15 Seemingly Innocuous Things Banned by Foreign Governments

Don’t you dare try lip synching in Turkmenistan
15 Seemingly Innocuous Things Banned by Foreign Governments

Most people obey the law most of the time. Like, everyone pushes their luck now and then — who hasn’t occasionally jaywalked, handed their young cousin a beer or done a bit of questionable downloading?

But some laws raise eyebrows. Certain things being banned or criminalized raise questions, depending on your perspective — are they being banned because people are really creating a problem, or for a government to exercise unnecessary control over their population? Is forbidding specific behaviors the authorities behaving with a responsibility to protect the greater good or a sickening infringement on personal freedoms?

It’s all very complicated, and thinking about it too much can lead to the kind of situation where yahoos insist having to wear a seat belt or not be wasted when driving are somehow totalitarian. But looking around the world there’s a fairly even split between fairly sensible, well-intentioned laws that seem strange from a U.S. perspective, and sinister regulations intended to keep populations compliant.

Canada Hates Baby Walkers

After a spate of accidents caused by babies given too much mobility by baby walkers and crashing into things, Canada banned them in 2004. Importing or selling them can bring fines of up to $100,000. (Source)

The French Forbid Complimentary Condiments

In schools in France, forget about grabbing a few ketchup sachets from a big pile. The law insists that “all sauces (mayonnaise, ketchup and vinaigrette) must not be in free access but served according to the dish.” (Source)

The Singaporeans Chew Chew Choose to Outlaw Gum

When Singapore became independent in 1965, it had visions of becoming a perfect utopia, visions that didn’t include any mess. As well as forbidding graffiti, spitting and public urination, chewing gum — seen as inevitably leading to mess — was banned. (Source)

If You’re Gigging Turkmenistan, Sing Live

In 2014, the President of Turkmenistan banned lip-syncing in public performances, claiming that older artists who relied on it prevented new singers coming through. He also outlawed opera and ballet, because he doesn’t like them. (Source)

Don’t Dress Too Cool in North Korea

Facial piercings, shirts with logos on them and excessively provocative haircuts like mullets are all forbidden in North Korea, seen as “non-socialist” and elements of a “capitalist lifestyle.” Blue denim is seen as American, but poorly-fitting black jeans are fine. (Source)

Don’t Even Consider Unauthorized Reincarnation in Tibet

It’s an unenforceable law, but China forbade reincarnation in Tibet without permission, mainly as a fuck-you to the Dalai Lama and a way of choosing who the next one is. (Source)

Iranian Hair Has to Be Straight, Which Means No Straighteners

“Homosexual and devil-worshiping hairstyles” were forbidden in Iran in 2015, alongside men using tanning beds or plucking their eyebrows, all of which are stated to violate Islamic regulations. (Source)

Keep Your Hands Off Yourself in Indonesia

While it has been reported in the past that masturbation is punishable by beheading in Indonesia, that isn’t the case — a 32-month prison sentence is as harsh as it gets. Talk about hard time. (Source)

In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Forgetting Valentine’s Day Is Obligatory

Both countries have outlawed public or media-based celebrations on February 14th as being un-Islamic and promoting “immorality, nudity and indecency.” (Source)

Don’t Be an Asshole with Pennies in Canada

When the Canadian government began phasing out the penny in 2012, the incoming Currency Act set a maximum of 25 to be used in any single transaction, effectively outlawing turning up with a big honkin’ jar to buy some gum. (Source)

A Workplace Full of Old Fat Bastards? Not in Japan!

Since 2008, Japanese law requires companies to regularly measure the waistlines of employees aged over 40. In a bid to control diabetes in an aging population, firms can be fined if their employees stay too big too long. (Source)

Don’t Dress as Hitler in Germany, Because Fucking Of Course Don’t

While it’s impossible to criminalize being an asshole, some specific types of assholery are outlawed. Dressing like Hitler in Germany or Austria is not just dickish, it’s illegal. As it fuckin’ should be. (Source)

Moving to China? Rethink Your Erotic Banana Livestream Plans

Chinese authorities put laws in place in 2016 to crack down on what they saw as excessively eroticized behavior on livestreaming services. It specifically forbids streaming in stockings or suspenders, and eating bananas in “seductive” manners. (Source)

You Can’t Have a Big Mac in Bermuda

Laws from the 1970s ban foreign fast-food restaurants from opening in Bermuda. There was a U.S. naval base there until 1995 which had a tiny McDonald’s on it, but when the base closed, the Golden Arches fell. (Source)

You Can’t Advertise to Swedish Kids

It seems unthinkable to anyone who’s ever watched U.S. kids’ TV, but in Sweden, there is a hard ban on advertising aimed at children under 12. Favoring child health over naked commercialism? You wacky foreigners! (Source)

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