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10 Weird Laws From Around The World

Even the strangest things can get you in trouble depending on where you are

By Isa NanPublished about a month ago 11 min read
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What are laws? To put it briefly they are a set of rules imposed and enforced by the authorities of a particular country in order to maintain order. For the most part, laws are an essential part of any society. Without them, there would most certainly be chaos and anarchy and the world would be far more dangerous than it already is.

The vast majority of the time, laws make sense. They keep us safe and orderly without intruding on our ability to enjoy life and the freedoms that come with it. However, throughout the world, there are a number of laws that are just plain weird.

What may seem to be normal or inconsequential behaviour may land you in hot water in some places. Absurd, unnecessary or just strange all-around, let’s take a look at 10 weird laws from around the world.

#10. You Must Smile At All Times In Milan

In Milan, the only times you can’t smile are at a funeral or in the hospital. Image: Wikmedia Commons

It’s safe to say that when you go on holiday, you’re in a pretty good mood. A change of scene in a place as beautiful as Milan, Italy certainly helps lift the spirits. However, you’d best hope that nothing dampens your mood throughout your stay or you’ll be in trouble!

The law in Milan compels everyone to constantly maintain a happy expression in public. The only exceptions to this being when attending a funeral or visiting a sick person in hospital. So you’d best turn those frowns upside down when walking the streets of this Italian city.

Based on the law, anyone caught being publicly unhappy can be fined. While this law dates back to Austro-Hungarian times, it was never repealed. So, the authorities in Milan are well within their rights to fine you if you get caught wearing a long face.

#9. You Must Wear A Speedo When Swimming If You Are A Man In France

If you’re hitting the beach in France, you’d best be prepared to look like this as guys are only allowed to wear Speedos or similarly form fitting swimwear. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Every pool or beach has rules and more often than not, they’re perfectly justified. Generally these rules usually deal with littering, not doing your business in the water and of course, the use of appropriate swimwear. In France however, the concept of appropriate beachwear for a man is restricted only to Speedos or attires of a similar nature.

While most beaches allow most types of swimwear to be worn, French law is very specific that a man must use a very specific kind when taking a dip. So, when you’re planning to hit the beach in France, you’d best leave those baggy Rip Curls at home and get yourself a Speedo. Legal ramifications aside, you’re going to find it near impossible to even enter the water in the first place if you’re caught in the wrong attire.

Strangely, there is a somewhat warped logic to why this law is in place and it has to do with hygiene. French lawmakers were of the view that many beachgoers often use baggier swimming trunks as regular pants and were likely to bring along any germs from elsewhere into the water because of this. The rationale behind the law was that if you were restricted to a smaller, more form fitting swimwear, you would have no other reason to wear it other than when going into the water, thus minimizing the dirt and germs on your clothes. So, better get that tight revealing Speedo ready if you want to be allowed into a French beach or pool.

#8. You Cannot Run Out Of Gas On The German Autobahn

If you’re going on the Autobahn, you better have a full tank in the car. If you run out of gas mid-way, you’ll end up paying for more than just a refuel. Image: Wikimedia Commons

When you think of punishable offences, running out of gas isn’t probably the first thing that crosses most people’s minds. If anything, it’s such a big inconvenience that all the hassle that comes with running out of gas can be seen to be a punishment in itself. Unfortunately, on Germany’s Autobahn highway, running on empty can do way more than delay your travel plans.

Forget about the wait for help from a friend or kind passer-by or even the prospect of having to push your car to the nearest gas station. When your tank gets empty on this highway, you better brace yourself for a fine too. While German law does not explicitly stop you from running out of gas on the Autobahn, it does make it illegal to stop or park on the highway without any good reason.

In Germany, not fueling up your car is not seen as a good enough reason to have to pull to a halt on the highway. As nobody isn’t actually supposed to stop on the Autobahn, pulling over on the highway could potentially endanger yourself and others. So, if you’re planning a trip on the German Autobahn, make sure you’ve got a full tank of gas ready beforehand.

