This post was previously published on Germany Ja in 2013 & 2014. We are bringing it out of the archives – and have updated the dates – so that you see it as you prepare for this year’s Oktoberfest, which will run from September 19th to October 4th, 2015.
CONTRIBUTED BY KATRINA KAZIOW
I really thought I’d learn to speak German while living in Germany. I mean, English is a Germanic language. How hard can it be, right? And I picked up French in high school fairly easily and still remember lots of it.
Hoo-boy. I have a decent German vocabulary built up (if people speak slowly and clearly to me… or if I’ve had a couple glasses of wine) and I have a few phrases that I can say well enough that local Germans at least understand what I’m trying to say.
But the weirdest thing happens when I try to speak German: my Southern accent gets REALLY THICK. I mean, it just pours out like molasses, y’all. Of course I always have an accent- what self respecting Southern girl doesn’t?- but generally it’s not so bad. I’ve never had a problem carrying on a conversation with a Northerner or even a Bostonian. When I lived in the Midwest, people generally thought I was from Pennsylvania. (I don’t get it either….)
I have no idea why my Southerness makes it’s grand appearance when speaking German, but it’s one of the funniest things to Mike, and the looks on the German’s faces are priceless. If you ever want to see a typically stoic German show several emotions at once, just watch when I try to speak to them. I’ve been told on more than one occasion by more than one German, “I do not know what you think you are speaking, but it is not German.”
Well, ok, then. Pardonnez- moi. Oh, wait, that’s French.
Since we’re getting ready for Oktoberfest, I thought you might like to learn a few words just for fun. You with me? Let’s do this!
Oktoberfest – a 16 day festival in Munchen (Munich) that celebrates beer. It’s pronounced pretty much like we would say it in English. They don’t say their ‘r’ quite as hard, but it’s ok. Everyone will know what you mean. You can learn about the history of Oktoberfest from Wikipedia, or read about some Oktoberfest tips from Germany Ja. You know, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. (I’d call you a nerd, but I’m a nerd, too, and actually liked reading about it’s history.)
Bier – Beer. Pronounced the same. Served warm and generally quite good. It’s true that German beer kicks American beer butt. (But in my unsolicited opinion, Belgian beer is where it’s at.) One of my favorite parts of fests here is that they serve your beer or wine in a real glass. None of this plastic solo cup business. It’s all very classy, you see, and you can keep the glass as a souvenir if you wish. You pay a small deposit when you buy your drink (usually a euro or two) and if you turn in your glass, you get your deposit back but if you want to keep the glass you can. We don’t collect them; lots of people do, though.
Tracht – costume or traditional country clothes worn by Austrians or Bavarians, but other German-speaking areas have their own version of tracht, too. Some of the styles have inspired an estate-manor style of fashion. A lot of times you can see traditional details from trachten showing up on modern riding jackets (think embroidery or button styles or maybe even leather lacings).
Dirndl – probably the most popular form of trachten. It’s a traditional Bavarian or Austrian dress that is based on what Alpine peasants wore. Traditionally, they were working clothes and over the years they’ve become fun and fashionable.
To be clear, I mean “fashionable” as in they come in lots of colors and styles and it’s completely appropriate to wear one to a fest. I do not mean fashionable as in, “Let’s go shopping in Paris tomorrow… I think I’ll wear my dirndl.”
Fun side note: dirndl really means maid or young woman and dirndlgewand refers to the dress she would wear. Today dirndl is used interchangeably. Also, what we typically think of as a dirndl is actually landhausmode which is a dirndl style dress but has a much looser interpretation of the style and is more of a costume. They also cost less.
Aren’t they adorable? And so much cuter than the American costume counterparts (you know, those super short ones with all sorts of lady parts hanging out). Oh, and ladies, be careful where you tie that knot! A bow on the left means you’re available, on the right means you’re married, engaged or otherwise “taken” and a bow in back means you’re widowed. A bow tied in the center means you’re a virgin. Advertise appropriately… you never know who you might meet. 😉
Random side note: One of the things I really appreciate about Europe is that women dress themselves nicely here. (Read: skanky does not equal pretty.)
Lederhosen – (not LEE-der-hozn, but leh-dah-hozn) literally, leather pants. More specifically, those pictured above!
Cute, ja? I can’t wait to see MY hubby in those. That’s what he gets for laughing when I try to speak German.
Hey! You just learned another word, too! Ja! It means “yeah”. You probably figured that out, though, didn’t you? Smartypants. And, yes, women wear lederhosen, too. I love them and I think next year I might get some.
Hmm… what are some other Oktoberfest words I know?
Wein – pronounced like vine… means wine. I like halb-trocken (half-dry) or Wein Schorle … that’s like a wine spritzer and is uber refreshing on a hot day. There are plenty of varieties available; just don’t ask for a Cabernet or Pinot Grigio… you will get laughed and/or sneered at. This I know from personal experience. Ahem.
If you’re a hard core wine enthusiast and are unfamiliar with German wines, I’d suggest looking up what you like and what the German equivalent is beforehand.
Bahn is train. It’s how we’re going to get there and back. It’s about a 4 hour train trip and has only one connection; I think we could go faster on the ICE train, but we’re getting the Quer-Durchs-Land ticket. “Quer-Durchs-Land” literally translates to “through cross country” and this ticket is good during the week days from 9am until 3am and you can ride the German trains anywhere in Germany on it. It’s fairly inexpensive at 50 euros for 2 people and riding the train is just fun and easy.
The weekend version of this ticket is called the Schones-Wochenende (means “nice weekend” or “beautiful weekend”) ticket and is good on Saturday or Sunday from 12am until 3am the following day. If you live in Germany or will be travelling here, check out the details of each on the Deutsche Bahn website.
So that’s the important stuff – what we’re going to wear, what we’re going to drink and how we’re going to get there. I suppose there’s food, too, but everyone knows what schnitzel is, right? (If not, it’s a fried pork chop. I’m sure there are some subtle nuances that I’m over looking, but “pork chop” pretty much covers it. Here is a Schnitzel recipe from Germany Ja.)
In 2015, Oktoberfest begins this year on 19September and runs through 4 October. I can’t wait! Oddly enough, I’m most excited about riding the huge swing ride. Don’t worry, I’ll take a pic! If I love it a lot this year, I might be able to convince Mike to go again next year. Maybe. Fingers crossed.
Photo credits: First Tracht picture by Katrina Kaziow. Bahn pictures by Sarah Forte. Click on other photos for credits.
If you’ve been to Oktoberfest before, what was your favorite part? What should we definitely not miss out on? Got any tips or hints for us?
Notes: Katrina first published this article on her website, but graciously shared it with Germany Ja as well. Thanks Katrina!