Oktoberfest. A place where the only sized beer you can order is a stein, where it is considered offensive to its brewers to not finish it, where chugging it with success is seen as a glorious triumph and where being publicly intoxicated is encouraged…as well as your only option. Still, there ARE rules. You must be sitting at a table to drink (finding a spot at a table is not easy), you must be able to keep your head up (heads on tables and puking get you kicked out ), and your ID card must read that you are at least sixteen years of age.
I have a small notebook that I use to jot down things to remember about my travels. At Oktoberfest last weekend, I kept my notebook handy at all times knowing that remembering would be more difficult than usual…it is taking me a bit longer than usual to decode my own notes, but here it goes: My notes on American perceptions of Europeans, European perceptions of Americans, and how our customs clash:
- No matter how opposite their white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes are to him, Germans seem to love Obama! If only they knew the POTUS campaigned at my home school twice in the past month. Go Canes!
- Germans do not think Americans are street-smart. In Germany, we will get a seventy euro fine for jay-walking…and it is enforced. Wait for the green walking man every time.
- Germans are still worried that Americans view them as Nazis. They will bring up in conversation to us quite quickly, making us feel quite awkward. They will proceed with a much more relaxed demeanor once they learn that most of us have moved.
Now for some European perceptions on other Europeans:
- Germans think Italians are too slow. They walk slower, talk slower, drink slower. (Germans seem to have much more perfected English than Italians too.)
- Germans think Italian men are creepy…just like many American women do. (Italian men seem to go for much younger girls, and German boys seem to go for much older women.)
- Germans think Italians need more meat in their lives (enough with the pizza and pasta, buff up and eat some weinershnitzel and bratwurst).
- Eat a halbes hahnchen (half-chicken) or a giant salted pretzel before you drink your first stein. This should prevent you from getting kicked out…and at Oktoberfest, getting “kicked out” = LITERALLY being picked up and tossed away by a large German bouncer (not cool).
- Get to the tents early. Each Oktoberfest tent serves a different type of beer. Each tent is decorated differently, has a different crowd and a different feel. You will want to visit them all, but later on in the days, tables are reserved for true drinkers with a serious bank account who have had their seats reserved since October of last year.
- Bring cash, and lots of it. Oktoberfest is a cash-only zone. Each stein costs 8 to 9 euros. If you want your beer maiden to return to you for another round, always round up the price and give her a 10. She will not be back otherwise.
- Sit with random people. There will be people from all over the world. The only music in the festival that you will hear will be songs that people are screaming at the top of their lungs. You can usually tell where a group of people are from by listening to which songs they are singing. Germans chant traditional German tunes…I walked past a table of people who were singing Beatles music…I was sold on this table, and I met a lot of cool Brits.
- Take a Keg Walking Tour of Munich. This requires you to leave the park grounds of Oktoberfest, but allows you to actually see the city. While learning the history of Munich, your tour guide lugs 4-8 kegs around Munich streets on a rolling platform. If you interrupt him or answer a question wrong, he will make you chug your beer. This is something that is and never will be allowed in America. In Germany, open container… and I guess open keg laws do not exist. Take advantage.