#7. You Cannot Leave Your House Without Underwear In Thailand

Be sure to keep your underwear on when you’re out and about in Thailand because going Commando is a crime. Image by Ben Tofan on Unsplash

The vast majority of us have been taught from a young age to always put on our underwear when we go out. After all, it is practical, hygienic and certainly serves a purpose in our daily lives. While it is the general expectation that we wear our undergarments beneath our clothing when we go out, we’re not usually criminally liable if we don’t.

In Thailand however, you are forbidden by law from going around in public without any underwear on. Fair enough, while the authorities aren’t going to go out of their way to check if you’ve got your knickers on, why risk the ramifications and all the other hygienic consequences of not wearing your underwear.

Better be safe than sorry when going to Thailand so be sure to pack some extra undergarments. On the off-chance that you are caught with your pants down, you’ll at least have that extra layer to protect you in more ways than one. So, always think twice the next time you think of hitting the streets full commando.

#6. You Cannot Have A Dirty Car In Dubai

If your car looks like this in Dubai, you better clean it up or keep it well out of sight. Your dirty car might ruin the city’s aesthetic and it will be impounded. Image by Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash

Everybody prefers it when one appears presentable. A well-maintained car could speak about a person’s ability to look after their possessions and highlight that they are neat and orderly. On the flip-side, people are going to assume you’re messy and sloppy if you have a dirty car. Maybe you’ve just been too busy to keep your car in tip-top shape. If you’re in Dubai however, you better make a conscious effort to make your vehicles look immaculate or you’ll wind up in quite a bit of trouble.

The oil-rich nation takes pride in its appearance and everyone has to play their part in keeping their city looking as good as possible. So, if you park your dirty car in full view of others, you’re going to get in trouble for “tarnishing the aesthetic appearance of the city.” If your car is discovered to be in less than desirable condition, you’ll have 15 days to do something about it or it will be impounded. To get it back, you’ll have to pay a fine or it will be auctioned off or scrapped.

So if you’re in Dubai, you’re going to have a bit of extra incentive to keep your car shiny and new. Remember, if you’re going to be leaving your car unattended for an extended period of time, best keep it covered and out of sight as a dusty car is more than enough to land you in trouble.

#5. You Cannot Build Sandcastles In Some Parts Of Spain

As fun as it may be, I’m sure sandcastles aren’t worth paying a fine for. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Back to beach rules again for this one. When you go to the beach, one of the most common activities you’re bound to see is people building sandcastles. After all, it is harmless, fun and for the most part, safe. However, in some areas of Spain, this activity, often synonymous with the beach itself, is prohibited.

Spain’s Levante Beach is just one of a number of places in the country where the building of sandcastles is explicitly prohibited. On the island of Tenerife, anyone caught building sandcastles are liable to a fine of around £130. Even in areas where building sandcastles are allowed, people are advised to tear down their sculptures before leaving the beach.

Whether you’re an avid sand sculptor or just bringing the kids to the beach for a little bit of fun in the sand, if building sandcastles are your thing, you’d best think twice about going over to one of these beaches.

#4. You Cannot Sell Chewing Gum In Singapore

This may seem like the cashier at your local convenience store but in Singapore, it qualifies as a crime scene. Image by Gabriel Dalton on Unsplash

You got to give Singapore credit where it’s due. The only country to be given independence against its will, Singapore was able to transform from a struggling third-world island nation to one of the richest and most developed countries on the planet today. Also recognised as one of the cleanest nations in the world, they’re hellbent on keeping it that way.

Singapore’s leaders credit its success and cleanliness to its strict laws. In Singapore, littering, spitting, blowing your nose and jaywalking are all punishable by hefty fines. On top of that, chewing gum is a heavily controlled substance in the country. In the past, you weren’t even allowed to possess or chew gum but the laws have since softened to only prevent the sale of gum. Unlike most other countries, you’ll never find gum being sold anywhere in Singapore while dental and nicotine gums can only be sold at pharmacies with a valid prescription.

So, if you’re ever thinking of starting a bubble gum business, you’d be better off trying anywhere else but Singapore. Selling gum can attract fines of up to $100,000 while importing gum for the purpose of selling can land you in prison. Even if you have the odd pack lying around for personal use, you better dispose of it with care or you’ll get fined too.

