Gather your friends and give a hearty “prost” (Cheers)! Oktoberfest, the world’s largest annual festival hosted in Munich, Germany, is fast-approaching. This centuries-old tradition began on October 12th, 1810 with the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, commencing an annual tradition of festivities and feasting. The celebrations were eventually moved to the third weekend of September until the first Sunday of October. This allowed for participants enjoy the warmer weather and for the observation of German Unity Day on October 3rd. Now an international attraction with over 6 million visitors each fall, this festival offers a variety of amusement rides, brass band concerts, the Costume and Riflemen’s Procession, local craft beer and delicious German dishes. If you’re visiting the Weisn fields this September, know these three cross-cultural tips and enjoy the colorful Bavarian customs (and of course, the delicious local beer!).
1) Cheers! How to toast: Stay true to local customs by toasting your fellow festival-goers in the Bavarian style! Tradition mandates that you click the base of your glass and say “Prost!” (Cheers!), while maintaining strong eye contact. Everyone then bumps their glass back on the table before taking a hearty sip. Forgetting one of these steps or breaking eye contact is viewed as rude and callous, and according to local folklore will bring you seven years of bad luck!
2) Knock on wood: Instead of waving to your festival companions, knock on the table with your fist. This tradition originates from the myth that the Devil could not touch oak, so people greeted one another by a simple knock. This technique is still widely used across Germany, and in parts of Austria and Switzerland.
3) Embrace the chaos: Oktoberfest is infamous for huge crowds and, admittedly, inebriated pandemonium, but that shouldn’t mean that you leave your manners by the wayside. Remember not to push or cut lines, and be especially polite to the beer maids, who can refuse service to unruly or rude guests. Above all, remember the community spirit and celebratory atmosphere of the event, and willkommen zum oktoberfest!
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.