Your linguistic survival guide for Oktoberfest

Biddschee (You’re welcome): our little Oktoberfest dictionary. We’ve collected some snippets of the Bavarian dialect all to do with attire, food and social culture to help make your Oktoberfest in Munich a linguistic success.

Habedere! (Hi there!) Are you ready for the Wiesn? A local name for Oktoberfest that literally means “meadows”, this is the only term used by locals to describe the Theresienwiese in Minga (Munich). And in autumn it’s time for the home of Oktoberfest to transform into festival grounds. We’re arming you with a little survival kit for this year’s upcoming Oktoberfest, so you can convince the locals with your culinary knowledge, attire and social skills that you’re more than just a Zuagroaster (newcomer) in Bavaria.

A Mass und a Brezn biddscheen!

When you enter the beer tent at Oktoberfest, you’ll make your first Bavarian friends by greeting people with Griaß Eich! or Servus. You won’t get very far if you try to order a “beer” though. At Oktoberfest, the liquid gold is consumed by the Mass, a one liter beer pitcher that you order by saying a Mass biddscheen (a liter please). To make sure that your accent is on point, make your pronunciation of the a and the double S short. For those who’d rather take it down a notch, simply order a Hoibe (half a liter of beer).

Anyone who drinks alcohol knows that it’s best paired with some good, hearty food. There’s plenty of this to be found at Oktoberfest, including Brathendl (roast chicken), Schweinswürschtl (pork sausages), Semmegnedl (bread dumplings) and Wiesnbrezn (salted pretzels). The size of the pretzels will be sure to make your jaw drop – they’re a meal in themselves! As things get going in the beer tent, make a toast to your fellow beer drinkers with the phrase oans, zwoa, gsuffa! (one, two, drink!) said before downing your pitcher. And if all that lifting beers to your mouth has left you feeling ripped, you can test your upper body strength with Masskruagstemma. This a competition that involves holding your pitcher up with an outstretched arm; whoever can hold theirs for the longest is crowned the winner.

With all that drinking, nature eventually calls. All you need to say is biesln muass i to nonchalantly ask where the nearest bathroom is.

Let the bow on your Dirndl do the talking

Women usually wear a Dirndl to Oktoberfest – this is the traditional dress for the occasion, and the name is actually Bavarian for girl or woman. The men of Bavaria opt for Krachlederne (Lederhosen) – usually the Kuaze (short) variety – for their pants, which are finished off with Loferln, Stutzn or Beinhösln (calf warmers). This is accompanied by a long white shirt; serious Oktoberfest-goers even don the Ditschi (a Bavarian hat with a dent in the middle). The Charivari, a huge silver chain with charms, decorates the waistband of both Dirndls and Lederhosen. If someone suddenly yells out Bazi, then it’s likely that a thief just reached into your pocket, and if you hear someone say mach dein Taubnschlag or Hosentürl zu, they’re politely letting you know that your fly is undone.

It’s also good to get familiar with the non-verbal language of Oktoberfest. Women wearing Dirndls send a clear signal with how they position the bow on their dress. If the bow is tied on the right, the wearer is in a relationship. Children, widows and waitresses have their bows tied at the back. But if the wearer has her bow tied on the left, men are free to obandeln (flirt) with her and might even be on the right track to finding their Bopperl or Spotzal (darling, sweetheart). If he whispers a quiet bagg mas (wanna get out of here?) in her ears, she might even head home with him.

Let the Fetzngaudi (fun) begin!

Cover image via Pexels(CC0)


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