#3. You Cannot Use The Bathroom Too Loudly In Switzerland

In Switzerland, using the toilet at certain hours may be considered as noise pollution. Best to clean and do our business before then. Image by 99.films on Unsplash

Going to the bathroom is never the quietest thing to do in the world. Even if we do suppress the gross sounds that come out of us, we can’t stop the sound of the toilet when it flushes or the sound of water running from the sink or shower. Then again, we don’t usually think about it. That is unless one finds themselves in Switzerland.

Switzerland generally observes “quiet hours” from 10 PM to 7 AM everyday. Depending on where you are in the country, additional hours may be imposed for weekends and holidays. During this time, you are prohibited from making any excessive and unnecessary noise. Most locals who are more aware of this, are able to plan their routines around these hours to avoid getting in trouble.

However, if we find ourselves in a Swiss apartment building, we’ll have to be extra careful as even the sound of the toilet or bath at night may be enough to disrupt other sleeping residents who are well within their rights to alert the authorities. So, it’s best to be safe and considerate by avoiding late night showers and trying to not do our business at odd hours of the night.

#2. Winnie The Pooh Is Considered Obscene In Poland

A lack of pants and visible genitals was enough for Polish authorities to consider Winnie The Pooh as being an inappropriate mascot for a playground. I’d hate to see their reactions to how Pooh looked before Disney gave him a shirt. Image by Taha on Unsplash

All around the world, there are laws that govern freedom of expression. Depending on where we are, there are differing standards as to what we can say or display in public. These laws can range from completely justified to extremely repressive. None however are as strange as Poland’s stance on Winnie The Pooh.

When we think of Winnie The Pooh, we think of a children’s cartoon. The very embodiment of innocence and wholesomeness, few can even fathom anything remotely controversial about the beloved children’s character. I’m willing to bet that “inappropriate hermaphrodite” and being of “dubious sexuality” are not words most of us would use to describe the cartoon bear. However, those were the exact words that Polish authorities used to justify their ban of Winnie The Pooh as a mascot for a playground. Their reason: Pooh doesn’t wear pants.

If you look at most cartoon bears like Yogi Bear or Bear from Bear in the Big Blue House, they’re not fully clothed either and it’s not inappropriate. I mean after all, they’re bears. Bears aren’t even meant to wear clothes, even children know that. But that has not swayed the minds of the Tuszyn city council. So, when you’re in Poland, you’d best save yourself the trouble and not have any images of the pantless, provocative Pooh Bear on you.

#1. You Can Only Have State Approved Hairstyles In North Korea

To be fair, I don’t think there’d need to be a law in place to stop most people from copying this hairstyle. Image: Wikimedia Commons

We can’t have a list like this without mentioning North Korea at least once. One of the more authoritarian countries in the world, North Korea is infamous for having some of the strictest and strangest laws today. From not being allowed to wear jeans, listen to foreign music, make international phone calls or not appearing sad enough at a leader’s funeral, North Koreans can be punished by either death or by being sentenced to a labor camp alongside three generations of your family.

However, one of their strangest laws was enacted only recently. In 2013 Kim Jong Un made it compulsory for all North Koreans to choose among only 28 state sanctioned hairstyles. That’s 10 for men and 18 for women. No hair dye, spikes or any kind of styling that will make you stand out. Interestingly, Kim Jong Un’s own haircut is not on this list of hairstyles presumably to keep it unique.

Even among most countries that control grooming and attire, a general requirement of neatness is all that is required in terms of hair. Leave it to North Korea to take it that one step higher. So, if you’re ever paying North Korea a visit, don’t expect much variety if you can find yourself a barber. While you’re there, maybe it’s best to just not stand out at all.

Well that does it for this list! If you made it this far, let me thank you for taking the time to read it! It was quite fun researching all these strange laws for this article and I hope that it has been equally informative and possibly amusing to you guys too.

Do tell me if you know of any other weird laws from around the world and leave them in the comments. I love hearing back! Until then, take care!

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About the Creator

Isa Nan

Written accounts of life, death and everything in between

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