The 5 Best Things About Living With The Amish

barn-yard-amish-pennsylvaniaLast week I wrote about the hardest things about living with the Amish. This week, as promised, let’s have a look at the five best things.


The Five Best Things About Staying in an Amish Home

1. The Eats – Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. I find it hard to write about food in a meaningful way, without overusing the superlatives.

You see, I like food, but I’m not a “foodie.” If I were, I might be able to provide you some rich text here about the exquisite flakiness of pie crust or the satisfying feeling emanating from a full stomach after putting away two plates of breakfast casserole. I guess I’m better at eating it than waxing poetic about it ūüôā

It goes without saying that you eat well when staying in an Amish home (sometimes too well).

bathroom-scale

It’s also¬†worth mentioning that¬†you eat different things in different homes.¬†One family I stay with really emphasizes organic and health products. So we eat more of that.

At another friend’s home, traditional fare is¬†supplemented with subs and seafood from the family’s PA Dutch market stand.¬†And at another farm family home I tend to get more of the traditional shoofly-and-scrapple menu.

I will say that not all Amish dishes are my favorite. But the stuff that is good, can be really good.

2. You Disconnect (Sort Of) –¬†You might assume that when you stay with the Amish you adopt a low-tech lifestyle by default. In some ways that’s true. But it’s still up to you how much you want to really¬†“disconnect”.

I can always drive 5 minutes down the road and log on to the WiFi network at the local service station. There’s a cell phone¬†which I may leave in my car or take inside¬†(in case you’re wondering, my Amish friends don’t mind if I bring in things like my laptop and tablet, though I imagine some Amish people might).

But without those things right¬†at hand, you¬†don’t go¬†to them out of habit.

electrical-outlet

Still I find I can’t avoid checking in on the internet at least once every day or two, but that’s about 1000% less than I normally am on online.

I can rationalize it by saying it’s for “work”–making sure this site is still up and running, which I guess is true to a degree. But you also realize how the emails will still be waiting for you, even if you don’t get to them within 5 minutes of them landing in your inbox.

3. The Children – So, I think a lot of the stereotypes about Amish children are mostly true–they tend to be polite and sweet and kind¬†(at least around visitors!). The other thing is that despite often being shy at first, they tend to be interested in you. You’re different and a curiosity at first, especially for the littler ones.

I’ve seen some of my Amish friends’ children grow up, from crib-size to grade school age.¬†The neatest thing for me has been¬†the transition when they go from not being in school to “scholars” (as the Amish call school-going children).

What’s neat about this is that before school, you probably weren’t really¬†able to communicate with them well, if at all–unless of course you know PA Dutch, or the child has learned English early, not typical for most pre-school-age children.

amish-scholars-walking

Then they start to get a grasp of English, halting at first, but better and better as they move up the grades. There was something really special to me about the first time I could actually speak¬†with my friend’s son as a first-grader. I had patched together a few PA Dutch phrases before, but there was a real language barrier which had suddenly ceased to exist.

Another thing I appreciate about Amish children is that they give me the chance¬†to do some things I don’t normally, and haven’t in ages, like hit a baseball or toss a football.

This of course opens the door for weekend warrior-type injuries. I discovered this when I tweaked a muscle in my throwing arm recently. I guess you just have to tough it out.

4. You Get Involved In Ways You Never Could Otherwise РAfter you stay with an Amish family for awhile, you kind of blend in to your surroundings, so to speak. When I lived with Amish for my longest stretch of time, two months, I eventually became just another body in the house.

People used more PA Dutch when I was in the room, which I took as a sign of being comfortable. They called the upstairs bedroom I stayed in “Erik’s room” and continued to refer to it as that long after I’d gone. When others came to visit I was still sort of a novelty, for lack of a better word, but for the most part I felt accepted.

You also get to participate in daily life in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. You might become an Amish taxi to take someone to¬†the chiropractor or eye doctor or bank, or to a suit-making business you didn’t know was there because there’s no sign and only Amish people know about it. You’ll probably do some chores (I try to do the outdoor ones, and also sometimes the dishes).

field-labor-pa-amish

There’s a good chance you’ll be invited to church, dinner at a relative’s home, a youth singing, or another event.¬†You also do things you hadn’t done in years, like play a board game or cook out over a campfire or enjoy a group song.

So you do get to live life a little differently, even though you’re still from another culture and¬†never¬†fully blend in. And¬†in answer to a previous question, I’ve never worn Amish clothes, however¬†Amish friends once dressed my brother up in them as a joke. Anything for a laugh I suppose ūüôā

5. You Make Friends РI started this list with an obvious one, and will end it with another that feels obvious.

You of course get to know your hosts pretty well when you live with them, share meals, rides, work and other time together over the course of days or weeks.

Being a guest in an Amish home is fun for both sides, especially at first as there is a novelty factor. You are getting used to a Plain lifestyle, and they get a vicarious taste of English life just by having you in the home and hearing about the way you live and do things.

