Oktoberfest from a Local’s Perspective to Maintain Authentic Bavarian Traditions

Oktoberfest in Munich is the world’s largest beer festival, packed with food, beer, dance, and other activities. The event dates back to 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese married. 

On the occasion, the Bavarian kind threw a grand public wedding reception. It was a huge hit that they decided to repeat the celebrations annually. More than two hundred years later, it has become one of Europe’s largest celebrations. Though the celebrations have become a global phenomenon, the locals still do not forget the idea behind the Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest for Locals: Most Guests from Munich & Bavaria

Oktoberfest holds great cultural significance for the locals. It is estimated that 86% of the attendees come from Bavaria, Munich, and other federal states of Germany. The rest 14% of visitors are from abroad. For locals, Oktoberfest is the time of the year when Munich showcases its hospitality, values, and, most importantly, its beer, brewed within the city limits following strict rules. 

How Locals Celebrate Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest isn’t just a beer festival for Munich residents but a proud expression of authentic Bavarian culture and traditions. You will be surprised to know that some locals even take a two-week vacation so they can be on the Oktoberfest every day. 

Foreigners often appreciate the event to get instantly drunk and completely lose it (of course, this is not true for every foreigner). Locals sometimes do the same, especially young adults. However, oftentimes, they just want to celebrate the authentic traditions, stroll around the grounds, drink beers, dance to traditional oompah music, eat something, and maybe ride a rollercoaster or visit a haunted house. 

1. Locals Emphasize Authenticity in Traditional Attire  

The attendees wear traditional Bavarian clothing, including authentic men Lederhosen and dirndls for women. These outfits are not just party costumes but locals treasure them and break them out on special occasions. For many locals, Oktoberfest is an event that demands participants to wear traditional attire with authenticity. 

The Paris Hilton incident in 2006 is a stark reminder of how cultural sensitivity is important at Oktoberfest. She was permanently banned from attending the event as she attempted to promote a canned wine brand while wearing a non-traditional, skimpy mini dirndl that offended the locals. 

2. Locals Call it Wiesn

While the world knows it as Oktoberfest, for Munich residents, the true name is Wiesn (pronounced vee-sn), a term with deep roots.  The name “Wiesn” is a shortening form of Theresienwiese, the expansive meadow where the festival occurs.  

This grassy field was named after Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.  The first Oktoberfest celebrations were held on this spot, solidifying the connection between the festival and the Theresienwiese, eventually leading to the local nickname “Wiesn.”  

3. Locals’ Favorite Beer Tent at Oktoberfest 

Munich’s Oktoberfest has 14 large and 21 small beer tents, with an additional three tents at Oide Wiesn. While the giant Hofbräu tent attracts a huge number of tourists, Munich residents have their own favorite spots. Augustiner-Festhalle is highly sought-after among the locals for its traditional atmosphere and focuses on the Augustiner brewery’s signature beers. 

The Schützen-Festzelt (Shooters’ tent) is another favorite, known for its lively music and mix of locals and international visitors.  For a truly unique experience, some locals venture to the Käfer’s Wiesn-Schänke, a smaller, more intimate tent known for its upscale Bavarian cuisine.  

4. Locals Begin Oktoberfest with “O’ Zapft is

The sound of “O’ Zapft is!” marks the official opening of Oktoberfest, a phrase as ingrained in the local experience as the smell of roasted sausages. It’s Bavarian dialect for “It is tapped,” uttered by the Munich mayor as the first keg is ceremoniously broached. 

This tradition, dating back to 1950, sends a wave of excitement through the crowd. It’s the official green light to raise a glass, crank up the oompah music, and celebrate Bavarian culture with our fellow Münchner. The locals participate in the ceremony in huge numbers, showcasing their immense pride in keeping their traditions alive. 

5. Locals’ Favorite Food at Oktoberfest 

Oktoberfest for Munich residents is about having traditional Bavarian food that fuels the festivities. They stick to the tradition however, 700,000 whole roast chickens, 60,000 sausages, and 59,000 pork knuckles are eaten during the event. 

While sausages remain high in demand, with favorites like “Bratwurst” (grilled) and “Weißwurst” (veal sausage) leading the pack, locals also enjoy roasted chickens (“Hendl”). They also love to eat pretzels (“Brezeln”) or a Brotzeit, a platter of meats, cheeses, and bread, perfect for sharing with friends between beers.  These traditional choices offer a delicious and culturally significant way to experience Oktoberfest like a true Münchner.

6. The Munich Maß Ritual “Prost

For Munich Locals, beer comes in a one-liter glass called a “Maß.” Foreigners usually call it Stein, but this is not actually the word for locals. Consuming a Maß is a ritual in itself as locals hold the Maß firmly by grasping the handle with their thumb on top, ensuring a proper grip. 

Then comes the toast that includes raising the Maß high, locking eyes with friends (both old and new, called “Wiesnbekanntschaften”), and with a sound “Prost!” clinking the bottoms of your glasses. It’s a simple yet significant gesture, a way for Munich residents to bond over their shared love of tradition and a good brew.

Oktoberfest Economic Impact on Munich 

Oktoberfest’s annual economic impact on Munich is around $1.25 Billion. Every year, the festival attracts about 6.3 million visitors, who consume approximately 7.3 million liters of beer. The attendees also spend significantly on food, accommodation, and souvenirs, contributing millions of euros to the local economy. Hotels, restaurants, and local businesses see a boost in revenue generation during the fest. 

Beyond these obvious sectors, local transportation like subways and taxis encounter a surge in demand. Even small family-owned businesses see increased product sales while hosting Oktoberfest visitors. The influx of visitors also creates a temporary job market, with many locals finding employment in security, food service, and other festival-related positions.  

Conclusion: Locals Want Authentic Oktoberfest Spirit 

Oktoberfest wasn’t always like what we see today. The event was quiet only a few decades ago, hardly with any foreigners. The attendees used to be only locals. However, in recent years, so many people visit from abroad to encounter this largest Bavarian celebration.  

There are numerous debates every year about how to manage the “madness” of the Oktoberfest that, in some years, has gone to the extreme that locals began to record their protests. 

This has led to new regulations, like limitations on music volume and style in the tents, aiming to curb the “Ballermann-Charakter.” This German term translates to a “trashy” or overly sensationalized party, something many locals want to avoid. They strive to preserve Oktoberfest’s authenticity, a laid-back celebration of the Bavarian culture they once grew up with. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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