Finding Your True Self in Germany: Oktoberfest 2011

Oct-04-2011 by

Oktoberfest Sign

From Sept 22nd through 25th,over 120 HBS students traveled to Munchen to partake in the annual Oktoberfest beer festival.  Without question it was one of the cultural highlights of my time at HBS.  We experienced the immaculate planning of our German contingent, tasted the rich flavors of the local beer and food, and participated in constant singing and dancing.  Yet, what makes Oktoberfest such an amazing festival is really the people who go.  So let me highlight a few of the most common people you might run into, be they locals or tourists.

The Gunner

This person arrives at Oktoberfest jetlagged, exhausted, and ready to hit the ground drinking.  There is no wasting time seeing the sights or easing into the trip.  Instead this person finds the first open table and proceeds to start throwing back liters of beer as quickly as possible.  While most people find it in them to slow down in preparation for day two, the gunner takes on another gear by midnight with no signs of stopping.  Obvious signs of a gunner include half-cocked eyes by evening, shirtless-ness except for the lederhosen suspenders, and never more than 5 minutes without a stein in hand.  This is of course followed by a day two absence from all activities until sundown when they can emerge from their dark hotel room and rally for night two.

The Double-Fister

Unlike the normal definition of carrying two drinks at the same time, at Oktoberfest the Double-fister is someone who has been forced to use two hands to hold one beer in order to protect or minimize shoulder injuries.  Those Steins are heavy and there was more than one sore shoulder on day two, forcing many people to resort to this tactic to survive the rest of the festival.  This is more common for tourists who are not as practiced as the locals in handling the weight of an Oktoberfest Stein.

The Glass Crusher

Beer Steins from Oktoberfest 2011

PROST!

Instead of a traditional “Cheers” where you clink your glass with others at the table, at Oktoberfest you “PROST!”  And it is as aggressive as my capitals and exclamation points imply.  You literally slam your stein into as many other steins as possible hoping to create a loud and clank and slosh your beer all over the table and others you are sitting with.  Some people take this to an even more aggressive level and try to break the other person’s glass with an extra hard and

unforgiving “PROST!”.  This usually results in an equal chance that they will break their own stein which I suppose is just as rewarding given the original intent to smash glass and spill beer.  It is because of these people that I advise anyone going to Oktoberfest to wear sturdy shoes everywhere you go.

The Dirndl/Lederhosen Buster

One of two things can explain this person.  One explanation is that they grossly underestimate their clothing size, not realizing that these outfits are naturally tight to begin with.  This results in beyond voluptuous women fighting to breathe and maintain consciousness, and men who can’t sit down in their unforgivingly tight leather pants without cutting off circulation to their legs.  The other explanation of this behavior is someone who is on the edge of too tight and, after a few beers, requires an expansion of his or her outfit, thus resulting in the above-mentioned circumstance all over again.  You can spot these people when they start undoing buttons, releasing zippers, or begin fainting due to oxygen deprivation or bad blood circulation.

The Liter Challenger

These are the easiest people to spot, they just stand up on a table and announce themselves.  They attempt to down a liter of beer in one shot without breaking the flow.  (This is approximately 3 beers and 50% more alcoholic than typical light beers).  What makes this so great is that, as a spectator, you can cheer wildly when they crush the liter, and boo insistently when they fail to perform.  Normally this activity proceeds throughout the day.  However, legend has it that one HBS member crushed 2 liters back to back so fast that for the rest of the day, no one attempted another liter challenge.  It was so incredible that autographs were solicited by numerous people.

The Goner

Lots of Beer SteinsOften related to the Liter Challenger, the Goner is someone who goes so hard at 9am that they are gone by 2pm.  These are people seen passed out in the street, slumped over a park bench, or completely absent from the rest of the day’s activities.  They provide so much entertainment in those first five hours that you hate to see them go, but health is a priority and so it is best to encourage their retirement from that day’s activities and wake them at 8am the next day after they have had 18 hours to recover.

The Country Chanters

You know exactly who this is… in fact you know if you are this person.  These people typically travel in groups and at any moment in time, regardless of location, audience, or judgment, they burst out in an excruciatingly loud chant of their home country’s name.  These people garner the simultaneous eye rolls and potential beer throws of everyone around them and are generally despised by everyone else.  There is one exception to this rule.  If you are a Liter Challenger and you manage to intimidate and inspire an entire beer tent with your incredible drinking display, then the Country Chant will be celebrated in your honor without retribution.

The Flying Drunk

This is common even outside of Oktoberfest.  Some disgruntled consultant after a terrible case week gets tanked at the airport bar and keeps going on the plane.  However, there is a unique attribute about the Oktoberfest version of The Flying Drunk — they are still drunk from the night before and have not yet hit their hangover.  This person should be avoided at all costs and will make your sober plane flight miserable.  You can spot… err… rather you can smell this person coming by the alcoholic stench they reek of.  Trust me, you do not want to be, or be near this person.  If you have an aisle or window seat, lure some eager and unsuspecting middle seat to switch with you.  If you can’t switch, fake and injury or a religious experience, get off the plane, and wait for a later flight.

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