Scots in Europe
Posted on September 23rd, 2023
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
I’ve just returned from a short break in Germany where I visited the Munich Oktoberfest. Copious amounts of beer were drunk, and I ate far too much schnitzel, but thanks to my sighted friends, I survived the event. It was a magnificent party.
What this trip also gave me were a few interesting insights. When we arrived in Munich, there was a queue for passport control. A man in the queue behind us was complaining that he did not see why he could not go through the EU channel since he still had a red EU passport. I refrained from making any comments, but it does show how little some people understand about the effects of Brexit.
When we handed over our passports, the German official knew we were Scottish because the plane had come in from Edinburgh. Also, I have covered my new UK passport with a Saltire cover just to be sure they know I’m not claiming to be part of Brexitania. The official chatted to us briefly in perfect English. He was no doubt doing his job by asking us why we had travelled to Munich but when we told him we would be visiting Oktoberfest, he laughingly asked us if we knew that they only sell beer by the litre. It was all very sociable, and we passed through without a hitch.
I’ll skip ahead to our return journey where we had a very brief stopover in Brussels to transfer flights. Here, the passport control insisted that my Saltire cover be removed and there was no banter at all. On arrival back in Edinburgh, the welcome was more friendly, but again the Saltire cover had to be removed before they would examine the passport. I really don’t know why this is because the cover does not in any way conceal anything except the black outer cover, but perhaps I am missing something. It certainly didn’t bother the German passport check.
However, the main thing I want to mention about this trip is just how much Scotland is loved in Europe. I made a point of wearing Saltire sunglasses instead of my usual Bluetooth audio sunglasses. The latter would have been useless anyway because the noise inside the beer tents is phenomenal. One of my companions also sported a Scotland hat, and these to items attracted a huge amount of attention. We were stopped or spoken to by people from Switzerland, New Zealand, Italy, USA, France and Germany, including some of the serving staff, all of whom told us how much they loved Scotland. It really was wonderful to hear such affection for our people and nation from citizens of normal countries.
The other thing about Oktoberfest is that, despite the vast amount of beer being drunk, it really is a party. I’ve been to the Edinburgh version and it is not a patch on the real thing. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine an event on the Oktoberfest scale taking place in the UK without there being some serious crowd trouble. And yet we only witnessed one act of violence which took place outside the complex, when two guys got into an argument and began swapping punches. Other than that, the whole event, with tens of thousands of well-lubricated people from all over the world, was like a huge friendly gathering where everyone just wanted to have fun and meet new friends.
That’s not to say the Germans don’t take security seriously, but their security staff maintain a low profile, only appearing when there is any trouble. And they do take a zero tolerance approach. One of our group was in a long queue for the toilets when a young Englishman jumped the queue, laughingly barging into one of the cubicles. Security must have spotted him because they were waiting as soon as he emerged. He was ejected from the tent for anti-social behaviour.
All in all, Oktoberfest is a cultural experience unlike any other. I can’t wait to go back again, even if only to hear so many people who have a positive view of Scotland which is so at odds with the way our own media portrays our country.