“Utterly NOT an Amish Home!” (5 Myths In One Comment)

So I got another comment on the YouTube channel that made my head spin a little bit 😀 The commenter claims that an Amish home I showed in the video “Inside an Amish Home” is “Utterly NOT an Amish home!” The commenter includes a list of five points why he/she thinks it’s not Amish, adding at the end that the video was “total bologna.”

This happens from time to time. Someone comes at a post or video very strong, claiming things which are way off-base (usually based in some popular myth). This can lead to them getting featured in their very own response post (here’s a similar example).

Again, my point is not to pick on people. But on this one, I don’t feel bad in the least to challenge the claims…especially given the tone of the comment 🙂 Here is the comment in full, you can be the judge. My response follows. If you like, you can see what the commenter is referring to, in the images presented in the video above.

Comment:

This Utterly NOT an Amish home! At timestamp 3:29 I will point out some VERY OBVIOUS reasons as to why this is NOT Amish.

1) Above the first bed on the left is an automobile wall plague – this would NEVER be in an Amish dwelling because it represents the world.

2) There’s an electric alarm clock sitting on the night stand. The Amish DO NOT use electricity.

3) Above the second bed in the right corner, there are three dream catchers – these are considered demonic and would not have presence EVER in their homes .

4) On top of the dresser next to this same bed, is a replica of an 18 wheeler semi – they have NOTHING TO DO WITH gas powered (or electric for that matter) vehicles.

5) Whatever polyester fabric comforter is on the first bed and how disarray both beds are – Not Amish! Cotton? Yes. Wool? Yes. Not this stuff. And it would never look be kept untidy.

I’m sure there are more, but these three things are enough to demonstrate that this total bologna. Not Amish!

Update: for the context of my response below, the commenter also asked in a second comment if I’d lived with the Amish.

Responding to “Utterly NOT an Amish home”

Here is the meat of my response (I responded on the channel, but expanded my answers a bit here (the parts in italics), and added example images):

My response:

If it matters, yes sure I’ve lived with them…but you don’t have to live with them to learn something about them.

1) Automobile imagery is not taboo for some Amish families – they don’t think the car is “evil”, they just don’t drive them b/c they feel limiting technology helps preserve family & community. Amish even make automobile-themed jokes and some may have even driven cars when they were younger and not church members.

Amish youth in Missouri. Photo: Don Burke

2) Amish use all types of batteries for clocks, flashlights, and other devices. Even the more conservative groups. Again, electricity is not “evil”, it is more about being careful with unfettered access to tech.

Battery in an Amish phone shanty powering a defibrillator monitor. Image: Greg Roth

3) Dream catchers are very common in some Amish teens’ rooms, many Amish like Native American imagery. They also like western/cowboy imagery, and you might see it in some decor in teens’ rooms in particular – like glass shades for battery-powered bedside lamps.

Attic bedroom with dreamcatcher decor. Inside a “Swiss Amish” home in Indiana.

4) Amish children have toy cars, Amish people ride in cars, some even hire “Amish taxis” regularly for shorter or longer trips. See 1) above. Some Amish children have little matchbox cars and some of those larger plastic ones the tots can ride around in/on. Visit a large Amish community and pay attention to the passing cars’ passengers. Some non-Amish people even make a living from driving the Amish.

Example ad of an Amish taxi service operating in the Lancaster County, PA region

5) Amish use synthetic materials for their clothing, bedspreads, etc. Nothing wrong with it if it’s affordable and does the job. I’d also add that Amish are hardly immune from “untidy” homes. Though like English people, some are faster to tidy them up than others. 

Amish fabric shop in Adams County, Indiana. Photo by Jim Halverson. 100% polyester Spring Melange by Mook Fabrics

I ended my comment by suggesting the commenter read a book like “The Amish” to learn more.

Why My Head Spins

The thing that makes my head spin is not so much the claims, but how confidently they are made. I certainly don’t know everything about the Amish, and never have claimed to.

