Around the end of September, men start sporting brown suede capris and suspenders, the pretzel industry suddenly blooms, women unearth big bouncy dresses with aprons over top, and massive tents start popping up in Munich–at this point, there is no denying it, Oktoberfest season has begun. The 16 day event, which originated in 1810, is a longstanding part of German culture and attracts millions of people every year. People happily chant traditional songs and prost massive steins with strangers they have just met. While Oktoberfest is hands down one of the most fun and happiest events of the year, there are also a few guidelines that must be taken seriously in order to keep the good times rolling.
Steins are large beer mugs that hold about one liter of beer and are made of thick glass. One liter is quite a lot of beer, and the beer served at Oktoberfest has a high alcohol content as well. It’s equal to about 4 strong beers in the real world. So enjoy the delicious beer, but make sure to pace yourself. Alternating water and beer will help you make it through the day. “Ein bretzel, ein beer” is a classic German rule of thumb the locals use–keep your intake of solid food and alcohol equal to keep your stamina up. Oktoberfest is a marathon, not a sprint!
While it is very common to clink your steins together and prost–the German word for cheersing–with your friends and other people you meet in the tents, you have to be careful not to smash the mugs so hard that they break. Just a gentle clink will do the trick, and will keep the ground and tables free of sharp, broken glass. While some people might make it a game to try to break steins, this only results in dangerous territory and bloody feet for the unfortunate people who end up treading on shards of glass. Don’t be that guy.
After you finish your stein, don’t try to stash the mug in your bag. This makes the people working the tents very angry and also gets you at least a 50€ fine. Just enjoy your time in the tents and buy a souvenir mug afterwards! The hard-working waitresses and security staff have enough to worry about without catching you trying to smuggle a stein away, so don’t run the risk of landing in hot water with an angry German, and leave your stein in the tent where it belongs.
The people who keep Oktoberfest going are the women running around in dirndls serving the beer. These women are truly impressive, carrying over six steins most of the time! This requires practice and most likely a lot of time at the gym, since each stein weighs nearly three pounds! So let’s respect this talent and make sure to be polite to the waitresses. Leave them a nice tip, and they will make sure to keep you and your friends served all day.
Standing on Tables
Singing and dancing are part of what makes Oktoberfest so fun–people who have just met bond over the classic German songs. So join in! Show off the singing skills gained from years of karaoke and maybe throw in a little two-step action, but stick to the benches when you do so. Standing on the tables is not allowed.
Oktoberfest can get pretty rowdy at times; a lot of people consuming a lot of beer can unfortunately lead to violence. Keep up the Bavarian cheerfulness of the festival as it was intended and don’t ruin your time by getting involved in any fights. Keep up the “Gemütlichkeit” (German for “a situation that induces a cheerful mood”), and everyone around you will appreciate it.
If you do engage in fighting, you will not only be kicked out of the tent, you will also likely face criminal charges. Using a stein as a weapon in any way, including swinging it, hitting another person with it, or smashing it on someone’s head, will result in charges as severe as attempted murder. For any sort of crime at Oktoberfest you will be charged under very strict German law even as an American citizen. If you are confronted by someone, always take the high road and ask tent staff such as a waitress or security guard to remove the troublemaker so you can continue enjoying the festival.
Drinking a lot of beer, being around millions of people, and being in a foreign country make it easy to get lost and confused. Make sure to have a taxi number in your phone before you head to Oktoberfest so that you will have a way home. Oktoberfest is also a good time to follow the good old buddy system, to make sure everyone is safe and happy! Use common sense and keep track of your friends, don’t get in cars with strangers or even people you just met who may seem to be your new best friends, and make sure you get home safely with the same people you came with.
Get excited for the best festival of the year! Get your very own dirndl or lederhosen and prepare yourself for singing, awesome rides, sausages, and massive pretzels! Just make sure to follow these rules, so you can enjoy every minute of the festival and get home safely!