Weird local laws lead to arrest for newbie expat arrivals

Published:  30 Aug at 6 PM
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Newly-arrived British expats can be caught out by obscure local laws resulting in arrests and fines if they don’t check the cultural norms of their chosen country before they arrive.

Some of the strangest laws only rear their heads when expats are found breaking them by overzealous local police. For example, a Spanish couple who owned a pub set up a charity bingo night and found themselves, along with all their customers, being bussed down to the local police station to be fined.

Muslim countries present the biggest problems for uninformed expats, with holding hands or kissing in public a definite no-no. Alcoholic drinks cannot be purchased in many Muslim states, and new arrivals in Saudi Arabia wishing to send photos of palaces and government buildings home to their families risk being arrested.

Choosing the Maldives for a traditional Christmas break is a waste of money, as any religious practice that isn’t Islamic is strictly forbidden to visitors and expats, and wearing your camouflage tee and pants in Barbados will get you fined. Amazingly, topless sunbathing is forbidden on Fiji, and leaving a Barcelona beach in a bikini or swimming trunks attracts a fine.

If you need a break whilst touring Florence’s magnificent historic churches and public buildings, don’t collapse onto the steps or in a nearby courtyard, as you’ll risk a heavy fine. Feeding the pigeons in St Mark’s Square is a favourite for many visitors, but it’s actually against the law.

A quick read of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s web pages on your selected country is the best way to avoid landing in trouble before you’ve learnt the ropes. Consular staff across the world are used to dealing with those who’ve made a genuine mistake, but the service isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card by any means.
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