But I myself would at least, I don’t know, hesitate – before going on a channel dedicated to say Orthodox Jews or French cooking or the history of Minnesota (subjects I know little to nothing about) and claiming things that are so wrong, so boldly.

But I think the comment also itself illustrates very well how deeply-ingrained are some misconceptions about the Amish. Especially, I think, the false beliefs that “Amish think tech is evil” and the “Amish are ‘all-natural’“. To take another example, just today I saw a Q-and-A column in a major media outlet assuming that the Amish don’t pay taxes.

I guess if you have such strong beliefs about something, and then see a channel purporting to be about that topic, but flipping everything you thought on its head…maybe some people have a strong emotional response to that. I guess I’m as much interested in the thought process there, as I am in the pervasiveness of the Amish myths. Your thoughts?

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54 Comments

  1. I certainly do find it interesting how some people seem to think they know everything about Amish and think they are all the same. I get similar reactions to my posts all the time. All the more reason to educate people, I guess. Although, those kind of people don’t seem to actually read the info that’s out there.

    1. I suspect you’re right on the likelihood of some actually reading up. I believe screen names also promote this type of thing, because they insulate from a deterring sense of shame.

      1. Paula Mann

        Preconceptions about Amish

        Erik, We joined a plain conservative Mennonite church in 1999 and have had the privilege of knowing many plain people including a couple of Amish families since that time, shop in their stores, been to weddings and funeral. Your comments are spot on. Amish are people like any other group and there are individual tastes that are expressed depending on the particular group’s ordnung. There are also, especially in youth, some experimentation to see what they like, ad there are always a few people who bend the rules where they can get away with it. Our Mennonite group allows internet with filtering so I have continued to enjoy your website for many years. And when we want to do plain shopping for common sense stuff you don’t find in English stores, its a great resource.

    2. sim pap

      Thank you for sharing

      I am not Amish but I appreciate learning about different lifestyles within our society. The idea of focusing more on family values and less on technology sounds great. If you could suggest a good guide to growing food /vegetables in PA, hopefully you can please share it.

  2. Not Surprised

    Erik, thanks for you’re update, including helping break myths that are everywhere on everything and everybody. People who think they are experts may also be the political outliers who badmouth others for thinking differently than they do.
    I’d enjoy reading this person’s response to your post. Please update us, if possible.
    Happy writing, Jim

    1. Thanks Jim, just speculating, and not to get too in the weeds, but it may just be that the dopamine hit or whatever feeling a person gets from leaving these kind of indignant/”correcting” comments is really all they’re after. And since it’s from behind a screen name, there is little to no downside. It’s certainly not uncommon.

      I’ll see if there’s any follow-up but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s not. The comment thread is on that post, but unfortunately I don’t know of a way to direct link to individual comments in YouTube’s system.

  3. Terry Burk

    Thank You

    Thank you for your response to this individual who apparently has little knowledge regarding all aspects of the Amish. It is a wonderful thing that they remain Kind people. To the Amish, I praise and respect you and your customs.

  4. Another house that may be Amish... Some are just more stylish than others.

    The only thing that threw me off is the mirror in the bathroom. Everything else looks like an Amish home to me. It might be a strict Mennonite home, going to auction soon. I thought it was lovely!

    https://hessauctiongroup.hibid.com/catalog/429264/2323-donegal-springs-rd–marietta–pa-17547/

    1. Nice example, yes that’s an Amish place. So what stands out a bit for me is the decor in particular the checkerboard kitchen table, that is a new look in Amish homes for me 🙂

      I recall when I started seeing those barn stars on the exteriors of Amish homes, about 10-15 years ago. First they weren’t there, and then suddenly, bam, lots of people had them. At least it seemed that way to me.

      1. Notice the Dream Catcher in one of the bedrooms too!

        Personally I love the style that this family chose in decorating this house. Without being overly done, it reflects the owners enjoyment of surrounding themselves in color and pattern with the pretty quilts, the plants everywhere, and yes that checkerboard table cover, I thought that was great too! That’s a property most anyone would enjoy owning!

