Business or Pleasure?

I’m back from my vacation/conference. Unfortunately I brought back a cold, so I hope this post still makes sense. 🙂

I have had to travel internationally for conferences a few times (usually to the states). And each time, I’m handed a customs form to fill out (sometimes both ways, sometimes only upon returning to Canada). And, without fail, on the Canada form (and the US) there is a question about the purpose of your trip. Did you go for business or pleasure?

Each time I get to this question it causes me to pause. I’m never sure which one to check. And there are arguments both ways. On one hand it’s business – I am there to meet with colleagues, to present work, and my current “job” is to be a grad student (I even get paid). But, conferences don’t involve money exchanging hands in terms of contracts being made, or jobs completed. So under that definition, it’s not business.

It’s pleasure in the sense that I’m meeting up with old friends, hanging out, probably going out for meals and to possible tourist destinations. Add in that I often piggy back an actual vacation onto my trip, and it’s definitely pleasure. But, then again, I find conferences fun but also stressful, boring, and not full of choices I’d usually make on a vacation. So it’s not really pleasure.

I tried looking this up before I went, and found that there’s confusion out there for everyone. Some people have checked one only to have the customs agent flip it to the other (and this goes both ways). Others always claimed it as pleasure and said they were going to meet up with friends. But I don’t advocate lying when going through customs. Even though the above is likely true.

This time, when I came back through Canadian customs, I decided to check off pleasure. I was going to ask the customs agents (but it always feels like they’re rushing you through, so there wasn’t time). Instead, when asked what I went for, I was honest. I told her I had gone to an academic conference and then travelled around. And her reply was okay, and handed me back my form.

So, I guess my plan for the future is to check pleasure. And I’ll continue to tell them what I was there for, and if they feel the need to switch that to business, I’ll leave it up to them.


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