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While we generally think of “the west” as being free, you might be surprised by how many freedoms the US enjoys compare to, say, Europe. In the UK the term “nanny state” has been in use for sometime to describe how much the law has been meddling in their lives.

In 1994, for example, the European Union imposed laws concerning the sale of fruits and vegetables. They made it illegal to sell bananas below a certain size; ones with an “abnormal” shape were equally banned (I’m still working on what’s abnormal for a banana). The same law regulated the curve of cucumbers, the size of cauliflowers, and the greenness of asparagus. Some of the ridiculousness was overturned in 2008, but some of it remains.

Toy safety standards have made it illegal for kids under the age of 8 to blow up balloons without adult supervision. Personally I don’t think it’s a great idea for young kids to blow up balloons because they might do some damage as they try too hard to blow up the balloon, but do you really need a law? And who’s at fault? The adult who’s not there? Weird.

The Swiss have at least a couple of laws I have to admit breaking. It’s illegal for men to pee standing up after 10pm. And if you do break that law, don’t flush – that’s illegal after 10pm as well. On nights out we’d announce to the bar we were off to break the law. Strangely the Swiss didn’t find it that funny.

But it’s the French that have some of the wackiest laws. For example, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon. This could really have put a crimp on Orwell when he penned Animal Farm. Even though his pig Napoleon was based on Stalin, in the French version of the book the pig had to be called Cesar.

But it’s the pants department were things are most confusing. In Paris it is illegal for a woman to dress like a man – so pants are out. This was basically the law that was used to condemn Joan of Arc to death. Pretty sad really, because all she was trying to do was give herself a good chance of fighting off rape by the guards in her prison.

Things have been done to improve the chances of women wearing pants in Paris. In the 1800s women could dress like a man if they obtained permission from the police department. A century later, women could wear pants if they were holding the reins of a horse or a bicycle (I don’t think there was a test case to establish whether there had to be a horse on the other end of the reins at the time).

The whole pants problem has been solved in a wonderfully French fashion (sorry, couldn’t resist), it’s a stupid law so they ignore it. I imagine they’re hoping European lawmakers are kept busy with the bent banana issue.

So, what law would you like to break? Or maybe you’re already a wanted criminal with a bent cucumber and an illegally named pig? Let us know, we promise not to tell.


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