There are many misconceptions surrounding the Amish

amish mythsOver the years, a number of myths have grown up around Amish society.  Some of them may be based in a measure of truth, while others are completely unfounded.  Below you’ll find some of the most common.

Common misconceptions about the Amish:

  • Amish don’t pay taxes
  • Amish food is all organic
  • Amish think technology is evil
  • Amish men marry their sisters
  • Amish men can have two wives
  • An Amishman with a daughter of marrying age will paint his front gate blue
  • Amish rely on barter
  • Amish churn their own butter
  • Amish speak in ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s

Amish don’t pay taxes

This is a common misconception.  Amish do in fact pay all income, sales, property, and other local taxes.  Amish are, however, exempt from Social Security, but do not collect from the program either.   Amish object to Social Security as an insurance system, and because Amish society takes care of its aged and infirm, and thus have no need for government support.

Amish food is all-organic

amish organicAmish-raised crops and milk are typically not organic, as Amish normally use fertilizers and chemicals.  However, there has been a growing interest among Amish in recent years for organic farming, and some  Amish have made the shift to producing organic milk and produce.  Yet these remain in a minority.  Some Amish may operate farms with few or no chemicals, though lack organic certification, a process which takes about three years.

Amish think technology is evil

amish no technologyAmish do not consider technology “evil”.  Rather, they harbor concern over what unrestrained acceptance of all technology may lead to.  Amish do in fact use a wide variety of technologies, including batteries, solar panels, and cell phones in some cases.  For further information, try a more in depth look at the Amish and technology.

Amish men marry their sisters

This myth may result from the fact that Amish communities are generally closed, with few outsiders joining.  Thus, Amish tend to be closely related, with Amish marrying at times distant relatives, even second cousins in some cases.  However, first cousin marriages generally do not occur.  Some Amish settlements exhibit high levels of rare genetic diseases.

Amish men can have two wives

This myth likely has roots in confusing Amish with groups such as fundamentalist Mormons.  The fundamental Mormon or Latter Day Saints church is a group which has been similarly perceived as insular and whose women also wear a variety of plain dress.  Members of this small group do in fact practice plural marriage, which the mainstream Mormon church did away with over a century ago.  Amish do not, and never have, condoned having more than one wife.

The blue gate myth

amish blue gateIt’s a little unclear how this myth originated.  It may have some basis in local Lancaster County lore, but it has no basis in fact.  There is simply no visual indicator used by Amish, such as a blue gate, to indicate a daughter of marrying age.  At age 16, an Amish girl will join an Amish youth group, one purpose of which is to find a marriage partner.

Amish don’t use money

This has no basis in fact.  Outsiders may imagine that Amish barter goods and shun use of all worldly instruments, but Amish do in fact use money, in the form of cash and other instruments of payment, typically check, and in some cases credit cards.

Amish churn their own butter

This is another myth likely related to the one above, and based in a romantic idea of the Amish doing everything by hand.  Some Amish do produce their own dairy and farm products.  Most Amish maintain their own home gardens which provide plenty of vegetables for canning.  But many Amish shop in Amish-run stores, or even supermarkets like Wal-Mart.  Amish purchase a variety of “modern” items such as soda, painkillers, paper towels, disposable diapers, and other home amenities.

Amish speak in ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s

Many outsiders think that the Amish speak an outdated form of Old English, or a variety of King James Biblical English.  Amish in fact speak Pennsylvania Dutch as their main language, but speak English with non-Amish.  While Amish may have a particular accent or unusual way of speaking, Amish speak an English in many ways typical of rural North Americans.

Other myths about the Amish

These are just a few of the myths surrounding the Amish.  Myths arise due to a lack of accurate sources of information, which may occur when a group is reluctant to provide formal portrayals of themselves to society, as has traditionally been the case with the Amish.

At Amish America, we aim to provide accurate information on the Amish, based on academic research, input from Amish, direct experiences living, working, and corresponding with Amish, and so on.  To keep up to date with the latest information on Amish, try subscribing by RSS or by email.


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