The laws and customs of other countries are usually not so different from our own, yet here and there, some strange rule will pop up that not even locals can believe is real. In places like the United Kingdom, for instance, there are enough strange rules and regulations to make your head spin.
We’re not just talking tea and crumpets here — these laws are real, and so are the consequences that come with breaking them. So next time you’re walking down the streets of London, watch your step, as one wrong move could have you spending the night in the slammer…
1. Statute of 1324: Everyone knows Queen Elizabeth loves corgis, but were you aware that Her Majesty also owns thousands of other animals? In fact, one could say the Queen has enough finned subjects in her domain to rival those of Poseidon…
That’s all thanks to a 1324 statute issued by King Edward II that declares all whales, sturgeons, and dolphins to be royal fish, thus making them property of the Crown. She could open her own SeaWorld if she wanted to!
2. Polish Potato Order of 2004: If you thought getting through airport customs was a chore, wait until you see what Polish potatoes have to go through to get into the UK. The list of hurdles these spuds must jump through is endless, and they even need their own certificates to prove they’re safe to eat.
This law may seem excessive, but the logic behind it is pretty sound. Following a 2004 outbreak of ring rot disease among Polish potato crops, the UK bumped up its vetting process for the Eastern European spuds.
3. Salmon Act, Section 32: When this section of the Salmon Act was drafted, its creators thought they’d made its stipulations pretty clear. Unfortunately, with a subject title like “Handling Salmon in Suspicious Circumstances,” confusion was bound to happen.
The actual law involves the protection of citizens who are unknowingly in possession of illegally caught, taken, or killed salmon, though this wording makes it seem more like people are casually walking the streets with trench coats stuffed with pink fish.
4. Treason Felony Act of 1848: Treason is defined as “the crime of betraying a nation or a sovereign by acts considered dangerous to security,” and most would say that they’d never even consider anything of the sort. But in Britain, committing this crime is as easy as mismarking an envelope.
Under this 19th-century act, placing a stamp bearing the monarch’s image upside down on an envelope is considered an act of treason. Many believe that this offense is just a myth, though it’s unlikely anyone will actually give it a try.
5. UK Libraries Offences Act of 1898: It turns out that getting shushed isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you in a British library. According to this act, anyone who “behaves in a disorderly manner” in a reading space is subject to legal punishment.
And if you’re big into late-night Poker games next to the non-fiction section, you’re out of luck. The act also states that gambling falls under disorderly conduct, so you’ll have to win your paycheck back somewhere else.
6. Statute Forbidding Bearing of Armour of 1313: For any aspiring politician fond of dressing up like a 14th-century knight, this decree is not a welcome one. By law, no person is permitted to enter the house of Parliament while wearing a suit of armor or bearing arms.
This statute was enacted during the reign of King Edward II in a time of great political instability in England. The law is further supported by the Statute of Northampton of 1328, which allows only certain government agents to carry weapons.
7. Prohibitions and Inspections Act of 1998: This law should be renamed “The Duh Act,” as it stipulates that any British national who detonates a nuclear device – whether at home or abroad – will be subject to life imprisonment.
The act is not yet in force, though the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001 includes many of its stipulations. So if there’s anyone out there that actually thought detonating a nuclear bomb wasn’t a crime, sorry.
8. Metropolitan Police Act, Section 54: This section of the 1839 act details a list of “nuisances by persons in thoroughfares,” though some of the prohibited offenses seem downright ridiculous. Under this law, citizens are barred from ringing doorbells excessively, sliding on ice, and even flying kites.
The act also forbids the singing of “any profane, indecent, or obscene song or ballad, or [the use of] any profane, indecent or obscene language to the annoyance of the inhabitants or passengers.” Given today’s music, this law likely isn’t enforced too strictly…
This order also applies to certain cargo, so if you ever find yourself building a house in London, you might have to have your flooring brought in by helicopter. By law, Londoners are forbidden from carrying planks of any kind on sidewalks.
The rule also applies to other large objects, including ladders, hoops, and wheels. Introduced in the 19th century, this law is designed to allow pedestrians easier passage along the busy streets of London.
9. London Hackney Carriage Act of 1831: In the days of horse-drawn transportation, drivers were required to keep a bale of hay on their carriages at all times to feed the animals. Although this is no longer the preferred means of transport in the UK, the law remains in effect.
Strangely, the act also stipulates that drivers cannot feed their horses in the streets, possibly due to the fact that a stopped animal would halt traffic. However, most drivers got around this by using feed bags or feeding the horses hay by hand.
Not even Britain’s monarchy is above these odd laws, though the Royals do have their own set of rules that might just be even stranger. For example, members of the royal family are forbidden from eating seafood, as one bad shrimp is all it takes to completely sideline them from their daily responsibilities.