By Dana Newman
Eleven years ago, fresh out of college, I decided to pack what could fit into two Duffle bags – sell everything that couldn’t at a yard sale – and move from my home in sunny South Florida to Prague in the Czech Republic. A few months after that, I fell in love with a German man I met at an Irish pub in Munich. And a year after moving to Prague, I packed up my things again and moved to Munich, Germany. Which is where I still live today.
In 2014 I started a series on my YouTube channel called Wanted Adventure Living Abroad. For the past five years, I’ve been making videos that are, for the most part, light and fun videos about the cultural differences – big and small – that I’ve stumbled over during my life in Germany. Did you know that “brown sugar” in Germany is not the same as brown sugar in the U.S.? How long did it take me to stop using Fahrenheit and start using Celsius? What makes German windows so spectacular! How are homes different in Germany and the USA? What is visiting the doctor like in Germany? What emotions have I experienced moving abroad?
I’m fascinated by languages and cultural differences, and I’ve had an amazing time filming all these videos. And through it I’ve taught myself everything I know about filming, editing, hosting, and producing videos.
Toward the end of last year, however, I decided to take everything I had learned about video production and apply it to my biggest video project to date. A video project that would take me all around Germany, filming with lots of different women, getting more personal and deeper in front of the camera than ever before: the Being A Woman series. A video series about the experience of being a woman, especially in Germany and the USA. How those experiences are similar and how they are different, on a range of topics from sex, periods, motherhood, breastfeeding, and sexism to sexual assault, gender roles, dieting, body pressures, movie tropes, and more.
This series has been a long time coming for me. That doesn’t mean that I’ve been actively planning it for years. No, I only really started planning it in September of last year. But the desire to somehow talk about these topics in a video has been rolling around in my brain for a few years now.
Living in Germany, as an American, I’ve had lots of conversations with my German friends about our experiences growing up as girls and living as women in Germany and in the USA. And from those conversations, I’ve noticed that in some ways the experience seems to be pretty similar; in other ways wildly different.
And the more I talked with my German friends and told them about some of the experiences that I had as a girl and a woman in the USA, the more I realized how important it is to talk openly about these similarities and differences.
Sometimes I would tell my friends here in Germany stories of things that happened to me in the U.S. that were more or less “totally normal” for me growing up there, it’s what I expected to happen, only to find my German friends respond with shock: “What?? Are you kidding me?” they would say sometimes. “That’s horrible. I’m so glad it’s not like that in Germany!” But then on the other hand, some of the people I’ve talked to here in Germany could absolutely relate to my experiences, and they described experiencing something similar, too. So I was definitely seeing a range of experiences with these topics.
And at some point I found myself saying, “You know, somebody should really be talking about this!” And then I thought: “You know what? I could talk about this!”
But I was nervous. I was nervous to get so personal and so deep in front of the camera. At first I wondered if maybe I could just make a video or two talking about some of the general differences I’ve noticed about the experience of being a woman in Germany and the USA. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized: nope, that would not be enough. I realized that making these videos what I thought they needed to be would mean sharing my own very personal, very intimate real stories and experiences, as well as talking to other women about their own thoughts, feelings and experiences on these topics as well. Fortunately, I was able to find some incredible people, who were excited to join me on camera to talk about these sometimes hard, often personal, but always very important topics.
Dana is a YouTuber, author, and video host. Her most recent book, “You go me on the cookie!” is in German, and the Being A Woman video series is in English. She also gives workshops on video production, social media, and intercultural training in German & English. Follow her work on Instagram, YouTube, and her website.