But after awhile that wears off and you get to know people better as people. I guess I still sort of mentally categorize friends as “Amish” or not, even though that adjective maybe isn’t so necessary. I’m glad I sometimes catch myself thinking of them as just “friends.”

Image credits: scale- mrd00dman/flickr; electrical outlet- mrorange/flickr; schoolchildren; field work- Ed C.

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    24 Comments

    1. Ken Tibbetts

      Generosity

      One of the most outstanding qualities of my Amish friends is their willingness to share whatever they have with me. Of course I try to return in kind. When I take one of the Amish men to pick up wheels, tools, whatever, they introduce me to the proprietor (usually their friend) keeping in mind that I might some day need to use the services or goods of my new acquaintance. After several years I’ve had the need to use the services of Amish who run businesses and the satisfaction rating is 100%.

      I hope that the mutual respect and rapport that we have for one another will continue for a long, long time.

      1. Shirley Chapel

        I always feel when I buy goods made by the Amish that I’m buying a quality item. Definitely an item made in America. We all should support the small business man. We’re not only helping them but we’re doing ourselves a favor by investing in a quality made product that will last through out the years.

    2. Shirley Chapel

      Loved your post. How fortunate to get the opportunity to stay with the Amish for a few months. I imagine it would give a person a whole different outlook on life. I have a great deal of respect for the Amish. We are fortunate that we live about 40 or 50 minutes away from the Amish of Adams county Ohio. We often go to their shops and stock up on bulk goods and buy fresh bread and of coarse cookies. We enjoy it when we see the Amish out and about in their buggies. A whole different world near by !

      1. Thanks very much Shirley! I really appreciate my visits.

    3. Bob the Quaker

      Yes, great opportunity for you Erik. and I agree with Ken about how the Amish always introduce you to the proprietors. I take different ones to different vendors. I have gone back to the same proprietors on my own, and they always remember I have a connection with the plain people.

      I still don’t like to take money for driving them, but they expect to pay. One lady I know is a good cook, so I told her “I drive for food”. A few days later she invited me and my wife for a evening meal.

      I now calculate the actual cost for gas and tell them that is all I want and also point out I have a rental car and the rental car does not charge for extra miles. That seems to work, much cheaper than a Taxi. On my last drive, when I dropped off an Amish man and told him what the gas bill was, he said “If you are happy, I am happy.”

      1. Sounds like you’ve worked out a nice deal there Bob, and that’s generous you only ask for the cost of gas. You’re right, I think most Amish people do expect to pay and at least offer out of courtesy, at least those whom you don’t know as well.

    4. MaryAnn Pepe

      Pinecraft

      Erik, have you ever stayed with an Amish family in Pinecraft, Florida? Since I live in Florida, I thought that might be a fun trip.I do know that it is probably somewhat empty now since most of the Amish have gone up North for the summer.

      1. I have not MaryAnn. My one visit was a day trip while staying with friends in Tampa. I think it probably is rather empty now compared to the winter high season.

    5. Dan Gadd

      Total enjoyment!

      In 20 years of the www. experience Ive found no other sites I enjoy more than this. The true honesty & sharing of experiences cannot be matched in any method of social communications. Being here next door to pinecraft, Fla. I find myself missing my Amish buddy Sarah back in Quaker City,OH. her family has been an honor to know these past 3 years. Just the experience of learning has kept me going back. Everything described here is every bit of my experiences. I give all the wee ones golf balls to play with while enjoying the candy I getem. ūüėČ the parents love it! ūüėČ

      1. Dan, thanks for the nice comment!

    6. Alice Mary

      I KNEW food would be your #1 best thing about living with the Amish! ūüôā

      I thought of the Amish yesterday when my daughter took me & her 2 little girls (ages 2 and 4) to Brookfield Zoo. There was an outdoor “game” (square concrete stones with printing on them, set into a large rubberized mat) that included energy-efficient as well as “not-so” energy efficient things to do. You’d spin a large spinner to see where you’d end up. One of the girls ended up on “hang laundry to dry on a clothesline”, which made me think of this blog (as well as my Mom, who always did it that way, never having a gas or electric clothes dryer…in Chicago, yet!)

      Being “disconnected”, to me, is a good thing, for the most part. I rarely check my email on weekends (it seems too much like being at work). I’d rather be outdoors whenever possible, if only to putter in the garden & watch the birds & critters.

      This one was fun, Erik! I enjoyed the replies, too!

      Alice Mary

      1. Thanks Alice Mary. Yes, food was the first that came to mind, but maybe not the most important one ūüôā Hanging laundry out to dry is no doubt an exotic idea for some kids, after all there’s a machine for that!

    7. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      disconnecting

      I feel sad writing this, but being online takes a lot of my free time, I sort of wish that I can just not sit at my screen
      and listen to varied music, look at friends and facebook accounts, and generally bum about on the internet not doing anything productive, and for that I am interested in an Amish style lifestyle [I know I will never be Amish, but I’d like to live a less online life].

