Do we romanticize the Amish?

When I first began spending time with the Amish, I felt like I was entering another world.  I would drive my car from gritty Decatur, Illinois, where I was living for the summer while selling books, 45 minutes southeast to the farms, fields and fresh air of Moultrie County.

Crossing into “Amish territory”, it seemed like I passed through an invisible border.  Much of what I encountered on the other side seemed foreign, exotic, inverted, compared to what I was used to in “English” society.

romanticize amishDuring the first few weeks of my time with the Amish,  I was spending 14 hours a day at Amish homes and farms, and the contrasts with what I was used to in the English world were stark.  It felt great to be among  these people, who really seemed to value the purer and simpler aspects of life.  I am sure I romanticized–or perhaps a better word would be sentimentalize–the Amish when I first met  them.

As time passed, some of the impressions I had changed.  I learned that Amish have problems of their own.  Amish life isn’t always so idyllic–just ask an Amish housewife with a croupy infant and major baking to do on a 90-degree day.  Some Amish I met were downright rude.  Others, in the lifestyle they led, seemed to be further from a Plain life than I’d supposed.

Penn State professor Julia Spicher Kasdorf has commented on the tendency to romanticize the Amish in a recent article on the university website.  “Since the 1970s, an idealized stereotype has emerged,” she explains, “where Amish people are seen as products of a happier time when individuals lived in harmony with one another, the earth, and God.”

“We like to believe that life was simpler, better, safer before we fell into the evils of modernity, and that the Amish haven’t fallen yet”, she adds.

I think she hits the nail on the head here.  Regardless, I still feel there are plenty of positives about Amish life worth pondering and appreciating.  Among others, Christian-rooted concepts of community, humility, and mutual aid.

And of course, the flip side to this question is: “Do we demonize the Amish?”

Spicher Kasdorf notes that not all stereotypes of the Amish are positive.  In the negative column you could put puppy mills, taxes, education, genetic diseases, manure, patriarchy, pacifism…Amish have been criticized over all these issues at different points in their history–and in many cases still are today.

Amish, of course, would prefer to be neither romanticized nor demonized.

Though if you asked an Amishman which of the two is more detrimental, I am not sure what he would say.

Photo credit: las-initially

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    1. Al in Ky.

      Thanks for a most interesting post. In my years of experiences
      with Amish people, I’ve sometimes over-romanticized “the Amish”
      myself. I don’t think I ever was unrealistic about what many
      see as the idyllic aspects of Amish rural farm life. I grew up
      on a small family farm and for me there’s not too much romantic
      or sentimental about cleaning out manure pens, loading haybales
      by hand in 90 degree heat, butchering hogs, or going out to the
      fields trying to find lost sheep in the midst of a snowstorm. Yet
      all of these things are often part of rural farm life — as lived
      by many Amish today.
      Yet there were other parts of Amish life I’ve had the tendency
      to romanticize. I remember the first time I saw an Amish woman
      in a grocery store with her basket filled with cheap white bread,
      lots of chips, and Twinkies. I wanted to tell her, “Put that
      stuff back and go get the whole wheat flour and dried prunes you’re
      supposed to eat.” And the first time I saw an Amish teenage girl
      riding in a buggy playing a hand-held video game I wanted to tell
      her, “If you need some entertainment go back home and work on
      some quilts with your mother like you’re supposed to do.”
      So, just as you said, we need to neither romanticize nor
      demonize the Amish. I am very grateful for getting to know better several Amish people in the past couple of years. I think we’ve
      learned from each other.

    2. Alice Aber

      Good morning!!

      I think in this hurried world today, especially for those of us who are a little older, we tend to romanticize the Amish because we remember the days before cell phones, ipods, computers, hundreds of channels on the TV and all the “got to have it” gadgets of the “I want it now” generation. When we were kids, we played outside, we didn’t have the Xbox, Wii and other computerized games. We made our own fun. Neighbors helped neighbors in time of need. And by golly you knew who your neighbors were.

      Were times easier back then? No, days were long with hard work. But we tend to forget about the struggles and the hardships and think only of the good times. We see the Amish as having what we lost so many years ago. “The good times and simple times.” And just as we tend to forget about the struggles of our days gone by, we turn a blind eye to the struggles of the Amish.

      I remember baking and sweating in the hot summer. Doing laundry either by hand or with an old wringer washer where you had to hand feed the clothes through the wringer. But do I dwell on how hard it was or the struggles, no. I don’t think most of us do because in our minds we are searching for the perfect life. So we take away the bad and only remember the good.

      The Amish, in a sense represent bits and pieces of nostalgia in our own lives of long ago.

      Do the Amish have faults? Yup, don’t we all?

      I know the same feeling you experienced when you left Decatur Erik, it does feel like you are going into a different world. I feel it every time I go down to Arthur, which is in Douglas County, right next to Moultrie. The further I get out into the country the more peace I feel come over me. All of a sudden I am not rushed any more. I become more laid back and want to take my time and just enjoy it.

      It feels like the first buggy sign I see the stress is lifting off my shoulders. I’m not so sure it is just do to the Amish rather than the country side. There is less traffic, less rushing around and beautiful scenery to enjoy. And then when you get into Arthur, most people are friendly, polite and curteous. It just makes it all that more enjoyable.

