Sometimes I buy the local flag of a country I have visited as a souvenir.

Given that there is such a thing as a flag instruction, which in some countries is embedded into either criminal or civil law, I am wondering if I am even allowed to buy a foreign flag. Not living in the country of the flag, the countries don't have jurisdiction to enforce their flag protocol, so I could imagine that it is not allowed to own a foreign flag in some cases. Is this a correct assumption?

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    Keep in mind also that a 3 foot by 4 foot officially fringed and whatnot piece of cloth is a Flag, while a little 3 in by 4 inch piece of plastic may not be - and whatever rules about folding, respecting etc apply to the large thing may not apply to the small replica you are more likely to want as a souvenir Commented Oct 5, 2013 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


You're affected by the laws of the country where you currently are. So if the country laws prohibit owning any specific flag - you'd better obey. Countries typically only care about their own flags.

However the Wikipedia article you linked to describes use of flags and that doesn't include owning the flag. Common restrictions may include:

  • prohibition of burning or otherwise destroying the flag in public or demonstrating the process - that can qualify as state symbol desecration
  • prohibition of using the flag or a fabric colored as a flag as clothes and especially underwear - for example pants with USA "stars-and-stripes" flag on the butt could qualify as offense
  • prohibition of public display of the flag other than during state holidays and on state property - for example, you may be disallowed to display the flag on a private house because it's not a governmental institution

This applies in most cases. In case of doubt check for local regulations in advance. This Wikipedia article may be a good start.

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    wow. Growing up in the UK I find it astonishing that these rules exist and people are concerned about flags. I can't even remember how many I have damaged, torn, converted into clothes, painted, burned, slid down mountains on etc (but all of them were European or commonwealth flags, so no worries about strange rules there)
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 15:17
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    for example pants with USA "stars-and-stripes" flag on the butt could qualify as offense - Where is this an offense?
    – Karlson
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 16:36
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    And of course most countries have no laws against using other countries' flags, except some will have laws prohibiting the public display/flying of them, especially instead of or at higher mast than their own (the US does have that, by US flag protocol their flag must ALWAYS be flown from a higher position than any other in its vicinity).
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 5, 2013 at 4:30
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    This reminds me of an interesting story from a few years ago in Germany during the world cup: World Cup Patriotism in Berlin: Immigrants Defend the Flag While Left-Wing Germans Tear It Down Commented Oct 5, 2013 at 8:23
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    @hippietrail: I've heard of an incident when Azerbaijan put a person onto permanent no-entry list for having visited Nagorno Karabakh. So I'd say you shouldn't toy with taking country A flag to country B when A and B actively dislike each other.
    – sharptooth
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 7:15