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What do you think when you hear "Oktoberfest"?

Today I want to hear your thoughts about Oktoberfest. I'm writing a small article for a German language newspaper in Canada and want to describe the perceptions of Oktoberfest outside Germany.

What associations come to mind when you hear somebody mentioning "Oktoberfest"? You may not have visited it or even intend to ever go but I'm sure you have some words and images that pop up in your head when you think about this tradition.

Thanks!

Posted by
1068 posts

Well, I've gone, so what pops to mind for me is: BEER!!!!!!!! Also - oompah bands, lots of people, fantastic sausages and pretzels and all shapes and sizes of great bread, pig knuckles the size of your head, rides and midway lights, and FUN!

Oh, and did I mention beer? ;-)

Posted by
12040 posts

"and want to describe the perceptions of Oktoberfest outside Germany. "

I guess I can't participate.

Posted by
11294 posts

Years ago, when I thought of Oktoberfest, I thought of "rowdy drunken louts." Sorry, but that was always how it was touted - a giant frat party (and having gone to Penn State, I have had enough of those for a lifetime). But now, having been to Europe and seen how differently alcohol is handled there vs. the US. (and how it's different in each country), I no longer assume that everyone there will be a drunken lout. Big of me, I know.

I have not been, and since I don't drink, I don't plan to go. Even if it's not as rowdy as I once feared, I still see little appeal in a festival where many of the visitors are most interested in alcohol. Even though I now know there are other things, that's still my perception - right or wrong.

Posted by
2297 posts

Sorry Tom. this time I very much like to hear what "outsiders" think. If you can still remember your perceptions about Oktoberfest before you moved to Germany, please do share.

Posted by
419 posts

I think of the many men and women who wear traditional clothing then--women in their Dirndls and men in Lederhosen.

Posted by
12040 posts

" If you can still remember your perceptions about Oktoberfest before you moved to Germany, please do share." I thought it was the quintessential German festival. I now know that it's merely the most internationally well-known of the hundreds of municipal German harvest festivals. Maybe the "quintessential Bavarian harvest" festival would be more of an apt description.

Posted by
33330 posts

Mostly tourists from the rest of Germany, the rest of Europe and a fair few from North America and Asia pretending to be Bavarians.

Pretzels, Masses (bier) and queues for the toilets.

Tents that are not easy to enter.

Music and singing.

Some drinking far more than they should, some drinking just enough.

Wurst.

The tourists dressing up and keeping the dirndl and lederhosen makers happy.

Posted by
8645 posts

The first thing that comes to mind is the scene from the film "European Vacation".

Posted by
994 posts

Beer, music, crowds, noise, beer, people dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes, wooden tables with people sitting around them drinking beer. I have never been to Oktoberfest, but once I was in Munich just days before it started and I walked through the grounds as they were being prepared. It looked like there might actually be more than things to do there than just drink beer. :)

Posted by
5678 posts

Beer, Polka's, sausages, balloons, Accordion music, oom pay bands, rides--ferris wheels, colored lights, potato salad, funny hats, lederhosen, dirndls, funny decorations, oh and beer! I also actually think of Rochester, NY were my sister's family has their own Oktoberfest. The highlight is a late night sausage launch--tie as many helium balloons together and attach a cooked sausage, preferably with a dancing girl, or pom pah man attached as well. Send for into the night--hope it heads for Canada across the lake.

Pam

Posted by
10401 posts

I have been, but I'm not a beer drinker. I went with my husband. My German relatives refused to go, and found something else to do while we were there.

My impressions -

It was like going to the State Fair, but instead of livestock tents there were beer tents. There were a lot of people, many in traditional dress. Lots of eating and drinking going on. Music and dancing. People having fun. It was definitely good for people watching!

Posted by
9042 posts

A fest I have never, ever wanted to go to. There are so many wonderful festivals in Germany, that I could never figure out why I should waste my time and money going to Oktoberfest. It doesn't look like fun, it doesn't look attractive, the music is not to my taste, it is way too expensive, and all of the drunks passing out everywhere (along with them peeing everywhere, puking everywhere, and more) really put me off wanting to go to this.

Posted by
32266 posts

Beatrix,

I've never had any desire to attend Oktoberfest as it sounds like huge numbers of people sitting around a big noisy hall drinking huge quantities of beer and using the occasion as an excuse to get excessively drunk. On that point, I suspect Jo's assessment of "peeing and puking" drunks is accurate. I've had to deal with enough drunks that I don't want to be doing that on holidays. Having seen the "Vomitorium" in the Hofbrauhaus, some unpleasant images come to mind.

Besides, anywhere there's that many people in one place usually encourages me to head in the opposite direction.

Posted by
2393 posts

I think Oktoberfest must be approached with the proper attitude. I think it is more enjoyable with a large group, maybe 10 - 12 people rather than 2 or 4. It seems to be a social time with eating & drinking - three things I happen to excel at! Going as a couple would be like going to a party where you don't know anyone - unless you are very comfortable striking up conversations with strangers (who may or may not speak your language) - it will probably be no fun. Some people are very good at embracing the spirit of an event and joining on the revelry while others are content to sit and watch it.

