If you live in Pennsylvania and parts of the Midwest, its likely that you’ve at some point encountered members of the local Amish community. The religious group is unique in that they tend to shun many modern conveniences. The community is known for being quite friendly, though there is still a lot that people don’t know about them since they tend to keep their lifestyle to themselves. From dating and playing with faceless dolls to their everyday routines and belief system, there are numerous extraordinary facets of Amish life. If you’ve every wondered about this unique population, then it’s time to learn the extraordinary truth. Amazingly, they are probably not like you think, we’ll tell you that!
1. The Amish and electricity
Contrary to popular belief, not all Amish people use zero electricity. While some Amish communities are more conservative than others, many understand that sometimes you just need to use electricity. They can use electricity for emergency situations, work or whatever else they deem necessary.
However, their reason for largely avoiding the modern convenience of electricity may surprise you. The reason they live like the older days before technology and electricity is because of something called, “Gelassenheit.” This German word means “letting be” and the Amish use it in their philosophy that earth should be used as God originally intended.
2. What’s really the issue with Amish men’s facial hair?
If you have ever seen an Amish man, you probably noticed his long beard but clean-shaven face. Going back to the belief that they should live according to how God created them, Amish don’t shave their natural hair. The exception to this, though, is men are required to shave their mustaches.
This is because back in the 1800s, having a mustache wasn’t just a style. It symbolized wealth or that you were in the military. Amish don’t follow fashionable statements and having a mustache would go against their wish to be ordinary.
3. Outsiders are “English”
It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, what skin color you have, or what country you are from. Basically, anyone that is not Amish is referred to as an English person. It has everything to do with immigration patterns centuries ago.
Since the Amish are in no way known for changing their customs, they kept on referring to outsiders as English, and the tradition stuck, entering their vocabulary as a people. They couldn’t call them Americans because the Amish are Americans too.
4. Teens get free passes
Amish parents totally understand a teen’s rebellious side! Just because you are raised in a secluded community without technology, does not mean you will be a perfect teenager. Even Amish teens aren’t beyond getting into trouble and exploring their rebellious side.
Yet, they don’t get into much trouble when they do because they get free passes. The Amish understand why adolescents are like this and hope that since they don’t believe in punishing them, they will want to stay in the community.
5. Rumspringa = Running around
Speaking of teens exploring their rebellious side! There’s even a life event dedicated to that exact concept. It’s called Rumspringa, which literally translates to running around. As unexpected as it may seem, going through the Rumspringa is considered a rite of passage for Amish teens.
Between the ages of 14 and 18, they are allowed to experience “English” life, as they refer to society outside the Amish world. They do this because it wouldn’t be fair if they didn’t allow Amish kids to see what they would be giving up when they become baptized.
6. Amish teens get to experience the outside world
Surprisingly, for young Amish men and women, their Rumspringa can last as long as they like. Amish teens are sent out into the world and allowed to experiment with technology, to interact with non-Amish people, and whatever else they are curious about.
Some return back to their community after a week or so but some stay in the real world for years before they realize they want to join the Amish faith. It can be a frightening experience for them or a great one but either way, they learn from it.
7. Most of those teens choose the Amish life
It is hard for us to imagine why a teen would go back to the Amish life but most do. After their Rumspringa is over, most of them go back to their Amish community. Soon after that, they are baptized and are officially part of the Amish faith.
Of course, a few do decide that the non-Amish world is better and decide to stay. Yet, that doesn’t mean that later they can’t return as they will always have the choice to be baptized and welcomed back into the community.
8. Why do Amish kids play with creepy faceless dolls?
What would you think about this doll at first glance? They aren’t creepy to an Amish kid but to an outsider they probably are. Kids are given toys to play with but they aren’t like the ones you grew up with.
Their toys are homemade and simple. The dolls have no faces on them because it is supposed to teach the young kids that it doesn’t matter how someone looks. It could be a serious step in combating body image issues stemming from unrealistic expectations.
9. Recording to memory
There are no Instagram accounts for the Amish! It is probably obvious that the Amish don’t use cameras considering it is a piece of technology, but they don’t do paintings either! Seeing as a brush and canvas aren’t exactly modern technology, why are they not used?
The answer is quite surprising. When a loved one dies, the Amish don’t have any image to remember them by except for their memories. Having a photo or painting of someone is considered to be a graven image and is not allowed.
10. Dating involves sharing a bed one night
Parents constantly are worrying about making sure their children are safe. They take pains to keep their kids from sleeping with someone — but believe it or not, the Amish allow it! But they aren’t actually “sleeping” with each other in the way you think.
Part of the dating process involves bundling, which is when a girl and a boy who are seeing each other share a bed one night. They are both fully clothed and separated but they are sleeping side by side. Bundling is supposed to help strengthen the bond between them as they stay up all night talking.
11. There are no arranged marriages
In many traditional societies across the world, falling in love with someone and getting married on those grounds is absolutely unheard of. So it would stand on reason that the Amish have arranged marriages. However, despite what people think, the Amish don’t force people to get married.
