OKTOBERFEST IN GERMANY VERSUS CALIFORNIA
For many Germans, the most wonderful time of the year is back – the German Oktoberfest. For two weeks, from September 16th till October 3rd, people from all over the world will be visiting the most well-known German festival in Munich. From 1810, when the Oktoberfest was founded until today, the festival has become one of the most popular ones around the world.
Visitors in traditional Trachten (women in Dirndls and men in Lederhosen) can enjoy the atmosphere in various big and small beer tents that serve the notorious Mass, a one liter beer. I have been to the original Oktoberfest once when I was 18. One of my best friends from High School and I decided to do a road trip to Stuttgart, where my friend had relatives.
Those relatives happened to have plans to visit the Oktoberfest that year, and so they invited us along. Before that day, I only had caught glimpses and impressions of the festival from magazines and documentaries on TV. Since I knew that a lot of German celebrities attended the event each year, I was intrigued to check out the hype myself.
My friend’s relatives luckily had a table reserved in the VIP area of one of the beer tents. Unlike the majority of guests, we weren’t dressed up at all. I can still remember the anticipation I felt walking up to the beer tent, feeling somewhat special due to the fact we wouldn’t have to wait in line like the poor souls who weren’t blessed with a table reservation like us.
But once we entered the sacred inside, I felt a slight breeze of disappointment coming my way. It was crowded. It was stuffy. It was loud. Don’t get me wrong- of course I knew that there would be a ton of people, which would automatically result in a lot of noise.
But for me, it was just too over the top. I didn’t catch a glimpse of any hot and poppin’ celebrities because there were none there (I guess our tent wasn’t really a hotspot for the stars) nor did I get into the German folklore music that was blasting out of the speakers.
Once we were seated at our table, I felt a little bit more comfortable since it was way back in the corner of the tent, and we weren’t surrounded by the immense crowds of people. The moment my mood improved for the better was when we decided to get food.
I have always been a foodie, so it was a no brainer for me to give the traditional Munich cuisine a try. I went with one of the typical Bavarian dishes: white sausage with sweet mustard and pretzel. Once the food was served I started to enjoy the atmosphere a little.
The food was delicious, and I was fascinated by how the Oktoberfest servers managed to carry about ten Mass at the same time while squeezing through the tight crowds. I personally declined to drink one of the famous one liter beers, but I was impressed by how others were able to chug them down. After a while, my friend and I had soaked in enough of the beer tent experience and decided to partake in the hustle and bustle outside.
Besides the many beer tents, the Oktoberfest also hosted a fair with carnival rides, games, and food booths. While I am usually a big advocate for these things, I wasn’t feeling it at all that day. It was just too crowded, and the fact that the side lawns were occupied by drunkards who were passed out on the grass just killed the vibe for us. We eventually decided to take off and declared the Oktoberfest as a personal no-go.
I never returned to the original event in Germany, but I decided to give an American Oktoberfest in Orange County a chance. This time, I only went with Americans. And what can I say; I ended up having a blast. The event started out slow in the beginning, but we had arrived fairly early to avoid the entrance fee, and not many people had showed up yet.
But as the night progressed, the event got busier (not as crazy as the uber-crowded tents in Munich) and my friends and I enjoyed participating in activities such as the chicken dance and the polonaise. I first was hesitant about joining in the dancing fun until one fellow German guy came up to me and asked me to dance. It turned out that he was living and working in Irvine, and we had an instant connection.
The rest of the night felt like it was progressing in fast forward. As they say, time does fly by when you are having fun. The band that played German folklore kept an upbeat rhythm all night, and games such as beer chug kept the crowd entertained. My newfound German friend and I enjoyed dancing and talking together, and we later on exchanged information to set up a date aside from the Oktoberfest.
I did return another year, that time with a couple German friends in tow. They were all a little hesitant of what to think about the Americanized version, but we still had a good time together. As of now, that was the last time I attended any kind of Oktoberfest. But I hope all of you who are going to the original one in Munich or here in the U.S. are going to have a wonderful time and get to experience this well-known part of German culture if you wish so.
A little fun fact: The term O’ Zapft is translated means “it’s tapped. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “At noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, the Mayor of Munich traditionally taps the first keg of beer, exclaiming the above phrase, which marks the official opening of the festival,” (http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com)
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.