Which are the most friendly Amish communities? Yes, to answer that question we do have to generalize. But I think it’s true that Amish communities can take on a certain character.
If you’ve visited more than one Amish community and met enough people you may have noticed this. People in some places just seem more happy to see you than in others.
Below are my (non-scientific) choices for “most friendly” Amish communities. And here’s my disclaimer: Obviously, I haven’t been to every Amish settlement (there are around 600).
But I’ve been to nearly all the largest ones, and quite a few of the smaller, covering many affiliations–over 50 communities in all. And in many of them, I’ve met dozens if not hundreds of people, by virtue of a job I once had (selling Bible story books). Enough to form an impression.
At the end, I share a few that didn’t make the list–and why.
Five Most Friendly Amish Settlements
- Daviess County, Indiana – Southern hospitality in southern Indiana. I may be partial since I grew up hearing southern accents. These are probably the easiest folks to speak with of any Amish settlement I’ve visited. I met the Amish of Daviess County early, shortly after I first stumbled across the Amish over ten years ago. Other Amish talk about them for their cordial nature.
- Hicksville, Ohio – In 2006 I spent eight weeks in the Elkhart-Lagrange, Indiana settlement. There are random scattered people living there hailing from Hicksville in northwestern Ohio, and I would meet them from time to time. Whenever I did, it was always the friendliest person I’d meet all day (and it’s not like the northern Indiana people are unfriendly themselves). But this was another level of friendliness. Later I visited the Hicksville community and confirmed my impression. Tiny settlement, must be something in the water there.
- Holmes County, Ohio – I visit Holmes County often. With Amish from around a dozen affiliations, this is the definition of a mixed bag. But there are quite a lot of friendly people here. People say New Order Amish are among the most welcoming of outsiders. Holmes County has the largest New Order population. Overall it’s a pretty laid-back place and still quite rural area, at least compared to other large Amish settlements.
- Somerset County, Pennsylvania – Technically, I’ve never visited this place–and I may be totally off the mark here, but based on a series of phone calls I made last year, these are super-friendly people. I spent a few days making random calls to the community trying to track down an Amish business. The people I got on the line wanted to talk and talk with this random stranger calling from North Carolina. Somerset County is southern Pennsylvania, but they have a southern-ish drawl here too, which maybe activates my aforementioned southern drawl bias. I can say after one of the calls I hung up feeling I’d be a welcome guest at that farmer’s place anytime, and we had been total strangers 20 minutes earlier. Small sample size, but the impression was strong enough to make this list.
- Pinecraft, Florida. How could you not be a cheery soul if Pinecraft were your home, 365 days a year? And the Amish you meet here who are just visiting, are on vacation! So they can’t not be in a good mood.
So those are my picks. Who would you put on this list?
Who I left out, and why
Not to disparage anyone, but you may now be wondering which communities I haven’t felt so warmly received in. Well, I didn’t put Lancaster County up there, but not because it’s not full of nice people–some of my best Amish friends (maybe I should just say “best friends” and leave out the “Amish” bit) live there.
But, I believe on account of all the tourists and being under the spotlight, the average Amish person you meet in the community is not quite as outgoing to outsiders as compared to other places. Some certainly are, especially if you meet them in a tourist context (I’m thinking buggy ride guides or waitresses).
However, Lancaster Amish are spoken about for their hospitality by other Amish. One of my Holmes County friends says they do hospitality to a level not seen in his own community–really rolling out the red carpet for visitors. I would agree, at least on the Lancaster part.
Not so friendly
The least welcoming places I have experienced were Geauga County, Ohio, and Allen County, Indiana. This was again in the context of selling Bible story books. In Geauga County I was blasted off the front porch on a number of occasions. And you might be thinking, well, salesman, he deserved it.
But you have to understand that I was not a pushy salesperson. In fact downright the opposite. Not to brag, but Amish in other places complemented me all the time on this. It’s why I was able to do well–letting people buy rather than pushing for a sale. I think the Geauga folks must get an inordinately high number of salespeople, however, because that didn’t really happen anywhere else.
The “toughest” Amish in my book, towards outsiders, are the Swiss Amish of Allen County, Indiana. You just felt a shell that was tough to crack. Something silent, in the body language or tone of voice, repelling you. Eventually I must have cracked the code, as they bought lots of books from me. I think they started to soften once they saw I had been around awhile.
I’m also going to say I found some very warm people in both of these communities. And admittedly “friendliness” is in the end a rather superficial way to judge someone. I suppose I can’t really blame anyone if they want nothing to do with me. But my impression of the overall character, after a couple of weeks in each place, is what it is.
So…would you agree with these? What other Amish communities are friendly (or not so much)?
Image credit: Lancaster couple by Ed C.