Step 77: Volkshochschule

Why are you wasting time reading this article when you could be at your nearest Volkshochschule taking a course on effective spice management. Illustration by Robert M. Schöne.
Why are you wasting time reading this article when you could be at your nearest Volkshochschule taking a course on effective spice management. Illustration by Robert M. Schöne.

While your German educational Pflicht begins with Einschulung, it ends at the delightful Volkshochschule (VHS), the “People’s University”. Just as Muslims are required to go to Mecca, Jews to Jerusalem, and Brits to the pub, Germans must regularly make an educational hajj to their local VHS. At least one course a year should be your minimum. Volkshochschulen are fascinating places. Ostensibly, they are just government-sponsored adult learning centres. However, there is so much more to them. They’re melting pots, where all the different classes, nationalities, and intellects of this land come together.

Not sure where your nearest VHS is? I can help. It’s the nearest very large, drab concrete building that directly overlooks a busy six-lane road. Not sure what to study? No problem—pick up that thick brochure by the entrance. Browsing the VHS catalogue—which you should do regularly—is an exploration of the possible: How could anyone possibly be interested in this topic? How could it possibly take that long to learn it? How can it possibly cost this little to do so? Don’t be surprised to find a course on posture correctness that takes forty-eight weeks, yet costs only € 51.

Once you have enrolled, you’ll meet your fellow students. There will be Germans who are always there minutes early, sit in the same seat, and bring more highlighters to class than there are fellow students. Meanwhile others, often fickle foreigner types like you and me, will stroll in late, smiling and apologising to cover up the fact that we’ve forgotten our homework again. In class, watching the teacher is just as interesting as watching the students. The teacher will be either brilliant or awful. It’s binary. That’s VHS Teacher Roulette.

Although it’s easy to poke fun at the VHS—to write it off as a place that progress forgot, a Bermuda triangle of knowledge where you have to wipe the dust off your seat before you sit down; where, if you ask for a projector, they would assume you meant an overhead projector—I actually think it’s one of the best things this country has to offer. Affordable education for all. Its popularity is a testament to the importance education has here. You go there for knowledge. You receive knowledge. Nothing more, nothing less. Comfort? Fun? Chairs with all their legs? A teacher that remembers your name? No. Just knowledge. Isn’t that enough? Yes, Ausländer. It is. So what are you waiting for? Posture correctness starts on Tuesday. I’ll see you there.



Required reading for all Ausländer and Germans who sometimes have the feeling they don’t understand their own country. We learn why the Germans speak so freely about sex, why they are so obsessed with Spiegel Online and why they all dream of being naked in a lake of Apfelsaftschorle. At the end, the only thing left to say to Adam Fletcher’s love letter to Germany is “Alles klar!” More than 100k copies sold!

Released: 2013   Length: 192 pages  Languages: EN/DE  Publisher: C.H. Beck Illustrator: Robert M. Schöne


An illustrated love letter to the language of our adopted home. Join us as we take you on a tour through some of the German language’s greatest words, expressions, proverbs and language possibilities, all wrapped up for international delivery in the form of Denglisch!

Released:  2014    Length:  240 pages       Languages:  EN/DE     Publisher: Ullstein   Co-Author: Paul Hawkins    Illustrator: Robert M. Schöne

After two best-selling books I find I’ve become somewhat of a pundit for German life. Unsure about my position I take on a series of integration challenges. Readers will learn:

  • What happens when someone of no musical talent creates a Schlager song.
  • Why you shouldn’t accept a ride from a Mitfahrgelegenheitvan containing a mattress and a cat with one eye.
  • What watching seventy hours of German TV in a week does to your health.
  • Why you shouldn’t attend a Schützenfest if you can neither drink nor march.

Released: 2015  Length: 400 pages  Languages: EN/DE Publisher: Ullstein.

Fifty new and advanced integration steps that explain the sticky friendship glue of Kaffee und Kuchen, the educational superiority of wood, and the rituals of the German Weihnachtsmarkt. You’ll learn how to blame the weather for most of your ailments, how to survive a visit to your local Baumarkt, why Germans take their kitchen when they move, and why you keep losing to them at table football. Adam Fletcher’s book is the ultimate, irreverent love letter to a nation that has gotten so under his skin.

Released: 2016  Length: 192 pages  Languages: EN/DE  Publisher: C.H. Beck Illustrator: Robert M. Schöne