Book a table at least six months in advance. Don't be one of those poor saps standing in line in front of the tents. You'll waste hours. If you don't book a table well in advance, you should go to Oktoberfest during the week and during the day. You'll have a much better chance of getting a table. Parties of two or three have a better chance of getting in than, say, a party of twelve.
Eat before you go to the tent. Drink something too (water or the same alcohol you're going to drink in the tent)*. You might get served immediately when you arrive in the tent, but chances are you'll have to wait awhile. Your waiter will probably have just gotten ten tables (that's around 80 people who all want a liter of beer). He or she can only do so much at once. If you're thirsty when you sit down, you'll only get thirstier and more irritated waiting.
You'll be sitting for three hours with your back and butt to a perfect stranger. This back and butt will become sweaty and obnoxious. If you're prepared for the sensation, you'll accept it more quickly. My advice is to find someone (a stranger with a large behind) you can practice with. You should both get a liter of beer and practice singing boisterously without sloshing beer all over each other. It can be done, though yesterday the guy behind us spilled quite a lot of beer on us.
Finding a toilet isn't always easy at Oktoberfest--especially if you're not familiar with the lingo. A double 0 means toilet. You'll see at certain places around the Wies'n an angel shooting an arrow, on which you'll see the 00. She's pointing toward the toilet. And men, if you're wearing Lederhos'n for the first time, don't wait until you're bursting to go. You'll be wetting yourself long before you get those big, wooden buttons undone.
Learn the German songs played at Oktoberfest. You can Google "Wies'n Hits" to find them. Play them over and over until you can sing them in your sleep or when you're really drunk. You'll feel more a part of the celebration. And sing. Don't just sit there and eat your Brotzeit (an assortment of Bavarian food) or Händ'l (roasted chicken) like a lump. Get up and make a complete idiot out of yourself. That's why you've come. Why have you come? To make a complete idiot out of yourself.
Here's where it gets serious. When you leave the tent, you are drunk. This is not the time to be an idiot. Now you need to act sober. There are sweet, emotional drunks; loud show-off drunks; aggressive You-looking-at-me? drunks; and unconscious drunks. I think we can all agree that the unconscious drunk is the least of our worries. The loud show-off drunks get up on the table with a glass stein in their hands. Moments later a beer stein lands on your head, and you spend the next three days in the hospital. Aggressive drunks slap their wives on the way to the train. If you want to be a hero, go after the guy. Make sure, though, that he's smaller than you. Oktoberfest can be ugly.
If it starts to rain on a busy Oktoberfest day, DO NOT run to the U-Bahn (the underground). Three thousand people will have had the same idea. If you like being trampled to death, be my guest, but if you love your life, walk as far away from the Wies'n as you can and catch the tram or the bus or a taxi. You'll get wet, but you won't get crushed. This nearly happened last night. I'll be writing a post about this incident later.
Are you staying with friends? Do you know where their house is? Will you remember where your hotel is after five liters of beer? Prepare yourself for the ride home before you leave for the Wies'n. Make sure you have some cash in your pocket. If you have an expensive phone, don't bring it to the Wies'n if you tend to lose expensive phones when you're drunk. Consider all of this beforehand--when you can still have the capacity to consider things.
Have fun. Oktoberfest is the largest gathering of drunk people in the world. It's sad that not everyone gets happy when they get drunk. If you come to Oktoberfest to have fun, make sure you stay safe as well.
I must be off,
* Wine is sold in several tents, and there's even a Wine Tent now.
Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type. His fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous places. Click About above to read more.