Beer, barmaids and sausage.
That’s the stereotypical German trio associated with Oktoberfest.
However, there’s a lot more to the famous German holiday than most people think.
And in fact, if you plan on attending Oktoberfest—or if you’re just brushing up on your knowledge of German social life and culture—there are some essential Oktoberfest phrases and sayings you should know.
But before we break them out, let’s refresh your memory on what Oktoberfest is all about. If you already know a bit about the holiday, skip to the next section to see why learning these German sayings is a must.
What Is Oktoberfest?
The first Oktoberfest was celebrated at the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. If you know a bit of German, you’ll remember that das Fest means “a celebration.” And since the festivities took place in the month of October, it was decided that in subsequent years, the citizens of Munich would celebrate what would come to be known as Oktoberfest.
And thus the tradition began!
However, since October is usually a cold month, the date was moved up to September. Not only does it make for better get-together weather, but it’s also easier to drink—and clean up—outdoors. As much as beer is integral to Oktoberfest, the tents, amusement rides and other fun activities depend on sunny skies.
The year 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the first Oktoberfest. And just like the first celebrations, there was a horse race. If you’d like to learn more about Oktoberfest’s history, or if you’re cramming before a trip to Germany for the celebrations (lucky you!) check out this Oktoberfest crash course. You can rest assured you’re learning the right stuff since it comes from the popular language program Rosetta Stone. You can easily keep your German learning going with them all year if you enjoy the crash course.
You’ll also learn much more about the people who attend Oktoberfest if you check out the 12 sayings we’ve gathered for you below.
Why Learn Oktoberfest Sayings?
Whether or not you’re able to attend the true Oktoberfest in Germany, knowing some Oktoberfest sayings is a great way to build your German. As you’ll see, several of the sayings below use important and common German verbs or basic grammar structures. But then there’s also the Bavarian dialect, which is great for your cultural knowledge and expanding beyond textbook German (more on that in a minute).
If you do have the fortunate opportunity to visit Germany during Oktoberfest, you’ll want to have a few phrases memorized—especially when the beer starts flowing and your tongue begins to wag. The local German population will appreciate that you’ve invested time in understanding the whole picture of Oktoberfest and such appreciation might even earn you a free drink.
At the end of the day, when the festivities are over, learning more about Oktoberfest and other German celebrations benefits your overall fluency as well. Alongside grammar and your typical everyday phrases, knowing what to say around Oktoberfest means you’re rounding out your knowledge of the language. The more you can learn about the German people, the better a speaker you’ll be.
How Are Oktoberfest Sayings Different from Standard German?
Most of the time textbooks will teach what’s called “High German.” It’s a bit like very formal English. As we mentioned above, some of the phrases we’re going to introduce you to below don’t look like your typical textbook German.
That’s because a few of the Oktoberfest phrases below are in Bavarian German, which is a dialect of German (sometimes even considered a separate language).
When you encounter phrases in unfamiliar German dialects, focus more on pronunciation and the “gist” of what they mean, rather than directly translating the words themselves. This will fast-track your communication abilities if you’re planning to use these phrases in real life.
It takes an extensive knowledge of German to begin understanding the language spoken in dialect (although that’s not to say it can’t be done). For now, focus on speaking the phrases aloud correctly and understanding them in context.
FluentU is the perfect tool for that type of practice.
Each video comes with interactive captions, flashcards, exercises and more so you actively learn while you watch. Get started with this dispatch from a recent Oktoberfest, then explore the full video library for free with a FluentU trial.
O’zapft Is! 12 German Sayings for an Authentic Oktoberfest
Do yourself a favor and print or bookmark these phrases out before your flight leaves for Germany. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have an Oktoberfest celebration nearby, memorize them before you get dressed up in your Dirndl or Lederhosen (more on those later) and make your way to the beer tents.
We’ve included traditional Bavarian sayings, colloquial expressions and some basic but essential German phrases you’ll need for a fun and comfortable celebration.
And as they say in German, viel Glück! (Good luck!)
Das ist mein erstes Oktoberfest.
This is my first Oktoberfest.
This one-use-only phrase might earn you a spot at the beer tent benches—and a free round, if your peers are generous enough.
Ist hier noch frei?
Is this spot taken?
It’s always polite to ask if you can sit down next to someone. Introduce yourself while you’re at it!
Just don’t save seats because any free seats that haven’t been reserved are first come, first served.
Wo is’ns Haisl?
Where is the bathroom?
As The Local Germany points out, smart Oktoberfest-goers will know how to ask this question well before it’s time to relieve themselves of the vast amounts of beer they’re likely to consume.
Shortly after the first keg of the year’s Oktoberfest is breached, this Bavarian phrase follows. It’s a bit like saying, “Cut the cake!”
Oans, zwoa, g’suffa!
One, two, drink!
This phrase is like a cheer or a chant. The first hours of Oktoberfest might start out with this phrase, but by the time you’re a few beers in, you’ll probably be voicing the next phrase aloud a lot more often.
Noch ein Bier, bitte!
Another beer, please!
Attending Oktoberfest is an experience all its own but serving at Oktoberfest can be very rewarding as well. And we don’t mean just financially. You get to meet a lot of great people, make them happy serving them beer and dress up for the occasion as well!
Wo haben Sie ihre Dirndl/ihren Lederhosen gekauft?
Where did you buy your Dirndl/Lederhosen?
The traditional clothes of Oktoberfest, Dirndl and Lederhosen, are what most people associate with Germany. If you think about it, Oktoberfest is really an homage to the first few celebrations as much as it’s about reveling and consuming local beer.
Trinken Sie Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Paulaner, Spaten, Lowenbrau oder Augustiner?
Are you drinking Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Paulaner, Spaten, Lowenbrau or Augustiner?
In America, we have our well-known beer brands. So does Germany.
Some of these brewers even have their own tents, with an Oktoberfest experience all their own.
Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit.
A toast to cheer and good times.
This is actually both a phrase and a song that accompanies beer drinking. With only four words to memorize, it’s a pretty simple tune to add to your repertoire.
Wollen Sie mit mir auf dem Riesenrad fahren?
Do you want to ride on the Ferris wheel with me?
There are a lot of amusement rides you can invite your friends—new and old—on. Oktoberfest isn’t just about the beer!
Ich lade euch ein.
This one’s on me.
Oktoberfest is a great place to meet new people. If you’re feeling particularly generous, try this phrase. Just make sure you’ve got some cash on hand to not only pay your waiter/waitress, but also to tip them. It’s not easy carrying all those beer mugs.
Yes, you could say “Auf Wiedersehen,” but a special occasion demands a unique phrase.
The German news site DW recommends this short saying to end the night with a flair of dialect. Native German revelers will appreciate the sentiment!
There you have it! Pick from any of these 12 phrases the next time you find yourself at an Oktoberfest celebration. If you’re able, attend the proper Oktoberfest in Germany and see what all the hype is about. Add it to your bucket list! Just make sure you’ve got these phrases down pat before you strap on those Lederhosen and pick up a beer stein!
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