  5. Central Virginian

    Not All the Same

    A key point is they’re not all the same. There may be some Amish communities who would not have the items the commenter noted (except maybe polyester fabric, which saves a LOT of ironing time in clothing), but others calling themselves Amish do have them.

    I noticed the Native American dream catcher/god’s eye myself. As a Christian, I wouldn’t have one because of my understanding of their association with polytheistic religion, but not everyone looks at it as I do.

    1. That is a good point. For brevity I actually didn’t include my full response comment from YouTube here, but I touched on that bit. But as examples of what you say here, some Amish wouldn’t hire Amish taxis, and some would frown upon certain decor.

      I also wrote that another common response is for people to say “well, those are not the REAL Amish” – when it’s pointed out that some Amish actually do these things (use electricity from batteries, ride in Amish taxis, etc) that conflict with their “Amish-stuck-in-the-1800s” perception.

  6. Nell Bly

    "Not Amish" quite mistaken

    Based on 70 years of living among the Amish of SE PA and having a number of close Amish friends, I must say that “Not Amish” lacks real exposure to Amish culture.
    While I could respond point by point, I’ll just simply note that the house in question closely resembles those I frequently visit — but with some differences based on geographic region.
    The young men are particularly fond of cars and big trucks and collect models and pictures. One really likes to visit and use my computer to play a truck-driving simulation game (with his parents’ permission BTW). He regularly drives trucks and tractors when working for an English farmer.
    His sisters wear dresses made of synthetic fabrics.
    Most local families have workshops full of electric tools that run off of batteries. A friend’s elderly mother particularly treasures the talking alarm clock I gave her for Christmas, since she is nearly blind.

    1. Amish boy toys

      Agreed! My Amish neighbors children have a ton of Tonka trucks, I’ve even given them some of my kids old Tonkas. My Amish Farrier would often come in for coffee after we did my horses and “borrowed” my computer to have a look around the internet. He’s no stranger to doing so, judging by the way he managed with it! He also checks Amish children’s face book pages, U guess for inappropriate content! To say or think that Amish aren’t up on today’s technology is just dumb, they don’t own it or incorporate it into their lives personally, but they know full and well about it and how to use it! Why is that bad thing? They live in the same world we do.

    2. Paula Mann

      synthetic fabrics

      I buy my fabrics in the plain stores, and yes there is alot of synthetic fabric. I personally find it too hot, but they buy it for the simple reason that it lasts much longer than cottons. I try to get Tropical Breeze which is light weight and part cotton or even cotton quilting fabrics for my dresses.

  7. rube

    Confirmation bias

    Erik: When I read the responses from “Utterly Not An Amish Home,” confirmation bias: “A confirmation bias is cognitive bias that favors information that confirms your previously existing beliefs” (verywellmind). A personal definition, “the need to be right, even when you’re not” (a national epidemic).

    Your response and photos resemble the Amish homes of friends and family, who are members of Amish congregations/districts in Northern Indiana.

  8. rube

    Correction

    Erik: a correction to my first paragraph for an earlier post: When I read the responses from “Utterly Not An Amish Home,” the idea of confirmation bias came to mind: “. . . cognitive bias that favors information that confirms your previously existing beliefs” (verywellmind). A personal definition, “the need to be right, even when you’re not” (a national epidemic).

    1. Yes I think confirmation bias is working there. On the “need to be right point”, it’s good food for thought.

      I always wonder if the more interesting characters I encounter online were always out there…only decades ago, I was blessed to not hear from them due to the lack of digital platforms 🙂

      Or, whether something about social media, digital communication, and “these times” has actually led to the creation of more such “interesting characters”.

  9. Rozy

    I know the feeling

    That person’s comment is not so different from some people’s comments about what one or another religion believes. Unless you are what you are talking about you probably don’t know everything about the subject.