      For me, I listen to music and such, and I can go for hours, it is kind of sad, by my own admission. Sometimes I go for several days without watching anything, well, that’s not true, sometimes I watch videos that I enjoy on my platform of choice, and read Amish America and its’ comments regularly,

      I’ve thought about it, and I’ve realized that for me the last fully offline year for me was 1997, because 1998 I was exposed to the internet for the first time in High School in my last semester, and began to become a junkie when I got into college in the fall, by 2001 I was fully engrossed, well, to the technology of the day anyway.

      I try to turn off the internet, but I keep coming back…

      I know that sounds incredibly sad, and I admit it, no shame when you know you have an issue….

      1. Shom I’m sure you’re not alone, no doubt a lot of people have that issue nowadays. Rather than go cold-turkey, which may not be practical or pleasant, have you thought about having set times or occasions for the internet and trying to stick to those? I know it’s very easy to get sucked into spending a lot of time online, especially if you rely on a computer for communication and/or work.

      2. Carolyn B

        Oh heck, SHOM, you’re younger than me by more than a decade! In my mind you were in your 50s. How ridiculous is that? You can’t stay off line too long. I and the others here would miss you so bad.

        Love the post today, Erik. I like when you talk of the kids as it reminds me of my elementary school days when I had an Amish friend in class about every year.

        1. That’s neat Carolyn, you may have mentioned already, but what area of the country did you go to school in?

          1. Carolyn B

            Erik, on the border of Howell County/Texas County MO, in the 70s. I remember 3 female classmates vividly but only one by first and last name. I wish I could run into that gal. I don’t think they had a whole district here in the 70s, just 3 households is all I can recall. Thanks for asking.

            1. Amish schooling in creative places

              Interesting Carolyn, sounds like a fledgling sort of settlement. I don’t see any Amish living in that area today, so I assume it folded at some point. The smaller places sometimes have to be creative about schooling since it doesn’t make the most sense to build a schoolhouse if there are only a few families.

              In the recent Burke’s Garden, VA settlement post, we saw an example of that with families holding school in a former public elementary building which is currently a community center: https://amishamerica.com/amish-burkes-garden-virginia/

              There was also an interesting case of Amish holding school in a hotel building in North Carolina in the 1920s: https://amishamerica.com/nc-amish-history/

    8. store.

      I wish some Amish would have a Bakery/store here in Summerville sc. it would do well here. People would love it.

    9. Richard Traunero

      Treasured memories

      We treasure our memories of visiting and staying with our Amish friends in Leola, PA. Once you are “in”, you are accepted, and more Amish friends are sure to follow! Everything you mention, Erik, the food, friendship, chores, etc. is spot on. Our friends always “took advantage” of our van when we visited, so we would drive them to visit their friends, thereby making more Amish friends! So wonderful. And then, one time two of our Amish friend couples rode the train out to our home in Ohio and stayed with us! So they got to a taste of “English” living! Sadly, all of our lives got in our own ways, and it has been a long time since we have visited in person. Christmas cards seem to be our communication of late. I need to do something about that very soon! Great article.

    10. Glad to hear you’ve experienced something similar Richard. And neat to hear your friends are from the Leola area, I have some friends in that neck of the woods too (who also came to stay in NC for several days of English living):) I used to send Christmas cards but have been lax on that the past several years. Depending on the person I keep in touch with phone calls or occasionally email (for those who have access to it). I have some Swartzentruber Amish acquaintances in NC but the only way to really reach them is by letter or by showing up in person.

    11. James Gas

      Erik

      Like to see a piece on living among the Amish. (Best neighbors you will ever have!)

    12. David R Stear

      re Amish schooling in creative places

      The area where I am originally from in Pennsylvania began busing rural school age kids into town for grade school in the 1950s; the one or two room rural school houses, usually made of brick, were mostly sold to people who turned them into houses/homes, with some adding on to the original building. I imagine some of those former schools come up for sale occasionally as people relocate or move away. I wonder if some of these old school houses are ever acquired by the Amish and turned back into schools if they are located in areas where the Amish have moved in. This leads me to another question: I read on this website that many Amish are relocating, especially lately, rather far afield from their original localities in Pennsylvania, Ohio or Indiana–some as far away as Colorado or Kansas; how do they get out to these places? My assumption is that they hire drivers but I’m also thinking that perhaps they may take the train (??). If the Amish intend to “colonize” a new area, how is it done? Do a few selected men (I assume) scout out properties beforehand somehow and then once they settle in send for their wives and children? I understand the Amish definitely frown on flying and I don’t blame them a bit as I hate flying myself–taking a plane anywhere has become a horrible ordeal.

    13. Debbie

      Another one for the list.

      This is a nice list. I did think one point would be something like an increased spirituality, though.