Christiania is a autonomous enclave situated in a former military base in Copenhagen.

At its entrance there is a sign which is presumably intended for tourists...

Source: personal collection

The English version says "No photos - Buying and selling hash is still illegal", but the German version says "Please do not photograph the purchase and sale of hash remains illegal [sic]". The German version does not have the same meaning when translated against the English version. In fact the semantics of both versions invite questions.

So what is actually illegal?

  • Taking photos?
  • Buying and selling hash?
  • Taking photos of buying and selling hash?
  • Or all three?

If the latter, is it OK to take photos of other aspects of Christiania, like the architecture? Which of these meanings should the well-intended tourist adhere to? More importantly, who would arrest the tourist if they photographed an illegal subject in Christiania?

Secondarily, there is an advisory against running, "Don't run - it causes panic" and in German "Please do not run, it generates panic". But there's no such rule against running in Copenhagen (that I'm aware of). What is special about Christiania that makes this rule necessary to the extent that tourists require a law/advisory?

Note: Since I took the photo outside of the "border" to Christiania, I assume that I was not in breach, but would welcome any well informed confirmation of this.

Note: Comments resolved the intent of the German text to mean "Please do not photograph - buying and selling hash remains illegal" (missing dash)

  • 1
    In doubt, follow the rules; don't be a "tourist" tourist; be mindful of local customs. – Max May 31 '16 at 13:18

In the green light district there are 3 rules set by the community. Two of them seem strange and unusual, so they are given explanations.

  1. Have fun - no explanation needed.
  2. No running - explanation: because it causes panic.
  3. No photography - explanation: because buying and selling hash is still illegal. (implied: and you may accidentally catch a deal on photo and nobody here will like that)

The key is the implied part. They can't just write "please do not create evidence of illegal activity that's going on here". Because that's pretty much asking to disobey a law that requires you to report a criminal activity. Why break the law openly if you can just evade it?

Those rules are not law, they are community guidelines. The law is "selling hash is illegal". This law has to be coped with, hence the "no photos" guideline.

  • 3
    Minor correction: Danish law contains no general duty to report crimes one has witnessed. The closest we get is a duty to help prevent planned serious crimes (involving serious risk for someone's life or wellbeing, or significant public assets -- and thus not routine drug dealing), if necessary by alerting the authorities. – hmakholm left over Monica May 31 '16 at 20:37

Your translation is incorrect- the German text says the same. It would be clearer if the dash after photographing would not be missing, but that is a minor error.

  • 11
    @GayotFow But Aganju is right: The German text is missing a comma, period or dash after 'fotografieren', but due to the different word order in German, it is not possible to interpret the text as saying that it is 'prohibited to photograph the buying and selling of hash'. With a syntactical break to clearly separate the subordinate clause, the German text says exactly the same as the English and Danish texts. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo May 31 '16 at 7:13
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo, I can accept that a punctuation mark changes the meaning of the German from an ill-formed construction to a well-formed one which is equivalent to the English. Thanks for your explanation. From here we can turn our attention to the suitability of Aganju's answer vis-a-vis other answer(s) offered up. Thanks again – Gayot Fow May 31 '16 at 7:25
  • 4
    All other 3 languages have a hyphen after no photography – Berwyn May 31 '16 at 9:53
  • 2
    This really doesn't answer the question. – Zach Lipton May 31 '16 at 16:08
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    @ZachLipton The answer explains why the question does not make much sense, since most of it is based on Gayot's incorrect translation of the German text. As I've already pointed out, the sign also states that the rules are for a specific district of Christiania, the next questions asking if the rules are valid for other parts or outside Christiania are quite meaningless as well. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo May 31 '16 at 17:30

My understanding is that the real taboo of taking photos of anything related to drug dealing: vendors, customers, drugs, shops.

While the act of taking a photo is not "illegal" according to Danish law, Christiania is famously self-governing. There is serious potential to upset people who do not want themselves or their (illegal) dealings to be recorded (because it could lead to prosecution), and they may assault you, break your camera, etc.

Outside Pusher Street, photography is generally tolerated, but be polite and use common sense: ask people for permission, check with shop owners if it's OK, etc.

Likewise, the most likely reason for someone to run in Christiania is that the police are coming. Hence the prohibition: if some random tourist is sprinting to the toilets, others may think he is running from the cops and start running as well, and the dealers will not appreciate unnecessarily shutting up their shops.

  • 15
    I took a tour of Christiania last year with one of the local residents and can confirm that the rules described here apply specifically to "Pusher Street" and not to the rest of Christiania. The area where drugs are sold is clearly marked with additional "no photos" signs. You can also know you're there because it's the place with guys in ski masks in booths selling drugs, as opposed to the rest of Christiania, which lacks this feature. Outside of that specific marked area, photo-taking etiquette is the same as with any street photography and our guide encouraged us to take pictures. – Zach Lipton May 31 '16 at 4:37
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    @ZachLipton, that should be an answer, it's a first hand attestation. – Gayot Fow May 31 '16 at 7:28
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    @ZachLipton That is also more or less what the sign is actually saying. The rules are for the 'Green Light District', which is the part of Christiania, in which open drug trade take place (Pusher Street and immediate surroundings). The sign does not try to say that photography is prohibited in other parts of Christiania or outside Christiania (where the sign was located). – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo May 31 '16 at 8:56

I visited Christiana last year and took one of the tours with a local resident (I can recommend the tour by the way). The rules on the sign in question applies specifically to the "Green Light District," also known as the immediate area around "Pusher Street," where drugs are sold. There are a number of prominent "No Photos" signs at the entrances to this area. The sign also has a map in the lower left-hand corner indicating where the small Green Light District is situated within the larger Christiana area.

As I understand it, members of the Danish Police were entering Christiana undercover to take photos of the hash-sellers (who now wear ski masks, or they did last year anyway) as part of periodic crackdowns on the drug trade. Prohibiting photos helps protect everyone's anonymity. Running in the Green Light District is prohibited for the same reason: people have been known to run from the police there, and so if one person starts running, others may assume the police are present and start running too, creating a panic. In short, the rules, which are community norms, not laws, boil down to: "hey there's drugs around, everyone be cool."

Our guide made it clear that photos and/or running were not allowed in this specific area, but were fine anywhere else, though the usual street photography etiquette applies, as some locals may not like their picture taken. Looking back through my pictures, I see a number of instances of kids running around and adults riding bikes outside of the Green Light District without incident. Photographs elsewhere in Christiana of the architecture or local transportation are perfectly acceptable:

Pedal-powered car Source: me

I can't imagine that you did anything wrong by simply taking a picture of this sign, which I believe is set back somewhat from the actual district. I, in fact, have my own picture of the same sign, and nobody objected:

Green Light District rules sign Source: me

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