  10. Don Burke

    Great response. In the final analysis, all we can do is teach the teachable; realize that you just can’t fix stupid; strive to learn from their mistake instead of duplicating it; and regardless of how ignorant a person insists on being treat them with the kind of response we would want to be treated with were the shoe on the other foot…, for one day it is very likely to be. And for whatever my opinion is worth, I’d say you checked all those boxes, Erik.

    Again, great response.

    1. Thank you Don, in the end I am grateful to the commenter because it led to an interesting post and conversation. I appreciate your words

  11. kim hansen

    Love your response. It doesn’t matter amish- non amish everyone is trying to budget to make the dollar go further and I doubt the amish are any different. I know most have gardens and some do slaughter there own animals but still the food and fabric bills are high. What I don’t think some people believe is that not every household is as strict as others in the amish community. But from all your other posts amish communities differ from place to place. I bet there heating bills are just as high as electric heat or oil heat.

  12. Franci

    Hello Erik, gut daag!
    I agree with everyone who has written in saying that this definitely is an Amish home. The ‘automobile wall plaque’ is in fact a 750 piece puzzle titled Christmas Truck, available from bitsandpieces. It is very common for the Amish to glue a favorite puzzle together and hang it on their wall. Puzzles are in every Amish home! The same with alarm clocks, which look electric but are actually battery powered. Our Old Order Amish friend’s daughter, Lizzy, is 17 and has 3 dreamcatchers in her bedroom. The younger boys have toy cars and trucks, although they are very outnumbered by toy horses, cows and other farm animals! There is also much more polyester fabric in their homes than you will ever find in mine. As for messy beds or dusty floors, it all depends on the day, just like in an English home. Maybe 3 vanloads of relatives just left after a big meal and a good long visit and it’s time to clean up, or maybe church service will be held in the house the next morning and everything is spotless. It just depends on the day.

    Perhaps the person who had such critical comments only knew one Amish family? It’s unfortunate that they chose to write the way that they did. Thank you for the work that you do!!

    1. Good eye on the plaque and good examples here Franci, and thank you. I also see that type of response – “these Amish aren’t like the Amish I know, so they’re not the REAL Amish” – or variations of it. But my impression here by how it was written is that this person probably knows no Amish at all.

  13. Boyce Rensberger

    Amish home with automobile

    I once visited an Amish home that had a car parked beside it. And two jet-skis” on a trailer next to the barn.

    Turned out they had a son on rumspringa, and it was his car. As I recall, the jet-skis belonged to the son and his friend. The son was living at home and his parents were “hoping for the best.”

  14. Jeffrey C Masters

    Hmmmm.....

    I guess I better call my Amish friends, and tell them they have been living a lie all these years. They will be really sad to know that they aren’t Amish! LOL

    1. Break the news to them gently Jeffrey! 😀

  15. Lorna

    Really? "Not Amish??"

    I can understand that strongly-opinionated writer’s observation of things that aren’t in “his” Amish community’s homes. They aren’t in “my” Amish homes either. However, I know enough Amish people to know that they’re not all the same and they allow/adopt very different levels of technology and comforts. My closest Amish friends are Troyer Amish, and very conservative. They use only kerosene lamps in the house, barn and buggy. They use only replaceable batteries in their headlamps and flashlights. They use only solid color blankets–no pink, yellow, orange or red-and quilts with only dark, solid-color fabric piecess, arranged in simpler patterns. They, too, use only wind-up clocks, not battery or electric powered time pieces. It is pretty amusing to read how adamant that author is in his opinions of what constitutes true Amish culture…even though I regularly observe things in your pictures that would never appear in “my” Amish people’s houses. It gives me reason to chuckle at how obnoxious we can all be, at times, in our rush to correct others’ errors… while remaining blind to our own.

    1. Richard Stevick

      Thanks for your helpful comment.

