In a country that’s sometimes described as overly bureaucratic, the Netherlands controls some unexpected things, like who can share houses, where you can lock a burglar, and whether you can take an acorn from a forest tree.
Without further ado, so let’s jump right into some pretty strange Dutch laws!
1. Locking a burglar in your toilet? Illegal
Picture this: a robber breaks into 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.
2. Want a divorce? Your in-laws are forever after
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.
3. It’s illegal to not have lights and a bell on your bike (helmets are optional)
In a lot of countries, this is the other way around due to obvious safety reasons. And of course, if you’re out with a small child, they usually have to wear some form of protection.
Not in the Netherlands though. As long as you have lights for visibility and a bell to attract attention, you’re good to go.
Is it 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 lot safer. 🤷♀️
4. Bikes have right of way: they rule over cars AND pedestrians
Say you were walking along a bike path and a bike hits you. In most cases in the Netherlands, the bike rider is not necessarily liable since 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. 🚲
5. Mandatory emergency drills need to be tested every month
You may have all heard that weird and loud sound going off at 12 PM the first Monday of every month. The Dutch government requires these emergency drills to test the alarms at least once a month.
While it’s not technically a law, it does mean that we are going to have to listen to them every other Monday FOREVER.
6. Taking a souvenir from the forest? That’s not allowed
Not only are many nature reserves 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. 🌱
7. You 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 a registered resident, forget it.
8. House 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, a law that is pretty much never enforced though, so it’s just pointless and bizarre and definitely doesn’t help the housing crisis.
9. It’s illegal to go into a coffee shop if you’re under 18
It’s not illegal for individuals under 18 years old to go into a regular coffee shop or ‘café’. Coffee shops in the Netherlands sell weed, so if you’re underage, you aren’t allowed in.
Sorry, no drugs for those under 18! Seems fair enough, as you also can’t drink till you’re 18 either.
10. Trees 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. 🌳
11. Keep 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 are not allowed — unless you get a permit from the municipality, of course.
12. Tenants have incredible protection when renting
A law that’s 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, 12 weird laws that the Netherlands has!
What other Dutch laws do you find weird or cool? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2019, but was fully updated in May 2022 for your reading pleasure.