      Just my thoughts for the day. Erik I am happy your family is OK after the storms!!

      Blessings, Alice

      1. Janis Mckiddy


        I absolutely love the Amish. They are just like us. They deserve all the respect we can give them.

    3. Csarina

      I do not think I do where others might. having also been brought up on a farm where hard work was the norm I am well aware of the drawbacks. We had gas light and no washers etc when I was small, laundry was done in the bath and I was encouraged by my mother to jump on the clothes in the bath. Wringing them out was a two person job until a very large old fashioned mangle appeared given to us by a neighbourgh who had just aquaired a lighter one. Mother was also given a dolly tub and posher which was an end to my jumping up and down on the sheets etc in the bath. It was many years before she bought a twin tub washing machine to make life a little easier.

      We had a stove very similar to the ones the Amish use in the kitchen and it was lit all year round, until we got the electricity put in, then a small electric cooker was obtained from the second hand shop so we could allow the stove to go out in the worst of the summer heat

      When house work, cooking, washing etc was not being done, it was feeding the poultry, collecting eggs, feeding and mucking out the pigs and gardening, growing fruit and vegetables.

      It was a hard life but rewarding in many ways……..

    4. Richard (

      Interesting post Erik. When i was a kid i definitely looked at the Amish in A different way, so it was definitely in a naive way for me. I did always looked at them as real people and not as some kind of cartoon characters though, but to sum it all up id say i thought of them as being very “mysterious”. Now as a adult and especially dealing with them at one time on somewhat of a business level when i sold some of their wooden items when i had my small little business, i know them a lot better now. So trust me when i say i fully understand that the Amish are human, with all the negatives and positives that we English have. And for me anyway its not that the Amish are any better people than we are, i think the key for them that separates them from the rest of the world other than the obvious dress and transportation mode is the way they believe to go through life. So for me about the Amish is how they conduct themselves with, and in the world that makes the difference. I was in Lancaster a few weeks ago taking some Pictures in a small town with prominently old order Mennonites, In a park were some old order Mennonite teens paying baseball. Now having lived in New York city when younger and playing stick ball and reg baseball, i almost didn’t recognize that it was the same game. In our New York city game you would have heard a lot of cursing, trying to hit someone in the head with a ball during pitches, and just a general sloppiness from a band of hoodlums. With these young Old order Mennonites you had politeness, cheering even for the other side when at bat, and a very wholesome clean look. I said to myself after leaving that baseball game” those kids were brought-up right”, and this takes me back to what i said originally, its about how they conduct themselves which to me is a product of the values instilled in them while growing up. I look at the Amish and old order Mennonites in a much more different way than i did when i was much younger, in a more mature way i think. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to be as perfect a human being as they can be, and sometimes that creates a few more negatives than positives for maybe a few of them in the process i think. So in the end I’m not wearing rose colored glasses when i view the Amish, but i think i might even respect them more than i ever did as i see the world around me change. And those differences become more and more apparent as time goes on. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    5. Katie Troyer

      I was born and raised Amish, so I am going to write two incidents where our neighbor turned against us for being Plain or Amish. When I was in my mid teens, my parents sold a piece of land to a West Virginia couple who had never lived near Amish. In the process of time we took a family trip to visit cousins over a weekend. My two older siblings stayed at home and since Mom & Dad were gone, along with nine kids, they decided to host an Amish Beer Party, which they did. That was the end of our relationship with our new neighbors and soon they sold out and moved elsewhere, sick of the Amish.

      The next incident happen as an adult. I had gone with a movement to Tennessee to start up a new Plain settlement. One of our Englisher neighbors almost worshipped the dirt we walked on for about six months or so. And then he turned against us and hated the very ground we walk on. I never found out the details but something happened between us and this neighbor that brusted his bubble of who we are or want to be…

      1. the Amish live sustainably - full marks

        My parents raised a family of eleven children using farming methods similar to those used in the Amish and Mennonite communities. I am full of admiration that you have continued with these methods but the UK have adopted mechanization with a CAPITAL M . In 50 to 100 years from now we will be begging for food from the farmers who still use sustainable methods

    6. Magdalena

      I grew up in rural Maine, in the far north. My parents had a modern house, all electric (my father worked for the power company) but my grandparents and great-grandparents still heated with wood, as did many of my neighbours. We were part of a very old-fashioned Baptist church, near plain until the late sixties, when the Baptist church overall started to change theological direction. My first encounter with Plain people were a couple of Mennonite families who had moved to Maine. I honestly didn’t find them much different from my own family as it used to be, except for headcovering and the men and women sitting separately at church. It was later that I started to read Anabaptist theology and history. The Plain people my mother had known growing up had been Quakers, and I think to some degree she had emulated them. So I don’t think I was ever all that romantic about the Amish – although a little envious at times! We live Plain now, except for having electricity in the house, as it is rented. We have lived off-grid, and are looking for ways to convert to less dependence on the power grid now. We keep ourselves separate from the world in many ways. No television, no movies, no following of fashion or trends – although we have the internet, obviously!

    7. Dean

      “Gritty” is a great word to describe Decatur, though, “smelly” would also have been acceptable.

