6 Reasons Why the Amish Fascinate Us

It’s safe to say the past few years have seen increased interest in the Amish. We can see this, among other ways, by the sheer amount of cultural offerings–books, TV, films, and so on–appearing on the scene.

This Washington Post slideshow provides a brief listing of reasons why.  It accompanies a column on Amish interest which takes as its jumping-off point the popularity of the Amish Mafia TV show.

Here are 6 reasons people are so fascinated by the Amish, according to the WaPo slideshow:

1. “The non-Amish have nostalgia for a life without technology.”
2. “They’re our neighbors, but we hardly know them.”
3. “From farming to craftsmanship, many of the skills of the Amish remind us of a bygone era.”
4. “A yearning for old-fashioned simplicity”.
5. “We love the idea of the Amish rumspringa.”
6. “The Amish have given us incredible examples of Christianity in action.”

I have heard more complicated explanations, but we seem to have many of the most-commonly cited reasons here.

My interest (a partial explanation)

I can relate to most of these, though I’d say much of my interest is rooted in #2.  In well over 400 places in America and Canada, Amish are neighbors to non-Amish. This will only increase with time.

Neighbors of different cultures and values will hit rough patches from time to time.  And conflicts stemming from Amish/non-Amish differences often lead us to issues important to society as a whole.  Examples include controversies over school busing, patriotism, child-rearing, and public health.

amish-fascinationOn the other side of that coin, I have a soft spot for stories of cultural coming-together.  Amish and their non-Amish neighbors give us plenty of these as well, as seen when English support Amish benefit events, or when Amish do disaster relief work.

I also have an interest in geography, which ties into #2.  I first learned about the Amish firsthand, traveling to the nooks and crannies of the country, and only later read the books and heard the lectures on them.  The Amish for me are tied to obscure places on the map you’d never know of otherwise.  And the Lodis and Beevilles of America are of as much (or more) interest to me as the New Yorks and LAs.

Do the above reasons describe why you are interested in the Amish?

Are any of them better at explaining public fascination with the Amish than others?

What could be added to the WaPo list?

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    1. Because they seem prepared for the future

      My interest goes back to my grandmother, who was fascinated by the Amish, but it ways that make me cringe. She thought of visiting “Pennsylvania Dutch Country” as a tourist attraction, like Santa’s Village in NH. Back when I was a child in the 60s, it seemed like fun.

      Now, I am fascinated, but not because of any nostalgia, simplicity or religious reasons. I think the Amish seem well prepared for whatever the future brings in ways that I am not. I would like to know how to farm, build, engineer like the Amish do. If our future holds even more amazing technology, I’d be one of the early adopters, but I still wonder if amazing technology will bring us down. I don’t worry about it, just wonder.

      1. It is something to wonder about. I think one reason Amish generally try to err on the side of tradition is because of the threat of unforeseen consequences. By the way, great concept with the orphaned postcards site. Now I understand your previous comment on the letter-writing post a bit better.

        1. thank you!

          I do enjoy my postcards 🙂 And thank you also for this very interesting site. I’m so glad one of my Twitter friends mentioned that mail-related post.

    2. Wills Kitchen

      A Burdensome Life

      I would dare say most folks wish they were Amish for a basic reason. They see the Amish in their simple hurry and then look at themselves in their complicated hurry. Envy ensues.

      Our reliance on technology means that we as a society have the ability to do more quicker. Even though the tasks seem easier because of tech, I think our beings still get overworked (ironically in comparison to an Amish farmer) because the ease of completing tasks means that we can immediately move to the next task which is the expectation in the modern market place. The nature of technical work means that “work” can be done from the confines of the living room which by its very nature eliminates ones “ability” to rest. We are always gorging on information.

      The Amish farmer is bound by weather and daylight. When can no longer see (or feel his toes) he goes to his “haus” and rests.

      There in lies the envy.

      1. Bordering work and the rest of life

        Good thoughts Wills. Things are less compartmentalized and ordered…one thing I notice when I stay with Amish friends is the rhythm of the day and the set times for minor daily events such as meals. Amish who have moved away from farming to mobile occupations struggle with this more, but there is still a general order to where and when work occurs. Simply not having a computer in the home nor a job that requires one (though it should be said this is not true of all Amish today, at least the part about working on a computer) probably helps in this area as well. Though realistically speaking very few of us will ever drop the computer which is now basically as essential as the car or telephone.

      2. Dave


        Very well said; true and in every day venacular………

    3. I’m going with every one except #5. Maybe another should be added…how close they are with family. Both immediate and extended.

