Every country, and the people occupying it, has different laws, traditions, rituals and beliefs. For outsiders, it might appear a bit strange or even plain crazy. But hey, who are we to judge? We all have secrets that we safeguard because people may think that we are loony. These are not secrets though, but rather things that are considered normal in other countries. For instance, did you know that in India, there is a specific ritual where a woman will marry a tree or a dog? It might sound crazy at first but it’s a crazy Indian wedding custom. Another such thing is in Australia. There, a citizen will be fined if they fail to vote during elections. So, without further ado, here are 10 things that are considered normal in other countries but may seem strange to others.
1. Some women in India marry trees.
Indian weddings are known for their extraordinary colors, bands, foods and thousands of people who flock together to bless the couple. They are often called “The Big Fat Indian Wedding” because of how expensive they are. Weddings are usually arranged marriages, where both families of the same caste check astrological compatibility before anything.
Once the priest gives the signal that everything matches up, the wedding preparation begins. However, if a woman is born “manglik,” or Mars-bearing, she is considered to be cursed and can be the reason for her new husband’s misfortunes. According to an old Hindu custom, the only way to break the curse is to marry a peepal (Ficus religiosa) or banana tree. Once the woman is married to the tree, the tree is destroyed, in order to break the curse.
The current Indian constitution, however, considers such practices illegal because they believe that it violates the rights of women. Many, however, still carry on with the beliefs and perform such rituals. Once the tree is cut down, the woman is allowed to marry the man. (source)
2. Some Sundanese people in Indonesia use banana leaves to enjoy meals, instead of plates.
Food plays an important role in almost all cultures. In Indonesia, ‘Botram’ means ‘eating together’. It is a traditional feast party, mainly practiced by the Sundanese people from West Java. The tradition has some ground rules though, such as no fancy tableware or dishes. The menu mainly consists of traditional cuisines, which are to be enjoyed, only with bare hands. Plates are not allowed either. Those attending the fancy party eat together with food served on leaves, especially banana leaves. According to their belief, botram unites all people regardless of their origin.
People from various backgrounds attend botram to eat and celebrate together. Each guest brings a special dish, which is placed on top of long banana leaves stacked together. The guests then sit on the floor and eat slowly, talking about their lives and sharing precious moments. Several states in India also practice eating on banana leaves. (source)
3. Metro train passing through blocks of apartments in China.
The current population of China is 1.386 billion. With the population rising at a fast pace, it’s hard to find space to live. Most of the population resides in buildings known as flats or blocks. Since a majority of the people depend on public transportation, buildings have to be constructed around railroad tracks. One such Chinese marvel is the 19-story residential building in the “emerging mega-city” of Chongqing, China.
The railroad goes right through the heart of the building, and is even equipped with a station; making it extremely convenient for the residents of the building. The station is located on the sixth to eighth floor of the building and is surrounded by noise cancellation equipment. The highly sophisticated equipment is capable of reducing the noise to a point where residents only hear the same noise as a standard dishwasher. (source)
4. In the Philippines, fast food restaurants sell huge portions called “barkada”.
If you ever travel to the Philippines and happen to visit a local McDonald’s, you might be surprised to see that the fries come in huge portions. In fact, almost all restaurants have this option; where food is supersized or sold in huge portions. It’s not because Filipinos are gluttonous, but because of a trend in the Philippines called barkada. According to the local slang, it means a group of friends or a gang of youth, who like to hang out and eat together. Since it is widely common for friends to get together and to eat, restaurants such as McDonald’s sell French fries for 6 people or more.
