beyond borders Controlling cultures, countries and comfort zones
Law and Order
Traveling to foreign coun- tries for business or pleasure can be an adven- ture, but it could land you in hot water—or worse—if you don’t follow
the laws of your destination country.
When accepting speaking engagements abroad, it is your responsibility
to learn about the country’s laws and
regulations and obey them because the
penalties could be severe.
Take, for example, the highly publicized case of Michael Fay, an 18-year-old
American expatriate student who was
convicted of vandalism in Singapore in
1994. He was fined $2,200, sentenced
to four months in jail and a caning (six
strokes on the buttocks with a moistened rattan cane that draws blood and
leaves permanent scars). When former
President Bill Clinton protested the
extreme punishment and asked the government of Singapore for clemency, Fay’s
fine and jail sentence were upheld, but
the caning was reduced to four strokes.
Although this is an extreme case, it
serves as a reminder that U.S. citizens in
a foreign country are subject to its laws.
Here are some examples of weird—but
real—laws that are still on the books in
• It is illegal to walk on the right side
of a sidewalk.
• You cannot leave your car keys in an
• The “A-Okay” sign is equivalent to
giving the middle finger in America.
• You cannot remove bandages in
• It is illegal to pay for a 26-cent item
in all pennies. The limit is 25 cents.
• When driving a car, you must keep
the headlights on at all times or you
will face a $100 fine.
• Taxi drivers must pay royalties if they
play music in their cars for paying
• It is illegal to kiss on railways.
• You may not take photos of police
officers or police vehicles, even if
they’re just in the background.
• It is illegal to wear a mask.
• Any kind of nude artistic display is
• Cars with license plates ending with
a 1 or 2 are not allowed on the roads
on Monday, 3 or 4 on Tuesday, 5 or
6 on Wednesday, 7 or 8 on Thursday,
and 9 or 0 on Friday after 7 AM.
• Women may not drive cars.
• Women cannot appear in public,
unless accompanied by a male relative
• The sale of gum is prohibited.
• Failure to flush a public toilet after use
may result in very hefty fines. Special
police patrol public restrooms.
• It is illegal to enter the country with
cigarettes, which are banned in all
• It is illegal to go outside without
wearing underwear, even if you’re
• Violators are subject to a $600 fine if
caught throwing away chewed bubble
gum on the sidewalk.
• It is illegal to step on the nation’s
• It is illegal for a woman to eat chocolates on a public conveyance.
• It is illegal to leave baggage unattended, and picking up abandoned
baggage is an act of terrorism.
• Placing a postage stamp that bears
the Queen upside down is considered treason.
• It is illegal to be drunk in a pub or bar.
This information was compiled by Barbara Parus, the managing editor of Speaker magazine, who always fastens her seat belt, obeys the speed limit, pays her
taxes on time and never bribes public officials.
She can be reached at email@example.com.