    4. Judith Grober

      Numbers 1,3,4,and6 are the reasons for me-I wish my Faith was as strong as theirs.I know they are not perfect,but I would much enjoy their way of life.When I was between the ages of 8 and 12,my family lived pretty much the way the Amish do,and I believe those were the happiest days of my life.

    5. SharonR

      Why the public is fascinated with the Amish

      I tend to agree with most all of the reasons, why we are so fascinated with the Amish and their way of life. And learning about the Amish, seems to remind me of bygone days, when I was a small child – although my parents and relatives were not Amish, a lot of their lifestyle and ways were very much like them, in most things.

      As for technology that has invaded our lives, I also wonder if that is such a good thing — like Wills Kitchen said, “tech” allows us to do things so much more faster, and to learn about everything and anything, but at what price?

      I admire the Amish that they can keep their faith and survive in this hectic world we live in!

    6. The Amish also have a vision of community that we think is appealing: Your people are always there for you, and your contribution is needed and valued. In reality, such community support can come at a high cost to individuation, and yet, from the outside looking in, we can’t identify who the lonely, frustrated Amish might be. A community like that has a strong gravitation pull in the safety it offers, and the sense of confident identity.

      Then too, the Amish are different, and the American psyche can be zenophobic, though we also harbor affection for the stubbornly different among us.

      1. Good addition to the list Grace, you’re not the only one mentioning community…though as you say adhering to an Amish version of community may cut too hard at liberties we individualistic Americans cherish.

    7. Life without Technology

      Even though the Amish live without technology, they seem to understand its workings as well as those of us who supposedly live with it. My husband and I are in our 70’s. and find the constant changes almost more than we can deal with. We have a cabin in Knox County, OH, built by Amish labor. One time when my husband was driving the foreman to town to get some needed supplies, he was having A LOT of trouble keeping the windshield from fogging up. His passenger said, “You should turn on the air conditioner.” He did. The windshield cleared like magic. My husband laughed and said, “You aren’t supposed to know about things like that.” The Amish man just grinned.

      1. Wills Kitchen

        Now thats funny! The bottom dollar is that they are people too. They do people things and live people lives.

    8. Helen Farrar


      I am going with #2. I think it is important to consider that the Amish may also be curious about mainstream culture and just like; have stereotypes and assumptions that can be overcome with honest friendship and goodwill.

    9. Paul A. B.

      Different "societies"

      I think that many of us look at how cohesive and supportive of its members the Amish communal life is … and then see how wider society tends to break down at times with its harsh individualism, survivalism and alienation. This is all the more keenly felt when the economy stays broken for a long time and people feel all the more alienated from their neighbors. The Amish live an industrious life, which is taught from childhood. Children are not raised in materialism, but learn useful skills and stay productive.

      Just speaking for myself, it is the Amish commitment to these “first values” as I call them that makes me wish our wider society had retained them as well.

      1. Paul I wonder how much of the interest in things like Amish programs and joining the Amish can be traced, at least in part, to the middling-to-poor economy of the last several years. Thanks for the interesting thoughts.

        1. Paul A. B.

          Another thing I forgot to mention was the tradition of being a man of one’s word, and how this ties in to the golden rule.

          It seems to me that the Amish have retained this ethic, while much of society has given it up … with unhappy results. There is a comfort that comes from dealing with people who are conditioned to favor honesty and to mean what they say.

          We live in a society so saturated by marketing and doublespeak, and there is a perception that the Amish are less likely to pull the wool over someone’s eyes (e.g. in a business transaction) because they still understand that to do so would be unethical.

    10. Lattice

      The old way of doing things is quaint and simple, and surely piques the interest of many, but it’s wise to realize that horses & buggies, wringer washers & clotheslines, treadle machines/homemade clothes, gardening and canning, etc. are all very labor intensive and time consuming. Most of our parents and grandparents readily gave these things up for “easier” ways. I enjoy knowing how to do thses things, but am not so sure I would want to have no other option. Though I’ve considered it.

      What attracts me to the Amish is their practice of God’s order. I believe it’s the best way. The women are not loud and attention-getting like in mainstream society. The men express an authentic masculinity (not that “put on” masculinity of aggressive-type actions/boistrous behaviors), and children realize that they are children. They don’t run their households and they recognize that adults are in charge.

      1. Good point on the quaint and simple Lattice. We’re so far removed from some of these ways that it doesn’t register that there was a reason things like the dishwasher and clothes dryer came along. Quaint and simple requires elbow grease.

