We Cincinnatians are proud of our German heritage, and early fall is defined by Oktoberfest celebrations, especially the mid-September downtown festivities. We drink beer, eat goetta, do the chicken dance, and feel like our local traditions reflect the festivities staged by our German brethren.
Feli, a German native now living in Cincinnati, operates an eponymous YouTube channel with nearly 500,000 followers that would burst the bubble of such fanciful notions in a friendly, well-reasoned manner befitting someone from her native country. She begins each one with a hearty “Hallo Servus!” (“Servus,” like "aloha" and "ciao," can mean both "hello" and "goodbye") that reflect the warm, conversational tone her videos convey.
But take heart, Cincinnatians. We know our capacity for insecurity when considering how we’re perceived nationally and globally. Feli is quite fond of the Queen City, and although most of her videos focus on the governmental, social, and cultural juxtapositions vis-a-vis Germany and the United States, she periodically devotes portions of her content to Cincinnati-specific topics (spoiler alert: Graeter’s is German-approved! Chili? Well… ), and her appreciation for living in our burg periodically shines through in her approximately biweekly videos.
Feli, 29, first arrived in Cincinnati seven years ago for a deeper dive into American culture. She graduated from the University of Munich in 2016, with a degree in communications and a political science minor, and was ready for a new adventure.
Feli had traveled to the U.S. on a family vacation as a teenager, but wanted more than a tourist’s U.S. experience. So she applied to be an exchange student in UC’s electronic-media program.
She learned English at an early age growing up in Munich, and her near-perfect score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam emphasized that she was well-prepared for traveling abroad. She took her studies seriously, but fun was definitely on the agenda.
“Social life isn’t as vital part of college life in Germany as it is here, so I was looking forward to a fun, ‘red SOLO cup’ semester,” she said.
She went home to Munich, but soon returned to the U.S. to complete an internship, and ultimately enrolled in UC’s master’s degree program in German studies. Around this time, she built a YouTube channel and social media accounts that she began populating with content. She’s come a long way since then.
“My earliest attempts at videos were pretty cringe, to be honest,” she said. “It took me a couple of years to really start viewing my videos as a full-time job.”
After earning her master’s in 2019, Feli shifted from freelance work as a German teacher and transcriber, and began building her channel. She couldn’t build the channel without a foundation of solid insights about German and U.S. characteristics.
“One thing I miss about Germany is the food,” she said. “It’s hard to find the quality, especially for bread and dairy products, which are readily available in Germany.
And, health care is better in Germany. I was shocked by the religiosity of people when I came here. People are much more laid back about their beliefs in Germany.”
In contrast, she’s come to appreciate the overall friendliness and nonjudgmental nature of Americans, and the affordability of housing with land. Of course, to learn more about Feli’s experiences since moving here (she’s currently a permanent resident, and will consider dual U.S.-German citizenship once she’s eligible), her videos recount them thoroughly. A few examples and takeaways:
“10 Things I’d Never Done Before I Came to the U.S”
: Water filters, writing checks, and drive-through ATMs, turning right at red lights and paper plates usage for indoor meals are virtually unheard of in Germany.
“5 Things Americans Do That Germans Find Weird”
: Germans aren’t accustomed to driving everywhere (even destinations a few blocks away), and the previously mentioned widespread use of paper plates and lack of quality bread are also noted.
And, conversely, “5 Things Germans Do That Americans Find Weird”
: Drinking cold beverages without ice, collecting beverage cans and bottles, and a propensity for staring are German tendencies that Feli notes Americans find peculiar.
And, perhaps most relevant for this time of year, Feli’s video comparing "Zinzinnati’s" and Munich’s iconic events
: First and foremost, Oktoberfest is a Munich celebration, not a national holiday or celebration; other German cities host their own autumn festivals. Also, the chicken dance and dachshund races are Cincinnati phenomena.
For those crossing the Atlantic for Munich’s Oktoberfest, which also starts this weekend but continues for a fortnight, be prepared to sing rousing choruses of Robbie Williams’ “Angels,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and John Denver’s “Country Roads.”
Most of Feli’s videos recount lighthearted looks at German-American cultural differences, but one recently produced
addressed sexual assault allegations against Till Lindemann, the vocalist for German rock band Rammstein, arguably Germany’s most popular musical export (charges were later dropped). Her in-depth recounting of the accusations and multiple media reports embodies first-rate storytelling and the depth of connection possible via long-form platforms.
Feli’s knowledgeable, approachable tone has helped her grow her YouTube channel, which, as of Sept. 1, had 482,000 followers. In contrast to most YouTube channels, a composite of her “average” subscriber is a 50-year-old male. She reasoned that a lot of followers are military veterans who have served abroad or are people with German ancestry who are curious to learn more about their
Predictably, the largest number of subscribers come from the U.S., with Germany the second-most, but there are substantial contingents from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and China, among other nations.
YouTube remains the foundation of "Feli From Germany" (she transitioned from the previous name, "German Girl in America" in October 2021). Complementary social media tools include Instagram, where she has 50,000 followers, 30,000 on TikTok, and smaller niches on Patreon and Facebook.
If content is king, monetization is queen. An authentic, distinctive brand is required to attract sponsorships, which are the lifeblood of any YouTube channel. Given the channel’s multicultural and educational bent, sponsors such as Express VPN and language-education provider Italki provide a well-aligned support system.
The videos typically span 20 to 30 minutes, but a script that tells a complete story dictates episode length. As always, it’s difficult to predict when an episode will go viral. Her most popular segment, which generates more than 6 million views, was “15 German Brands You Pronounce Wrong.”
An episode about how Germans talk about World War II
ranked second, with more than 3 million views.
Understandably, her closest YouTube compatriots represent a global village. Fellow content providers who work in the global travel and expat space are her closest cohort. For aspiring YouTubers, Feli said that authenticity and consistency are key.
“Develop your own voice for the content you want to create, and get out there,” Feli said. “Just have confidence in yourself and get started.”
She’s celebrated the 100,000 and 200,000 subscriber milestones with Q-and-A sessions with audience members, but has yet to decide how she’ll commemorate surpassing the 500,000-subscriber threshold. But however she celebrates it, she’s appreciative for the role Cincinnati has had in enriching her U.S. experience.
“Cincinnati has such great culture and diverse things to do, and it’s an affordable city compared to somewhere like New York or San Francisco,” she said. “Friends and family from Germany asked why I settled in the middle of the country with nothing going on. Those who have visited understand why I love it.”