Not Fine by Me
OK, we get it. There are reasons for fines. Good reasons, usually: protecting life, health and/or property, conserving finite resources …that sort of thing. So fines, though painful when levied at you, are a necessary part of the social contract, and better than jail time. Except when they’re not, either because they don’t match the crime or are just flat-out nonsense. We found a few international examples of each and man, are they WEIRD. All fines are expressed in U.S. dollars, for comparison purposes and y’know, just because.
Sitting down in Venice, Italy—Fine: $588
When you’re on vacation, you walk. A lot. There’s a popular practice to alleviate the fatigue and soreness that frequently accompanies extensive walking …a funny little hack humans have been using for, oh, about 200,000 years now called sitting. It’s a proven-effective method to rest and rejuvenate tired legs …unless you’re in Venice, apparently. Because if you sit down in an area of the island city not designated for sitting, the neighborhood Polizie can slap you with a $588 fine - mamma mia! The reason for the law is to combat overcrowding (and, apparently, common sense). If you need to park your tucchus in Venice, your best bet is to find a bistro and request an espresso, tea, or gelato.
Eating on the road in Florence, Italy—Fine: Up to $570
Not everyone shares Americans’ enthusiasm for eating food on the go. That’s certainly understandable; wolfing down a meal as you walk is pretty unhealthy, and, let’s face it, most American fast food is just diabetes in a wrapper anyway. However, in Florence, Italy, they’ve taken the distain to a new heights (or depths): if you’re eating your evening meal out on one of the city’s crowded avenues, walking around or sitting on the curb, you can get nailed with a hefty fine. Of course, you‘re perfectly fine if you’re seated at an outside bistro or café. Starting to sense pattern here, Italy.
Strolling down a crowded street in Amsterdam, the Netherlands—Fine: Unspecified
Crowds and crime are an issue in Amsterdam’s Wallen Territory. To combat this, pedestrian traffic is now regulated via a color-coding system. A road that’s excessively crowded is coded red, and no one else can enter; green-coded streets are, predictably, less packed and perfectly OK to enter. Orange means “continue at your very own hazard.” Roads coded red have an unmistakably elevated police presence. While the fines for violating this new law are still a little unclear, you can be hit with some of their other rather extravagant fines, including ones for open liquor containers (a $109 penalty) or littering (that one will set you back $160). Don’t be confused, though: if you see a red light out on the street in Amsterdam, it means something entirely different from what we’re talking about here.
Collecting sand in Sardinia, Italy. Fine: Up to $3,482
People like to keep mementos of the places they’ve visited—it’s human nature. Beaches seem a particularly strong trigger for this behavior—shells, rocks, and sand are frequent tourist souvenir targets. Just don’t try that crap in Sardinia, pal. They catch you doing that along their shorelines, they’ll slap you with a fine ranging from the merely ridiculous ($580) all the way up to mind-meltingly ludicrous ($3,482). Good luck explaining that to the family back home when you’re wiring them for funds. How very Italian of them.
Littering in Hong Kong. Fine: $1,500
In spite of the fact that they’re next door neighbors to one of the earth’s all-time champion polluters (or then again, perhaps because of it), you’d better not let them catch you littering in Honk Kong. Toss your wadded-up burger wrapper on the ground within view of a cop in that particular municipality, and you’re staring straight down the barrel of a $1,500 penalty. That’s called getting Hong-Konked (by no one except me, just now). Although I will say the city did look absolutely gorgeous in Crazy Rich Asians, so, while exorbitant, the fines are working.
You should always treat the area you’re visiting (and, heck, every area on the planet) with respect ...it’s just common courtesy. But when you go to Amsterdam, Hong Kong and seemingly every square inch of Italy, you’d better take extra care if you don’t want to end up a penniless expatriate street urchin.
And Italy? Thanks for Michelangelo, cappuccinos, pizza, Leonardo da Vinci, gelato, the alphabet, Giuseppe Verdi, representative government, the aqueduct, Dante Alighieri, newspapers, critical thought and (on a personal note) Monica Bellucci, but: ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE FINES – get your well-manicured hands out of our pockets.