    11. Rebecca

      Family & Community

      They put family and community at the top of the priority list (second from God). Both parents take a sincere interest in child rearing. During a crisis no one would feel isolated or alone.

      They value kindness and humility over getting ahead and making a name for oneself. They are quiet and firm rather than noisy and pushy.

      Their social values and community are stable and secure.

      They connect with and work in harmony with the natural world.

      etc, etc

    12. In my case...

      I was 22 in the winter of ’85, and had just seen the Harrison Ford movie, Witness. On a visit to southern Michigan that same month I struck up a conversation with an older Amish man, who invited me to his farm to meet his family. I stayed for hours and we talked about the many differences in our cultures. I didn’t know until many years later that he was the bishop in his church. I corresponded with his family over the years, and brought my new bride to meet them as well; she fell in love with them, too. It started with an interest in their Amish-ness, but it was their kindness and friendship that kept us coming back. We loved reading their letters that told of day-to-day living, so uninteresting for them but fascinating for us. And our occasional visits with them were wonderful, filled with lively conversation, card games (with Rook cards, of course), and lots of laughter. Knowing them has changed our lives for the better!

    13. To live only 14 miles away from people who live the plain life still fascinates me. I have compulsive buying habits. I don’t just buy one when 10 is a better bagain. I am friends with 60 families and now look for the bargains for them or their school. My friends do without so many things. I hope to libr lile that someday.

    14. Amish fascinaton book recommendation

      It has often been said that books and shows about the Amish often reflect more on our culture and values at any given time than theirs. We want to see the things in others we want to see, or to prove a point, which can be true of any culture we examine. I highly recommend a read of THE AMISH IN THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION by David Weaver-Zercher.

      1. Thanks Brad and seconded, I meant to mention this book in the post. Also for those interested here is an interview, among other subjects we touch on this topic: https://amishamerica.com/an-amish-america-q-and-a-with-professor-david-weaver-zercher/

    15. Lattice

      Eli! you turned off the “caps lock!” Gee, you read so friendly now 🙂

    16. John Lueders

      The Deep Commitment To Faith

      The only reason to me is their committed, personal and community relationship to God and their faith in Him.

      1. Julie Turner

        Amish Wisdom

        For me I love the Amish because they are wise and just don’t take on every new technology without first thinking if it will beneficial to them. They stick to Gods word and put the Lord first in their lives.

    17. Carolyn B

      My reason for fascination is that I attended public elementary school 30-40 years ago with a few Amish girls who made a quiet but permanent impression on my life. They moved away after 5th or 6th grade but I miss them still.

      1. Wow Carolyn, did not realize that. And funny to think there was a time when it was more common for Amish to attend public than parochial schools. Of course public schools have changed since then.

        1. Carolyn B

          Erik, if I remember correctly there were only three Amish families in the Howell/Texas counties area where I grew up so they probably didn’t have enough for a school. I’m betting state law prohibited them from home-schooling. And it was commonly known they’d stop attending after the eighth grade.

    18. Jo Sweatt

      I love to hear the clip clopping of the horses along the road. It give me a chance to see what earlier life was like. I love the way they are part of a community. Actually that should be on your list!

    19. Erin

      My fascination with the Amish began when I grew up fairly close to the Hutterites in Western Minnesota. Then we interest piqued after reading Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. After googling Amish, I realized that there were many Amish communities in Minnesota so I started planning day trips in/around their communities. I think the fact that they can live amongst us but hold on to their culture is most fascinating to me. When I went to their community store recently, a young Amish man was throwing hay on top of his wagon while directly across the gravel road, a man was harvesting the corn in his huge combine. I think as our technology advances by leaps and bounds, the divide between the Amish and English furthers.

    20. Alice Mary

      Nature, self-sufficiency

      My attraction includes 5 of the 6 “reasons”, and then some. (I’m not so taken with the idea of rumspringa; it doesn’t seem so different from “normal” teen “running around” anywhere.)

      I would add, as my own fascination with the Amish, their seeming “oneness” with nature, and being so self-sufficient. I know farming is dwindling amongst the Amish, but many who don’t make their living farming still seem to have large, productive gardens which provide a lot of their food. Having done a little canning myself, I appreciate the work, care, and superior end-product that goes into “growing/canning your own.” Chopping firewood for heat or cooking, hunting (providing meat), raising chickens (eggs, etc.) and a dairy cow or two (milk, butter, cheese) are such primal links to nature…and the Amish “waste not.” This all leads to their self-sufficiency, being off the grid (which certainly appeals to me when I open a utility bill that’s constantly rising). How satisfying to know you can “do without” yet thrive and lead a happy, fulfilling life!

