“Watch out, you won’t be partying every weekend once your wife gets here” his friends told him.
“You’ll do so many fun things once you’re finally together” my friends told me.
They were all a little wrong and a little right. Inbetween getting legally married, finding and moving into our first apartment, trying and failing multiple times at getting me a driver’s license, getting me insurance, a bank account, a library card, a social security number, etc. – there wasn’t all that much time to get bored.
And with him working 14 hours and me working virtually zero hours a day, his and my need for out-of-the-apartment excitement vs. no-further-than-the-couch downtime don’t always match. Interestingly, it’s not always my workaholic who is drawn to the couch and not always me who wants to go out.
But – there are some things we did do together so we wouldn’t have to feel like all adventures stopped after our wedding. And yes, we also did them them because they were fun, and friends insisted, and our couch wasn’t shipped right away, so we didn’t have to sit anywhere at home. This was the first:
Oktoberfest by the Bay
The main differences between the Oktoberfest in San Francisco (hosted by a local German club) and the one and only true original in Munich are:
- Family friendliness. The Munich Oktoberfest is not the greatest place for little kids (though I’m sure they love the sweets and some rides), while the one in San Francisco is boring for anyone but a kid (no rides, few sweets, no dancing on the benches, no drinking excess and it closes early.)
- In Munich, all drinks and food are horribly expensive. In San Francisco, food and drinks as well as parking and tickets are horribly expensive.
- They give you excellent overpriced beer in traditional 1-litre glass mugs in Germany. In San Francisco, you get pretty good (imported) beer in a plastic cup – unless you first buy your own mug, which is also plastic, and costs 10 dollars. You definitely wouldn’t see this in Munich either:
- There is an actual dance floor at the Bayfest that not only serves for dancing (like I’ve never seen anyone dance in Munich) but also for cute show numbers from the host club. They put on a little play, chopped up an actual wooden log, and even threw in some Schuhplattler and an Alphorn trio. Who cares if that’s more Swiss than Bavarian – they brought the sound of the alps into a San Francisco harbor hangar!
To my surprise, however, the music was surprisingly authentic. In Germany, I never cared for traditional brass music. But as an expatriate, you suddenly find yourself missing things you had nothing but disdain for at home. Their Musikkapelle sounded so much like a German brass band that I’ll even forgive the description “sizzling oompah music” on their website.
And we were not the only ones in traditional Bavarian clothing – although there were a few of the anime-style miniskirt Dirndls with knee-high socks that I had expected. This lady seemed to have a lot of fun and is my favorit example of the non-German Oktoberfest adaptation:
The food was less delightful than the entertainment: Bratwurst or dry Schnitzel on very flimsy bread rolls, made extra-soggy by sauerkraut I didn’t even try, deep-fried pickles (no idea who came up with that), fries, salad with nice and heavy ranch dressing, and little plastic flasks of Underberg for the digestively challenged.
Would I go again? Probably not. But not because Oktoberfest by the Bay is bad. On the contrary. Given the very different cultural setting and regulations they surely had to work with, they managed a marvelous recreation. But I’ve learned one thing: If you’re homesick, don’t chase after foreign interpretations of what you miss. Better to embrace the things only your new culture can offer, and keep an untarnished memory of home.