Government & Law

14 weird Dutch laws that exist today

What ridiculous laws can land you in jail? From foraging in the forest to making chalk art, here are 14 quirky laws in the Netherlands.

Dutch laws
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By Laura van der Most

Updated 9-1-2024

Like their neighbors to the east, the Dutch have a reputation for being sticklers for the rules. But, as any international in the Netherlands knows, this only applies when the Dutch see sense in the rule.

Running a red light in a busy intersection? Of course, you’ll get fined. Cycling on the sidewalk where you’re not actually allowed to cycle? You have to catch them first, copper!

The Dutch seem to be so tolerant towards rule-breakers that they sometimes forget that the weird laws are still on the books. Here are a few examples:

Safety regulations

  • You don’t have to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle in the Netherlands. However, it is illegal if your bike isn’t fitted with a bell or proper lights.
People walking and cycling cross the Rokin avenue next to Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Rokin avenue next to Dam square in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Photo: Paulo Amorim/Getty Images)
  • If you’re taking part in traffic, make sure to know the rules of the road. Dutch law places the responsibility on the car driver if they have an accident with a cyclist. Does that also apply when a cyclist has an accident with a pedestrian?

    Why no, of course not. After all, cycling is the Dutch way of life. If you’re walking somewhere where you’re not supposed to walk (e.g., a bicycle lane), the cyclist has the right of way.

Typical ant-fuckery

  • Tipping isn’t very common in Dutch culture. However, when wait staff does get a little extra, it’s considered part of their taxable income.

Regional madness

  • If your dog barks in Rotterdam, you can get a €130 fine. Repeat offenders can face fines of up to €2,250. Rest assured, though, your pet is only breaking the law when they bark incessantly.
  • In the province of Flevoland, it’s illegal to make chalk art on public sidewalks. Why? No idea.
  • Going on a treasure hunt? Hope you have a treasure map because, in most regions, you’re not allowed to bring a metal detector. That way, the government hopes to prevent people from finding archeological valuables and keeping them as their own.
  • In the city of Groningen, street buskers must pick up their gear and move spots after half an hour. This law came into being after residents complained about having to hear the same melody over and over again.

    That said, when a famous street artist got written up, the regional court intervened and added that only monotomous music would be fined.

Protecting criminals

  • If your home gets burgled, it’s illegal to lock the thief up in your house, as that would be depriving them of their liberty. Should the occasion arise, you must first warn the burglar, then you can block them. If they still refuse to leave, you can lock them up, after which you must call the police immediately.

    These laws go even further. If you have a baseball bat lying about and you attack the burglar with it, you will be charged with premeditated assault. The Netherlands only allows you to use the same force that is used against you. So if the thief also has a baseball bat, all bets are off, and you can have a batting duel.
  • It’s not illegal to escape prison. As long as no crimes were committed in the process, the judiciary system cannot give the escapee extra time. Keep in mind that breaking a window already counts as vandalism, so the criminal must be a true escape artist.

Wait, what?

  • In most regions, taking anything from the forest is illegal, including moss, branches, and acorns. If caught, you can face a fine of up to €4,500.
Father and two toddlers walking through a red forest. The children are walking hand-in-hand.
Photo: Sebastian Nieuwboer / EyeEm/Getty Images
  • You’re not allowed to visit nature preserves between sundown and sun-up. So if you are planning to go see the sunset, you’re technically trespassing.

Only in the Netherlands

  • All recreational drugs are illegal in the Netherlands, even cannabis. However, small quantities of drugs – while still technically illegal – are tolerated, depending on the substance. For example, if you take mushrooms or XTC at a festival, you usually get off with a warning. You can check the list of hard and soft drugs on the government website.

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