      . . . And your excellent Troyer Amish description. Rich

  16. Rich Stevick

    An Apology

    Erik. I’m sorry for my ignorance but especially for my arrogance. And thank you for your measured, informed, and corrective response. Please forgive me for spreading disinformation on your excellent site. I think I have learned from this experience and will check my facts BEFORE I spout off on any subject that I really don’t know about. All the best, and thanks again.PS.Erik,This is a sample apology for the writer in case they need some help. Here’s hoping it happens but don’t hold your breath. Thanks for your continued good work. Rich Stevick

    1. Got me for a second!

      Rich for a second there I thought this was going to be the surprise of 2023, that Rich Stevick of all people is secretly trolling Amish YouTube channels under a pseudonym!! 😀 Thankfully I got to your closing lines and all was made clear. Well-played – and I appreciate the public service even if it goes unused.

      1. Rich Stevick

        Look us up next time you're in Holmes County.

        Nuestr casa es su casa!

      2. Rich Stevick

        Look us up next time you're in Holmes County.

        Nuestra casa es su casa! You are always welcome. Besides the Sweet Shop in Charm has a great new location with the same delicious offerings. I’m making my mouth water.

  17. A Bachmann

    Thanks Erik

    Eric, thank you for setting the record straight. I can confirm you are right, because I also live with the Amish and I have seen a lot of variety depending on church district. I am not Amish, and I am not English!-I am Swiss – and I can speak both Pennsylvania Dutch (german) and Swiss (Bernese) Amish.
    Keep doing your great work- I love reading your posts!

    1. Thank you – and how well-positioned you are to be able to communicate in both of those varieties of German. Maybe you could act as a translator/interpreter between the two! Just kidding but it is interesting that they apparently use English at least at times to better understand each other.

  18. Angelika

    Some Amish are very modern

    I’m not Amish but have a few friends that are former Amish with relatives that are still in the lifestyle. Some of their homes would surprise you with all the modern conveniences that run off of a generator. They can also use cell phones if they have a business , supposed to keep it in the barn and only used for business but some don’t always follow that, especially the teens that are not baptized yet. They are people just like the rest of humans out there with all the same faults that the rest of us have.

    1. Good points Angelika, you reminded me of this home we looked at last year which is probably the most modern Amish home I’ve seen in terms of its feel. Quite the contrast with the one in the video. Geauga County, OH community: https://amishamerica.com/inside-a-million-dollar-amish-home/

  19. Beloved Amish

    I always try to keep an open mind and heart to others choices for their life. I respect the Amish for standing firm in their beliefs. It sounds like someone thinks they know it all. And, that is sad. I see them as hard working people with a strong faith. I always wanted to take a tour of Amish settlements and experience these people firsthand. I am getting older and probably never will, but looking at postings brings me great joy. They are a beloved people.

  20. Paula

    Guilty As Charged

    I giggled all the way through this because I used to have a false concept of the Amish. I don’t know how many years I’ve been reading Amish America, but you have certainly expanded my self education on the Amish. And I so appreciate you humbling & dispelling many myths.

    I love different cultures. Their food, their histories, how we may all be different but the same. Other cultures always sound much more interesting than my own. I used to think vegan was the same as vegetarians. Used to think Catholics all had the same rules & that Jews also have the same regulations.

    This is a very interesting world & we meld as one when we open our eyes & minds.

    1. Great comment and no shame in that. You should have seen the first time I visited an Amish home. I was a bit lost to say the least:)

  21. Tom Weaver

    Amish beliefs

    Eric,

    My husband and I have been very close to The Amish settlement near us. We have done lots with them including Weddings, Funerals, taking one little boy (starting at 2 yrs old) with Leukemia, to the hospital 75 miles away one a week for treatment for 10 years. The little boy has turned into a young man of 16 with cancer in remission. His grandfather who, started the settlement (old Amish beliefs) has a collection of vintage cars in his shop. His mother has a fabric shop with different type of fabrics, and mis. items like sun catchers in it.

    Keep doing the great post, I take my laptop to The Amish and show them your post – which they enjoy.

