The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Talking About The Amish

Running this website for over fifteen years, I’ve had the privilege to not only learn about the Amish – but also observe how the rest of us talk about them.

The Amish certainly generate a lot of discussion across the web and elsewhere. But since they are not the most accessible group, sometimes – often – the discussion is not what it could be.

Below, I share what I think are the three biggest errors people make when discussing the Amish.

I should say I appreciate our readers and commenters here – who have also helped me learn much over the years. I see much more of this elsewhere. Though it also pops up sometimes here as well (and I know I’ve been guilty of at least one or two of these in the past 😉 ).

1. Assuming the way “your” Amish do something is the same for ALL Amish

I’ve observed that often people take their own personal experience with Amish people, and apply it to all Amish. And this seems to be more common with negative situations.

For example, if one group of Amish is behaving counter to what a person believes or expects from them, then all Amish might be painted as “hypocrites”.

A growing number of Amish use solar power, while some reject it. Jamesport, Missouri. Image: Don Burke

There are many examples you can probably think of – including on how Amish use technology, their material lives, or religious practice. There are certainly consistencies, but the Amish are diverse.

We get to know our local Amish as friends, neighbors, and at times, adversaries. But sometimes we mistake a depth of knowledge for a breadth of knowledge.

2. Romanticizing & Demonizing

Two sides of the same coin. The Amish evoke emotions on both ends of the spectrum. But as Amish people have pointed out on this site and elsewhere, they are just people too.

Why are Amish both romanticized, and demonized? First, there are some very attractive characteristics about Amish life in general.

We observe individual aspects of how Amish live – the strong family life, simpler material possessions, etc – and compare them to our own lives. If something is weak or missing completely in our own lives, it just makes the Amish, or our perception of them, that much more attractive.

Just like any other humans, the Amish are not “perfect”. Ethridge, Tennessee. Photo: Don Burke

On the other hand, there are aspects of Amish life which disturb modern people in 21st-century Western society – including their eight-grade schooling system, farming practices, and the roles of women.

And there is also the behavior of individuals. Sometimes when an Amish person acts a certain way, his behavior is expanded to cover all of Amish society. One person’s behavior becomes “Amish behavior.” People assume that the way one member of a group does something, represents how all do something.

It’s easy to see how focusing on either of these sides of the coin can lead to a picture much rosier, or darker, than reality.

3. Saying “the Amish never” and “the Amish always”

Somewhat similar to point #1, but not exactly. I’m borrowing this one from an Amish friend, who made the point that there are so often exceptions to the ways “the Amish” do things.

There is often a nook or cranny of Amish society where things are done just a bit differently in a community or church. For example, there are a few Amish churches who use meetinghouses for Sunday worship, though the vast majority – 98%? 99%? – do not.

The Amish never wear red…or do they? Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Image: Ed C.

Or, a rule or custom might “shift” based on a situation. For instance, Amish builders use conventional power tools on the jobsite…which they would not use at home. Or, it’s nearly true to say “the Amish never fly.” But one exception there would be in an emergency, when someone needs a helicopter LifeFlight to a distant hospital.

Finally, since “the Amish” are comprised of 380,000+ individuals (as of 2024), individual actions sometimes thwart the standard Amish practice. And occasionally, exceptions are made on an individual basis – such as allowing an otherwise forbidden technology for someone with a health issue.

“The Amish never” and “the Amish always” may still be useful for some things. You do have to generalize sometimes in discussion, in order to not get bogged down in nuance. But those two statements truly apply in fewer cases than we might think.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Any others?

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    1. Bill Woods

      My area comments

      There is a lot of confusion between Amish and Mennonite identities. I believe most in upstate NY see what they think is Amish when they are actually noticing Mennonites. Then there is the issue of what is the difference. The difference between the Amish or Mennonnite themselves. Some around here use electricity and gas or diesel powered equipment, Some rubber tire setups, some iron. So the real question is whaic is which and what are the differences

      1. Forest Hazel

        Similar situation to central Virginia, where there are horse and buggy Mennonites.

      2. beth moore

        Getting them mixed up

        That happened last spring, saw some Amish or so I thought at Walmart. I find it hard to know the difference, especially with their dresses & bonnets.

        1. Mary Harrison

          3 biggest mistakes

          I’ve been driving the Amish for 9 years. A couple of my observations:
          1. They do fly. I’ve picked up several at area airports. Since the younger ones do a lot of missionary work overseas, they have to fly to get to their destinations & return home.
          2. Power tools. I drive “old order Amish “. They use power tools at home also. This is a very small community I drive for & almost every one has a skidloader or something similar to help around the farm. Some use generators to power items in the house. Anything electric can be converted to run off a battery. Some use equipment for lifting shingles, etc, for lifting & stacking large hay bales.

          My community allows bicycles. About the only time the horses are used is for church & if the women need to go to the Amish grocery store.

        2. Mary Harrison

          3 biggest mistakes

          Around here we have both Amish & Mennonites. Here’s what I have observed. Amish: women go nowhere without black bonnet. Clothes are dark colored, but colors can vary. Men, black hat in winter, straw hat in summer. Suspenders a must.

