Eight Weird French Laws

France, like many countries, has its fair share of weird laws. As you’d expect from the French, a few involve kissing, snails, and, of course, Napoléon. Of France’s 15,500 or so laws, there are quite a few that raise an eyebrow.

Let’s go over the eight weirdest French laws, so that you don’t get caught out when you visit us in Paris.

Snails Must Have Their Own Ticket on French Trains

Snails on a train! This is a reminder that animals weighing less than five kilos must travel with their own ticket. That includes the French’s favorite breakfast treat, as an unlucky Frenchman found out in 2008 while transporting his snail harvest on the TGV. Is this a common problem? Well, consider that, in France, people eat approximately 500 million snails per year.

You Can’t Name Your Pig “Napoléon”

A weird 19th century law, still in effect today here, makes it illegal to make fun of Napoléon, including specifically by naming your pig after him. You can call your pig whatever you like, but certainly not Napoléon. Ironically, did you know Napoléon was the ruler who established today’s French civil law code?

You Can’t Kiss in a French Train Station

The SNCF (French railway system) got tired of the delays caused by couples kissing their farewells on platforms. This gave birth to a weird French law that prohibits making out once the train has pulled up to the station. No worries, you probably won’t get arrested – or even scolded – for sharing a lip-lock in Gare du Nord. However, you may be so distracted that you miss your train.

Women Who Want to Dress Like a Man Must First Ask the Police

Misogyny is alive and well in some of outdated French laws, and this one has never been taken off the books. Officially, if you’re female and want to wear a pantsuit in public, you must get authorization from the nearest police precinct, as well as a medical certificate. The “Power Pantsuit” seems to be back in fashion in 2020, so this we’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

You Must Listen to French Music

In an attempt to defend against America’s “cultural imperialism”, France passed a law in 1994 that insists that 40% of music played on French radio stations must be by French artists.

Adopted with the goal of promoting and preserving the French culture and language, the law proved very unpopular. Eventually, in 2016 the French music quota was decreased to 35%. Radio stations that specialize in foreign music were also granted an exception, requiring only 15%..

Don’t Let the Kids Have Ketchup

Since 2011, French law forbids school cafeterias from serving ketchup. The French, as you may know, prefer to enjoy their frites (French fries) with mayonnaise. This law was probably another attempt to fend off American cultural influence.

That said, no self-respecting French person would accept ketchup anywhere near their Boeuf Bourguignon.

You Can Divorce Your Husband if He Watches Too Much Football

It’s not as strange a law as it might appear at first glance. In addition to being able to divorce your partner on grounds of infidelity, there’s also another acceptable reason known as “intellectual infidelity”: if your spouse spends way too many hours watching sports on the tube and hurling insults at it, you can call it quits.

Another unexpected legal ground for divorce is “physical” infidelity. Not in the sexual sense, but rather meaning your physical well-being. For example, if your wife smokes like a chimney and puts your health at risk, you are allowed to pack your bags in search of fresh air.

You Can’t Get Drunk at Work, Unless It’s on Wine

This funny law is just… so French. Obviously, you can’t drink at work! Well, yes, you can. As long as you’re drinking wine, beer, cider, or mead, you’re legal. Of course, you can’t get totally plastered but, if you’re celebrating someone’s retirement, for example, you can do so by drinking responsibly. Just don’t do Patrón shots off their desk.

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