11 rules for surviving Oktoberfest in Germany
Oktoberfest celebrations take place all over the world throughout September, but you can’t really say you’ve done it right until you’ve done Oktoberfest in Germany. I should know, having ventured into the heartland of Bavaria just a few years ago to indulge my every inherent need for the devil’s nectar.
That being said, a beer-hungry tourist cannot just waltz into the 16-day long folk festival unarmed. Good God no, there certain rules one must abide by in order to survive the alcoholic’s version of Disneyland and, as an Oktoberfest veteran, I’m going to talk you through how to consume enough alcohol to launch a small aircraft carrier and get out alive. Take note people.
1. Choose your tent wisely
You’ll have never been so surrounded by so much good beer and this thought can be a bit too much for an Oktoberfest newbie to deal with. With 14 big tents and 21 smaller tents to choose from, each and every one of them serving up different delicious beverages as well as different atmospheres and crowds, you need to do your research and select your beer tent extremely wisely. Saying that, more than 6 million people attend the Munich celebration so, depending on what time of the day you get there, just getting in a tent might be an achievement.
2. Reserve a table or face the consequences
When I thought about being at Oktoberfest in Germany, I always envisioned myself proudly sporting my dirndl and enjoying a cold one while sitting pretty on a beer table bench, clinking my glass and shouting “prost” at anyone who would give me the time of day… but the first time I went into a beer tent, I found myself cowering in the corner desperately trying to get a barmaid’s attention and getting bashed to pieces by a rowdy British stag party. The lesson to be learned here is that the key to a successful Oktoberfest in Munich is either to book, to get up at the crack of dawn for a table… or to face the consequences.
3. Stay out of the waitress’ way, or else…
I can put my hand on my heart and say that few things have terrified me more than the waitresses working at Oktoberfest. The women employed have a job to do - and they won’t let anyone get in the way of it. These incredibly muscular ladies - who carry 10 litres of beer at a time - work physically and mentally exhausting 12-14 hour shifts and deal with hammered idiots on a minutely basis, so don’t have time for your nonsense. So whether you’re lingering in the walkways, drunkly flailing on the floor or about to regurgitate your schnitzel, move out of the way or get beaten out of the way by 10 tankards of beer. You have been warned.
4. Show off your vocal skills
So you’ve made your way into the tent, managed to land a table and got your hands on your very first stein glass litre of beer. Check you out, not bad at all. But suddenly the band starts up and every single person around you stands on their beer benches and belts out a song that you’ve never heard before in your life. This is most likely to be ‘Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit’, the Oktoberfest favourite and the song you need to learn. According to Germans, it’s a tune that’s difficult to translate into English, but is basically a song that celebrates being drunk and being lazy, two things that you will be more than up for. The song goes “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit/Der Gemütlichkeit/Ein Prosit, ein Prosit/Der Gemütlichkeit/OANS ZWOA DREI! G’SUFFA!” and roughly translates to “A toast, a toast, that cheerful feeling. A toast, a toast, that cheerful feeling… One, two, three - Drink!” Now you need to learn it, love it and live it while you belt it out and sway, drunk as a skunk with your arms around the people sharing your table.
5. Learn the lingo
What the point in travelling to Deutschland if you aren’t going to pick up a bit of Deutsch? Important phrases that I found helpful to avoid being a “saupreusse” (the German word for dumb tourist) while over there include:
German: "Die nächste Runde geht auf dich!"
English translation: "Next round is on him/her!"
Expect the unexpected:
German: "Halt deine Lederhosen fest!"
English translation: "Hold onto your Lederhosen!"
German people lingo for when someone gets too drunk:
German: “Ich bin blau”
English translation: “I'm blue.” Will be interpreted by locals as 'I'm drunk'.
More practical than you would imagine:
German: “Hilf! ”
English translation: “Help”
What the Germans actually call the biggest festival of the year:
English translation: "Oktoberfest"
Impress the locals with your language skills and your good manners:
German: Ist hier noch frei?
English translation: 'Are these seats taken?'
German: “Noch ein Bier, bitte.”
English: 'Another beer, please.”
English translation: "Cheers!'
6. No, they’re not snorting cocaine
If you happen to spot anyone snorting a white substance from the tent tables, don’t panic. The answer is no, they’re not on coke. Instead, they’re doing wiesn koks, a sugary pick-me-up used by the locals and sold in little glass bottles or Bavarian-themed containers for about €5. Wiesn koks, made of glucose and menthol, is cut into lines on beer tables - or tapped on the back of hands due to the sticky beer soaked tables - and snorted through the nostrils. Despite being completely legal and harmless, tent owners have been trying to crack down on the “drug” for years, but the locals refuse to stop revelling in this unique part of their culture.
7. Embrace the style
At first you might feel a little bit silly putting your jeans and t-shirt to the side and donning skin tight lederhosen or bosom-enhancing Dirndl, but the truth is that you’ll probably feel more out of place if you don’t wear the traditional German attire. The prices to buy or rent them in Munich are sky high, so it’s best to get your attire ready beforehand. Will you potentially look like an extra from a saucy medieval movie banquet scene? Probably. Will it be fantastisch? Definitely. Ladies, don’t forget that your dirndl bow is more important than you think; to the right means attached, to the left, single, so if you’re wondering why that wasted Czech keeps hitting on you, you probably need to reposition your bow. If he continues to go for you after that, sorry, I can't help you.
8. Do your wurst
I can’t stress enough how much you need to line your stomach for a day at Oktoberfest. Drinking litre of beer after litre of beer is no small task and you need to pace yourself and get yourself some delicious native German food to soak up all of the alcohol. Remember to try out the traditional Bavarian Brez'n (tasty soft pretzels), as well as the Weisswurst (white sausage) and slow roasted ox.
9. Play the tourist
There’s more than a good chance that, after downing endless litres of beer the night before, you’ll wake up with the unpleasant feeling that you may die in approximately five minutes. This is just the kater - the hangover - talking and you can’t let it defeat you. Although you’re there for Oktoberfest, you can’t forget that Munich is a stunning city with lots to see, so get out of bed and look around the beautiful St. Peter’s Church, and don’t forget to check out Nymphenburg Palace.
10. Don’t expect to head home with anything left in your bank account
On the last day at Oktoberfest in Germany, me and my friend had both ran out of money so combined our leftover change together to buy one tankard of beer, priced about €11 per pop. What we forgot was the fact that roughly every five minutes, the band starts blasting out ‘Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!’ and you have to stand up and sway with your liquid gold. Don’t be the two girls awkwardly swaying together with only one beer between them; it’s not becoming to a room full or drunkards. In other words, don’t skimp on the travel money. Oktoberfest is expensive.
11. Go hard or go home
There’s a strong chance that you’ll be encouraged to stand on the beer tables and attempt to down your entire litre of beer in one. If you don’t manage to do it all at once, the consequences are dire. Thousands of people will boo you and I remember seeing one or two people having thing thrown at them until they climbed down from the table in complete and utter humiliation. Don’t be the person that people throw things at. At Oktoberfest, you need to go hard or go home. Or just don’t volunteer to down your entire beer in front of the whole beer tent, you bierleiche.
Congratulations, with your new knowledge, you are officially ready to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. With your pearls of wisdom no one will ever suspect that you’re a newbie, so all there is left to do is go, guzzle as much beer as your body can take and have the best time ever. Oh, and remember to never fall asleep on the plane out there - it could cause you a lot of problems.