      I often drive through rural Moultrie County and what I love to see are the Amish vegetable gardens. I’ve done enough farm work to appreciate modern machinery and sure don’t romanticize that aspect but dang am I jealous of those beautiful vegetable patches.

    8. Misty

      I think the most important thing to remember is, the Amish, like the rest of us, are just people. As a whole, we see them as a very devout Christian group, but individually, they are going to be variations. Some will be grumpy by nature others kind. We don’t judge all Catholics or Protestant like we judge the Amish, I think we want them all to be perfect! Their dress is what sets them apart, as it should with Christians, we believe, so they are easy to spot. Our family dresses plain as well and I know folks seem to “expect” a more Godly demeanor from us, which is a good thing, but at times when your shopping and the 2 yr old has had it and you are very low on patience, I wish I didn’t stand out! I am an Ambassador for Christ and one must act accordingly!
      Very good post, it really made me think, times here are very busy, freight truck comes tom. then we’re off to our Missouri Amish Farm!!!!!
      Have a blessed day,

    9. Beth

      Becasue I write Amish fiction I can definitely say that our society does romanticize the Amish. Readers can’t get enough of the Amish life style and traditions. They don’t want to read non-fiction Amish, they want the story as they think it should be in their minds, which is very often not accurate. I do a lot of research and have a theme in mind so readers can see more of the reality in being Amish. Although their struggles may be different than ours they are very real and can be just as difficult. In visiting a local Mennonite group by me I have gotten to know them as individuals, and they are not so different than the people in my own neigihborhood. Their life style is what I’ve had to learn and the many different groups and how they differ from one another, traditions and rules etc. This blog is one of my research tools so kudo’s to you Krik. You do a great job!

    10. Mark

      The Amish as an Anachronism

      The Amish in American culture are not only romanticized but they are part of our collective unconscious when it comes to a part of American psyche that is purer than the time and place we live in today.
      No matter how dark the economic news is or scandalous the morals on TV are portrayed, I as an American somethings think, well at least we still have the Amish. They represent a higher ground of American culture.
      They play and part in my psyche as an American, like Mark Twain or Abe Lincoln. So do we Romanticize about the Amish? I do. This is because as a society, even with the flaws and troubles, they represent and a living ideal and one of the things that makes me proud to be American.

    11. Mary Brandenburg

      In Agreement with Misty

      Misty, of the above posts, I like your’s the best. In the 3 years that my DH and I have been going to Holmes County to hang out with our O.O. Amish friends, I have gone from romaticizing them to really understanding that, at the end of the day, they are people, just like all of the rest of us. I have read many books (by the “scholars”) about the Amish. I have had hundreds of conversations with “Mary, Naomi, Abe, Atlee, Betty, David, Larry”, etc. And one thing is for certain – not one statement about the “AMISH” is true for every single Amish person. Whether it be about dress, house, spirituality, etc. – they are all different and all are at different levels in the world we generalize as AMISH. Thanks for your post – it really says alot!

    12. Richard (

      I see there has been a lot of passionate comments posted since i left mine this morning. Its really the kind of topic that will get a lot of strong reactions from readers like ourselves that feel very strongly about the Amish. And its only now that i knew Beth wrote Amish fiction, and that brings up another question. Does such writing only fan the fires of misinformation on how folks see the Amish?, or do most people know better and realize that the story lines are just fiction with a questionable portrayal of the Amish at best?. In fact i had that sort of discussion with a reader on my own blog just recently regarding novels based on the Amish, so i found that topic alone interesting in itself. I realize that a lot of people really “like”, wrong word “love” is a better description on how folks feel about them. To me these books are harmless, as long as you know the difference between make believe and reality. Good topic today Eric, and if you ever want long thought- out comments from your readers, these are the type of post that we will react to. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    13. Richard (

      And Beth please don’t think i was picking on you during my last comment post, i admire someone who has the ability and imagination to write something that folks want to read, and buy with their hard earned money today. Richard from Lebanon,Pa

    14. Beth

      No worries, Richard. I was more concerned about misspelling Erik’s name:) As I stated in my post I do a lot of research and spend time with the Amish so my stories are pretty accurate and I try to shed a realistic idea of Amish life. Although, I do ask my publisher to add a disclaimer reminding readers that it is fiction…etc. And my books lean more towards women’s fiction, although my stories are hard to brand into one genre, drives my agent crazy:) I think it’s great that people want to learn more about the Amish and their ways. It’s much better than a lot of what’s out there”)

