Word of the Week: Oktoberfest

Sep 30, 2011

Over the course of the year, Germany.info and The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest 'Playmate' 2010 Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Every year, from late September to the first weekend of October, millions of visitors flock to Munich to become part of the world's largest fair – welcome to the Oktoberfest! To get you through the beer festival without a hitch, the staff of Germany.info have a couple of words that you need to navigate the Oktoberfest almost like a local – or at least without immediately outing yourself as a tourist.

Picture this: thousands of people, dozens of huge tents, a ferris wheel and some carousels – the place where the Oktoberfest is held each year is called the Wiesn. Short for Theresienwiese, it literally translates to field or meadow of Therese, but ask any Bavarian and they will tell you that  Wiesn means so much more than its literal translation. It has become synonymous with the whole Oktoberfest experience. So you might say "I had such a great time on the Wiesn last night", and you would not just be talking about spending quality time on the meadow itself, but instead about a fun-filled night out on the Oktoberfest.

Joy in a typical beer tent Enlarge image Joy (© dpa/pa)

Now that you have strolled onto the  Wiesn,how about we take a seat inside one of the Tents? Are you thirsty yet? Alright, try ordering a Maß – what looks like someone took a vase and filled it with beer actually is the traditional Bavarian beer mug, measuring exactly one liter. You should also know that it doesn't have a plural, so if you are really thirsty or with a group of friends, order two Maß, three Maß or however many you like. (The "ß" in Maß, incidentally, represents a double "s", or "ss", in the German language, so it could technically also be spelled "Mass", but as a rule never is.)

It is a common saying in Germany that seven beers are a meal, but if you feel like you need something solid, go for Hax'n. Pork knuckles that go along quite wonderfully with beer, Hax'n have become a staple of Oktoberfest meals.

Oktoberfest outfits Enlarge image Oktoberfest outfits (© Angelika Warmuth dpa/lby)

With your stomach filled and your thirst quenched, take a look around you. Have you noticed the traditional dress? The men are wearing Lederhosen, the leather breeches that have defined the image of Germans in America. But in truth, Lederhosen are only widespread in Bavaria and even there, it is rare to see anyone wear them out when it's not Oktoberfest. The ladies are wearing a dress called Dirndl, consisting of a bodice, blouse, a full skirt and an apron, or some variation thereof. You should know that placement of the knot on the apron indicates whether a woman is single (knot tied on the right) or taken (knot tied on the left).

With these Oktoberfest essentials, you should be able to enjoy your time on the Wiesn! But if you want to make like a local, try learning German.

To get started, take a look at do Deutsch!

© Germany.info

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