If they have a choice to join the Amish church or not, then, of course, they have the choice to marry who they want. There are no arranged marriages but you are only allowed to marry a certain type of person.
12. You can’t date until you join the church
It makes sense that the Amish only marry the Amish because you need someone who will accept your faith. Convincing someone to not only alter their lifestyle habits for the sake of love, but to change nearly everything, would truly be a daunting challenge.
However, there are still some heavy restrictions. You can’t date anyone unless they are baptized into the Amish faith. You can’t even start dating until after you are officially part of the community and dating occurs in public areas only.
13. Engagement must be blessed by the church
In Amish society, every life event requires careful consideration and involves the whole community. You can’t just get engaged and married without someone having a say. Once a couple starts dating, it generally doesn’t take long before they are engaged.
When the man does propose, he and his wife both need to get approval from the Amish church. Once they are blessed by the church, they are allowed to marry and an announcement is usually posted in the town’s newsletter.
14. Weddings are pretty basic
Something old, something borrowed, something blue but nothing new. When a man proposes, he isn’t giving his soon-to-be fiancé a diamond ring. That would be a sign of vanity. Furthermore, the bride does not wear any jewelry or makeup at her wedding.
The bride’s hair is covered and she wears a simple blue dress. The wedding can last for hours. Thought is even put into what time of year the ceremony is held: marriages usually happen in the fall, which is kind of romantic!
15. Honeymoon at the bride’s parent’s house!
How would you feel about having your honeymoon at your parent’s house? To an outside observer, that’s sure to not sound particularly romantic. The night of the wedding is usually a big night for the new bride and groom but not in the Amish tradition!
Clearly privacy is not at the forefront here. The tradition is still rooted in family values. Their honeymoon will start at the bride’s parents’ house so that the next morning, they can clean their house as a way to say thanks.
16. The honeymoon continues…
Amish honeymoons are composed of several different parts and they are spread out over various places. After spending their first night as husband and wife at the bride’s parents’ house, the newlywed couple pack up and go on to the next house.
The rest of their honeymoon is spent visiting each other’s relatives as husband and wife. If they don’t have a house of their own yet, then they will live at the bride’s parent’s house until they can have a house of their own.
17. The thing with barn building
If your neighbor is in need of a new barn, they don’t need to ask for help. It’s understood that the entire community will automatically band together to help build them one. Barn raising is well-known as a popular activity in an Amish community.
It is when the community gets together to build a barn for whoever needs it. Remember, they are building this without the use of electrical equipment and cranes. The purpose of this activity is to show your selflessness to help others and love thy neighbor.
18. The Amish rarely get cancer
Don’t worry, it’s not like they’re holding out on the rest of us. They haven’t found a cure, but believe it or not, the Amish lifestyle has actually been shown to keep the specter of cancer away. So what’s their secret?
Living in an Amish community actually decreases your chances of getting cancer or other serious diseases/illnesses. This is because everything they eat is organic and grown by themselves. Also, there is no alcohol or cigarettes so that is a huge plus too.
19. They speak 3 languages
For our ancestors, being multilingual was far more common than it is in today’s America. But the Amish have got us beat. Everyone in an Amish community has the gift of gab and speaks three languages, with their native language being German!
When the Amish first settled in America, they vowed to bring their traditions from their homeland of Germany and that includes their language. That is why all their religious services are in German and many of their important traditions come from a German word. What are the other languages?
20. The other two languages
Besides being versed in a dialect of southern German which has been frozen in time since it made its way to North America several centuries ago, the Amish are also able to speak English and Pennsylvania Dutch. How does each language factor into their daily lives?
In schools and businesses, English is used, since that is the most widely-spoken language in the United States and sometimes they need to communicate with outsiders. They also speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a form of German, in everyday affairs.
21. You are baptized when deemed old enough
Most Christians are baptized as a baby or toddler. It’s seen as an important rite of passage in a young Christian’s life. But the Amish have taken a different perspective on the immersion ritual. According to them, being baptized ought to be someone’s choice.
Despite what many people think, being Amish is not a cult. They allow their members to choose if they want to join their faith or not. That is why they don’t baptize children, because they aren’t old enough to make the decision to independently state their faith. Instead, the Amish usually get baptized between the ages of 16 and 24.
22. They have a book of rules
They certainly have a lot of rules to remember so it is a good thing they have a book that lists them all! Amish people have two important books in their lives: the Bible and the Ordnung. The latter means order or discipline in German and it is a book they live by.
The Ordnung is a guide book stating what an Amish individual is and is not allowed to do. It’s basically a framework on how to live everyday life. The Amish take the Ordnung very seriously and if you break one of its rules, you will receive punishment.
23. Mennonites are NOT Amish
Not everyone who you see wearing a bonnet is necessarily Amish. Some of them are Mennonite. Although they have some similarities, the Amish and Mennonite are not the same group. This can actually be a big insult if you confuse them.
Mennonites are a Christian group but are not as strict as in Amish country. Mennonites live in more modern communities and do not seclude themselves. Many Mennonites also use technology and even drive cars! In some cases, a Mennonite is not distinguishable from his or her dress.