    15. OldKat

      I think our society as a whole does romanticize the Amish culture for the reasons many of you have pointed out. I wonder how much of that is caused by us projecting our values, fears, likes and dislikes onto them. Sometimes they are seen as being some sort of “perfect society”. Of course it can also go the other way, too. I once was riding with a guy that was employed by the same company I was and we were driving through an Amish community somewhere north or maybe northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. He mentioned that many of the local people did not “like” the Amish in that area. I asked why and he said that the Amish were “greedy’ and caused a lot of problems for the community because they plowed their fields to the very edge of the county road ditches and then when it rained soil and silt from the fields would run off into the ditches and this would cause them to plug up and sometimes it would result in localized flooding. I looked at the fields and saw what he was talking about. There was no “turn row” to speak of. The field was plowed clear to the edge of the ditch. Why is this? My guess was because whereas a tractor and a large disc or plow requires a big turn row to turn around, the Amish with their relatively compact equipment pulled by horses could do this in a lot less space. Therefore there was no reason for them to not use that land. I asked the guy I was with; “Do you know if anyone from the county has ever gone to them and asked them to NOT plow so close to the ditch?” He looked at me like I was from outer space and mumbled something about it wouldn’t do any good anyway. He called them greedy again and so I let it slide. I don’t think anyone in that Amish community saw any issue with what they were doing and while the “English” community did see a problem with it, apparently no one was communicating this to the Amish. The people in the community that saw a problem with this behavior were looking at the situation and seeing greed (use of ever inch of available farm land) and the Amish probably saw it as being prudent; not letting good land go unused. Like Katie Troyer alluded to, sometimes it our perception of the situation that is off … the Amish are just doing what they would normally do.

      One time I mentioned the above situation and a couple of other similar cases that I was familiar with to a young Amish man that had some business dealings with and his response was nearly word for word what Misty said. He replied; “You know; we are just human, too”. I try to keep that in mind as I think about the Amish people and their customs and beliefs. They are just human, too.

      Great question, Erik. Great posts everyone. Some real thinkers hang out around this site.

    16. Richard (

      Thanks for correcting me on the spelling of Erik’s name Beth, i think they call that a zinger. My spelling may not be up to the quality of a writer perhaps, but ill match my passion in what i write with anyone , misspellings and all. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    17. Beth

      No, I spelled his name wrong, not you, Ha! And I’m the writer:(

    18. Being a light

      Very interesting comments, I agree with Oldkat on the thoughtfulness of what people are sharing here–thank you all very much.

      First I should add that I am not knocking anyone that might romanticize the Amish…most people don’t know Amish personally, or might just experience Amish society from a distance, ie via a limited tourist experience or a short business exchange, etc. To be honest it was just through a quirk of experience that I came to know anything about the Amish myself (if you’ve read the preface of my business book, you’re probably familiar with the story). I consider myself very fortunate that happened.

      People get information about Amish from books, films, websites like this one and others, popular media, and hearsay. So depending on the mix of sources it can be easy to develop a perception of Amish that is skewed towards romanticization (or demonization…) and especially so if someone just has limited contact with Amish as described above. And in cases where folks do meet the Amish a single instance or chance encounter becomes a defining experience, which ends up coloring perceptions long-term for better or worse.

      Additionally, and this point was made by Julia Kasdorf in the article and by Mary Brandenburg above(thanks Mary), with all the flavors of Amishness out there, seeing groups that do one thing and then those that do another can lead to confusion; extrapolating from one group to say “all Amish…” can be hazardous.

      I was not raised Amish myself and do not claim to have anything near perfect knowledge but after a fairly broad and deep experience I am trying to give Amish society a fair shake while acknowledging the many nuances and differences found in Amish life.

      At the same time I am probably still guilty of a degree of “romanticization” myself…the fact remains that I admire the Amish so I am positively predisposed to them (if I weren’t, I would not spend near the time I do on this site). However I do acknowledge that Amish are people and have flaws and problems too(and try not to gloss those over when they arise here), which is what I think they would want others to realize about them.

      So I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that I can see why we might romanticize the Amish, and that it is easy to do so, but that I hope (humbly!) this site might be a useful resource given that the Amish seem to be showing up more and more in the public consciousness and (as they continue to migrate to new places) directly in people’s everyday lives.

      And finally I should add that I don’t think Amish lie awake at nights worrying about what we think of them, though I do think the Christian sentiment “be a light” is prevalent among many Amish, and that they are aware that people can be inspired by their example in different ways and to different (hopefully good) ends.

      So to a degree I think the way we perceive them matters. To take one of the most obvious examples there were some comments from Amish after the Nickel Mines school shooting acknowledging that the tragedy may have been a way for God to send a message of forgiveness to the world.

    19. Richard (

      Sorry Beth, i was in attack mode on that one,lol. If my ego was not like it is, id almost feel like the fool,lol. Your a good sport and maybe if you wish, drop over to my little blog and promote your books. Would you ever consider doing that even on very small but pretty neat little Amish related blogs?. well its dinner time, so im off to eat some crow, ill drop by one last time later. Richard from Lebanon,Pa

    20. Tom

      I believe there are elements of romanticism when it comes to the Amish for many Americans. I believe that their plain dress and living habits make them seem opposite from us moderns. But anyone who has spent time in and around the Amish soon learns that they are people, complete with all talents and flaws bestowed upon the human species as a whole. Some seem to believe that the Amish are deeply religious and this is what their culture is set upon. But as Erick points out
      “As time passed, some of the impressions I had changed. I learned that Amish have problems of their own. Amish life isn’t always so idyllic–just ask an Amish housewife with a croupy infant and major baking to do on a 90-degree day. Some Amish I met were downright rude. Others, in the lifestyle they led, seemed to be further from a Plain life than I’d supposed.”

