German things? Yeah, you can list a heap of them with one eye closed, an arm behind your back and a one-liter beer mug balancing on your nose. You are talented in more than one impressive — and slightly puzzling — way. So go on… Sauerkraut? Wrong. Lederhosen? Wrong. Oompah bands? Nope. Beer gardens? Nah, try again. Charming wooden huts embedded in snow-capped mountains?! Sorry! You could not be farther from the truth. None of that is German. None. Of. It.
There is a fallacy going on and I’m here to set it straight. Here are the ten things you thought were German, but aren’t. They’re actually Bavarian… which, believe me, is not the same thing:
1. Beer gardens. Those all-too-inviting places to dwell and enjoy life on a sunny afternoon are one of the best things about Germany, right? Well, they actually originate in this part of the country. While they do exist in other parts of Germany, it is never quite the same — a bit like Irish pubs outside of Ireland.
2. Pork knuckles. Everybody knows about the Germans’ preference for fatty pork dishes with sauerkraut, right? Well, again, those are quite local to Bavaria. Whilst the food is not worlds apart, you won’t be able to roll in pork and sausages quite the same outside of Bavaria and Kraut doesn’t accompany most dishes elsewhere.
3. Traditional dress. If you picture a stereotypical German, he is either wearing lederhosen or a black skin-tight outfit, tiny glasses and a crew cut. While the latter might be found all over the country, the traditional dress (i.e. Lederhosen and Dirndl) is unique to (southern) Bavaria and Austria. Even more shocking: the rest of the country actually lacks a traditional dress for the most part.
4. Giant beer mugs. Mugs which hold a liter of beer can be found in beer gardens and at the Oktoberfest in Bavaria. The rest of the country prefers half liters. Pils usually comes in 0.3 and Kölsch (served in Cologne) can be found even in tiny 0.2-liter glasses!
5. Oompah music. Brass bands playing that ubiquitous music can only be found in southern Bavaria. Like the traditional dress, the rest of the country actually lacks a signature music of that kind (other than “Da Da Da”).
6. Funny dance. Slapping each other’s knees and bottoms? Bavaria came up with that!
7. Mountains. Again, picture a stereotypical German countryside. Does it involve snowcapped mountains, green meadows, cows and wooden huts? That’s the Alps you’re thinking of. Now get a map and check how much of Germany is covered by the Alps and compare it to how much of the country isn’t. Well, there you go.
8. Houses with wooden balconies decorated with red flowers. Really pretty but that kind of picture postcard houses are unique to southern Bavaria and Austria.
9. Christ child. Bavarians don’t believe in Father Christmas. Instead, they have a sort of tame and slimmed-down version called Christkind, which is supposed to be Baby Jesus. Obviously, while everyone agrees that babies are cute, most of Germany thinks the Christ child lacks some of the charisma of Father Christmas and questions whether a baby is truly up to the tremendous task of delivering presents for Christmas. Consequently, most of the country turns to the jolly man with the big beard instead.
10. Praise the Lord. Greeting people by bellowing, “Grüß Gott” (“God bless you”) will raise eyebrows outside of Bavaria. Everywhere else people prefer the more secular, “Guten Tag”.
And, because there’s an exception to every rule, here is the one thing you thought was unique to Munich but actually isn’t: Oktoberfest!
The idea of a fun fair is indeed very common in the entire country. There is a Schützenfest in every village and most cities hold spring-, summer- and also Oktoberfestivals which are inspired by the Bavarian original and, although much smaller, are not too far off.
So, here it is, you are now painfully aware of how much of Bavarian culture is mistakingly credited to the whole of Germany but, rejoice! you are truly in the middle of it all so you get to experience it all first-hand. Enjoy!
Karina worked as TV producer before being cursed with two kids. In her previous life, she was used to writing. She’s been in Munich for ten years now but still doesn’t understand the menu and probably never will. As a German herself, with close ties to the expat community, she provides LMBB with a different angle on life in Munich.