Unusual Facts About the Amish You Need to Know
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, for work or whatever else they deem necessary. 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 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.
This is because when the Amish first came to America, everyone they came into contact with were English settlers and people that spoke English. Since they rarely change their customs, they kept on referring to outsiders as English. 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 get into trouble and explore 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 punish them, they will want to stay in the community.
5. Rumspringa = Running around
Speaking of teens exploring their rebellious side! Rumspringa literally translates to running around and is 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
Their Rumspringa can last as long as they like. Amish teens are sent out into the world and allowed to experiment with technology, non-Amish, 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?
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.
9. Recording to memory
There is 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!
When a loved one dies, they 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 nowadays try to keep their kids from sleeping with someone but the Amish allow it! Well, 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
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.
In that case, 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
You can’t just get engaged and married without someone having a say. Once a couple starts dating, it doesn’t take long before they are engaged.
When the man does propose, they 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. Her hair is covered and the bride wears a simple blue dress. The wedding can last for hours and is usually 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? The night of the wedding is usually a big night for the new bride and groom but not in the Amish tradition!
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…
After their first night as husband and wife at the bride’s parents’ house, they 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 needs a barn, the community will build them one. Barn raising is 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
The Amish might not have a cure for cancer but they certainly know how to prevent it! 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
Everyone in an Amish community 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 German, they also speak English and Pennsylvania Dutch.
In schools and businesses, English is used since that is the common language in the US 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 people are baptized as a baby or toddler, but the Amish believe it should 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. It states what they can and can not do and basically, how to live everyday life. They take the Ordnung very seriously and if you break one of its rules, you will receive punishment.
23. Mennonites are NOT Amish
Not everyone in a bonnet is Amish. Although they have some similarities, the Amish and Mennonites 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 the Amish. They live in more modern communities and even drive cars!
24. Meidung means you are banished
It’s basically the Amish version of putting someone in “time-out.”
The Amish take their Ordnung very seriously and if someone breaks it, there are consequences. One of those could be Meidung, which means the person is shunned from the community.
25. Being excommunicated
When you are 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
No one is doing any mall shopping anytime soon! 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. No jewelry, makeup, accessories (besides a hat or bonnet), or patterns. Basically, they wear a uniform 24/7.
27. Inbreeding is common
In a small community, you don’t have very many choices of who to marry and that can lead to inbreeding.
No, the Amish don’t purposely marry their cousins but there is a high chance inbreeding occurs. They live in small communities and since you have to marry another Amish person, you don’t have a lot of options.
28. DNA testing is illegal
That is why it is easy to marry your third cousin or someone you share genes with.
It usually is not something they realize and can’t make 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
The Amish are all about sharing because sharing is caring! Communal meals are very important in the Amish community. 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
Everyone is a high school dropout! Education 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. I guess learning algebra isn’t all that important!
31. They don’t need churches
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 house of worship or anything fancy because you can teach the bible anywhere.
32. Church service can happen anywhere
Since they don’t have any churches, anywhere can be a location for Amish service.
Church services can take place outside or in their homes or wherever they deem best on a given day. The 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
Just because they have 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
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 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
They won’t be enlisting in the army anytime soon. Just like the Quakers in Pennsylvania, the Amish are against any form of violence.
The Amish are all about keeping the peace and will not use any force. Because of this belief, they will do everything to avoid the military and they believe war is bad.
36. Yes, they get medical treatment
They are not like those extreme cults that don’t trust any medicine and treatment. Despite the fact that they don’t use technology and electricity, there is one modern thing they do use.
While they prefer natural treatments and remedies, they will use modern medicine if necessary. If someone gets sick, they will not be opposed to taking them to a doctor or in extreme cases to a hospital. There is nothing in the bible that says getting medical treatment is bad!
37. Their main belief
There is one simple principle that the Amish believe in that is like their golden rule.
It is “Be ye not conformed to this world,” which is from Romans 8:12 in the bible. This quote essentially means don’t conform to worldly things and that is what the Amish do by secluding themselves from the modern world.
38. Original of the word Amish
The word Amish isn’t just a random word chosen for this faith and comes from the Swiss Anabaptist Jakob Ammann.
He became a controversial Anabaptist and his teachings caused the European Mennonite church to divide. He taught his followers to live a simple life, love one’s community, and, most importantly, follow the bible the way it was intended.
39. Over 250,000 Amish people in the U.S.
In the early 1700s, the Amish population in Europe (mainly Germany) started immigrating to the New World.
When they first arrived, they settled in Pennsylvania but now, they live in more than 28 states! There are over 250,000 Amish people living in the United States and they are actually moving out toward the west!.
40. They divided up into the old and new order
Beginning in 1862, there were a series of conferences over the years to discuss the Amish people’s place in regards to the innovations of society and in church work.
The progressive Amish branched off, following a new modern order while the conservative Amish wanted nothing to do with the new innovations. The old order is now called the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church.
41. Comparison to Anabaptists
The founder of the Amish community was an Anabaptist, which has some of the same beliefs as the Amish.