          Mennonite: women: dresses can be light colored, plaid, figured. No black bonnet only white prayer bonnet. Men, no hat required. Clothing, whatever they desire

    2. Barb

      Good points


      You make really good points which I would like to emphasize in a new Amish culture course I am creating. Can I quote you?

        1. Bernadette Ward

          Re; Amish everywhere

          Erik, I just want to make a comment if I could. For one thing: I am not Amish, to clarify things. OK? But for myself, I am very interested in the Amish in the way they do different things, there living conditions in different states and how they are definitely different from each other. But in the articles I have seen about Amish people, they have wonderful personalities and are very helpful to each other or their neighbors in a Amish community. They care about each other very much!

          So what I am trying to tell you and everyone else who writes on this website; Please don’t cut the Amish down in any way. They are beautiful people. Where I live, which I don’t want to say at this time, I have met a few people. They are so kind in their ways! When I see notes about people cutting these Amish people down, it gets me very upset. How would you regular people like the Amish to cut you down in ways like: I don’t like the way you dress, I don’t think you should be hanging out on the streets doing nothing. I could go on and on. Because It bothers me to see peoples feelings hurt. I know! Because I am a catholic sister & I wear a veil on my head, but I still have to keep my hair up from showing beneath my veil which is to the middle of my back. I get bad remarks sometimes. But I just explain to them that this is my religion and I am very happy & proud to wear this veil as a Religious Sister. I just don’t wear long dresses like the amish women. I wear normal clothes like skirts, blouses, vests instead. So there is no reason for outside people to cut you Amish down, when there are all of us Religious Sisters out here either wearing just a veil or a full habit (long dress etc). To me there is no difference, we all wear what fits our religions. Right? So thank you for listening to me of what i have to say re: Amish people or non Amish people. For one thing: We are gll Gods people. God put us on this earth for a reason, so we all should get along with each other. Right? NOTE: FOR THE AMISH: GOD BLESS YOU FOR ALL YOU DO IN THIS WORLD! I CARE ABOUT YOU AND LOVE YOU THE WAY YOU ARE. DON’T CHANGE YOUR WAYS. OK? THANK YOU!

    3. Harriet

      Great article, Eric!!! Your points are so valid and very much appreciated. Thanks for this website, also. I often feel like I am wrapped in a warm blanket when I am here.

      1. Harriet, glad the article went over well. And I’m certainly glad if this place feels as nice as a warm blanket! 🙂

    4. So true

      Your comments are really in line with my experiences. With each new book I get an email from someone who is convinced I am wrong about some detail because it doesn’t agree with his or her observations, usually about an Amish settlement somewhere other than Pennsylvania. When actually Amish customs can vary within a single county here in central PA.

      1. Thanks Marta, and good points, I am not surprised you get those letters…come to think of it, with 300,000 Amish in 30+ states in pretty much every region of the US, and a 300+ year history, it would be kind of strange if Amish customs were completely uniform, wouldn’t it?

        1. Amish-girl Rebecca

          Erik, Great article, Those are so in line with what I tell people here at the Heritage center. People seem to think we’re all the same and then be surprised we’re not, when in fact it would be really hard for all of us to be even closely alike in thinking, because the Amish came from different areas in Europe and settled in different communities throughout the states- in different time periods. Then as time went on there were other communities started and each one likely had early founders from several communities and they blended their values and came up with their own unique Ordnung (church guidelines). Maybe there were things in there old community they wanted to improve, change, etc. There are of course the basic things that are typically “The Amish Way” – buggies, beards, coverings, Communion services, baptisms, a high emphasis on family and community, and more.

          1. TJ

            So Geniene’s theory that Amish diversity goes with isolation and devision (or maybe division) seems at odds with what you are writing about different European roots & time-frames in immigration. Could you give us an idea how isolation & division fit into this from your point of view? (And I am NOT trying to “get this party started, just curious. I’m hoping this will remain positive & civil!)
            Thanks, Rebecca. I am always interested in what you or Mark have to add to these discussions.

            1. Amish Girl-Rebecca

              TJ, I believe I can truthfully say both Geniene and I are right if you’re talking about different groups and divisions and isolation, because , yes, for many years there was not too much communication between settlements, but today there is more connection, but by this time we have so many differences that there would be no way to all be on the same page again. But we can be friends and share and visit each others’ homes and communities and appreciate and learn from our differences. For most of us we (this generation) are the off-spring, (children, grandchildren, and great-grands) of the divisions/splits. So what may have bothered our grandparents about other groups, no longer really affects us, because we have grown up dealing and accepting these differences. Here in Holmes we might have gone to school with children from various other groups. I also like to say that Holmes is the “melting pot” of the Amish world so to speak.