24. Meidung means you are banished
Though the Amish have restrictions on their habits and lifestyles, they’re often surprisingly permissive, allowing each individual to come to conclusions on their own. But there is still a system for those who violate their code. It’s basically the Amish version of putting someone in “time-out.”
The Amish take their Ordnung very seriously and if someone is found to be in violation of its ethics code, there are consequences. One of those could be Meidung, which means the person is punished through being shunned from the community.
25. Being excommunicated
While Meidung means being shunned by the Amish community, there’s also a far more serious punishment known as Bann. If your infraction is serious enough to be permanently excommunicated, it means you are in the Bann and treated as an outsider.
Depending on what your “crime” is, you could be shunned for days, weeks, or even months. As harsh as it sounds, its purpose is for the person to realize what they did wrong and apologize for it. They certainly don’t make the same mistake twice!
26. Simple clothing only
It goes without saying that no one in Amish society is doing any mall shopping anytime soon! But it’s not just because the idea would mean coming into contact with modern society. Since a big part of Amish philosophy avoiding vanity and selfishness, they make sure everyone is equal.
That is why all the women dress in the same simple dresses and the men in black pants and a plain shirt. There is no jewelry, makeup, accessories (besides a hat or bonnet), nor even a pattern in stitching that make be seen as unique. Basically, they wear a uniform 24/7.
27. Inbreeding is common
In a small, intensely insular community, you don’t have very many choices of who to interact with. More vexing still, your options of who you can marry are extraordinarily limited. That can unfortunately lead to inbreeding and all the genetic risk factors that go along with it.
No, the Amish don’t purposely marry their cousins but there is a high chance inbreeding occurs. They live in small communities in Amish country and since you have to marry another Amish person, you don’t have a lot of options.
28. DNA testing is illegal
These days, thanks to technological advancements, everyone wants to get DNA testing to learn more about their past and perhaps even find out about long-lost relatives. Everyone, that is, except the Amish, who prohibit it, which is why it is easy to marry your third cousin or someone you share genes with.
It usually is not something they realize and often there’s no way of making sure of it either. DNA testing goes against Amish rules. They believe if inbreeding occurs, it is God’s will. It is best to just not think about it!
29. Community potlucks
Now this is a tradition you’d surely want to get behind. The Amish are all about sharing because sharing is caring! The concept of hosting and participating in communal meals is a very important in the Amish community and is fundamental to holding the society together.
It is basically like one big potluck where everyone brings something to the large table. This happens quite often and is the perfect time to catch up with everyone. Men and women have conversations, while young people use it as a time to socialize!
30. No more School after the 8th grade
If you look at it from a certain perspective, everyone in the Amish communities is technically a high school dropout! Learning the general requirements needed to complete a formal education just isn’t all that important for the Amish like it is for outsiders.
You complete your schooling after you complete the 8th grade and there is no high school. By then, men are supposed to have picked a profession for life and women become housekeepers. Perhaps learning algebra isn’t all that important after all!
31. No Church Building
One of the most exciting parts of visiting religious communities the world over is discovering the works of art they have created in which to hold a place of worship. But tourists aren’t going to find a beautiful stained glass church anywhere in an Amish community!
The Amish aren’t for showy churches and cathedrals. In fact, they believe they don’t need a church or anything fancy because you can teach the bible anywhere. In fact, this allows an Amish church service to take place just about anywhere, as you’re about to see.
32. Church Anywhere
There is an incredible advantage that the Amish have as a result of their insistence on not building houses of worship. Since a church service does not take place in a church, that means that anywhere can be a location for an Amish service.
Church services can take place outside or in their homes or wherever they deem best on a given day. The Amish church services are very simple services with no organs, altars, candles, or other things you typically find in a church!
33. They don’t think they have the better religion
It can be observed that many tensions between religions stem from a belief that one is superior to the other. It’s refreshing that this is not so with the Amish. Just because the Amish church calls for a different way of living and practicing the Lord’s way, does not mean they think they are better than everyone else.
They will accept you for whatever you believe or don’t believe in. They don’t care what your religious beliefs are or who your God is. Arrogance is a big sin to them so they don’t boast the Amish church as the best.
34. No birth control
Similar to many other strictly religious communities, the Amish don’t believe in taking preventive measures in the bedroom. Whatever happens, happens and it is what God intended. The Amish don’t have any contraceptives in their community because they don’t believe in them.
Having a large family is a big goal for them, and being pregnant is seen as a blessing from God. In fact, Amish people want to have as many children as possible! On average, a married couple has 5 to 7 kids.
35. They are extreme pacifists
Suffice to say, you won’t be seeing a slew of Amish servicemen enlisting in the military and sweating their way through boot camp any time soon. Just like the Quakers in Pennsylvania, the Amish are against any form of violence.
The Amish are all about keeping the peace that they’ve managed to create for themselves, and refuse to exert any force over another human being. Because of this belief, they will do everything to avoid the military and they believe war is bad.
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