It is a rare person that hasn’t heard of Oktoberfest, and many think it would be a great tourist experience to have before the autumn blues properly set in as we begin the countdown until summer. But Oktoberfest is not like Christmas or Thanksgiving or Halloween that some argue have been hijacked by capitalism at the expense of their historical and cultural components. Oktoberfest is sovereign, which is evident by how much it is not tailored to tourists. It’s like the German autobahn – you need to know what you’re doing before you go well over the limit.
You’ll note that waitresses always dress in traditional clothing. At least that’s what Google images indicate. But it is not just the waitresses, the locals dress like this too. To a large extent it is to do with history, honouring the heritage and preserving the identity of Oktoberfest. The average tourist, in their effort to immerse themselves in culture (for an hour or two) and then in beer (for the remaining weeks) is keen to buy a version of lederhosen and dirndls. But your attempts to blend in will fail if you buy cheap and overly shiny ones – you’ll immediately expose yourself as a tourist that doesn’t know what they’re wearing.
For women, make sure the dirndl covers the knee and is in sedate traditional colours. Also, the dirndl carries information for the men – the apron’s knot is tied on either the right or the left. Tie it on the left – you’re single. Tie it or the right – you’re taken. Choose your side wisely. Also, make sure your footwear can withstand abuse in the form of beer spill and broken glass.
Oktoberfest is not a restaurant where you and your family or friends get your own table. Forget that. There is a 100% chance that you will sit with strangers at a proximity that in some countries is considered an encroachment on personal space. And that is if you’re so lucky to even get a space at a table. Try to reserve a (shared) table if that’s an option, which it may not be. The tents open at 9am on weekends and 10am on work days, and if you arrive right on time for the opening – you’re two, maybe three hours too late. Lines for the tents are monstrous, and people begin lining up as early as 7 or 6am.
If you do get a table, or see an opening next to a stranger – you’re perfectly welcome to squeeze in, but make sure to ask if it is taken first. If you’re sat in between people you don’t know – you should talk to them. Make a Wiesenbekanntschaft (Oktoberfest friend). It shouldn’t be too difficult with the sea of beer lubricating the conversations. Also, tables are served by waitresses; standing customers should help themselves in getting their beer. The servers are your best friends if you treat them with respect. Be patient, don’t shout, and do not touch them under any circumstances. They are stressed, they are carrying heavy things, so let’s let them work and be nice to them!