              1. Geniene


                I find it heartwarming that Holmes county is considered the “melting pot” of the Amish world. I can’t speak to it from experience or direct knowledge, but I was aware that today’s generation of leadership in Ohio and Indiana were distancing themselves from the schismatic tendencies of the previous generations.
                I have some knowledge of the positive effect of having different plain community sects attending school together.
                But that said, if the intent is to go beyond a fan club atmosphere, it is important to look at the whole and not just one person’s specifics. There are enormous challenges regarding useful in depth knowledge when looking at Amish issues. For example, there is no available data on the percentages of the Amish who take communion together, inter marry, and those that don’t. The long term trajectory is also missing. In the one hundred years prior to 1950, most Amish, over fifty percent assimilated into the larger culture.
                Historically the Lancaster settlement avoided the micro schisms that occurred in Ohio and Indiana. The down side of that is, unlike their mid western counterparts, Lancaster’s leaders are now woefully inexperienced in negotiation and compromise. Which of course will set up their round of schisms.
                It is important to not talk in too detached terms on the subject though. Ira Wagler, the author and prolific blogger writes about his mother not being allowed to see her siblings, even during a time of a death in the family. He writes of families scattered from Canada to South America in search of the “pure” church. He writes of parents not allowed to see their children because they weren’t compliantly orthodox enough, and of how, near the end of their life, the parents moved to some obscure isolated, more lenient settlement, so they could get to know their grandchildren.
                All this moving around is the opposite of “community” which the Amish are frequently held in high esteem for.
                The phenomenon at Bergholz, while it had its particulars related to Sam mullet, a strong charismatic leader buying land in a remote area, and encouraging other Amish to join them, with a selling point of doing things better, (being purer) is a fundamental Amish trait. It is a constant in Amish society. I know of a bishop from Lancaster who has just moved to Missouri. He has bought a large tract of land and to my knowledge, it is his sons who are there with him. I also know he is deviating from the Lancaster customs regarding the ordnung. While I know him to be a smart and level headed person, what we don’t know is how many times in these scenarios do shades of Bergholz crop up?
                And what about Bergholz? How are those families and those dozens of children doing? Once those children grow up, what will their contribution to Amish society be? How will their sense of belonging and identity with the larger Amish community pan out in the long run? And how many of these marginalized people are being created by this fundamental Amish phenomenon of seeking a purer church?

    5. Geniene


      Referring to the Amish as diverse is misleading because words have cultural connotations. The USA enjoys a preeminent status in the world. That status is widely associated with a dynamic known as the “melting pot” effect. Diversity is a big part of our strength. We complain about immigrants, but the underlying reality is that each wave of immigrants was resented at the time, but now they add to the greater whole. Jazz was a direct result of blending cultures.
      Diversity among the Amish as exhibited by their various practices is the complete opposite of this dynamic. Diversity among the Amish means devision. It means isolation. It means alienation. Think Bergholz. Those who followed the beard cutting saga may be aware that three hundred bishops met to address the issues arising from Bergholz. What we don’t know is how many of those bishops allow their adherents to marry each other. Schism gave birth to the Amish. Diversity is the manifestation of dissension.
      Amish society can’t be understood without a grounded understanding of their make up, where they came from and how they function. Schisms and shunning are a big part of who the Amish are. When we talk about them using our own culturally tainted language, we obscure their reality.

    6. melissa

      I love the eighth grade level being high enough

      My two sons just finished grade 6 and took the Stanford 10 test (always homeschooled by the way) and they are at PHS (post high school) level…. They are 12 and 13 years old and have worked hard… If they are showing interest in raising goats and farming, furniture making and being done with school, why should they be forced to continue their education, when they have already achieved a post high school level? I’m told that statistically about 75 % of “Christian” students that go to college fall away from their faith before they graduate… Not to mention, the science books are teaching evolution, which goes against the bible and has never been proven.

      1. Amish Girl-Rebecca

        Amen, Melissa, I like to tell folks I would not even want to imagine a couple hundred Amish teens together at a school. I feel they are much better off working with their parents or other trustworthy adults. Also how many 14 year-olds in the non-Amish world would truly choose further education if it weren’t the accepted norm for everyone around them. I know many people think we are depriving are children, but I personally believe I have been taugth things of much more value than I would have learned in high school and college. Many of us are very well-read, and can figure out pretty much whatever we need, too.

        1. melissa

          wow so nice to have someone understand instead of acting towards me like there is something wrong with me, or telling me my children need to to be in public school!
          thank you for your response 🙂

    7. Osiah Horst

      Amish Misconceptions

      Many plain groups have a range of acceptable practices – for example, in our plain Mennonite church, we say “fashionable hairstyles for men, whether long or short are not acceptable.” We recommend women to “avoid dress materials with large patterns, bright colours, or too pale. Children are to be dressed modestly.” This leaves room for quite a bit of variation even in one congregation.

      Among the Amish, each Bishop district is responsible for its own order, so there will be variations, possibly not noticeable to outsiders but certainly to each other, from one district to another. They will still fellowship with each other, simply recognizing that we all have choices to make.

      But we do tend to generalize in many areas: German people are stubborn and hard working, French Canadians and Irish are very easy going and maybe a little lazy, Asian people are smarter than most of us, etc. (no offence meant to anyone – these are just observations about erroneous generalizations.)

