Travelling often means experiencing new cultures, as it should, and sometimes these new cultures of distant lands can be overwhelming to one's particular sensibilities, values, beliefs and way of thinking – a case of culture shock. On the other hand there's very little to be shocked about in most places we find ourselves, especially in the majority of Europe. Nobody wants to offend another's culture while engaging in and experiencing it so there is an effort on some level of consciousness to over-think the do's and dont's.
For example, a conversation I couldn't help but overhear this very afternoon following our free tour in Dublin between two chirpy American girls as we finished up lunch; “shit, do they tip here? We better tip? Should we tip?...yeah I guess they tip....so how much? Like 20% I don't know...do you have the lonely planet? No you left it in the cage under the bunk, google it... and yada yada yada” eventually they asked the local guide, Laurence, who was happy to inform them of the local etiquette in his sexy, salty Dublin accent: "Yeah ya can tip if yiz liked the service, tis optional a course, not considered obligatory, 10% is graaaand...tipping at the bar is not a norm though but again if ya want to leave the change behind the odd time sure why the fuck not".
But these kinds of do's and don'ts are on the trivial end of the scale – no biggies really so no shock....but there are some rules in Europe, especially when it comes to the law, that are a bit baffling and wonderfully weird.
Here's some of the strangest offenses you can commit in Europe;
Any of you boys heading for Italy with a penchant for cross-dressing best be careful as a man can be arrested for wearing a skirt.
Keep that frown upside down in Milan...not that there's much to be sad about in Milan but having a smile is legally required.
And if you're obese and in Italy you can't wear polyester. Bonus oddity; It is actually legal for a guy (and a girl I can only assume) to slap a girl's ass in Italy...but more importantly, it cannot become a habit. The old 'grab n hold' is probably not covered by this.
Don't feed the birds in Venice. Having pigeons perch on you as you scatter seeds and call out “all hail the pigeon master” might land you with a fine.
Parting ways with that cute guy or girl from that French hostel romance? Don't do it on a railway as it is illegal to kiss on railways in France. Probably not a good idea to be on a railway in any case.
And if you do kiss on a railway and some good citizen alerts the authorities think twice about capturing the experience with a timely 'getting arrested selfie' as it's also illegal to take photos of the police or their vehicles in France, even if in the background. Aptly enough, it's also illegal to name your pig Napolean there too.
If you're visiting London and are feeling a bit sick maybe skip that House of Parliament tour as it's illegal to die in there. Although I think having broken the law would be the least of your concerns in such a scenario.
And if you think your dorm bed needs some airing out be careful as it's illegal to hang a bed out of a window in the UK.
Breaking a boiled egg at the pointy end in England will get you a day in the stocks!
If you fancy extending your stay in Sweden and need a job you could consider prostitution as it is legal, but pointless however as using a prostitute is not. Figure that one out. I guess they have a club or something they meet up in for chats and stuff.
If you like to dance naked move the Acropolis in Greece to the very bottom of your travel wishlist. Likewise, if you fancy visiting Greek monuments in high-heels as that's a no-no.
If you're going to Oktoberfest it's worth knowing that during the festival no-one can be legally considered drunk. So we weren't drunk at Oktoberfest? Or were we? Verification needed.
Hosteling in Switzerland? Best do your number 2 before 10pm as it's illegal to flush the toilet after that. And guys, it's illegal to pee standing up after 10pm too!
In Denmark, you must honk the horn and check for children under your car before ignition.
Fall foul of the law in Denmark and end up doing time? Make a break for it as it is legal to try to escape from prison.
If you don't like awkward silences avoid a taxi ride in Finland. It's prohibited to play music in taxis to paying customers unless the musicians get their royalties.
Dipping into the sea in Portugal? Make sure your bladder is empty as the sneaky sea-pee is illegal.
If you're renting a car in Europe you'd best take note of this shiz;
It's illegal to pick up a hitch-hiker in Russia.
If you rent a car in Switzerland for the weekend don't dare wash it on Sunday – it's prohibited.
If you rent a car in Belarus wash it every freaking mile as it's illegal to drive a dirty car there.
If you rent a car in some cities in Spain it must be parked on different sides of the road depending on the day of the week and if you wear glasses you're required to have a second pair with you when driving.
If you rent a car in Scandinavia you must have your headlights on at all times, day and night, when driving.
And If you rent a car in Germany be sure to fill the tank as it is illegal to run out of fuel on the autobahn.
That's about it for now people. Of course, the majority of the above are likely out-dated and been on the books for donkey's years but you'd be surprised with many old laws which are still, technically, active today. Many are unenforceable, many are ludicrous while some are bemusing and funny. I hope you enjoyed these few and are ever wiser for your next European adventure.
By Mike Wrach