10 Curious and Strange Laws From Around the World

Laws are present, whether we are aware of them or not, in our day-to-day lives. However, some strange laws seem shocking, even unnecessary.

Apr 26, 2024By Marc Barabas, MA Judicial Career, BA Law

strange laws world


As humans living in a society, we need rules to guide us on what we must or must not do to live in harmony with our neighbors. But as laws are also human inventions, they are subject to errors, inconsistencies, and ambiguities. Below we outline some of the most curious and strange laws that have ever existed.


1. It Is Illegal Not to Smile in Milan, Italy

hayez the kiss
The Kiss, by Francesco Hayes Pinacoteca di Brera, 1859, Source: Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan


Among many old laws which, for some reason, are not yet repealed, there is the “happy law” still in force today in Milan. To be more specific, it is not actually a law, but a local regulation from Austro-Hungarian times which requires every Milanese citizen to smile. It is unclear if it also applies to people visiting the capital of Lombardy, however, everybody is free to comply with the local requirement.


As with any law, it has a few exceptions. Obviously, the most understandable exceptions are for people who attend funerals or those at the bedside of a family member suffering from a serious disease. Moreover, exceptions also apply to people working in hospitals and for patients.


It is not clear why the respective regulation was adopted by the authorities or why it has not been repealed. However, it may help in promoting a happy atmosphere in the Northern Italian city.

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2. Anti-Money Destruction Laws in Scotland

Pound sterling bank notes featuring Queen Elizabeth II, Source: Exchangerates.com


Two of the most famous laws in Scotland forbid acts of money destruction. There are two separate regulations that sanction different acts of alteration of money. The first is the Currency and Banknotes Act, adopted in 1928. Section 12 of the Act states that any person who “prints or stamps, or by any like means impresses, on any banknote any words, letters or figures” shall be sanctioned with a fine.


While the purpose of the interdiction is not specified, we can only imagine what led the authorities to adopt such a regulation. Usually, on banknotes, there are some very important and well-known personalities who, who one way or another, marked the history of that country. In the United Kingdom, the monarch appears on every banknote and coin. Given the great respect that British people pay to their kings and queens, it is easily understandable why drawing or stamping on the face of the monarch was considered scandalous and therefore forbidden.


3. sterling pound coins Copy8*
British Coins, Source: Arabian Business


A second piece of legislation is even more specific in banning the destruction of money. The Coinage Act was adopted in 1971, and it refers to the alteration of coins. The Act states that no person shall either melt or break up any metal coin currently in use in the United Kingdom or any which has been used at any time after 16th May 1969.


The sanctions for failing to comply with the law include either fines of up to £400 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. As the consequences can be severe, the British people had better keep their coins intact.


The rationale for adopting such a law might be that the coins are the property of the state. As with any public property, individuals should keep them intact while using them. Another reason could be the prevention of illegal forging of counterfeit money or even the unlawful selling of the substances from which the coins were made (bronze, steel etc).


3. The British Salmon Act

salmon act strange laws
Tragedy of the Salmon, by David Shaw, Source: Deeside Books


Remaining within the British border, we must speak about the infamous Salmon Act when speaking about strange laws. The act, originally adopted in 1986 by the UK Parliament, outlines a set of very detailed rules regarding salmon fisheries.


The most controversial part of the Act is Section 32 entitled: Handling fish in suspicious circumstances. Essentially, this section creates an offense when a person receives or disposes of a fish that was (or is believed to have been) illegally fished.


Luckily, the sanction is moderate. The persons found guilty of such acts may be liable to a reasonable fine. Initially called the Salmon Act, the law was amended so that now it discourages all kinds of fish poaching.


4. Anti-Chewing Gum Regulation in Singapore

stick chewing gum strange laws
A stick of Chewing gum, by Lusheeta, 2007, Souce: Wikimedia Commons


Singapore is one of the most developed countries in the world, so you might find it strange that it has “declared war” on a popular substances: Chewing gum. Chewing gum is not illegal per se in Singapore, so if you visit the Asian country, you can consume it without a problem. However, you might want to bring a pack with you, as you will not be able to find it in Singaporean shops.


Since 1995, the date when Singapore adopted the so-called “Anti-chewing Gum Regulation,” the importation into Singapore of any chewing gum has been prohibited. The reason for this embargo was to promote the cleanliness of the city and to avoid spending large amounts of money scraping the gum from sidewalks.


There are a few exceptions where the import of chewing gum is permitted, especially for therapeutic purposes. Moreover, the transit of chewing gum products to other countries is also allowed.


