Schadenfreude at Oktoberfest

Lederhosen, beer and fun rides — the happy part of Oktoberfest. But these things can also bring about something quite different. What happens when tourists buy fake lederhosen and dirndl, tourists drink too much beer, or tourists drink too much beer and THEN go on the fun rides? Some people can look and act pretty embarrassing at Oktoberfest, but luckily this is a pretty small minority considering tourists only make up around 10% of the total visitors, but when they do stand out, all eyes are on the culprits and makes for some pretty good people watching or better yet taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. The German language has a noun for this idea (which has also been imported into the English language) — Schadenfreude.

The first Schadenfreude moment is definitely the embarrassing way that some people dress, but what makes it even better is when people finally realize how embarrassing they are dressed. The number of girls that walk around covering their plastic dirndl costumes when they take a look around and see all the gorgeous looking ones is pretty astounding. The guys don’t seem to care so much when they wear felt, spandex or plastic lederhosen, but they are typically ones traveling together in large packs and just try and own it (but fail miserably). The worst part about this is that I’m pretty sure some tourists dress like this innocently. Before the leave for Munich they go to their local Halloween shop and buy a $15 outfit, thinking that they’re doing right. When they show up in Munich, if they haven’t already seen the window displays, billboard advertisements and people walking around the city dressed properly, they show up to Oktoberfest and will quickly see that compared to the Bavarians, they look absolutely ridiculous. The number of times I have walked by these tourists and laughed is pretty great — it definitely makes for some good laughs. As I mentioned in my last blog post, if you aren’t willing to pay $150 for the most basic lederhosen or dirndl, you should just wear street clothes. Plenty of other people are wearing street clothes and that’s ok, otherwise, you’ll just be the laughing stock of Oktoberfest.

No, no. Just…no.

The next Schadenfreude moment you can of course imagine is people who have had way too much to drink. No, I’m not talking about aggressive guys that want to fight (they are just the worst), but people who are stumbling about and hardly able to walk, puking their guts out, peeing in the most public of places, or perhaps even those who are able to walk properly but in their face they just look like a busted mess. No one likes to get sick from alcohol, it’s pretty irresponsible, but it sure makes for some great amusement at Oktoberfest. Most tourists think that Oktoberfest is a glorified “booze fest”, but only the amateurs allow themselves to get to that state. No sensible Bavarian would be seen puking at Oktoberfest, you’re there to enjoy a beer, food and atmosphere, not get obliterated. So when you see one of these people (or these types traveling together), they stand out pretty well and makes for some great entertainment. Fun rides are well…FUN! But all the fun ends when you’re throwing up after stepping off of a roller coaster. When you’re walking home after only having one stein of beer and you see some guy in plastic lederhosen puking and peeing at the same time, you can’t help but laugh. I’m sure Munichers would prefer to have less wasted tourists, but at the same time this is what Oktoberfest has somehow become and allows for some Schadenfreude.

 Now that we’ve covered the basics of Schadenfreude, here’s a few things you may not have expected. Some of the attractions that they offer at Oktoberfest are MADE for Schadenfreude! The first is the “Teufelsrad” or “Devil’s Wheel.” Celebrating it’s 100th Birthday at Oktoberfest, even people in 1915 were having a Schadenfreude moment. This one is definitely more all in good fun. Split up by genders and various age groups, patrons must rush onto a wheel and brace themselves before it starts spinning in both directions at an increasing speed. The people the further away from the center will go flying off soon enough due to the force, but those left in the middle must face a tougher fate. When only a couple people are left, the workers will try to get them off the wheel with a flying rubber ball and two lassos. They will literally try and lasso them off the wheel, so the participant must try and get the lasso off of them before they start pulling, while also avoiding the flying ball trying to knock them off. It’s pretty fun to watch people fly off the wheel early on, but then eventually it turns into an exciting challenge watching the last person trying to stay on as long as possible. I tried this myself and didn’t last too long because I wasn’t able to secure a spot in the center, but it was all in good fun!

There is also a beer tent at the Oide Wiesn “Old Oktoberfest” that involves people riding on bikes that are manipulated so that the rider bounces with every turn of the wheel. People must ride these bikes back and forth in a race to the end. It’s apparently much harder than it looks, and it’s pretty amusing to see these people bouncing about, especially the older they are. What’s better than watching people ride ridiculous bikes around while having a beer? It provides from pretty fun entertainment.

 Of course there are plenty of other instances of Schadenfreude that exist at Oktoberfest, whether it’s during the Italian weekend and seeing Italian men act like fools, or people passed out in ridiculous positions, there’s an endless amount of people watching and Schadenfreude opportunities at Oktoberfest. Best advice though it to always be the one looking, not being the one that people are looking at. Who knows, you might find yourself on one of the Oktoberfest shaming websites:


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