Returning from Amsterdam

Actually the wife and I were returning from a 26 day vacation in Germany and France with two days interrupted by the sights in Amsterdam. We returned near home at RSW (Fort Myers) on a direct flight via AirBerlin. Guessing there were 200-300 passengers on the flight and mostly non U.S. citizens. This observation from the line at customs. On my customs declaration I wrote Germany, Netherlands and France as countries we visited. After picking up our luggage and proceeding to exit we were "red flagged" and advised to be screened. Two guys. The older asked where we have been. Asked if we went to "smoke shops." Asked if we brought anything back from the "smoke shops." Asked what I did for a living. Asked how much cash I was carrying. I was nervous my wife would explode in anger at any minute. They picked through our luggage. Meanwhile the entire group of non U.S. citizen passengers disembarked uneventfully. I watched them go by.

Posted by gone
2081 posts


chances are it was a slow day for the agents.

i was scrutinized when i did a second short trip several months later. A co worker told me that they dont like people traveling too soon after coming back from a trip. Maybe travel envy?

but the agent was asking questions while thumbing thru my carry on. as far as my pack/bag goes, they didnt even look at it.

by the way, i told them to have a ball going tru my stuff since i had nothing to hide. i did bring back some expensive chocolates from Amsterdam and they wanted to look at them since they were wrapped up at the store. I told them if they wanted to try one, they could but they didnt.

happy trails.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7570 posts

That's their job. A certain percentage of passengers each day get selected for hand searches like that, travel enough and it happens to everyone eventually. Just because you're a native doesn't mean you get special treatment.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
1057 posts

Gave our twin sons, at age 19 1/2, a Europe trip summer after their freshman year at college (one was in 5 year coop program and that was only beak he would have), they chose 5 days in Berlin, then 5 in Amsterdam, then home. As expected with their profile, they were gone over with the proverbial fine-tooth comb when they arrived here at PHL. We had warned them, and fortunately, they had listened. So no problem except the lengthy processing time.

Posted by mike
5 posts

@Michael. Perhaps you missed my point. Because I'm a native, I feel I did get "special treatment."

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3347 posts

I suspect part of the reason for the questioning was because you flew into RSW; they just didn't have enough to keep them busy. Had you flown into a major airport, they probably wouldn't have batted an eye.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2228 posts

I will be spending a week in Amsterdam at the end of our trip to Europe later this month and in June. I will be curious as to what I will encounter here in Seattle when I return. My wife and I go to Europe every summer for a month and this will be the first time in many years that our last stay in Europe is Amsterdam. In 11 of the last 12 years of going to Europe only my wife has been singled out for intensive interrogation upon returning to Seattle. Better her than me as she is much more patient and accepting than I am. I do fly often domestically and occasionally have difficulty with the TSA folks but nothing yet has escalated to a scene. I realize that these folks are just doing their jobs but sometimes wonder if their work position has any IQ requirements. I will make sure that I do not visit any of the smoke shops in Amsterdam. If only I had gone over there 45 years ago.......

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7570 posts

Customs officers don't care if you visit any coffee shops in Amsterdam, they care about what you are bringing with you into the US. As long as you're not smuggling anything you won't have any problems, and keep in mind that they are armed law enforcement officers...unlike the TSA folks they have the power of arrest;)

These days they are looking for cash more than drugs. They have finally figured out it's it easier to spot the bundles of cash heading back to the cartels, than the small packets of whatever hidden on your body or in your bag.

In terms of my own experiences being hand searched, they are nearly identical to the OP: they thoroughly searched my bag, asked lots of questions about my job and how much money I earn, wanted me to describe the exterior of my house (which I thought was weird-this was before the days of google street view), and looked at the palms of my hand to see if I was sweating and nervous. In end I got small lecture about one of my prescriptions not being labeled properly, and I was on my way.