picture by Annie Spratt


5 crazy laws around the world


When discussing cultural differences a lot of things come to mind: a different cuisine, different clothing or maybe different ways of greeting each other.

But all these types of differences originate from traditions, habits and an elaborate history, which is also reflected in something else: the national law.

Have you ever heard about a potato limit in Australia? Probably not. Do you want to name your child Borussia, or Lord in Germany? Think again. Slightly overweight? Watch out for the Japanese government.

These are 5 interesting actual laws in countries all over the world.

1 Chewing gum in Singapore

No one likes to see someone else’s chewed up gum stuck on the subway doors, picnic tables or on lift buttons. However, for Lee Kuan Yew — former prime minister of Singapore —this nuisance was apparently so disturbing that in 1992 a ban on chewing gum was installed. Imagine living in Singapore and having to witness the disposed gum of vandals all over the city: on the seats of public buses, in mailboxes or inside keyholes. But the gum causing the completely new Mass Rapid Transit railway system to defect, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. No more gum!

Even though some people smuggle small amounts for personal consumption, the import has been completely stopped and the sale is banned.

Thus, when traveling through Singapore and looking for a fresh breath, you better take a smint than try to find some freshening gum: because there won’t be any!

2 Potato limit in Western Australia

Do you ever accidentally carry 50 kg of potatoes with you? Probably not, but if you did, better not pass through Western Australia (WA).

Going back to the Great Depression that also struck Australia, the food shortages were a reason for regulations and restrictions on import and possession. This in the end entrenched itself in WA, as a part of basically a potato monopoly called The Potato Marketing Corporation. It has actually become very important for both the companies and farmers. While in order countries restrictions are being tightened or loosened on for example the possession of weapons, or drugs such as marijuana, Australia has its own way of doing things: the possession of potatoes.

After all, they are the second highest value vegetable crop after carrots, with a farm gate value of $54 million in Western Australia.

3 Underwear under a kilt?

Another country that is big on potatoes is Ireland, being completely dependent on it during the Great Famine and still being consumed all throughout Ireland. Sadly, Ireland does not have as many crazy laws, so let’s look at a place closeby: Scotland.

Almost everyone names the kilt when trying to describe Scottish traditions, and everyone has — at least once in their lives — wondered if it is true that they are not wearing undergarments whilst wearing their kilt.

Well here’s the truth. It is said there’s an actual law in Scotland where any man who gets caught wearing underwear under his kilt can be fined two cans of beer. How they implement it? This is unsure, but it sure is a comical (and very Scottish) way to address the issue.

A more prominent law that concerns individuals wearing kilts is actually on the issue of “upskirting”. Individuals secretly taking pictures up a person’s skirt. This is – obviously — most harmful for those not wearing underwear! Now a Liberal Democrat has actually tabled a parliamentary bill to criminalize upskirting. They want to protect the bodily dignity of both men and women.

What a way to protect national traditions!

4 Japanese Obesity

Picture: Rawpixel

It has already been circling on the internet for a while, that apparently Japan has installed some strange laws on the weight of their citizens. It is said to be illegal to be an overweight individual, using words like the “fat police”. With rising health risks due to overconsumption it is good to take measures for the health of society, but a criminal act? Is there really a fat police?

It is a bit more nuanced than that, but Japan did enforce measures to fight the issue. In January 2008 Japan installed the “metabo” law, where companies and local governments are required measure the waistlines of citizens between the ages of 45 and 74 as part of their annual checkups.

Waistline not small enough? You are in the “risk” part of society. What does this mean? Prison? Starvation? No, it simply means that you will be guided in dieting and supported to exercise.

The controversy on this law was explosive, but actually? Not too much of a bad idea to support the health of your citizens!

5 Baby names!

Picture: Chuttersnap

When scrolling through social media, you can sometimes come across these posts of people with funny names. Names like “Donald Duck” or “Britney Shakira Beyoncé” and even “Abcde”, talking about originality! Luckily there are actually a lot of countries that have limitations on what you can name your child. However, sometimes these regulations can be really strict.

For example, in Germany it is mandatory that you can deduct a person’s gender from their name, and boys can only called boys names and vice versa. So no Jordan or Cato in Germany!

This is actually not captured in the law because article 6 of the German Basic Law states that parents have the right to choose the name of the child. In practice the office where the name is registered can decline names, and there have actually been court cases on this issue.

In Denmark under the Law on Personal Names, first names actually have to be picked from a list of approved names, know what you don’t know, right!

So what do you think? Should parents have this right, or not?

At least it is interesting to see how different countries have different laws, coming from old traditions, or from new issues that have arisen in the world. Are these laws good? Only way to find out is to go out there and explore them in the real world!


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