The same practice is followed in Saudi Arabia, where restaurants are built to seat large families. Restaurants such as KFC can easily seat a family of 10-15 without issues. (source)
5. Every year, in February, people in Italy engage in orange fights.
The Ivrea Carnival dates back to 1808, making it one of the oldest festivals in all of Italy. Every year, in February, Italians flock together for a range of traditional re-enactments, parades and activities, which also includes a battle of the oranges. Thousands of people, armed with oranges, take to the streets and throw it at expecting patrons who are armed with protective helmets. After the event is over, people share sweets with each other, then watch parades to end the day. The carnival lasts for three days and has several events such as parades and musical performances by folk groups from all over Italy. (source)
6. The residents of Great Britain need a license to watch or record live TV. Each TV in the house requires individual licenses and it is impossible to reject the service since one has to provide reasons why they do not watch TV.
In the UK, if you are using television receiving equipment to watch or record TV programs, that means you need a license. Those who access material or stream online are slapped with a hefty fine or even jail time. BBC, the world’s oldest broadcasting organization, and public television, is funded by licensing fees paid by citizens who own TVs or other devices. Every year, an individual or a family that owns a TV is subjected to a licensing fee of £147.
Residents have two choices. Either pay the fee or submit a written application, explaining why they are rejecting the broadcast services. If not, the person could be slapped with a fine or jail time. According to The SUN, there were 184,595 prosecutions and other legal proceedings against alleged non-payers in 2016 alone.
If a person rejects the offer but still watches TV or records it, then a special service called the Enforcement Division will be knocking on their door. These people are trained to wear down the individual by constantly following them and staking out their house until they pay and accept service. (source)
7. In Germany, some religious communities have to pay a church tax.
A church tax (in German: Kirchensteuer) is a tax imposed on members of some religious
congregations in Germany. All Germans who are officially registered as Catholic, Protestant or Jewish pay a religious tax on their annual income tax bill. The levy is collected by German tax offices and channeled to those faiths. Those with membership in the community have to enter their details in a tax document and surrender the information to their employers. The employer then must withhold church tax prepayments from the income of the employee, in addition to other tax prepayments.
At the end of the year, the state revenue authorities also assess the church tax owed by an individual. The church tax is only paid by members of the respective church. Those who are not members of a church do not have to pay it. However, members have to pay 8-9% of the amount of their income tax. For example, if a parishioner pays 10,000 euros in income tax per year, they will have to pay approximately 800 euros to the church. (source)
8. In Australia, it is mandatory to vote. Those who do not vote are forced to pay a hefty fine.
The right to vote is a freedom enjoyed by people all around the world. However, Australians do not have that choice. The continent has a mandatory voting law, which means that all citizens have to register, go to the polls and vote. Anyone over 18 who fails to do so, can be fined and will have to go to court to explain why they failed to appear. People have been sentenced to jail terms for not voting. In 2010, 6,000 people failed to show up to vote during election day in Tasmania, and each of them were fined $26. (source)
9. In Canada and India, milk is sold in transparent plastic bags.
For most of us, seeing milk outside of hard plastic containers or cardboard boxes, especially in transparent plastic bags, might seem highly unusual. This is, however, a usual practice in Canada and India. After milk is purchased, the users simply place it in a pitcher, cut off the ends and pour it. It might seem strange to use milk that is sold in bags rather than resealable containers, since it would spoil quickly. So, why are Canadian manufacturers selling almost 75% of milk using this unique delivery system? Not only are plastic containers harmful to the planet, it also produces a large amount of plastic waste if not recycled.
The bags produce less packaging waste compared to the machines that produce plastic containers to transport milk. Since the 1980’s, residents of Ontario have been buying milk in bags, and today, it is more of a habit that saves our planet from a considerable amount of plastic waste. (source)
10. In Israel, during the celebration of Sukkot, people build temporary huts on the roofs or balconies.
Through October 16 to 23, many Israelis and tourists dine together on roof tops or balconies, in special huts made of bamboo. The tradition, which has been followed for centuries, is carried out by building a hut, called the sukkah, with posters, paper chains, colored lights, hanging fruit, chandeliers and draperies. During the week-long celebration, the men and women try to spend as much time inside the sukkah as possible, where they eat, pray and rest. Even if they do not wish to spend much time inside, it is still mandatory for the people to have at least two meals every day, inside the sukkah. (source)