This conversation took place on November 25, 2011, as Patrick and I crossed into England via the Eurotunnel from Calais, France. We were in a Honda CRV with two dogs, luggage, and U.S. Passports.
Customs Agent: "May I see your passports?"
[Patrick hands over passports.]
Customs Agent: "When did you fly into Europe from the United States?"
Patrick: "We didn't fly into Europe. We took the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship in August."
Customs Agent: "And you returned back to the United States since August, right?"
Patrick: "No. We haven't returned to the United States . . . "
Akila [in the interest of being truthful]: ". . . except for a 3 day trip to New York."
Customs Agent [glaring]: "You haven't returned to the United States since August?"
Patrick: "Yes, except for a three day trip."
Customs Agent: "Have you been in England the entire time since August?"
[Ummm, we're in France talking to you. Clearly, we haven't been in England the entire time.]
Patrick: "No. We left England in September."
Customs Agent: "To return to the United States?"
[Haven't we already covered this?]
Patrick: "No. We traveled around Spain, France, and Italy for 3 months."
Customs Agent: "What do you do in the United States?"
Patrick: "I'm in IT . . . "
Akila: "And I'm a travel writer."
Customs Agent: "And you're returning to the United States now?"
Patrick: "No. We're not returning until next August."
Customs Agent: "August? And you arrived in England last August?"
[Goodness. I thought we've discussed this already.]
Customs Agent: "You're going to be in Europe for a year and don't plan to return to the United States?"
Customs Agent: "And how are you paying for this?"
Customs Agent, incredulously: "You saved enough money to travel for a full year?"
[Yes, lady, it is possible. In fact, England's the one that started this whole gap year thing. Just cause we're American doesn't mean we don't know how to save.]
Customs Agent: "And how long did you save for this trip?"
Patrick: "About four years."
Customs Agent: "Four years." [shakes her head.] "And you claim that you're not working now?"
Akila: "We do some freelance work."
Patrick: "But it's all done for U.S. companies."
Customs Agent: "You understand that I have to ask you this because I want to make sure you're not going to enter England to start working."
[Really, if there was one country in the world that I would pick to work in, it would not be England in the wintertime. It's freaking cold here.]
Patrick: "We're not working. Just vacationing."
Customs Agent: "And you have credit cards?"
Akila: "Of course."
[Do you not see the nice Honda CR-V we're driving packed full of nice things and the wedding rings on our fingers? And, even if we were poor backpackers wearing mangy clothes, do you really think people travel nowadays without credit cards? And, if we didn't have credit cards, are you going to deny entry into England based on someone's poor credit rating?]
Customs Agent: "And you're staying in hotels?"
Akila: "Vacation rentals."
Customs Agent: "And you've paid for these vacation rentals?"
Akila: "Of course."
Customs Agent: "How much did you pay for the vacation rentals?"
[Is this really any of your business? I get that you need to figure out what we're doing but you wouldn't ask a vacationer how much their hotel room costs, would you?]
Akila: "About 1200 pounds for the month."
Customs Agent: "Because you left the United States in August, aren't working, and won't be back in the United States until next year. You're gone a long time without working, you know."
[Excuse me, but you're not our parents.]
Us: "Uh huh."
Customs Agent: [Sighs.] "Well, I guess you're fine [stamps our passports]... since you're going to be in England for VACATION, not work."
[We nod and smile and drive away.]
*Today, the UK immigration workers are on strike to get payraises, disrupting the entire flight and travel schedule in and out of England, creating havoc across England's borders. You can read more about their demands here.