      1. Geniene

        useful ethnography

        Hi Osiah
        Any idea whether there is a breakdown of percentages of Amish that fellowship together? Even settlements that do fellowship together, frequently get started from differences and posturing about being “purer” or holding back. This doesn’t take into account general class differences or cliquishness that further limits interaction. Of all the supposed interest in plain communities, there seems to be a lack of substance in documentation.

    8. Carol

      The 3 biggest mistakes.....

      Hi Erik, I’m sure there are more mistakes we English make concerning the Amish as well as other Plain communities. Thanks for the article. Well put, giving all much on which to think. Blessings, Carol

      1. Thanks Carol, you’re probably right about that. I appreciate the comment.

    9. Geniene

      On romanticizing the Amish

      It is my understanding that this phenomenon has been documented several centuries ago. There is a percentage of the population in any enlightened society, (meaning they pursue knowledge, fund universities, etc.) that becomes disenchanted with the pursuit of knowledge. Asking questions doesn’t always provide the answers we would like or sometimes it only raises more questions. Even though they may be benefitting enormously from living in an enlightened society, the disenchanted ones will look for an easier way. Someone who might have the answers that seem to elude them.
      The Amish fit the bill here, primarily because there is enough ambiguity regarding Amish life. This enables the seekers to project a utopia onto them. The reality of Amish life is irrelevant. All that matters is that the Amish function like a Rorschach test. The Amish become unreal in this dynamic. They become the other, making it very easy to demonize them.

      1. Yes, interesting thought Geniene. And there is also the tendency when someone learns a utopia or an ideal isn’t what it was imagined to be, to tear that thing or person or body down.

        Your comment brought to mind one example, those who idealize the Amish as an “earth-friendly” people living in complete harmony with nature. Some Amish are probably more like that than others, but the norm is probably not what some outsiders imagine.

    10. Dirk

      Another thing I’ve noticed people doing is coming to this site with preconceived ideas about the meaning of certain words or terms gleaned from non-Amish sources and cultures, and then criticizing the Amish and calling them hypocrites for not living up to their understanding of the term as defined by a foreign non-Amish source.
      Terms for example such as ‘pacifism’, which to many means no guns, possibly a vegetarian lifestyle, causing no harm to man or beast, but to the Amish it means non-resistance to man with hunting beasts permitted.

      1. Amish Girl-Rebecca

        As an Amish person I would be much more likely to use the term non-resistant than pacifist,because we aren’t really pacifist.

        1. melissa
    11. Al in Ky

      Thanks for this posting. I’ve been guilty of all of the three mistakes you listed, but this has greatly lessened the longer I am around Amish people in their day to day lives.

      It would be interesting to hear from people like Mark or Rebecca to learn if there are mistakes Amish people make when talking about us English people.

    12. Carol Holstein

      The difference in how people see the Amish

      Living within 45 minutes of Middlefield, OH and the surrounding Amish communities there, and about 2 hours from the Sugarcreek/Berlin, OH and the communities around them, I talk to them, and shop at their businesses. I have come to respect their lifestyles, though I have seen the differences between each area. I was at the point of almost being in awe of them, but have found that they are indeed human, we we are.

      I have shared pictures of the Amish buggies, landscape, etc. on my FB page. Some I have taken, and others I have downloaded. I have a neighbor who has FB “friended” me. She has pretty much disagreed with me about the Amish people. First of all, I do love all animals, who are also God’s creations. I have been involved in dog rescue, and in fact, I did buy my first Shetland Sheepdog off of an older Berlin Amish man, many years ago. I have since had many rescues that are all Shelties. Well, my neighbor is very involved in rescue, and has even ran one. She proceeded to let me know that many, if not most of the Ohio puppy mills are ran by the Amish, mostly in the Berlin/Sugarcreek area. She has practically screamed at me for even wanting to visit there. I have since set my page to where she cannot read my postings. I do know there are horrible conditions for these puppies in a lot of cases, and sadly, I see how many end up euthanized, if they are not rescued. I am indeed concerned about this, but I do not want to lump all of the Amish into one category. I just wish there were some way that puppy mills could be stopped, and that the ones running them could see how many puppies and dogs are destroyed every year, As I said earlier, these animals are also God’s creatures. Thanks for listening.

      1. Yes that’s a difficult issue Carol, there have been puppy mills run by Amish. It definitely leads to demonization, but those who do raise dogs in poor conditions deserve the criticism and whatever legal penalties they incur.

        One Amish friend expressed the wish to me that his people would get out of the business completely. On a cultural level, it’s more acceptable among some Amish to view dogs as something like a form of livestock, even though they are not that type of animal and have different needs.

        The topic has come up here multiple times, here’s our most recent post on that issue:

        1. Jenn

          The Amish and dogs

          I agree that it’s mainly a cultural issue.

          We, in the U.S., tend to treat our pets like part of the family. I grew up that way, although our pets almost always stayed outside. When our pets died, we cried over them because they were loved.

          However, when I met my husband and his family, their view was quite different. See, he grew up as a German Mennonite in South America. They have a more practical mindset and aren’t huge on emotions and feelings and all the things Americans tend to get caught up in. Needless to say, our differences have caused conflict!

