Ignorance is no Excuse – Expats and Foreign Laws

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Ignorance is no Excuse – Expats and Foreign Laws

There is plenty to think about when you move overseas, like organising your finances, getting settled in your accommodation and starting work. Additionally, getting used to the cultural transition can be a real challenge.

But while many expatriates take the time to learn the traditions, language and lifestyle of their host nations, learning their new country’s laws can often be a secondary consideration.

While it’s safe to assume that crimes like robbery and murder carry a hefty penalty wherever you are in the world, there are everyday acts which you wouldn’t think twice about doing at home which could land you in trouble overseas.

For example…

In certain areas of Italy feeding pigeons is actually illegal. As is walking around topless in Venice. Breaking either of these laws could result in a warning or fine.

In many countries people like to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or kick back with a beer and watch a game, but if you intend to drink alcohol at home while living in the United Arab Emirates you’ll need to have a specialist licence. If you’re not in possession of a liquor permit, keeping alcohol at home is against the law and is punishable by a 5,000 Dirham fine.

It’s also illegal to eat or drink in public in the UAE during Ramadan. If you’re caught out you could face a hefty fine.

In most countries the number of your licence plate doesn’t dictate when you can drive, but in the Philippines cars with license plates ending in a 1 or 2 aren’t allowed on the roads on Monday’s. Similarly, licence plates ending in a 3 or 4 aren’t allowed on the road on a Tuesday, and so on, all the way to Friday when licence plates ending in a 9 or 0 are banned from the roads. As the law is so difficult to enforce the odds of you getting in trouble for breaking it are slim, but you might not want to run the risk!

While few people would ever be tempted to stop on the German Autobahn (a road on which cars notoriously power along at great speed) you will be fined if you are caught pulling over, whatever the reason.

Thailand might be hot, but don’t think that means you can drive a car or motorbike topless. The local police are pretty strict at enforcing this law and will either issue a verbal warning or a fine if they catch you!

While it might be tempting to offload your change to a shop when making a purchase, it’s actually illegal to do so in Canada under the Currency Act of 1985. The act limits how many coins may be used when making a purchase, and while the shop owner can decide to take them, they are also well within their legal right to refuse.

In Scandinavia all road vehicles must have dipped headlights on at all times, regardless of whether it’s day or night. If you’re caught with your lights off you will face a fine of roughly 100 US Dollars.

In the United Arab Emirates, you could be breaking the nation’s international property law and UAE trademark law when you install satellite television in your home. For years rogue technicians have been illegally installing satellite dishes boosted with rigged decoder boxes, and the authorities are really clamping down on the issue. Whether you know that your satellite was installed illegally or not, if you’re caught it could cost you a fine of 50,000 Dirham and could even lead to jail or deportation.

Driving a dirty car is an illegal offence in Moscow and one which could earn you a fine. There is some debate about what constitutes ‘dirty’, but most agree that your car is too dirty if your licence plate can’t be read easily.

In Singapore keeping the city clean is of such great importance that fines are issued to anyone who feeds the birds or forgets to flush a public toilet.

While some of these laws might seem a little unusual, when you’re in a foreign country it’s important that you show respect for its legal system.

Ignorance is no excuse, so learn the laws of your host nation and don’t get caught out unnecessarily!

The Expat Hub
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