The penalties for failing to comply with the regulations are not to be neglected. The offender may face a fine of up to 200,000 Singaporian dollars or might even be imprisoned for a maximum of three years.


5. Gaming Ban for Citizens of Monaco

Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco, photo by Fruitpunchline, 2015, Source: Wikimedia Commons


The microstate located in Southern France is well-known for being an important hub for casinos and other gambling activities. The origins of the Monegasque gambling tradition date back to a period when the state was facing a difficult economic situation. In an attempt to boost the economy, the authorities decided to facilitate the market entry of the gambling industry.


The gambling sector in Monaco is strictly regulated and it is oriented so as to exploit games-of-chance mainly as a tourist attraction. However, Monegasque citizens cannot experience the casino atmosphere themselves, as they are not allowed to enter a gaming house.


As per the Gaming law, citizens are prohibited from gambling anywhere within the Principality of Monaco. The same interdiction applies to the gambling house employees. Several other access restrictions apply to military personnel and members of religious congregations as well as to individuals who are likely to cause a scandal or incident.


6. Illegal to Climb Trees in Oshawa, Canada

Boreal coniferous forests in Canada, Source: Natural Resources Canada


The Canadian city of Oshawa has very strict legislation concerning the protection of trees. A law adopted in 2008 expressly prohibits any interference with any tree located on municipal property. Therefore, it is illegal to climb or attach any object to a tree. Needless to say, the injuring of or destruction of trees or any part of a tree is also prohibited.


The law provides even stricter provisions concerning the planting of trees. Thus, no person shall plant trees on municipal property without written approval from the authorities. Any person who fails to comply with the interdictions may be subject to a fine according to Canadian law.


7. It is Illegal to Feed Pigeons in Venice

venice pigeons strange laws
View over the Venice canals, by Brittany Chastag, Source: Unsplash


Although everyone has gotten used to the presence of pigeons in most modern cities, Venice Municipality has strict regulations concerning these small birds. If you are a tourist in Venice, keep in mind that feeding pigeons and seagulls in the Italian city is prohibited. Fines can range between 25 to 500 euros.


The reasons for banning the feeding of pigeons are mainly related to hygiene concerns. Medical studies have shown that diseases can be transmitted by birds. Moreover, it has been observed that buildings and monuments can be degraded due to highly acidic bird excrement.


8. Car Wash Obligations in Abu Dhabi

abu dhabi skyline
Abu Dhabi skyline, photo by Wadiia, 2014: Source: Wikimedia Commons


The authorities in the capital of the United Arab Emirates are very concerned about anything that can distort the city’s image. Therefore, drivers should regularly clean their cars of dust and dirt. Otherwise, the authorities might impound the dirty car and apply a fine of 500 Dirhams. A separate fee must be paid to get the car back.


However, cars also cannot be washed in public places, as another regulation expressly prohibits it. The restriction was adopted so as to avoid water waste, damage to asphalt roads, and the destruction of the overall appearance of the city.


9. The Law Regulating the Passage of Animals in Romania

Bees clamber over honeycomb, photo by Waugsberg, 2006, Source: Wikimedia Commons


The Romanian Civil Code regulates domestic animals who have strayed onto another person’s land. They are the property of the latter if the owner does not reclaim them within 30 days (Art. 576, Romanian Civil Code).


Matters concerning wild animals fall under a different statute. It states that pigeons, rabbits, fish, and other such animals passing over a piece of land belong to the owner of the land as long as they remain there willingly. However, if the passage of animals was caused by fraud or fireworks, the owner of the land has no rights over them. Special attention is paid to honeybee swarms — if a swarm of bees passes onto their land, a landlord can own them if their former owner does not follow or search for them within two days.


10. The Mask Ban Law in Denmark

The Twins, by John Everett Millais, 1876, with maks added for the pandemic, Source: CNN


Denmark amended its Criminal Code in 2000 to ensure that any person walking in a public place is recognizable. Therefore, the law states that any person participating in meetings, gatherings, or processes taking place in public spaces shall have their face fully uncovered.


Wearing a mask or paint in a way that prevents identification is punished with a fine or even imprisonment for up to six months. An exception is provided in cases in which a mask is worn for protection against the weather or if it serves another recognized purpose (such as the wearing of medical face masks during a pandemic).

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By Marc BarabasMA Judicial Career, BA LawMarc is a lawyer, focusing on EU competition law and international law, with a keen interest in history and arts. He holds a BA in Law from “Babes-Bolyai” University of Cluj, as well as an MA in Judicial Career at the University of Bucharest. Currently working as an associate lawyer in a reputable Romanian business law firm. In his spare time he likes to read, travel, visit museums, art galleries, and churches, and write articles.