To be exact, France has about 15 500 laws, 127 000 decrees, 7 400 treaties, and 17 000 EU laws.
Some date back to the Middle Ages , some are from the time of the French Revolution and others are more recent. Most of the laws were put into effect for good reason and stay valid indefinitely while other laws become antiquated or out of date.
Here are 11 weird, stupid or funny French laws
Unless someone removes these antiquated and outdated laws, they remain in tact and remain perfectly legal albeit no one ever really enforces them. Like the law that says women can only wear pants if they are riding a bike or holding horse reigns. There are of course more recent laws that are put into effect and just seem downright weird.
I have put together a list of 11 laws of both types of odd French laws-1) weird recent laws and 2) funny outdated laws.
1- No person may address or name their pig Napoleon
You can name your pig anything including Mary Antoinette or Francois Holland- the French president, but thanks to a 3 century old funny French law created to prevent pranksters of the time from making fun of the then emperor, Napoleon, you cannot call your pig Napoléon in France.
2-In France, it is legal to marry a dead person!
Also called a posthumous marriage, the practice of allowing someone to marry a dead person is alive and well (no pun intended) . Don’t get too excited though. This is not some loophole for you to gain French citizenship by marrying some dead French person because there are certain conditions that need to be met.
- The dead person had to have had the intention of marrying the alive person before his or her death and you need to prove it. I have no idea how you would do this.
- There needs to be serious grounds for the marriage.
- The president of France must approve the marriage.
If you meet all the criteria then the marriage would be back dated to the day before the bride or groom died.
The practice of marrying a dead person is also allowed in China and Sudan under certain circumstances. Good luck with that!
3-All French citizens must have a haystack, in case the king passes by with his horse
This is one of those old French laws that probably made sense way back when kings rode on horses and in carriages but today it just seems silly. There is no official king and if there were, he would drive and have no need for a hay bail.
4- All women who wish to dress like a man must ask for authorization at the nearest police station
Around 1800, a law was put in place to prevent women from dressing like men? Not only did women need to get authorization from the nearest police precinct, but they needed a medical certificate as well.
Don’t worry, you will never get arrested for wearing trousers ladies but seriously, the fact that this law is still in existence is just plain weird!
5-French law says that it’s illegal to take photos of police officers or police vehicles, even if they are in the background.
I took this photo in Marseille of two police officers on these stand-up bikes. Should I be worried because not only did I take a photo of the French police officers but I took a picture of their vehicle in the foreground?
6- Unless a woman is holding the reigns of a horse or riding a bike, she is not allowed to wear pants!
A very very antiquated law that is still in existence today in France despite several attempts to get it off the legislative books. What is weird is that many French and European women actually wear a skirt on a bike. Even I have done it a few times.
On the other end of the spectrum in America, there was a Dutch woman who was approached by a New York police officer who threatened to ticket her for wearing a skirt while riding a bike. He claimed the amount of skin she was showing was too distracting. See picture above. Oh la la. He had better stop a lot of people because that is not revealing in my books.
7- Between the hours of 8am and 8pm, 70% of music played on French radio stations MUST be by French artists.
This explains so much. When I first arrived in France, It used to annoy me how I would hear the same music over and over throughout the day. Mystery solved. They do it because it is the law.
This law was adopted to promote and preserve French musical culture and the French language. The French language police claim that the younger generation tends to listen to too much American and British culture.
8-It is illegal to kiss on or at the train stations in France
This law prohibiting love birds from kissing at the train station was put in place by the Société du Chemin de fer (train companies) to avoid delays? I suppose they thought that people kissing at train stations would be so distracted that they might totally miss the huge, loud trains.
I kiss my hubby at the train station and I have seen French people kissing at the train station also so I doubt this one is really enforced. But can you imagine? Getting arrested for kissing at the train station?
9-No alcohol whatsoever is allowed in a place of work, except for Beer, Wine, Cidre and Poiré.
Wow, how can the French stand this law? It is so strict! NOT!
This is the official rule of course. I don’t think the French really mind because most French people drink wine anyways.
10- Since 2011, a funny French law bans primary school cafeterias in France from serving Ketchup to students.
Apparently this bizarre rule was put into place thanks to Christopher Hebert, the president of the national association of municipal catering managers. The weird thing about this rule is that it was not put into place for health reasons – otherwise mayo might have been taken off the menu as well. But because Monsieur Hebert thinks that every spoonful of ketchup is like eating the ” incarnation of Americanism . ”
11- You cannot wear swim trunks or board shorts in public pools
I am not sure if this is an actual law or just an enforced rule. If it is a law than it is a dumb law.
In the four years I have lived in France, NOT one single public French pool I have been to allows allows board shorts or loose swim trunks. Instead, men MUST wear what my husband Blake likes to call “nut-huggers” and what many north Americans like to call Speedos. I think this explains why so many French people wear Speedos at the beach instead of board shorts.
Women are also victim to this rule and must not wear anything loose in the pool like a t-shirt which i suppose I can understand but sometimes the pool authorities as I like to call them take this rule too far.
I once wore a rash guard, you know, one of those tight fitting synthetic swimming shirts that surfers wear and was told it was not allowed for safety reasons. You can read about this in an article I wrote about 20 things you might hate if you lived in France. Just click here to start reading it.
As the French like to say, C’est la vie!
Sources mainly from French articles where I pulled some of my research facts.