Posted by
4174 posts

Been there. Done that. Don't need to do it again.

As others have said, it's worth one experience if only for the chicken dance in a large beer tent. The smaller "fests" dedicated to all kinds of other things are much more fun.

Posted by
2934 posts

Agree that it's something to avoid. While we've been to Bavaria while Oktoberfest has been going on, we have never gone. My perception, as someone who's never been, is a huge frat party. Hate being around anyone's that's drunk.

Posted by
10401 posts

I think Christi is right that Oktoberfest is better with a group. I'm sure my husband would have preferred to have a group to drink a few beers with than to have just me there watching him drink. We went early on a Tuesday afternoon. I'm sure if we had been there at night or the weekend it would have been a much different experience.

Posted by
1338 posts

Full beer tents. Waiting in line in the rain at 8:30am for two hours without getting into a beer tent. Small local Fests are more fun...

Posted by
14580 posts

"...when you hear of Oktoberfest?" First and foremost, it's specifically Bavarian, not representative of all of Germany, never really had a real desire to go, never was in Germany (or Europe) at that time of the year, ie, end of Sept/Oct. On being amongst those having had one too many or worse, try a Schützenfest.

Posted by
980 posts

I agree with Andrea, I think of a large county fair or state fair.

DJ

Posted by
332 posts

Crowds, oompah music, beer, singing, crowds, clacking mugs, bustling waitresses, crowds, roast chicken, pretzels, body heat, Bavarian clothes, softball sized dumplings, noise, pork knuckles, radishes, and silly hats. The crowd arriving at the U-Bahn station was the biggest, most tightly packed I have experienced. I skipped the carnival rides. It was a challenge to get into a beer tent without a reservation and a further challenge to find a seat. Wear traditional clothes and speak German to improve your odds. The crowd was unbelievable with harried waitresses letting it be known they did not appreciate blocked aisles. Somehow the waitresses carry six one liter mugs in each hand, five in the fist and one balanced on top.

The band played a number of German songs before switching to "YMCA" and "Hey, Jude" and the like before switching back to German. The mug filling operation ran with precision. Waitress dump any dregs and feed mugs into a washer for speedy refilling.

I have been twice, solo, and had a blast both times. I assume smoking is now banned. Never saw any vomit or public urination. I nursed two liters and left before closing.

Posted by
2393 posts

Chip - at first reading I thought you said busty waitresses!

Posted by
2829 posts

Obnoxious people, middle-aged adults trying to relive for one day college binge drinking without being harshly judged, ugly outfits, cheesy dances, filthy washrooms, liver disease, and a couple other negative associations that will certainly turn me away from it.

Posted by
1976 posts

What everyone else said - beer, lederhosen, wurst, pretzels. A lot of Americans' conception of Germany comes from southern German / Bavarian culture (oompah bands, etc.).

Posted by
7078 posts

Crowds, drunks, and loud music - three of my least favorite things. Have never gone, have no desire to.

Posted by
12172 posts

I have a good thought and a bad thought.

First the good thought:

The parade that begins downtown on opening day of Oktoberfest is really nice. Beer wagons pulled by Clydesdales (or similar big horses) ease down the main street flanked by thousands of marchers and spectators in traditional Bavarian dress. Bands play oompah music. The fest doesn't begin until the parade arrives in the fest grounds and the mayor taps the first keg.

It made me want to don Lederhosen and be part of the experience.

The bad thought:

Massive crowds of too-drunk people. With bodies literally strewn about the ground while teams of EMTs carted them off to emergency rooms.

To me that was just sad.

Posted by
51 posts

My answer as a German: avoid at all costs! Some of my best mates from University now live in Munich, but I will never ever go to Oktoberfest nor Neuschwanstein. The beer: Germany has not too many beer styles (usually the Pilsner/Lager type with a bit of Wheat beer) - the best beer comes from Saxonia/Thuringia/Frankonia and from Bohemia over the border in the Czech Republik. Bavarian beer is not my thing at all. The music: cringeworthy. The folks who are completely wasted at noon: I can very well do without. And don't get me started on that historism abomination.
But: Munich has wonderfull museums, there are the lakes close by and the mountains, and all those are less crowded :-)

Posted by
513 posts

I agree with Tom (from Huttenfeld) on this one. I have been to Oktoberfest a couple of time and I have found that I very much prefer the Bad Durkheim WurstMarkt fest. They have all of the same things Oktoberfest has - rides, food, tents, drunks - just on a much smaller scale...

Posted by
14580 posts

The best beers in Germany: Does that exclude the Berlin beers?? What about all the Dortmunder beers, and Herforder Pils?

Posted by
3696 posts

I think it's probably a bit like the Ann Arbor Art Fair... after a few years all the locals head out of town and it is a bunch of tourists... but at least I could probably relate to most of those people... not so much at a big beer fest...