Dan's Guide to Europe's Strangest Laws — UNSW Law Society (2023)

UNSW Law Soc

Law Student Life, Current Affairs

UNSW Law Soc

Law Student Life, Current Affairs

By Daniel Kwarcinski, Science (Advanced)/Law II

Veni, Vidi, Vici.

I came, I saw, I conquered.

As per the advice of my law lecturers, I have recently extended my reading habits to include sophisticated non-fiction (the aptly titled ‘Most Amazing Book of Useless Information of Them all’ being a personal favourite).In doing so, I stumbled upon a law that I … well quite frankly, I couldn’t really begin to fathom. Intrigued? Here it is:

In Minnesota USA it is illegal for a man to have sex with a live fish.

I kid you not. Seemingly someone has done it, as I don’t think they would pass a law on an off-chance. Someone else has seen it, presumably taking offence. It went to court and a law was passed. If we decide to read deeper into the law - numerous kettles of fish come to surface (and yep, you’re gonna get all the fish puns I can muster). Firstly, only men? Secondly, there’s no objection to dead fish?

The whole affair leaves your mind floundering in the shallows, hey?

I like to think I’m a pretty understanding guy. I like to think I have a pretty evocative and open imagination. But I’m a fish out of water with this one. Putting the obvious question of how aside, I ask you the following. What kind of fish? Salt water or fresh? Did he tuna? (Sorry I couldn’t help myself). Hope it wasn’t a piranha! We must presume here that one party was not consensual to the act, or can’t consent? But it was brought before court, offenders were prosecuted, and sentences carried out.

Akin to many of my peers, I will be travelling abroad to Europe in the upcoming break. Unfortunately (or … fortunately), I’m not going to Minnesota, and even though the law does not apply to European counties, I can reassure you that I do not intend to engage in unbridled bestiality. But the law made me think. What other crazy laws should we be aware of before embarking on fun filled overseas holidays? I saw an unmissable op-perch-tuna-ty to catch people’s attention and I felt a public service, a guide in fact, was necessary. As Contiki has unfortunately failed to provide this pivotal advice, ladies and gentleman, I give to you, completely unshellfishly - Dan’s guide into Europe’s strangest laws (as to the legitimacy and authority of these laws … well that’s another story). Travel at your own peril and keep your head above water, and if in Minnesota – perhaps other things as well.


For those going to the British Isles, it is illegal to operate a cow while intoxicated.

So, let’s examine this. Someone got drunk. Someone saw a cow. Someone operated said cow. Something happened. Oh how I wish I knew the circumstances surrounding this law… maybe it was inspired by the Monty Python cow catapult?

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Perhaps the weirdest part of this law, except you know, what I can only guess was a drunk cow rodeo, is the choice of the word operate. Uhhh. I operate machinery at work. I operate my computer. How the hell do I operate a cow? Where’s the ON button?

Drunken fools are the best source of entertainment on a night out, and apparently a good source of law too. Thus to ensure you stick to the right side of the law, if you decide to visit a meadow in Shropshire county after having a few pints at the local pub, make sure you only operate a cow if your BAL is under 0.05. No bull. Actually yes bull – no law against operating male bovine.

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In Milan, Italy, it is a legal requirement to smile at all times, except during funerals or hospital visits (fines apply).

I’ve heard the idiom it takes more muscles to frown than smile before, but making smiling compulsory? What’s the deal with that? A move for greater facial muscle efficiency? I can see where they’re coming from, imbuing a general sense of happiness and camaraderie by uh, enforcing a symbol of happiness and camaraderie. But hey, nothing’s going to boost oral hygiene, or help us nail that perfect selfie, more than having to constantly smile.

Despite that, wouldn’t it be just a little horrifying walking into a city trapped in a state of perpetual smile. A consistent cheesy grin blurs the lines. You look happy yes. That presumed expression of benevolence is also one degree short of imbecility. To reference The Big Bang Theory, fake smiles might look a little less like we’re happy, and a little more like we want to kill the Batman.

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Not to mention the disastrous effects it could have on young, dashing, charismatic (and naturally, modest) tourists. God forbid my confidence develop unrestrained as a city smiles uniformly in my presence. Or worse, the confusion that might arise: is this cute Italian girl smiling at me because she likes me or am I facing an extraordinary smile of white-toothed insincerity? Always the former. ALWAYS the former.

Despite these drawbacks, smiling is contagious and this is a law I’d happily abide by. Stay tuned for my Facebook photos from Milan in July, guaranteed jack-o-lantern grin to fool them all.


It is illegal to flush the toilet after 10pm.

So let’s say I’m hitting the local brew in Switzerland with my four Contiki mates.

Always a sucker for a local drop, I, being the well rounded and cultured gentleman I am, play a game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe with the menu and point hopelessly to our barkeep. This bartender, she is the physical reincarnation of the best Oktoberfest poster ever. Her name is Helga. She studies Law at Universität St.Gallen. She’s charismatic. She brings us out five steins of local, frothy goodness: Feldschlosschen premium. Naturally, a bet ensues – we must drink Feldscholesschen until we pronounce it correctly. I work at a bottle shop and I can tell you, normally pronunciation deteriorates exponentially with intoxication. Obviously, talented linguists as we are – a mere twelve rounds later we’ve won the bet. At least I think we’ve won. I’m pretty sure we have. She’s smiling. And this isn’t Milan after all. Wonder if UNSW does student exchanges with Universität St.Gallen?

Alas, the logistics of the aforementioned law do not stir in our kidneys until we return to the hotel after the 10pm curfew. One room. One Bathroom. Five guys. Twelve rather large steins of fine amber liquid. All equates to copious litres of processed Feldscholesschen. Always respectful of foreign laws, the scales of justice are tested. To break the seal or break the law? That is the question.

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One may not be charged for food unless that person is “full”.

As an individual finely tuned to his dietary needs, aka, me likes it a lot, this law is at the pinnacle of righteous legality.

I mean, everyone’s favourites are on offer: Leverpostej, Ribbensteg, Rødspættefilet, Frikadeller, Medisterpølse. Life’s looking good. And still, as someone innately aware of their stomach’s capabilities … from a strict legal point of view … I could still eat. So the question is, do I not pay, or do I eat more? Like that’s ever a question. Just a tip for foodie connoisseurs – elasticised waistbands are a must. As our friend Joey Tribbiani puts it, pants have no give! Satisfaction guaranteed. You’ll leave Denmark 5kgs happier! Veni, Vidi, Vici.

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So there are four of Europe’s most goofy laws. As you can see, as diverse as our world is, so are its rules and regulations. A guide such as this is invaluable. So perhaps this guide can be expanded to cover the whole planet, trip advisor style. Who’s up for it?

Always smile, have plenty of good food and drink, and have fun (but stay safe). Veni, Vidi, Vici my friends. Or to be grammatically correct (I hope) Veneris Videre Vincatis.

And remember, if you find yourself in Minnesota, you can’t have your fish and eat it too …

Happy travels, Bon Voyage, Buon Viaggio, Trevlig Resa, God Rejse!

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All the best!

Dan ☺

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