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I will be in Spain by the last few days in September, and since the Munich Oktoberfest ends on October 4th, I have a few days to visit Oktoberfest. I'm a Sri Lankan citizen, and I look obvious for anyone that I'm from the Indian sub continent.

I'm obsessed with the Oktoberfest and I'd love to go, but I have never seen Indian/Sri Lankan people going there and from all the photos I can see, all the visitors German, European, etc.

Is it culturally acceptable for us to visit Oktoberfest? I have a hotel booking nearby on October 2nd (I'll be at Munich by October 1st) and I have read about the dressing, food, etc. and I'm OK with it. But one question I have left unanswered is whether it would be awkward for me to visit there.

Edit.

Thank you very much for your answers! They cleared my doubts and there's no way this South Asian not going to Oktoberfest :)

I accepted an answer, but all of them (7 so far) are equally helpful. Please don't hesitate to add more information. I'm sure this will help others with doubts too.

I hope to see you in Munich :)

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    As for your photos: Keep in mind that despite the international fame, the vast majority of Oktoberfest visitors is from Germany and even more visitors look European. So it will take some time to find an obviously foreign tourist on those photos due to plain statistics. But this does not mean that they are not welcome. – Wrzlprmft Jun 23 '15 at 21:08
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    I have seen Scots wearing kilts, Africans wearing German traditional dress, Indians...people from all over. It's the one time of the year when foreigners can wear Bavarian traditional clothes if they want to. It's a great spectacle, you'll love it. – user1725145 Jun 24 '15 at 7:19
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    A word of advice on the side: you may want to avoid wearing the symbol of Swastika, should you happen to have it placed visibly somewhere on your clothes (as some tourists from Sri Lanka sometimes do). That would be sure to put you into some awkward situations, if not worse. – Pavel Jun 24 '15 at 7:22
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    +1 for asking the question. Often the "projected" image of events like this can be "Hey, come along and join in!" but the reality on the ground is that outsiders are not really welcome but are just tolerated. – Lefty Jun 24 '15 at 10:00
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    @PavelPetrman but this is regardless of where he goes in Germany, and to a lesser extent West in general. – o0'. Jun 24 '15 at 11:07
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Oktoberfest is a major international tourist festival in a modern, progressive country. No one will question your attendance, no matter how you look. The only reason it would be awkward is if you told everyone that you didn't like German beer!

[The only suggestion of racism I could find was where an Asian customer was asked to move from a table at Hofbräuhaus, and then a white person sat down. The allegation was strongly denied by the Hofbräuhaus: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/11097315/Munich-Hofbrauhaus-denies-accusations-of-racism.html However, even this shows you will not be the only Asian in town.]

There's no special dress code: you don't need to dress as a traditional Bavarian—that's just something some people do for extra fun. Normal jeans and tee-shirt will be fine.

It is true that the festival attracts mostly white Europeans—it is a giant beer festival, and white Europeans have a long history of celebrating outdoor, public drunkenness, but strangely not everyone thinks this is a good idea: I think it is not so prevalent in many other parts of the world and many cultures resist this idea. But certainly there is no reason why you cannot attend and enjoy.

It did not take me long to find pictures on Google Image search of those of Indian extraction enjoying themselves at Oktoberfest, but I suspect that the images are not selected by the media because they do not portray the "Germanic" heritage associated with the festival.

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    Thanks @Calchas. This is really helpful and cleared my doubts about visiting Oktoberfest. – Ayesh K Jun 25 '15 at 8:02
  • @AyeshK I hope you enjoy :) Please let us know how it goes in case other travellers have a similar question and would benefit from your experience. – Calchas Jun 25 '15 at 15:52
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    @AyeshK Ignore the others and hire the fancy dress. You can find places nearby for pretty decent rates. It is of course fine if you go in jeans (the majority do) but it will make the event a lot more fun I think to prance around in lederhosen. Also, I am white English so I might be blind but I haven't really seen anywhere in Europe that is a tourism hotspot where there is any form of racism (there is racism in Europe in parts, sure, but not in places where tourists are funding the economy, not so funnily enough! You don't mess with what is buttering your bread) – Cor_Blimey Jun 26 '15 at 19:05
  • @Cor_Blimey except at football matches. Plenty of racism there from all across Europe – Matthew Barclay Mar 24 '18 at 18:42
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Munich local here. We welcome everyone at Oktoberfest, doesn't matter where you're from or how you look.

The only things you really have to be careful about is getting excessively drunk (the beer is strong and plentiful), and getting into drunk arguments (which can get nasty when everyone has large, heavy glass steins in reach).

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    Do you know we're trying to organise a travel se Oktoberfest meetup? – JoErNanO Jun 23 '15 at 22:03
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    And money! Munich is a very expensive city, and the beer will probably cost more than 11 $ (10 €) for one beer stein this year! – Roman Holzner Jun 24 '15 at 7:09
  • @JoErNanO: nope, haven't heard about that - where can I find information? – Michael Borgwardt Jun 24 '15 at 7:42
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    @MichaelBorgwardt I'm working on a meta post. I'm thinking first weekend to see the parade and opening ceremony. I'm not afraid of queueing up to get in the tents. Unless you know somebody who knows somebody ... of course. :) – JoErNanO Jun 24 '15 at 7:51
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    Thanks a lot Michael. I'm taking your advice serious too (I'm a bit overweight so it takes a lot of beer to make me over drunk too ;) ). – Ayesh K Jun 25 '15 at 8:03
19

The Oktoberfest is a strongly German cultural event. It is for this reason that you are likely to be welcome there (rather than otherwise).

