- Odds and Ends
- Who knew
The World's Weirdest Laws!
Written centuries ago or newly passed, here are 30 regulations in force across the globe that range from mildly amusing to downright bizarre
Standing Room Only
It’s illegal to spontaneously dance in a bar or restaurant in Sweden. Owners must adhere to a bygone law and get a dance licence. The Swedish parliament announced its intention to repeal it in 2016, yet a restaurant owner in the province of Härjedalen was prosecuted as recently as 2020.
No light must be visible within five kilometres of the king’s bedroom in the Palace of Versailles in France. This 18th-century law means the Versailles football club doesn’t have floodlights and, as a result, can’t host all of its home games—including one against Toulouse in January 2022. It had to move the match to its opponent’s pitch nearly 700 kilometres away.
Rats aren’t allowed to enter the province of Alberta in Canada, not even as pets. They’re considered a pest that destroys crops and spreads disease, and a rat-control programme has kept them at bay since the 1950s.
All beached whales and sturgeons in the United Kingdom must be offered to the reigning monarch, according to a decree from 1322. Nevertheless, as recently as 2004, the late Queen Elizabeth II waived her right to a 120-kilogram sturgeon caught by fisherman Robert Davies in Wales.
Wedding Wakeup Call
Being unconscious at your own wedding is verboten in Germany. The marriage can be annulled if one of the parties wasn’t aware that they were getting hitched.
In Texas in the United States, you must make an announcement if you want to mess with the climate. Anyone wishing to engage in cloud seeding to generate rain must publish a notice in a local newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks.
Creatures Great and Small
In Belgium, no one can take your last cow or 12 sheep or goats. Your last pig and 24 chickens can’t be removed either. This law is to prevent a bailiff leaving you destitute.
Welcome to Earth
In 1995, the city of Barra do Garças in Brazil passed a law setting aside five hectares for a UFO airport—to cater to the ‘flying saucers’ reportedly spotted in the area. The city has since also sanctioned an annual ‘E.T. Day’.
Hikers, Stay Clothed
Naked hiking is banned in Switzerland. While being nude in public isn’t illegal, the demi canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes fined one rambling naturist for indecency after he walked past a family with young children who were picnicking. Citizens then voted in a referendum to put a stop to the practice and in 2011 the man lost his appeal against his conviction.
It’s a crime to be annoying in the Philippines. The offence of ‘unjust vexation’—deliberately upsetting another person—is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 30 days or a fine, or both. While it’s sensible to outlaw harassment, this law can cover anything that causes irritation. For example, the mayor of Caibiran was convicted of unjust vexation for padlocking a market stall and taking its contents to the police station because the stallholder had not paid her rent.
Berry Good Idea
You may pick someone else’s cloudberries in Norway but only if you eat them on site. The fruit, which resemble an orange or yellow blackberry and grow wild, are an expensive delicacy, so in the counties of Troms and Finnmark and Nordland, if the landowner has signs prohibiting picking, you’re allowed to gather them but not take them away.
What’s in a Name?
In football player Lionel Messi’s hometown of Rosario, in Argentina, you aren’t allowed to give your child the first name Messi. The director of the Civil Registry in Santa Fe province stepped in after a family in another area did just that. He ruled that it was against the law because Messi is a surname. (Lionel remains a perfectly acceptable name.)
The Hot Seat
In Pakistan, having a rider on the back of a motorcycle is banned in some provinces on certain public holidays. But the rule doesn’t always apply: exemptions can include women, children, senior citizens, law enforcement personnel, security staff, employees of essential services and journalists.
Burglars Have Rights, Too
You mustn’t lock a burglar in the toilet if he breaks into your home in the Netherlands. This is considered deprivation of freedom, which is illegal.
Bye Bye, Buccaneer
In the state of Victoria in Australia, you can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for trading or even corresponding with a pirate under a relatively recent 1958 law.
Anyone who sets off a cannon or other firearm within 200 metres of a house or road in Hong Kong “to the annoyance of any inhabitant or passerby” and who then, after being asked to stop, does it again, is liable to a fine of US$25 [Rs 2,036].
All ‘peasants’ must plant hops in Finland unless their land is unsuitable. Contravening this law dating back to 1734 will, in theory, incur a fine in ‘thalers’ (silver coins that were the currency at the time).
It’s in the Water
In Italy—Rome, specifically—your lips must not make contact with the spout of a drinking fountain. This was just one of a series of laws introduced by city authorities in 2019 to improve life for residents and tourists.
It’s illegal to step on local currency in Thailand. Under the country’s strict lèse-majesté law, you could face a prison sentence if you disrespect the king. This extends to insulting his image, which appears on all forms of money.
Selling alcohol 24 hours before a major election can be prohibited by states in Mexico, ostensibly to maintain public order. This “Dry Law” dating back to the early 20th century also limits the sale of booze on election day itself.
You’re not permitted to wash on a public thoroughfare in Malaysia. Under the Minor Offences Act of 1955, you can be fined for cleaning items such as your car, an animal, yourself or another person on the highway.
Keep Your Cash
People born in Monaco aren’t allowed to play in its casinos, despite being citizens of a principality that is world famous for gambling. The origins of the law go back to the 19th century when the royal family aimed to shore up Monaco’s dwindling fortunes by making it a paradise for the world’s wealthy. It also wanted to protect its own less-than-affluent populace from further impoverishing itself.
No More Rust!
In Valencia in Spain, the local police can confiscate rusty beach umbrellas. They can also take away rusty chairs and hammocks ‘to avoid any type of possible contamination’.
Flush After Use
You could be fined up to US$700 [around Rs 57,000] in Singapore if you don’t flush after using a public toilet.
Using bread to clean wallpaper or floors is prohibited in Austria, according to a 1915 law.
Under the 1934 Indian Aircraft Act, a kite is defined as an aircraft. As a result, you aren’t allowed to fly one in India without a permit.
In Chile, you can be fined for forgetting to hang the national flag from your home on Independence Day. Hanging it the wrong way will also get you into trouble. The flag must be suspended from a white pole or from the front of the building, and be clean and in good condition.
Live in the Present
It’s against the law in Malta to pretend to be a diviner, fortune teller or interpreter of dreams and make money from it.
Salt, ketchup and mayonnaise are banned from restaurant tables in Uruguay. In the capital city of Montevideo, if you want them, you have to ask. The measure is part of a drive to reduce high levels of hypertension.
Under the Influence
You can be prosecuted for drunk driving in Japan even if you’re not drunk and not driving. It’s against the law to be a passenger in a car in which the driver is over the limit.