The Best Purchase of my Year Abroad

My name is Eleanor Smith, and I’m the Creative designer for the Linguist Magazine 2020/21. I’m a fourth year French and German student, and I had the pleasure of working in Germany as an English Language Assistant on my Year Abroad.

When people find out you’re going to live abroad, you’re naturally met with a lot of European stereotypes. When asked about Germany, people probably think of three things: cars, Dirndls, and beer. Whilst there is much more to studying abroad than pure clichés, at least some of these stereotypes will ring true for many…

For those that don’t know what a Dirndl is, don’t worry, I didn’t either before I studied abroad! A Dirndl is the female equivalent of the Bavarian traditional dress, its male counterpart being Lederhosen. It originated as an alpine folk outfit in the 18th century and was generally considered a peasant’s outfit across Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even some Northern areas of Italy.

These days, however, the Dirndl is more often associated with the national holiday Oktoberfest. Originally, the folk festival started in Munich, although you can generally find a celebration in most cities in Germany during the month of October. Locals come together to ride fairground rides, play games, and drink specially brewed Oktoberfest Bier. I was lucky enough to experience a traditional Oktoberfest in Erfurt whilst I was on my Year Abroad, and I was surprised to find out that, at least for a couple of weeks in October, the stereotype of Germans wearing a Dirndl or Lederhosen is actually true! Despite the bitter East-German Winter being well on its way, men and women of all ages gather to celebrate wearing the traditional Bavarian dress. In fact, we stood out more by wearing our thick winter coats and jeans…

Though it started out as a bit of a joke between friends, I was really starting to crave the ultimate souvenir from Germany, but with traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls from Bavaria setting you back up to 500€, it was starting to look like a pipe dream. Traditional outfits produced in Munich are a work of art, and as much as I envied my German friends’ beautiful silk and lace creations, I simply could not justify the cost, especially when Oktoberfest had already been and gone!

One afternoon exploring my city after work, however, I got lucky. Tucked away in the back of a second-hand shop was a rack of Dirndls; it was out of season, so the remaining dresses were pretty garish, in unflattering colours and still quite expensive. At the back of the rack was a single, pale blue silk Dirndl with a pink apron. It was made by a recognised Bavarian company and to my amazement, it was only 10€! It was the only one in the store that was both in a colour I liked, and in my size. It was surely meant to be.

Unfortunately, my time living in Germany has come to an end, so I really have no opportunity to showcase my bargain find. I can already imagine the reactions of most of my friends to my clichéd purchase, but to me my Dirndl will forever be a souvenir of the wonderful times I had living abroad. Who knows, maybe I’ll make it to Oktoberfest next year!

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