The Germans are looking to "spread the word" (regarding their culture) to people from other parts of the world. In this context, the fact that you are obviously "different" is a positive rather than a negative.

Just go there, have a good time, and makes sure that the Germans see that you are having a good time. It is friendly exchanges like this that help foster world peace.

(As a frame of reference, I was born to Asian parents and brought up by a German-American governess, so I have the view from both sides.)

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    +1 I was thinking when reading the question: I wouldn't assume the asker was Indian or Sri Lankan, I'd assume they were European (or American) with south asian family. On finding out they'd travelled from Asia to be there, I'd be proud that it was such a big world-famous attraction – user568458 Jun 24 '15 at 11:20
  • I'm native Sri Lankan and my parents are Sri Lankan too. But many people have seen or at least Gerard about Oktoberfest. I haven't seen many get lucky to visit there though :) – Ayesh K Jun 25 '15 at 8:06
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    The Oktoberfest is actually not a German but a Bavarian tradition, better still: It's specific to Munich. They married a princess in the 1800s and then they kept drinking every year at the same time again and again :-). All the other beer festivals all over the world which are dubbed Oktoberfest try to mimic the original. – Steffen Roller Jun 25 '15 at 18:29
  • @SteffenRoller: Good point. International people often confuse us Germans with Bavarians (like they sometimes think Europe is a country) – phresnel Jun 29 '15 at 6:44
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Young Indian traveller's perspective here - every year many students (~700 - 1000+) from India's premier graduate and undergraduate colleges go on European student exchange semesters or internships around this time of year. I would say close to 60% of those students visit Oktoberfest, and I have seen Facebook feeds overflowing with Oktoberfest pics.

Apart from the students, there will be the occasional young globetrotting Indians from rich families as well.

Not a lot of those images are very publicly shared except outside closed groups, perhaps stemming from the way alcohol is generally seen in society here. But I can assure you people from the subcontinent do generally have a very good and memorable time at Oktoberfest.

  • Thank you! I didn't know that many people visit Oktoberfest! – Ayesh K Jun 25 '15 at 8:08
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    About 7 million people visit the Oktoberfest with starts in September mind you. Those people drink more than 7 million liters of beer. They also have to get rid of the beer later :-). The logistic for both is quite impressive. – Steffen Roller Jun 25 '15 at 18:32
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To add to the other good answers: I am Bavarian, and in 2007 I attended the Esala Perahera in Kandy. It will be a similar experience when you visit the Oktoberfest. Some people might gaze at you out of curiosity for not looking like the majority. But over all, it is a celebration, and people are there for a good time (be it rooted in religion or not). This extends to all guests from elsewhere. So, yes, please do come and visit the Oktoberfest!

By the way: There are more Bavarian fests, that are similar in a way to the Oktoberfest, but smaller. Many Bavarians are more fond of those, since they are less crowded. If you have a chance to attend, e.g., the Regensburger Dult or the Gäubodenfest in Straubing, they are equally welcoming to guests from abroad.

  • Thanks! I'm from Kandy too, and Esala Perahara is "the" cultural event that we always keep in heart. We get excited when people from around the world come and see it. I'm glad Oktoberfest is similar too. The other events you mentioned look equally fun! – Ayesh K Jun 25 '15 at 8:11
  • Don't take the similarity too far, though. The Oktoberfest is a venue exclusively to spend leisure time. It completely lacks any deeper foundation. It's best to not compare the two events themselves at all. My answer is aimed at the initial experience of a traveler at one of those two local events. That experience will be similar for you as it is for Europeans that visit the Esala Perahara. – Boldewyn Jun 25 '15 at 8:55
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Of course you're welcome. You don't even need to drink either. It's all pretty mellow and I've never heard of or seen any trouble. Just be aware of the cultural difference that some Germans, even when being what for them is considered relaxed and friendly, are still quite reserved. Some tents seem to be more corporate networking or hardcore drinking in closed groups (Stammtisch), not wanting to meet strangers. Just keep moving around until you find the friendly people. You might like to look beforehand on Meetup, Couchsurfing, Facebook etc. for group events you can join, or link up with other out-of-town visitors.

Not that you should need to, but if you want to get an extra-warm reception, wear a German (national-team) football shirt :-) or Alpine hat. They'll love that.

German football shirt

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    Only a National team shirt, not a local team, as you might meet people who are supporting one of the other teams. – Willeke Jun 24 '15 at 15:38
  • @Willeke: haha, yeah that's what I meant by 'German shirt'. Certainly don't stoke the Bayern München - TSV1860 rivalry. – smci Jun 24 '15 at 19:52
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    Thank you. This is really helpful. I'm quite a fan of German football team anyway, so it would be fun I guess. I also read that tents go full and there are many return visitors who occupy the same tents every year. It's my first visit and I don't have many friends there either. I'm staying in a hostel, so I was thinking to join with others there. – Ayesh K Jun 25 '15 at 8:15
  • @Willeke: or in that case you might suddenly and involuntarily become acquainted with the local hospital casualty department... – smci May 28 '18 at 12:13
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Tourists are absolutely welcome in Munich. The city is doing a lot to get tourists from all over the world to visit (and to bring money with them). Sales people from my company (close to Munich) bring customers from all over to the Oktoberfest every year and they love it.

  • Thanks for your answer. I read a lot about Oktoberfest and kept wanting to go there for years. Wish I was a customer of your company :) – Ayesh K Jun 25 '15 at 8:18

protected by mindcorrosive Jun 25 '15 at 18:03

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