      I once read a Book Old Order Mennonites: rituals, beliefs, and community by Daniel B. Lee. In this book he argues that being an old order Mennonite is simply assimilating to the old order culture. That being Old Order Mennonite does not mean that all Mennonites believe the same way on all theological doctrine, but even if there are variables to belief, all in the society are conjoined by daily behavior and practices and rituals that they all observe, making their society possible. In short they all follow a set of rules that are the same for their culture and this is what makes them old order Mennonites, and the religious beliefs are only one piece of the puzzle and not the whole as many assume.

      My time around the Amish has led me to see how such a conclusion could be reached with them as well. I have seen some Amish that are very religious and others more temperate in their faith. In short Amish culture much like our own is a society of individuals, while they all may not agree on all aspects of their rules governing daily life, their choice to outwardly follow them is what keeps them joined with their peers.

      I shall not end this comment without pointing out how the local Amish community has influenced my own life personally. Five years ago I had never grew a flower much less plants that produced food. But interacting with them and having the good fortune of sampling from dirt to table produce I too, started growing a garden and planting fruit trees. I stopped taking my vehicle to the local garages for basic maintenance, and learned how to fix them myself. I also learned how to work with wood and complete basic carpentry projects. All of this is no doubt due to me observing how they lived, and a bit of arm twisting to get a little advice from them on some of my projects.

      But I owe them a Thank You for showing me the value behind such task. Before I got to know the Amish community I too, romanticized them or perhaps envied their lifestyle. I thought how fortunate it would be to live such a plain life without the distractions of modern life complete with all the headaches. But as time went on I also learned that some of them thought I was the one who had it made, because of the tools I had at my disposal. In the end we are able to learn from each other, sure there remain stark differences between our two cultures but also a realization that we are all human.

    21. Amish fiction

      Just two quick follow-on comments as an aside–

      Beth feel free to call me “Krik”,I’ve been called worse 🙂 It is nice to hear from someone that writes fiction…I do admire your craft, which I think takes a lot of creativity and imagination but at the same time a grounding in reality which as you point out you work hard to achieve. I certainly don’t think I’d be able to write fiction, or at least not to write it well!

    22. Decatur, IL smell

      And #2–

      Dean, you mention “smelly” would be an acceptable way to describe Decatur…I don’t want to pick on the town but if things today are like they were in 2004, I’d have to agree.

      From what I understand the rancid stench that drifts through the town originates from both ADM and Staley, two big industrial grain processors with large operations in town. I really don’t know how to put this nicely, but for the time I lived there that was about the most stomach-churning agricultural or industrial stench I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience…nearly indescribable but something like rancid chicken, at least to these nostrils.

      It seemed to roam about the town based on however the winds might have been blowing at the time…I think I am on the sensitive side when it comes to smells (cigarette smoke drives me crazy) but I know I’m not the only one that has noticed it. Again, not to knock the place, but I would find it hard to live there.

      Incidentally ADM is the company featured in the recent based-on-a-true-story film The Informant.

    23. Richard (

      And before i really go, i think you summed it all up in your last comment Erik on how at least i feel, and I’m sure most everyone else does as well.In a perfect world, the Amish to me represent all the “good” that at least someone of this world can possess. I see them not how id like to see them, but as people who are really trying, trying to be the best human being that one can be. And to me that’s all you really can do,……… is to try. Richard from Lebanon county.

    24. Beth

      What great responses to the topic, Erik, or Krik when my dyslexia takes over, yes, a dyslestic writer, go figure:) It’s interesting to see people passionate about this. I apprecaite your supportive words Erik. Your blog has helped me with a lot of good material, so don’t go fiction, we need to keep you writing non-fiction”) And just so you all know, Richard and I have exchanged emails so we can tease each other that way instead of through the blog:)

    25. Amish fiction accuracy?

      Glad if my comment was of any use Richard…I guess it was long, if that counts for anything 🙂 I do think Amish would agree that they are trying. And of course that is not always easy, Amish or not.

      You know you raise an interesting issue on Amish fiction–to be honest I don’t know that I can comment on accuracy, as my experience with Amish fiction is limited–I do know that a lot of writers make effort to get the details right. I imagine results would vary.

      There are also some Amish-raised (and even one Amish!) fiction writers as well, who I would think would have an interesting perspective.

      Beth or another Amish fiction writer can probably comment better than I can on what people are interested in. But to be honest my first guess would be that people would probably want to feel that what they are reading reflects reality to some degree–just like with people buying Amish-made products, authenticity would be important.

      However, I do notice that above Beth wrote that “They don’t want to read non-fiction Amish, they want the story as they think it should be in their minds, which is very often not accurate.” That is interesting to hear and also I think pretty plausible. If the reason people read fiction is escapism, then I suppose specific details would take less precedence compared with the narrative and the characters.

    26. "un-Amish" situations

      Beth, thank you, and don’t worry, I am happy where I am 🙂

      Many good comments and I’d like to get to more but it is getting late (midnight+) where I am…

      But going back to Al way up at the very top in comment #1 slot, I appreciated your thoughts on not romanticizing farming, as a born and bred city slicker I have some holes in my education, which I guess may be one reason the ADM smell in Decatur gets to me 😉

      I also found this bit of your comment quite funny and reflective of what a lot of people must feel the first time they see an Amishman flip open a cellphone or saddle up to the counter at Burger King or any of the many “un-Amish” situations we “catch” them in:

      I remember the first time I saw an Amish woman
      in a grocery store with her basket filled with cheap white bread,
      lots of chips, and Twinkies. I wanted to tell her, “Put that
      stuff back and go get the whole wheat flour and dried prunes you’re
      supposed to eat.” And the first time I saw an Amish teenage girl
      riding in a buggy playing a hand-held video game I wanted to tell
      her, “If you need some entertainment go back home and work on
      some quilts with your mother like you’re supposed to do.”

