The Netherlands has some pretty strange laws. In a country sometimes described as overly-beaurocratic, the Netherlands controls some unexpected things, like who can share houses, when fireworks can be used freely, and who can pee in canals (yes, really). 

There’s a great video to watch too, so let’s jump right in!

13Locking a burglar in your toilet? That’s illegal

Picture this: a robber breaks in to your house while you’re at home. In a burst of adrenaline and quick-thinking you trap them in the bathroom. Hurrah, success! Well, no. By locking up that burglar and depriving them of the privilege of stealing your stuff, you’re simultaneously depriving the burglar of their liberty — and that’s against the law.

12Become divorced? You’ll never get rid of your in-laws

Let’s hope that pesky mother-in-law isn’t the reason for your marriage breaking down, because bad news: in the Netherlands, they’re still your family — even once the ink on your divorce papers has dried.

11It’s illegal to not have lights and a bell on your bike (but you don’t need to wear a helmet)

In a lot of countries, this is the other way around. This is mainly due to safety issues and of course if you’re out with a small child too, they usually have to wear some form of protection. Not in the Netherlands. As long as you have lights for visibility and a bell to attract attention, you’re good to go. Safe or just stupid? The debate continues on whether we should all wear helmets. I guess we do have great bike lanes, which definitely makes it a heck of a lot safer.

10Bikes have right of way, they rule over cars AND pedestrians

So say you were strolling along a bike path and a bike hits you. In most cases the bike rider is not necessarily liable as bikes have right of way, even if it wasn’t your fault. The same goes for a car hitting a bike — that’s a big no-no too. Please people, watch out for bikes and cars you watch out for them too. They rule us all 😉

9Fireworks are illegal — apart from three days before NYE

It is illegal to purchase fireworks with the intention to use them unless it is three days before NYE. Even then, they cannot be set off until NYE. Any time after that is also illegal. That means that New Year’s Eve itself is wild as hell.

It’s one that causes a debate every year. New Year’s Eve in 2019 was particularly bad for injuries and general disturbances, so some municipalities are banning fireworks from 2020 onward. But although it’s now a “historic” law, it’s still VERY weird.

8Mandatory emergency drills need to be tested every month

You may have all heard that weird and loud sound going off on the first Monday of every month. The Dutch government requires these emergency drills to test the alarms at least once a month. It’s not technically a law, but it does mean that we are going to have to listen to them every first Monday of the month FOREVER (or until the alarms are replaced, that is).

7Taking a souvenir from the forest? That’s not allowed

Not only are many nature reserves technically not open at sunrise and sunset, but all products of a forest belong to the municipality. That means taking moss, mushrooms, or even a fallen acorn is strictly prohibited.

6You cannot legally marry in the Netherlands unless one of you is Dutch

This law is true, but only if neither of you has residency in the Netherlands. For instance, you can’t come here from abroad to marry, as other people do at beach resorts across the world. So if you’re wanting to get hitched on the canals of Amsterdam and neither of you is registered here, forget it.

5House sharing is technically not allowed

Three or more young singles are technically not allowed to live together. This is to prevent a load of house shares. This law is pretty much never enforced though, so it’s pretty pointless and bizarre and doesn’t help the housing crisis.

4It’s illegal to go into a coffee shop if you’re under 18

It’s not illegal for under 18’s to go into a regular coffee shop (‘cafe’), but if it’s there to sell weed, you aren’t allowed in, sorry. NO DRUGS FOR under 18s. Seems fair enough, we also can’t drink till we are 18 either.

3Trees must be reinforced to prevent them from sinking by canals

Canal houses, including trees and other structures, must be reinforced so they don’t sink. So it’s not just the houses, but the trees too! It’s great that trees are just as protected as the canal-side houses.

2Keep off the grass — by law

A walk in the park or a picnic on the grass? Not in Oldenzaal, or many other Dutch towns. Walking, sitting, or just generally hanging out beyond the designated paths in parks, public gardens, green areas, and lawns is not allowed — unless you get a permit from the municipality, of course.

1Tenants have incredible protection when renting

Good for tenants and not so good for landlords, tenants have an incredible amount of protection. In fact, the landlord can’t kick you out unless a court rules that they can. Pretty bizarre if you aren’t paying the rent and trashing the place. Great if you don’t want to be made homeless by your landlord for literally no reason.

There you have it, 10 weird laws that the Netherlands has! What other laws do you find weird or cool in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Monlaw/Pixabay
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2019, but was updated for your reading pleasure in August 2020.

8 COMMENTS

  1. #2is not true, house sharing is allowed, though in most cities you need a permit when it is more then a certain number of people. Apparently in the city where the article was written this limit is 2 people, which I find very low, more common is 3-5 people.

  2. Bicycles do not have the right of way at all time. Absolutely not! It is true that a traffic participant with a more “deadlier” vehicle is supposed to be more careful. Therefore, if a car hits a cyclist, he might be right, but still liable. However, that surely goes for the pedestrians, if a cyclist hits a pedestrian, the cyclist is liable. Who has the right of way, has nothing to do with this.

    It is also determined per municipality if you can have roommates, I had several, once 3 at the same time, all registered at my address. No problem.

    You can absolutely get married in the Netherlands if neither of you is Dutch.
    In some cases a declaration may be asked, proving it is not an involuntary marriage, but most of the time it is fine.

    Contrary to popular believe, drugs are always illegal in the Netherlands. Coffee shops are merely tolerated, but actually NOT legal. That is why these shops are called coffee shops and not weed shops or drug shops. That is why children are not allowed in these shops. Alcohol is a terrible drug, but unfortunately this is legal and therefore children may enter a bar , under supervision, but they are still not allowed to drink.

    The monthly alarm is government regulated, but this is no legislation.

    This means that half of the story is not exactly correct……

  3. No 10. The title “It’s illegal not to have lights and a bell on your bike, but not to wear a helmet” is misleading and incorrect. It’s missing a second “not”. Now it’s implying that it’s “illegal not to wear a helmet” which is not true (and if true would not make it “weird”).
    .
    For clarity it should have read “It’s illegal not to have lights and a bell on your bike, but not illegal not to wear a helmet”. Or make the last part shorter: “but legal not to wear a helmet”.

  4. Re my previous comment on the title of No. 10.
    After reading it again, the title could also imply “it’s not illegal to wear a helmet” or in other words “it’s legal to wear a helmet”, which is CORRECT but not surprising or “weird” and I think that is not what the author meant.

  5. no. 10 is not weird, why not require cyclist to be save. Light and bell are more important then helmets in regards to safety so nothing weirtd about that

    no. 7 is not correct, there are no mandatory emergency drills required in the Netherlands. The alarm still sounds every month but this is a remnant from the time these sirens where made from metal and had to be put into motion to prevent them from rusting. As random activation would have caused too much confusion it was decided that they would always go off at the 1st monday of the month. Leading to the joke that this would be the perfect time for the russians to attack

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