          Then I met some friends at church, who grew up in the Philippines, where they actually eat dogs.

          So, yes, it varies greatly by culture.

      2. Amish Girl-Rebecca

        Being from the Berlin,Sugarcreek area myself, I personally know only a few people who raise puppies and they are very good to their dogs. The puppy mill issue is definitely under the category of demonizing the Amish. I know of many more Amish that love their animals and treat them almost as part of the family, especially dogs.

        1. Carol Holstein

          To Amish Girl - Rebecca

          Thank you for sharing this with me. I had just answered a comment from you on another post. I explained how a neighbor had shared with me, what I have mentioned. She is in rescue. I do appreciate how I am sure most Amish love their dogs. And I am also so glad to hear that this is not the normal practice down there, as I do love the Amish people and I love going down to your area. We have spent a weekend and also a week in Berlin. We will be back down in another week for a stay. I love driving by all of the farms, and I think I can breathe easier, realizing that most are not hiding puppy mills. Just like the English, or I believe Yankees in this area, there are alway a few bad apples, but thank God.. that is not the norm in either group. I am excited about the trip, and hope we have good weather, as we will be camping!! Again, thank you.

        2. Geniene

          puppy mills

          This is an excerpt from a letter to the editor in the Lancaster newspaper written by a Ms. Burke.

          “And there is such a thing as guilt by complicity. Not all Plain people are cruel to animals, but all share responsibility for such cruelty, since they aren’t making internal efforts to stamp out abhorrent practices. We aren’t hearing the Amish and Mennonites taking a hard stand, or any stand, condemning the Mills. They need to and they need to let us hear it.”

          And here is a letter responding to Ms. Burke’s letter. I’ve permission to share it.

          “I applaud Ms. Burke’s assessment, “Puppy mill accountability” Jan, 12th. The Plain community would be much better off if they took responsibility for the welfare of their dogs in a way that would be above reproach. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they won’t get this monkey off their backs.
          That said, let’s be honest, on the other side. This is not just a “Plain community” problem.
          An article in Milwaukee Magazine 12/22/08 notes that, in 2005, dog breeding was a $14 billion-a-year industry, It mentions a “craze” for “designer dogs” which sell for $3000.00 per animal. Meanwhile the Humane Society estimates the number of cats and dogs euthanized in a year are 3-4 million.
          Does this excuse the Plain community for mistreating animals? Absolutely not! But it certainly reveals that they aren’t the only ones off their rocker when it comes to relating to Fido!
          It is non Plain community folks who created a society totally dependent on the automobile. Let’s do a tally of the havoc that cars wreak on animals (wild and domestic).
          After envisioning all the broken and mangled little bodies left in the wake of our lifestyle, it doesn’t leave much question about who has the bigger beam in their eye.”

          These exchanges occurred after an Old Order Mennonite man shot over 80 of his dogs to avoid prosecution for neglect from dog welfare authorities.

          1. melissa

            there are laws now for high volume breeders and the inspections are very thorough… and as a breeder myself, the amish I know take way better care of their animals than some english I have seen, not to mention…if the english cared half as much about the unborn children they are aborting constantly instead of complaining about the amish’s animals…..while they themselves eat cows and pigs and chickens, lambs, goats, etc….too bad they dont care about those animals too

        3. Geniene

          opportunity lost

          Puppy mills are an issue where I feel the Amish really dropped the ball. Over population and the millions euthanized annually is an issue that exists completely separate from the Amish, meaning, even if the Amish stopped raising dogs, the issue would still exist. The question becomes about why the Amish allow themselves to continue being associated with such a negative, volatile issue. Arguments about abortion being worse are fodder for the culture wars, and many non Amish people gladly cast that stone, but it is an extremely unseemly position for a non resistant people to be aligned with.
          Being aligned on one side or the other of the culture wars is a dangerous game a non resistant people can’t afford to play.
          I suspect one of the reasons the Amish aren’t able to, (as the letter writer put it) “get this monkey off their backs”, is because they have been influenced by conservative politics. I believe the puppy mill issues is in part a free market dynamic. If someone wants to pay good money for a puppy, then that takes precedent over some big city liberal’s feelings about the puppy’s welfare. Puppy mills are a political football which the larger society is more than willing to fight over, indefinitely, it seems. The Amish should distance themselves from this, at all costs. Nothing good will come from being caught up in this!
          What is disheartening is that, they seem unable or unwilling to make a move. Imagine what an opportunity it could’ve been if forty years ago, they would’ve collectively decided to either completely avoid raising dogs, or they would’ve committed themselves to doing it in a way that would’ve made them famous instead of notorious.