    27. Rita

      Great topic today, Erik. Enjoyed reading all the interesting comments. Reminded me of this passage referring to how we view the Amish lifestyle (found on this site or one of its links) which bears repeating.

      “We realize that not everyone is cut out to be one of the Plain People. Many have not the opportunity. But here is a challenge.

      If you admire our faith — strengthen yours.

      If you admire our sense of commitment – deepen yours.

      If you admire our community spirit – build one.

      If you admire the simple life – cut back.

      If you admire quality merchandise or land stewardship, then make quality.

      If you admire deep character and enduring values – live them.

    28. Tom

      Just a Thought

      Sometimes our romanticism outweighs our logic. How many times do the moderns go to a Amish business and purchase something they do not need. In essences many are simply paying for the interaction with the Amish. Most do not feel comfortable with visiting the Amish and asking questions without first needing an excuse. I guess they assume if they are purchasing or conducting business with the Amish then they are able to disguise the main reason for their visit, which is to approach and interact with those they romanticize.

    29. Richard (

      Before i retire for the night, great job Erik with todays topic, maybe sometimes it takes something simple like “Do we romanticized the Amish” in a topic to get the most comments and reactions from people. We are all here for the same reason on Amish America, and that even includes you Erik as well, so we share a lot of the same feelings about them. And to me that’s pretty good company to be in. And Beth thank you for the e-mail, your very kind and now we know a little bit more about you. You meet some very nice folks on Amish America. Good night everyone. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    30. Beth

      You said it perfectly, Erik, notice I’m spelling your name a lot;) The reason Amish fiction is so popular is because people want to go to Amish Land where life seems simpler and takes them away from the fast pace we live in. The Amish have kept the ideals that we have let go as our society progresses and this is one way of getting some of that back. I like going there with them but make it realistic by showing the readers it’s not a perfect life for the Amish either.

    31. Alice Aber

      I have to agree with you both, Decatur sure does stink and its down right dirty. I live 25 miles north and hate whenever we have to go to Decatur for anything. Shoot some days you can even smell it up here, but thankfully not that often.

      However, when we leave Macon County and enter Moultrie on our way to Douglas County and Arthur, it is sooooo much nicer, LOL.

      I try to travel mainly back roads when I go to Arthur and stay out of Decatur, city proper. A lot less stress and stink that way, LOL.

      Well folks this has sure been an interesting topic today. Beth, always good to see you!

      For those who have helped out with Frank’s birthday sending cards. Tomorrow is the big day. I will be posting on and off on both my blog and facebook, so check it out, LOL. My blog is and I know some of your are on my facebook. 🙂

      Have a good night everyone!!
      Blessings, Alice

    32. Annmarie

      I just wanted to say that I am new to this site and LOVE reading what Erik has to write and all the comments. I am in awe of the Amish and my sentiment is exactly what has been typed..they are all unique in their very own Amish Culture. I do think that I romanticize them a bit, but I am not naive to know that there is no perfection in our very IMPERFECT world.
      Just wanted to say thanks to Rita for adding that passage…I read it a while back and though I recalled bits and pieces of it…I did not remember the whole passage..and those truly are words to live by. Lastly, I just wanted to add that comradery can exist in any a mom to a boy who is heavily into baseball…we always promote good sportsmanship… As a mom to 4 girls..we always promote modesty and a bit of non-conformity..
      More importantly the words I want to live by and ask of from my children..Is:
      Today, were you the best version of yourself? They never need be the best…Just the best version of themselves as that is what I think our Heavenly Father expects from each of us each day.
      Love your site and will be back as often as my schedule is so nice to find a community of people who do not think I am nuts b/c I am so intrigued by Plain People.
      I apologize in advance for any typos..I usually am typing with a 2 year old crawling all over

    33. Marcus Yoder

      Talk about some serious typing, these are some long post’s.Rita thank you for your post. I was trying to remember this, but didn’t remember where I had seen it. I have a lot of Amish relative’s. I don’t have very many, pictures of my grandparent’s, but there are a few. One it look’s as if he posed, Is in the Yoder’s resturant in Arcola, Ill.
      Marcus Yoder

      1. arpschneider

        Location of Yoder's

        Yoder’s in not in Arcola, but Arthur along IL 133. It usually is so busy that I go eat at Korner Cafe in Chesterville, 1/2 ways between Arcola and Arthur.

        1. Marcus Yoder

          Your right it is the Dutch Kitchen. My uncle Elvan Yoder started this restaurant. He was also long time owner of Rockhome gardens.I guess when we went visit we just called it Yoder’s.

    34. Plain Lady

      The Amish are people-capable of doing some things that make us dislike them or diappointed in them. I had read a few books about the Amish and was almost horrified when I saw them using Pampers on their baby. Weren’t they the ones that use cloth diapers and washed them and hung them in the beautiful sunshine everyday?? I felt like I had been lied to by someone, wasn’t sure if it was the author of the books or if it was the Amish mother that was being the hypocrite!!!! After I had been around them for a while I figured out that no one was lying, everyone was just giving their point of view!!