      And yes, their close family & community ties (what a blessing to have “many hands & hearts” to depend on in trying times) are a big part of their appeal to me!

      Alice Mary

      1. SharonR

        Nature and self-sufficiency AMEN!

        Amen, to that Alice Mary — You’ve hit the nail on the head, I think — I know our culture (modern day) cannot all return to the simple lifestyles, but we all could learn a thing or two from the Amish ways, of hard work, family, faith, forgiveness and love, community and self-sufficiency!

    21. Annmarie

      I think I am fascinated with the Amish for all reasons except #5. They are such a tight knit community, family a top priority and they truly are living examples of Christianity. With that being said, it conjures up images of the past when this was most people’s lifestyle. While they were fast to adopt the technological advances, I do not think they envisioned the detached society we would become. All this technology at our fingertips….so calculus problems are easy to do with google…yet kids do not even know how to address an envelope. I watch Little House on the Prairie with my kids bc I want them to see what our society “once” was…to me the Amish are an extension of this. Living their lives like they did on LH on the prairie. Since I live right out of NYC, I feel like I am surrounded by such a materialism and bigger is better attitude. This is another reason I am drawn to Amish-the SIMPLE is better attitude. I can NOT tell you how hard I work to keep my kids away from the lures of materialism. And I must say that I did receive the best compliment the other day-in regards to how different my kids are. I tell them often..when they are asking for another object…You only have WANTS not needs…I will address the needs and the wants we will revisit later. I know Amish life is not perfect, but to have the temptations that face our modern day kids…makes me want to relocate to the Amish..lol.. 🙂 loved this topic!!! And all the comments!!

      1. Enjoyed your comment myself Annmarie, and the other ones here. Great discussion.

        I visited NYC this summer, just for a day, while staying in Lancaster at Amish friends’ farm. I woke with the rooster at 4 am, took Amtrak from Lancaster City station for a day in Manhattan, and then returned late and weary to my Amish bed. Quite a contrast for one day 🙂

    22. Diane Paulson


      I’ve read all the comments and agree with almost all of them. One that stands out in my mind, especially because of exposure to the Lancaster Amish, may seem trivial to some, but because of my visually attuned nature, the colors they wear enchant me, and also the colors used in their older quilt patterns. The saturated purples, blues, greens and blacks, with occasional red in some quilts, somehow reaches into my soul. Also the open, simple, clean and sweeping nature of their fields and homes somehow reaches into me too. They are a consistent witness to the world of how Christianity can be lived and not just talked.

    23. Al in Ky.

      Could it be that we really have within us a longing for
      –meaningful work/daily activity,
      –a living, active faith in God,
      –a supportive community of family and friends, and
      –enjoyment in the simple pleasures of life?

      We sense that many Amish have these as the
      essence of their lives and we desire to learn
      how we may have them,too.

    24. Dave

      1. “The non-Amish have nostalgia for a life without technology.”
      Technology is very hard to use appropriately. It is a servant that has become a master for many. The first two uses of the Gutenberg press was creating a Bible & Porn. Lights to make streets safer, then extend the working day. It is all how english culture uses technology in sinful or excessive ways.

      2. “They’re our neighbors, but we hardly know them.” Amish place community before self. The comfort that brings with finances, insurance, help, and advice is many times better than what the english have. Often are neighbors are a source for envy. Now conforming has a price to some in terms of wealth individuality and other acheavement, but many see that as a small sacrafice.

      3. “From farming to craftsmanship, many of the skills of the Amish remind us of a bygone era.” Amish ethics avoid the disposable where possible because it is wasteful. Wasteful is bad stewardship.

      4. “A yearning for old-fashioned simplicity”. English lives are becoming more and more complex. Houses, cars, diets, clothing, entertainment, over/behind the counter med, investments, etc…. The complexity is adding more and more stress. We feel less control. We forget the one true God because all we see are weeds and thorns demanding more time.

      5. “We love the idea of the Amish rumspringa.” Who wouldn’t like running away from reponsibility. I called it College.

      6. “The Amish have given us incredible examples of Christianity in action.” When done right, fine Christian missionaries to us all. Katrina relief, Nickle Mines forgiveness. They are not Saints… no one is. They have crime, drug abuse, Alchoholism, depression, unwed moms, etc…. Some districts have a high incidence of sexual abuse.

      What is amazing, we don’t have to be Amish to live like them…

      1. Everett

        Great comment Dave.