          1. Carol H

            Re: Opportunity lost

            Geniene, I totally agree with what you are saying. I do believe that the Englischers have some of the most despicable and nasty puppy mills. And like you, I wish the Amish would not follow them in this practice. I can honestly say that I have not seen a puppy mill, other than on the internet, or on the news. I have just heard about the Amish ones from my neighbor who claims to have seen them. She is one who rants and rants about them. If it is so, I would want her to add the Englischer ones to her slams. I know that she gets extremely upset over any animal abuse, but she also gets upset with me for loving to visit and stay in Amish country. She does not know how I can “even think about visiting ‘those’ people”. I constantly tell her that not all should be judged by the actions of a few. I also do not agree with abortion, so I take issue to the lives of humans and animals being taken for no reason, other than there are too many, or they are in our way. I wish I could claim to be Vegan or Vegetarian, and have to say that many times I do feel guilty of causing the death of an animal that way. I wish I had not been raised to eat meat, but that was not the case. I would most likely starve to death, as I am not crazy about many vegetables. I am learning to like more of them cooked in different ways, and have really been limiting my meat intake. I would hope that after 68 years, I could acquire a totally different way of eating.

            For the record, I will be down in the Berlin area next week. I love the people, and I love the land and scenery. I yearn for the simpleness that they strive for, and have cut many corners in my life. Material things are not what life is about. They have it right, that God and family are what is important. I know there lives are not perfect, and neither is mine. We are all humans, and hopefully doing the best we can do to please God, and love each other.

            1. Geniene

              Goin down with us

              The millions of pets being euthanized each year is a clear indicator that non Amish society sees dogs as an expendable and disposable commodity. Our free market leanings and throw away culture create quite a maelstrom for pets. The Amish are not responsible for this. They’re not the ones creating the demand. They are just tapping into the supply side of it. Albeit they are doing it as an agrarian people, but there again, the Amish are not the trend setters when it comes to mass production and factory farms. The Amish are also not responsible for the larger culture’s inability to intervene in this debauchery.
              The Amish were able to collectively say no to the automobile. Not unlike their view of cars, participating in the pet industry is bad for them. Given their reasons for generally keeping the “world” at a distance, it is ruinous to their “salt of the earth” aspirations that they can’t distance themselves from this.

              1. G. Woolhouse

                Puppy MIlls are Slippery Slopes

                The community around here is new. They don’t have “puppy mills” – most of them are dairymen with a few sidelines like eggs or pigs. But, that said, in less than two years, they’ve racked up four “abuse” complaints and two full-scale raids (and were exonerated every time).
                Now, every farm around here has been in the crosshairs of the PETA loons at least once…but they appear to be especially gunning for the Amish. All the complaints have been regarding horses. This is strange, because their horses appear to be some the best cared for I’ve seen. Their “crime” is apparently actually using them to do stuff. This offends people whose view of agriculture comes from “Charlotte’s Web”. Take away the “puppy mills” and a few families go broke. Take away the horse, and Amish culture goes extinct.
                The Amish have survived as long as they have by NOT altering their lifestyle or industry to accommodate the sensibilities of the smug and prissy “English” around them.
                Like it or not, they are “in” the culture wars. One “side” is pretty content to leave them alone. The other “side” wants to take away their dogs and horses, force them into public school, tell them they can’t hunt, and make sure their women have the “right” to dress like Lady Gaga.
                Shrugging and saying, “Sorry, this is who we are” has served them well for this long, it should continue to do so for those who have chosen dog breeding as an enterprise.

                1. Geniene


                  I’m afraid you’re argument here is a classic example of using the Amish for your own purposes. Take for example the proclamation that, “The Amish have survived for as long as they have by not altering their lifestyle or industry to accommodate the sensibilities of the smug and prissy “English” around them.”
                  Does resistance to being like their smug and prissy English neighbors equate to survival for the Amish or is it a determination you have decided is important?
                  The Amish are using horse power less and less. I know of a young Amish couple who didn’t actually own a horse and buggy until after they got married. I see manure being pumped through hoses and pipes to higher elevations on farms, so all that weight can be moved without completely being dependent on horse power. At which point are you going to regale us with the verdict that these Amish have crossed the line and need to relinquish their identity?
                  It is really useful for your argument to decide the Amish are in the culture wars and one side is the good side. (let me guess which side you see yourself on)
                  Defiance is not an Amish value. It may appear that way at times but I assure you, is isn’t. Being at peace with their neighbors is an Amish value, and the values of those neighbors, no matter what they are, has no relevance in this equation. The easiest, most recognizable measurement for knowing when someone doesn’t have the Amish people’s best interest at heart, is if they don’t get this.

                  1. G. Woolhouse


                    “My own purposes” consist of selling enough pigs to rich people to pay my rather large tax bill. The local Amish community has greatly facilitated this endeavor, and I have become friends with many of them in the process.
                    I therefore find their systematic harassment at the hands of a few transplanted cititiots quite infuriating. I find their refusal to defend themselves or even get angry at these busybodies even more infuriating, but I suppose that’s a cultural difference that can’t be reconciled.
                    The cold, hard fact is that if the “cultural left” has full reign, the Amish will be “forcibly integrated” into the decadent mess the rest of us inhabit. That would demonstrably suck, since they are about the last people in America that are not fat, lazy and stupid.
                    “Peace with one’s neighbors” does not consist of betraying your basic beliefs, altering your private behavior and forgoing your chosen livelihood to appease the pious frauds next-door – it consists of living your life, and respecting their right to live theirs – even if their ways seem a little funny. If that seems like “defiance” to you, it reveals what side you see yourself on as well.

