Oktoberfest draws in over 6 million visitors, many from around the world. While the Müncheners are used to the siege of their city after close to 200 beer festivals, good travel etiquette is always appreciated. Find out how to order a beer, sing the Oktoberfest songs, and speak enough German to enjoy the fest.
die Bierleichen - Beer Corpses
This colorful Oktoberfest phrase translates to "beer corpses", or - less morbidly - "snoozing drunks". You'll see plenty of these around the fairgrounds, particularly on Kotzhügel (puke hill).
There's no shame in taking a break on the hill before heading back in. Just watch your step for the visitors who've needed to empty their system. And if you are really in need of help, go to the red cross tents.
This should be one of the first words you learn for Oktoberfest. Germans take their drinking seriously and bier should be treated with respect...and drunk in large quantities to appreciate. The hard part is restraining yourself from consuming too much.
There are 14 large beer tents at Oktoberfest, plus a number of smaller tents. Also called die Festhalle, each tent has its own personality with some catering to tourists, locals, the young, football fans, and everything in between. Find your happy place.
Bitte - Please
"Please" goes a long way, even at a beer festival. Add schön to make it extra nice. Also, don't forget to say thank you! Ignore Wayne Newton's pronunciation and try a proper "danke schön".
Dirndls are a traditional alpine dress which was once only worn by the proudest of Bavarians. Today, it is popular among all nationalities at Oktoberfest.
The quaint bodice, blouse, skirt and apron are often adorned with hearts and plaid and can even indicate your relationship status. A dirndl tied on the left means you are available; on the right shows you're taken; in the center means virgin; and in the back means widowed or waitress.
This word doesn't have a direct English translation. It is a heady mix of coziness, cheerfulness, friendliness, and social acceptance.
This feeling encompasses the atmosphere of a successful Oktoberfest. After a mass or two you will feel it too as you clink glasses with a table full of new friends.
der Kellner / die Kellnerin - Waiter / Waitress
Admire the stoicism of the servers as they deftly handle the drunk crowds and hoist armloads of massive beers to each table. In many tents, they wear traditional clothing, they like exact change, and tipping is appreciated.
These iconic gingerbread hearts can be found at any German festival and Weihnachtsmärkte. Sayings like Ich liebe Dich (I love you) or Grüße aus München (Greetings from Munich) are scrawled in frosting.
They make for a charming souvenir, but don't bother buying them for a snack as they're better for decoration.
Though most Germans would never don a pair of these leather trousers, some Bavarians wear them year-round.
Expect to see many men - locals and tourists - dressed in these (with or without suspenders) for Oktoberfest. Pair them with a button-up shirt (often in a blue or red plaid), knee-high socks, and a jacket and hat if you are fancy.
die Maß - Liter of Beer
A maßkrug, or simply a mass (pronounced with a long “a” and not like church mass), is the container of choice for beers at Oktoberfest. Note that this is a full liter of beer as there are no half-measures at the biggest beer festival in the world.
The most important phrase in the list, order a beer by saying Ein Mass, bitte! (A beer, please!).
Non-alcoholic options like soda can also be found in liter amounts in the tents. Some people order a radler (half-beer/half-cola) to try to make it through the booze fest without losing their dignity.
O’zapft is - It's Tapped
A Bavarian expression that signifies the opening of the festival. At noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg of beer at the Schottenhamel tent. From here, the party is on for a full two weeks.
Prost - Cheers
There will be ample opportunity to practice your cheers at Oktoberfest. Whenever someone raises a glass you are obliged to raise yours, look in their eyes, clink glasses and shout "Prost"! Fail to meet someone's gaze, cross arms, or any other number of small offenses, and you curse both parties to 7 years bad sex.
Besides the spontaneous clinking, most bands in the tents play Ein Prosit every 20 minutes for mandatory toasts. Sing along to,
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit
Eins, zwei, drei, g'suffa!
Follow with a Prost, clink and drink!
Reserviert/Reservierung - Reserved
Watch out for these table signs marking a reservation. Note the time, name and number of people for that reservation as it is perfectly fine to sit until the reservation shows up.
If there are people seated at the table but room for your group, ask
Ist hier frei?
"Is here free?"
Schlager Musik - Hit Music
Until 18:00 the tents are officially family friendly and music is kept at a respectable decimal. However, bands take the stage sometime around noon and start cranking it up until they go full oompa in the evening.
This is usually a mix of traditional German brass band (die Blaskapelle) favorites like Ein Prosit with "hits" like ABBA, "I Will Survive", "Highway to Hell" and - bizarrely - "New York, New York" added in.
For reasons highly not recommended, some people feel compelled to drink shots at Oktoberfest. This has sent many a visitor straight to the Toilette or Kotzhügel. Imbibe in the robust German liquors with caution.
die Toilette - Bathrooms
This is a request you will inevitably need to make. Typical of German, the way to ask for the restroom is to directly ask for a toilet.
Wo ist die Toilette?
"Where is the toilet?"
Show your Kellnerin your respect (and ensure swifter service) by paying a tip on each round.
Payment will be expected as soon as your beers are delivered so have your cash ready. Typically, you should round up a euro or two when paying for drinks.
Vorübergehend geschlossen - Momentarily Closed
Later in the day, tents fill up and close due to overcrowding. You'll observe this sign which translates to, "Due to overcrowding temporarily closed".
This can be short-term as people come and go so take a place in line if you really gotta get in. While it is difficult for groups to find a space, single or paired females - especially in drindls - may be allowed in without much trouble. You can also ask about seats in the biergarten where reservations are not allowed.
The Bavarian name for Oktoberfest, Wiesn is an abbreviation of Theresienwiese. It may also be called Festwiese by locals.
A Ferris Wheel is one of the mainstays of any German festival with the massive 50 meter high (164 feet) model offering an awesome view of the grounds. Also look out for classics like das Karussell (carousel) and die Achterbahn (roller coaster).
Zum Wohl - To your health
Sprinkled in with the numerous cheers of "Prost!", listen for the alternative toast of Zum Wohl ("To your health").
This sausage is an essential start to a day at Oktoberfest. Just one of the delicious things you can eat at Oktoberfest, it is made of minced veal and pork back bacon, seasoned with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom and appears pale white. Two fat sausages are usually served alongside brezeln (pretzel), senf (mustard) and a weissbier (wheat beer) for traditional Bavarian breakfast known as Weißwurstfrühstück.