our cargo in about six weeks of landing in Toronto. We had put the time to good use, and had found ourselves a decent rental accommodation. The kids had enrolled in the neighbourhood school and we were all set to go.

Used as we were to the somewhat laborious process of baggage clearance in India, we were expecting more of the same here. At the customs clearance centre near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, we waited in a large hall with others there for the same purpose. When our turn came, we walked up to the friendly lady behind the counter. She took a quick glance at our papers, list of goods to follow, etc., stamped everything, smiled and said, “You can collect your stuff from...”

For a second, I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly.
“Sorry?” I asked. “We can do what?”

“Collect your things,” she repeated.

“That’s it?” I asked in disbelief. “You don’t want to open our cartons and check?”

“Would you like me to?” she asked, laughing.

“Not really, ma’am, no!” I replied hastily, backing away. We had nothing to hide, but if we were being allowed to collect our stuff without a detailed inspection, who was I to argue?

Later I learned from others who had similar experiences that unless one is suspected of bringing in something one shouldn’t, everyone is treated with the same courtesy and friendliness.
– MADAN SRIVASTAV

What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant @rogers.com.

Posted: Oct 16, 2010

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