                2. Kate

                  You’ve made some good comments here, G.! I live in a large Amish community and I get what you are saying. (Though I’m not Amish myself.)

    13. Kelley in the High Desert

      I am always defending the Amish way of life to people around me and what always annoys me when I talk to people about the Amish is when someone goes on and on about how they just couldn’t wear what everyone else wears…how they couldn’t “conform” to such strict rules, etc. meanwhile they have their cell phone in their hand, constantly looking at it to make sure they don’t miss a text or post on facebook…and they are wearing the latest trendy clothes that all their friends are wearing! LOL! I really think that we “english” are more slaves to conformity than the Amish we just don’t see it!

      1. Interesting comment Kelley. It’s funny that the avenues that we are suggested by modern society and business to express our individuality often lead to conforming even more. For example, by buying products of companies who sell their wares based upon an image of “non-conformity” and “individualism.” But then you end up with millions of consumers who are ironically not as non-conformist as they might imagine.

    14. Beckysue

      That was a great article with spot on points. I think we all have been guilty of one or two of these. My thought always goes to “There is nothing plain or simple about the Amish”.

      1. Thanks Beckysue, yes I think parts of their lives might be considered simpler than ours, but taken as a whole the Amish are definitely not as “simple” as we might think.

    15. Tom Geist

      Nailed It!

      Hey Erik,

      I think one has to go through the learning process for awhile to understand the things you mention. For me they ring true. Sometimes we just don’t know what we think we know. Just when I think I have a handle on something I find it is not always so.

      I guess this is why we have to give others time to work through their misconceptions as well. As they are now, once so were we. (not that I/we have reached full enlightenment on the subject yet.)

      Tom in Lincoln

      1. Good points Tom. I know I probably made assumptions and romanticized at least a bit when first coming to know the Amish.

    16. Rita

      Our area in southern York county, PA has gone from almost no Amish to quite a heavy Amish population in the past few years. This website has provided such a good learning experience as we observe and interact with our Amish neighbors. We see them driving tractors past our house, watch the school bus drop off their students at the Amish school on our road, watch out for their buggies on our roads at 2:00 every other Sunday – I enjoy getting to know about their “culture” and find it amazing that a man from Poland is teaching me so much about my neighbors 1/2 a mile away!

      1. Actually from the US, but with Polish roots 🙂 Glad if it’s been of help, Rita.

    17. 3 Mistakes

      Well said! When I’m out speaking, one of my goals is to educate audiences on these 3 points 🙂 We’re thinking alike.

    18. Terry Berger

      Try being plain Brethren and having people call you a liar because you won’t tell them you’re really Amish. I’ve also been mistaken for a rabbi on several occasions as well. People see one plain person and they think we’re all Amish. It’s just how it is. Just my thoughts.


      1. Well that can’t be fun Terry. To actually call you a “liar”–it’s funny how people can be so sure about something they obviously don’t know much about, isn’t it?

    19. Alice Mary

      Friends, family & co-workers know I follow this blog, and that I enjoy learning about the Amish. I’ve learned to preface most “Amish info” with, “generally speaking,” and I always let the person know there are a great deal of variations among different church districts in different parts of the country. Of course, that often brings even more questions, with most starting with, “Why?” Answering can get exhausting! (I don’t want to mislead anyone!)

      Alice Mary

      1. Good points Alice Mary, if I am talking about the Amish to someone who knows little about them, I do sometimes generalize just to get the idea across. Otherwise like I noted you can get bogged down. A deeper conversation then leads to more nuance.

    20. Rita

      One of the biggest misconceptions I noticed when the Amish starting moving into our area was that many people thought the Amish didn’t use cars or electricity because they thought they were “evil” and it would be a sin for them to use such things. Then when people saw an Amish person riding in a car or driving a tractor, it was assumed they were sneaking around their rules and weren’t being “good” Amish. Also, there is the prevailing idea that the Amish want to only do things the way they were done a couple hundred years ago – anything modern would be sinful and against their rules. Thanks to this website, I’ve been able to explain some of the inconsistencies to people when the topics come up in conversation. And I’m always learning something new on here – thanks, Erik!

      1. Awesome to hear that Rita. Yes, the “technology is evil” and “frozen in time” ideas are two of the most persistent erroneous assumptions in the public about the Amish.

        1. Amish Girl-Rebecca

          Yes, some of those people with the frozen in time and technology is evil concepts are hardest to deal with. They should visit some of the cutting edge Amish shops that are run by solar, diesel, or generator, just not on the electric power grid. Those who think the Amish are simple, uneducated people stuck only on the traditions of their forefathers should take the time to get to know their Amish neighbors more in-depth. I wish those that think we don’t believe in salvation could hear the sermons we hear. And I’m Old-Order.

    21. Tom the back roads traveller

      But isn’t this true of the public at large!