    35. Forest

      There is indeed a certain mystique about the Amish and related Plain groups held by some who are not members of the community, in some ways similar to the ideas many people have about American Indians. They believe Amish made goods are inherently better then non-Amish ones, and that Amish/Plain people are born saints and continue that way for the rest of their lives. A friend of mine who attends the same Mennonite church I do works in a window shop, and frequently gets calls asking if they are the ones who make the “Amish windows”. We joke that he uses special Amish glass and Amish vinyl to make them. The Amish heaters widely advertised in the papers are another prime example of how this public fascination with the Amish is used to sell goods, which sometimes are not all that good.

      Many lifestyles seem romantic, quaint, and wonderful until you actually try to live them. I always thought being a waterman on the Chesapeake Bay was a pretty swell idea until I spent a little time helping a friend who really was a waterman work his crab pots. Getting up at 4 AM to check 350 pots every day (ours were baited with rotten fish, btw, and crabs pinch like you wouldn’t believe) quickly takes the romantic notions away. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but it was haarrrd work.

      Living the Amish way is hard work, and some people who join from the outside, it seems, find that out the hard way. It’s not all carefree buggy rides in the country and big family dinners around the kitchen table. Plain folks have the same failings and quirks as non-Plain ones, and this comes as a dissappointment to some observers who expect perfection.

      Just a few thoughts and observations. It is nice to be able to read other folks ideas and experiences here; it helps me to learn something pretty much each time I read the site. Thanks Erik for taking the time to do this.

    36. Lindsay

      It’s interesting when you’re perception gets popped!

      I grew up in Nebraska…lots of Mennonites, but for the most part very modern, and no Amish at all. So I perhaps had a romanticized view…I thought they grew/made all their food and that it was all organic. Also they were holy holy people who almost literally walked around with halo’s above their heads.

      I think the bubble burst finally, was a few years ago. I work at a building that faces the Chicago River on one side, and in the summer I can look out the window and see the various tourist boats going up and down the river. One day, there was a whole load of Amish youngsters on the top deck of a boat on an archetechtural tour. Instead of listening rapt to the tour guide, they were screwing around as teenagers do. A girl of about 16 was just about to sit down on the folding chair, and one of the boys pulled it out from under her, which resulted in her falling on her rear and the other kids to point and laugh.

      I think part of the sentimentality for me, was how a lot of “lost arts” have been preserved in the Amish community. Not too many people from my generation can, or quilt, or do lots of baking…and it’s something more and more people my age are interested in doing, but a lot of those skills were lost somewhere between my grandmother’s and my generation. I’d love to spend a week with an Amish family to learn how to do those things, as I don’t know a single person who does.

      On the other hand, the feminist in me has a hard time with the lack of opportunities the Amish women have outside the home, and other patriarchal aspects. I also have a hard time with the fact that a very limited education is highly encouraged. I do realize that the kids are raised in a way that they believe that that is their place in life, but I suppose I’m just projecting my own feelings onto a straw Amishman.

    37. Debbie Welsh

      Hi Everyone,

      What a realistic and interesting topic! Ditto for Alice Abner and Richard from Lebanon County’s first comments here. I suppose, like most of us, I have romanticized the Amish to a certain extent, too, but once you really start to learn about them with all of their struggles, hardships, joys, and sorrows, then you start seeing them a little more realistically. However, having said that, I still have to confess to a certain fascination with them. Like others have said here, I think they represent alot of what is lost and missing in our lives nowadays. But we are also just plain fascinated that a group of old fashioned people like that have managed to survive, prosper, and multiply in this hectic, modern 21st century of ours!

    38. Christina


      I also felt that certain home arts were lost, but they are really easy to learn. A friend taught me how to quilt and I have a few books about canning. If you don’t know anyone who quilts and is willing to teach you, take a class from a local quilt store. There is no difference between Amish quilts and the fancy ones that you see in a store except for the fabric choice and whether or not it has been done by hand or by machine. Most of my quilts are traditional patterns that the Amish use and I generally pick solid colors. They look pretty much the same.

      The internet, your local county exchange (if you have one), or your local farm co-op have canning info. Sometimes, you can even find canning classes. Canning was a normal part of American life at one point, especially on the farm. My cousin and aunt can all of the produce from their garden and they aren’t Amish, they just live on a farm and it’s the most economical thing to do.

      As for baking, well, I think you have to enjoy that and practice. Get a recipe book and some good friends to taste test! I’m good at most baking, but I stink at making bread. Just can’t seem to get it to work well. My loaves are edible, but not as fluffy as I’d like. A bit more practice is in store for me.

    39. Patty

      Do we romanticize the Amish?

      I am a driver for the Amish and it is a dream job. I went from having a stereotyped view of them to understanding that they are all unique individuals, or as one Amish young woman put it “We are more like you than we are different.” And I would definitely agree with that statement. They travel extensively for weddings and funerals and have assimilated with our own culture quite well, referencing tv shows, music,current events,etc.They have a much greater knowledge of our culture than we do of theirs! Whenever a society is ignorant about a certain culture, myths are created and there remains a certain mystique to that culture, just as we have done with the Amish.