They both believe that people should be baptized as adults because children can’t make the decision themselves. The Amish actually branched off of this Christian movement.
42. Property goes to youngest son
In history, something like property usually goes to the oldest son but that’s not what goes down in Amish families.
A family’s property/farm typically goes to the youngest son because, by the time the parents are ready to retire, all the older children have moved on. It can’t go to the daughters, though, because men are the breadwinners of the family.
43. Some Amish allow their photo to be taken
Be careful with taking pictures if you see the Amish walking around or visit an Amish community.
We know that the Amish are not allowed to use cameras or even have pictures of themselves but there are also rules about having other people take your picture. Some Amish downright refuse to be photographed but others are fine with it if they aren’t posing in pictures or videos.
44. Some communities allow phones
In today’s time, not having a phone would make things very difficult but the Amish aren’t allowed to use technology.
Yet, they do understand how important phones are, though, especially in the case of an emergency. That is why some Amish communities now actually allow a phone to be used amongst a few families. The phone, though, cannot come into the house and has to be kept in a barn/shack elsewhere.
45. Amish society acts like a vocational school
Amish kids only need schooling up until the 8th grade but that doesn’t mean they don’t learn anything after that.
The entire community acts like a vocational school for them because they are taught how to do important jobs. They learn how to be farmers, homemakers, carpenters and tradesmen. It is basically like college for them because afterward, they know how to do a job.
46. Church and state is separate
One of the biggest debates in history is whether or not the church and state should be separate and the Amish believe they should be.
The word of God is way more important to them than the rule of our government. That is why they decline Social Security benefits or public funds, don’t swear oaths and never join the military. They also reject authority figures because the church is their only authority.
47. They would rather their internal church discipline handle crimes
Because they put their church ahead of the government, that means they like to handle problems themselves. This is actually something that a lot of people criticize about the Amish faith because when a crime is committed, they don’t always report it.
They generally would rather their internal church discipline handle cases, not the police, but they do report crimes occasionally if it is very serious.
48. No music for the Amish
It might be obvious that the Amish don’t have iPods or listen to music on the radio, but they also can’t make music themselves!
They are not allowed to play any musical instruments because that would be a form of self-expression, which could lead to pride. Think about all those musicians and singers that think they are better than everyone else because of their talents!
49. Singing to a different tune
They do, however, sing songs in church but not the kind you are thinking of.
Their songs come from their High German songbook known as the Ausbunch, which is considered to be the oldest Protestant hymnal still being used. The songs have no musical notes and are simply tunes passed down from generation to generation.
50. Amish women wear their wedding dress every Sunday
Most people just wear their wedding dress once and then keep it in their closets for the rest of their life but not Amish women!
For her wedding, she actually has to sew her own dress and while some communities require it to be blue, others allow the bride to choose the color. After the wedding, that is the dress she will wear every Sunday and it will also be the dress she will be buried in.
51. Amish help each other pay medical bills
While the Amish do accept medical treatment, they still don’t have any health insurance and bills can be costly.
Luckily for them, if someone in their community falls ill, they will all work together to help cover the expenses. They will appoint a leader to handle the funding and they won’t stop until the bill is covered!
52. Amish can’t own or drive a car
Cars fall into the category of technology so the Amish are not allowed to own them or even drive them.
They can, however, have someone else drive them if it is for a social or business outing. The reason why cars are considered a threat to their lifestyle is because it can tempt the Amish to abandon their faith since it gives them access to the outside world.
53. They are mutually dependent on each other
Another reason they don’t believe in using cars is because it would make them less dependent on their community members.
Amish communities are very close and everyone depends on each other. Their lifestyle favors neighbors helping each other out but if you had a car, you wouldn’t need to depend on your neighbor so much.
54. Amish women have subservient roles
The Amish are very old schooled and still treat women as people who need a man in their life to take care of them.
Amish women are not allowed to be bishops, preachers, or deacons and it is basically implied that their only job is as a housewife. The church, community, and their family come first and that is what they need to care for. They even allow their husbands to make decisions for them.
55. Outsiders can join the community
Unlike other religions, the Amish don’t preach to outsiders to join their faith but they do welcome people who do want to join them.
Many outsiders have actually converted to the Amish faith and even became well-respected members of the community! When someone wants to join, they join an Amish family for a bit and participate in activities and household duties.
56. How to be accepted
If you want to fully convert to the Amish faith, there are a bunch of things you need to do.
For starters, you need to learn German and Pennsylvania Dutch. You need to adapt to a lifestyle without technology and leave all forbidden luxuries behind. No matter how hard you try, though, you can only become Amish if the church allows you to.
57. They do shop
Shopping might seem like a vain thing but no matter what community you live in, it is kind of inevitable.
The Amish do grow a lot of their own food but sometimes they need to go buy something they can’t grow. In the majority of the Amish communities, there is at least one dry goods store where they can buy stuff like writing supplies, books, candles, etc.