    22. MaryAnne Galban

      common courtesy and the Amish

      Just read the 3 things not to say…and I wouldn’t ever approach anyone in such a disrespectful manner…especially someone I didn’t know! Because I’m Polish, do you assume all Polish are like me? FAR from it…I’ve never been to Poland, so I couldn’t pretend to tell you about the Polish or Swedish/ other heritage. I was raised Catholic but I could only tell you of the hypocrites I saw each week for decades in the church UNTIL I left… People are different even when they have similar views, likes, interests. Try this to start the conversation…” How is your day going?” Better than “how are you” where people might keep their thoughts to themselves. Because they have learned see no evil say no evil mentality in a SEA of evil…we are human afterall. Your “day” can have many complications in it…”The cow run off” and ” horse threw a shoe” and “the kids are amuck”.Those are the things we can all relate to when meeting someone new REGARDLESS of what exterior they are wearing. One on one a connection is made. It then spreads to family once you have been deemed “acceptable”… a good person. Regardless of your beliefs, interests and needs, you become a family of accepted differences. And you love those differences for they give each of you stories to tell each other to widen your world until you all realize the good of us just want the same…peace to be who we are. ♡

    23. David

      Rebecca, Thank you for adding an Amish voice. It adds to the breath of discussion.

      I for one probably romanticize the culture & family. We can learn; be more faith centric, adopt more diy, unplug and do things with family.

    24. Beverly J. LaPorte

      The 3 biggest mistakes

      I grew up in Milverton, Perth County Ontario Canada in the largest settlement in Canada of Amish and Old Order/Conservative Mennonites. My stepfather was a Reformed Mennonite minister up until he married my mother (who was not Mennonite and who would not convert, so my stepfather had to leave the church.)

      I think the biggest mistake people make is thinking that all of the Amish are the same, and all of the Mennonites are the same…or, that Amish and Mennonites are the same. (think Venn diagram) —and nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, if you think about Protestants as an umbrella group, and within that group you have Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, United, Evangelical, United-Evangelical, Anglican and so on (but not Catholics)…Then within the Protestant umbrella, you have Anabaptist, beginning in the first quarter of the 16th century in Switzerland, Germany ,Alsace-Lorraine, and Holland. In Holland, Menno Simons founded what became the Mennonites (1536) Around 1693, there was a split and the Mennonites and Amish became separate entities and in the early 1700s, the Amish came to America. Mennonites seem to have followed much later. In 1850-80 there was a division among the Amish into Old Order Amish and Beachy Amish. Since then there have been other divisions…Swartzentruber Amish being one such group. There are also sub-groups among the Mennonites…there are Conservative Mennonites, Reformed Mennonites, Old Colony (or Mexican) Mennonites and so on. Each sub group of Amish and Mennonite have subtle differences in dress, conveyance (vehicles) house or barn design, customs…and some are so subtle as to be only known to an insider…most outsiders would not notice. Example…14 pleats and only 14 pleats on a lady’s head covering, colour of clothing, style of clothing for instance, Swartzentruber Amish men wear very low cut pants held up by only one suspender…Each group’s board of Elders decides on what customs will be adhered to and what ones will not be allowed. Even among a specific subtype, like Old Colony, there will be variations in dress from settlement to settlement.
      I did have to laugh at myself though, because I literally gasped out loud when I saw a young Beachy Amish woman wearing red, and also saw patterned fabric and RED in several Amish quilts. In the area I grew up in, no red was allowed, and neither were patterned fabrics. The Amish had very little to do with the English as outsiders are called, but now I see many are running quilt shops and carry patterned fabric, as that is their customers want.
      All things can change.
      Bev LaPorte (Yost)

    25. Adam

      This is a very good point I would like to say that it is similar for other groups too. Like I am Catholic so some people are under the impression that because some Catholics are drunks that all Catholics are drunks and this is not true. It is true that we do indulge in alcohol a little bit more than other Christians but we have a belief in something called moderation or at least we’re supposed to and some Catholics end up going past moderation when they drink. One of the poorest places in the United States is a village in New York that is predominantly Jewish and I know a lot of people think that Jewish people are wealthy and many can be but again you can’t put something like that on an entire group. Like the people that think all Muslims are terrorists well some Muslims are terrorists but most are not. Now my experience with the Amish is limited although my brother did used to live in Ohio but Mennonites on the other hands I regularly see them at the grocery store. I will say I think their kids dress really nice.

    26. "All people"

      These points are true for all types of “people groups”. Thank you!

    27. Leana A Mari

      Hopeless Romantic here!

      Well, I’m definitely guilty of romanticizing the Amish! I know they are not perfect in their own culture as a whole, and I know there are differences. I don’t know a whole lot because I have never been in an Amish community or met one. But the way the world is moving now, and faster than ever, that way of life looks very, very appealing to me! It is sad that some demonize it, but there are always those out there who will do that with good groups of people because they are mad at those who are good, as the Bible says. I do not think “oh, yay!” that they don’t have something if I have a little bit too. I am glad they can live that way and be independent. I wish I could live that way and the closer I get, the better, if I can make do with less, I am one step closer!

    28. Ron Hammel

      I know Amish diversity.

      I have lived in an area of Amish for over 40 years. Within 30 mile there are 2 other communities. All 3 have different levels of Amish from very strict old order Amish to a very much more modern who use more modern tech.