    40. Amish and pop culture

      Patty thanks for sharing your experience. I do like the Amish young woman’s statement.

      It can be surprising to come across Amish with a pretty extensive knowledge of pop culture. But maybe this just shows us how ubiquitous pop culture and media are.

      I imagine that a generation or two ago it would have been harder to find Amish people with the same kind of knowledge.

      And you make a good point–myths, inevitably, do plug the gap whenever there is a want for knowledge.

    41. Content Amish women...

      This blog has amassed over 800 posts, but this has been one of my favorite of all time, due to all the great responses. Trying to work my way back up here as I get the chance…

      Lindsay, I appreciate your “straw Amishman” points here…I am neither a woman nor Amish of course. Amish life can be hard and not all Amish are happy (women or men).

      As to opportunity though I guess as you say it is due in part to how people are raised and what you learn to appreciate and value. We might flip it on its head and look at opportunities the “emancipated woman” might want for…I think if we asked a contented Amish woman her opinion she might take the same view of modern women…look at all they lack!

      I’m not here to say which view is “correct”, if that is even the right word. I think it depends on where you are standing, which I believe is what you are getting at too.

      I also really liked your story of how your bubble burst about the Amish…kids will be kids will be kids. And parents will have to worry about them whether they have tattoos and bleached hair or a bowl cut and broadfall trousers.

    42. Kate

      TV shows

      To the person who said something about the Amis knowning TV shows…The Amish in my community know who all the pooh bear characters are and I was shocked to hear they knew who Sponge Bob was! They didn’t know that they were TV characters but they still knew who they were 🙂 I found that kinda funny!

    43. Elin

      I think that it is seeing that Amish people are real humans that is the problem for some and I think that Amish fiction might make that part worse. I have read some of these books and enjoyed them but I have realized that the Amishness of the characters is not more than polish. They are often just stereotypical ‘good Christian’ wearing Amish clothes. They are the same characters as in the Christian inspired fairytales I had as a child which me and my brothers and sisters used to read and snicker about when we got to about 10 or so when we could see how unbearingly good and perfect these people were and how unrealistic that was. We knew by then that real people do not act like that and that is what I often feel when I meet the characters of an Amish fiction book. They are just stories about how the perfect Christian would react and Amish hasn’t anything to do with that.

      I would love an Amish fiction book about Amish acting like real people and not just someone who gingerly makes his handmade furniture and bakes her pies.

      I don’t think I romantize the Amish, but I can see benefits to their lifestyle. I can see downsides too and that is probably why I am not very tempted to make out Amish life as better and more perfect than that of us modern people. I find the Amish very interesting but I don’t in any way believe that all aspects of Amish life are perfect and I know I would distictly dislike some of the aspects of their life if I were Amish.

    44. TomK

      Do we romanticize the Amish?

      Humans have always been seeing the grass greener on the other side of the fence until they actually jump over and than they find out it isn’t as green as they thought it looked…

      I use to follow Amish sites alot in the past and always thought how cool to live like that, traveled to see them, etc. etc. until I read a quote from an unknown Amish fella –

      One Amish writer responded this way, quoted in Small Farm Journal (Summer, 1993):

      “If you admire our faith — strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment — deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit — build your own. If you admire the simple life — cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values — live them yourself.”

      So now I do as the man suggested –

      The Amish are not carnival novelities / side show attractions, they are not infallible, they are not unhuman – they are just people trying the best they can to live out their beliefs in a mixed up world of inconsistency and suffering and for other to put them on a pedestal as something that has all the answers to ones woes in life is just wrong…

    45. Richard

      Very well put Tomk, and a fitting end(maybe) to what was a great post. Richard from Lebanons Amish community.

    46. Cathy Dugger

      I don’t believe in idolizing anyone. I expect people to be themselves, and that one day at a time. I like to read about the Amish because it does bring back memories of my grandparents and the way they farmed. I must be a bit twisted because i loved jumping from the rafters as one of a half dozen other kids who worked as “hay packers” while our older relatives gathered in hay with a horse drawn wagon. I remember riding on a clod busting drag pulled by my grandpa’s plough horse. my brother and I got to be extra weight. I recall bailing hay as a young adult, doing everything from driving a tractor to throwing and stacking in a barn in the June sizzle heat. I don’t think any work makes ice cold lemonade taste better. Standing on a metal roof helping paint their house on a hot summer day did teach me to appreciate following the shade around the house as we worked.
      Reading about Amish, for me, brings back these memories and a million more of growing up – not Amish – but with clean-hearted people who tried to follow their walk in Christ while living like folks from the turn of the 1900s, because that is what their finances allowed. I loved and respected them and never realized they were dirt poor until I was grown. Hope the Amish are always around. I wish them the very best and thank them daily for reminding me there is more than one good way to live.

    47. Tammy Richards

      I know I was one that thought everything was wonderful about the Amish. I still think there are many wonderful aspects to their lives and I miss my Amish friends greatly. When we were living in one of the houses and spending much time with them we were able to see the other side of things as well. It was eye-opening and brought things into perspective. They are as human as the rest of us!