    25. Everett

      My reason

      While I’m certainly attracted to the simple life of the Amish, I don’t think it would be enough to hold me. I am a born-again Christian and the appeal to me is their willingness to forsake the things of this world so as to not compromise themselves and lose their witness for Christ. I admire their resolve to be in the world, but not of it. That’s not to say I’m naive. Amish are humans and humans are sinners. No institution is perfect and as a human institution I don’t doubt there is corruption of their ideals (both among individuals and corporately). I also differ with some Amish theologically (i.e. assurrance of salvation and shunning), but how I wish it weren’t so. I would be happy to join a group of believers so dedicated to rejecting worldly values, but I can’t get past these issues.

    26. Katrina

      One more reason-family history of being Amish

      For some of us, our ancestors were Amish. In my family, my dad’s side was Old Order. My grandfather and his siblings were the first non-Amish generation. My great grandparents left the Amish faith in their early twenties-the exact reason they left has been the subject of much discussion in my family over the years. We still don’t know why-they would never discuss it. We have exactly ONE photo of my greatgrandmother taken a few years before she died as an old woman in the 1930’s; and ONE photograph of my greatgrandfather taken when he was in his midtwenties. He died in his mid thirties. We still have cousins who are Amish.My friends have told me for decades that I remind them of a woman who should have lived in a previous century. The “Amish ethics” as my family calls them, are still ingrained very deeply in our family.

      1. Amish roots in English families

        Katrina I bet there are a lot like you with similar stories of Old Order roots, especially since so many who were originally Amish became a part of more progressive churches over their history in N. America, either individually or via wider movements.

        The majority of those calling themselves Amish in the mid 1800s eventually became something else while the Old Order faction emerged and forged a different path leading to the OOA churches of today.

        I sometimes wonder how many Old Order Amish there would be today if large numbers hadn’t taken a progressive turn. It would take a little math but probably not too hard to get an estimate.

    27. Number six for me. They have such a strong testimony without ever opening their mouths.

    28. It's all about Jesus...

      Actually, the Amish are not self-sufficient, they are God-sufficient.

      Truly it’s #6 ~ seeing the Word of God thread through their daily life. I spent this past Saturday with an Amish family, and as usual, hated to leave once the day was over. All my Amish friends are an inspiration to me, and encourage me to have a closer {and more narrow} walk with Jesus.

    29. Chris


      Amish, mainly live very Distributist lives. Distributism being a Catholic economic/life view. The only difference, distributists are not against all technology and modern ways.

    30. Another Reason

      I believe one big reason so many women read Amish novels is because they secretly desire to see men who act like men and women who act like women. In the real world we’re told to be politically correct about everything or possibly face losing our friends or even paying a fine. God made us splendidly different on purpose, and we’re not allowed to say that anymore.

      1. Me

        Almost all romances have strong male characters, and that includes just about anything, including men who can cook and who are good with children. I’ve read them all, believe me. No matter what, a man is a man, and a woman a woman. I understand what you’re saying. You’re being extreme about gender roles. I like some of the sanctity of that. I have not been fortunate to have a decent relationship, and in the times I grew up in I did not get to enjoy chivalry and generous men to take care of me. You can say that is an unfortunate side effect of feminism that men have fallen into. Still, we are not so different as human beings, we are flesh and blood and I don’t think we will ever change so much to stop being attracted to the opposite sex no matter what society is like.

    31. Me


      A simple lifestyle, and a religious based lifestyle. I don’t think they are overly Christian, however, as in #6. I don’t think they love englishers as they love themselves.

    32. Sense of belonging

      I envy the Amish their community, their sense of belonging. Isolation and lack of social network is becoming an ever-bigger problem in mainstream US society, and to look at what the Amish have constructed for themselves is to think, “Gee, I wish I had a group where I really felt I belonged.”

    33. DeeDee


      One of these things are not like the others…why would I love the idea of Amish rumspinga when that’s the few years of their lives when they are most like the rest of us?

    34. a good read to help understand the Amish is a book "Amish Grace" nonfiction

      I don’t know if you are familiar with the book or not but, when I do programs about the Amish I always recommend this book. I grew up in the Amish faith and did leave at the age of 18. I am now 80yoa and have always maintained a very good relationship with my family and any of the Amish communities that I have visited. I agree with 5 of the reasons but not really with the rumspringa where I came from I did not feel I was given that kind of an opportunity. I had run away twice before I was 18 and then I made the decission to just leave and so advised my parents. Before I left I lived in the Jamesport, MO. community. I just finished reading all the comments above and felt I needed to put in my two cents worth. Blessings to all.