You may have heard the term “Swiss Amish” used to describe certain Amish groups. The term “Swiss” refers to a separate ethnicity within Old Order society, in contrast to Pennsylvania German-ethnicity Amish (the majority of Amish today).
Swiss Amish have specific customs and cultural markers. I first encountered Swiss Amish in the Allen County, Indiana settlement, and immediately noticed distinguishing characteristics.
Even someone without a deep knowledge of the Amish can notice some differences between Swiss and Pennsylvania German-ethnicity Amish. For example, Swiss Amish drive only open-top carriages (bring an umbrella), and Swiss surnames tend to be specific to Swiss Amish communities. There are other differences as well.
Customs of Swiss Amish include:
- Yodeling-Swiss Amish are the only Amish to maintain this European practice
- Wooden grave markers-Swiss Amish mark the graves of their dead with simple wood markers rather than using grave stones
- Different dialect-Swiss Amish speak a dialect which differs from the Pennsylvania German spoken by most Amish
Read more on the culture, customs and history of the Swiss Amish.