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Laws and Customs Trivia

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A 1993 Florida law levies fines against anyone caught intentionally littering with plastic fishing gear or lines.

A bride stands to the groom's left at a wedding so that his sword hand would be free. Apparently Anglo-Saxon brides were often kidnapped before a wedding and brawls were common. That's also why the best man stands with the groom; the tribe's best warrior was there to help the groom defend the bride.

A charming wedding custom in early Yorkshire, England, involved a plate holding wedding cake. It was thrown out of the window as the bride returned to her parental home after the wedding. If the plate broke, she would enjoy a happy future with her husband. If the plate remained intact, her future was bleak.

A couple living together for two years in Russia is considered married. This is called a citizen marriage.

A dinner party consisting of 13 people in England during the Middle Ages was the worst of omens. It foretold of the impending death of one in the group. This was associated with the Last Supper, and also with a witches coven, as both had 13 members.

A few years back, a Chinese soap hit it big with consumers in Asia. It was claimed in ads that users would lose weight with Seaweed Defat Scented Soap simply by washing with it. The soap was sold in violation to the Japanese Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and was banned. Reportedly, the craze for the soap was so great that Japanese tourists from China and Hong Kong brought back large quantities. The product was also in violation of customs regulations. In June and July 1999 alone, more than 10,000 bars were seized.

A law in Illinois prohibits barbers from using their fingers to apply shaving cream to a patron's face.

The U.S. interstate highway system requires that 1 mile in every 5 must be straight. These sections can be used as airstrips in a time of war or other emergencies.

The United States Supreme Court once ruled Federal income tax unconstitutional. Income tax was first imposed during the Civil War as a temporary revenue-raising measure.

The Wodaabe, sheltered from the influences of the outside world, have unusual customs. When Wodaabe greet each other, they may not look each other directly in the eyes. During daylight hours, a man cannot hold his wife's hand in public, call her by name, or speak to her in a personal way.

There are many theories of how tipping came to be, but the most prevalent story goes back several hundred years to England. When people traveled by stagecoach, they often sent a servant ahead to make arrangements for their arrival. The servant would give the service providers money “to ensure promptness,” which was shortened by initials to be “tip.” Today a tip is more of a thank you after good service than a bribe to get good service.

There are more than 100 offenses that carry the death penalty in Iran.

There are some driving differences in Japan that tourists should know. Motorists drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right, like in the United Kingdom. In areas where there are few police, people routinely speed 30 km over the speed limit (50 kph), and taxi drivers are notorious for their aggressive driving. The pedestrian always has the right of way, and drivers can not turn on a red light.

There is meaning behind the wedding custom of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The “old” thing was a personal gift from the bride's mom to make a bond to the bride's old life. The “new” item symbolized hope for the future and the newly formed family. The “borrowed” item was a gift from a happily married woman that would carry some of the woman's happiness into the new marriage. The something “blue” came from two sources that had similar meanings. To ancient Romans, maidens wore blue to show fidelity and modesty, and to Christians, blue was linked to the purity of the Virgin Mary.

Tourists need to be aware that, when traveling in Germany, a screwing gesture at one's head is a strong symbol, meaning "You're crazy." Often used by drivers on the autobahn to comment on the driving skills of other travelers, this gesture can get you arrested. The same gesture is used in Argentina.

Trap regulations in California for lobster fisherman require an escape port for undersized lobsters.

Twenty-two inches is the minimum legal length for commercial sale of California halibut.

A local ordinance in Atwoodville, Connecticut, prohibits people from playing Scrabble while waiting for a politician to speak.

A new law passed in the fall of 2000 gives e-signatures the same legal standing as handwritten signatures.

A richly embroidered veil, or "burga," festooned with buttons and pendants cloaks the faces of the young girls of Sudan's Rashaida. Their interpretation of Islamic law dictates that females wear the veil starting at the age of five. The covering must be worn even at mealtimes. It can be removed only in the strictest of privacy.

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