    Peace
    Tom & Gary

    1. Neat, you kinda threw me for a loop with the vintage cars but I also knew a young Amish guy who bought a property full of old vintage cars in states of disrepair, then ended up having a huge auction where he sold them all off. I’ve also seen some very old timey cars (early 1900s) being worked on in at least one carriage shop. Not to mention the Amish alternator shop & Ford Bronco repair guy in Lancaster County. https://amishamerica.com/amish-auto-restoration-shop/ So you never know what you’ll come across Thanks for sharing the site with them I’m always happy to hear about Amish readers out there!

  22. Walter Boomsma

    It's a familiar story...

    But hard to diagnose. Where does the arrogance on social media and the Internet in general stem from? I suppose the answer to that is just about as complex as the Amish. I do think narcissism is running rampant these days… and people who can tolerate uncertainty are a rarity. The irony I find in that is the Amish seem to be better critical thinkers and more tolerant of uncertainty than those who judge them. As you point out, they don’t slap the label of “evil” on electricity, cars, and synthetic fabrics. They adopt and adapt thoughtfully as a group (community) of individuals. A narcissist would naturally have some difficulty understanding and accepting that.

    There’s also a tendency to identify “Amish” as a lifestyle which, pardon the very apt comparison, puts the buggy before the horse. We might better consider what determines whether or not someone is “Amish.”

  23. Al in Ky

    I’ve been learning about Amish faith and life for many years through much reading, visiting various Amish communities, and developing friendships with several Amish people. It has taken me a long time to begin to understand that there are over forty different basic types of Amish –“affiliations”. I learned that specifics about what is and is not acceptable in many areas of daily life (clothing styles, length of beards, use of technology, decorations in homes, etc.) are based on the “ordnung” (church rules) of that community’s affiliation. Then later I began to learn that there can be differences even in different churches (districts) of local Amish communities with the same affiliation. And there are differences even in families in the same district. (But if they are too far out of line, they likely will receive counsel from their ministry).

    An example: After about ten years of my active learning, an Amish family of the Swartzentruber affiliation invited me into their home to visit and have some refreshments. When I entered the home, I immediately saw several very nice Fisher-Price toys. I thought to myself, “What is this?
    Swartzentruber Amish would never have Fisher-Price toys– they are too fancy and too expensive for this type of Amish”. I commented to the mother, “Your children have some very nice toys”. She said, “Yes, we bought them very reasonably at a yard sale in town a few months ago”.

    So, I have to remember that if it’s taken me many years of active learning to not be surprised at what I observe amongst the Amish, many other people have a casual, simplistic understanding and are surprised at things Amish people might consider not to be out of the ordinary.

  24. Heil

    Most Enjoyable Video

    Thank you, Erik, for the tour. I must say I was surprised by the price–seemed low for all that is included. Your comment on the blue plastic tablecloth–this was new to me. Always learning. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks for checking it out! Glad you liked it and I have to say the photos by Tim Harris were some of the nicest home interior shots I’ve come across.

  25. Terry Berger

    Personally

    I always have to laugh at things like this. People have this concept that we’re ( plain people) all modern luddites. I’m brethren and often confused for being Amish. One time someone asked me if having electric windows in my car put me in conflict with my faith? I said it would be more of an issue if I had them in my horse and buggy…. Some people have such a strong imprint that even when I explain some differences it doesn’t sink in. They’d soone believe the myths and the tourist tracts. Just my two cents.

  26. Guy in Ohio

    Erik, this reminds me of a guy that I work with. On a daily basis he very confidently says incorrect and sometimes very ridiculous stuff on all kinds of subjects. When confronted with the truth he usually either argues about it or just ends the conversation, very rarely will he admit that he was wrong. Some people just live in their own little reality where they know everything and are always right. I just smile and nod my head, then go about my day. I feel like there is no educating people like that because they already “know” everything.

    1. I think this is the wise approach…at some point when you keep burning energy on people in that mode, it’s on you not them. Some “reality” bubbles are basically impenetrable

  27. J.O.B.

    I feel it’s best to keep it simple when talking to people who are unfamiliar with the Amish.

    There are many different groups of Amish.

    Each group of Amish can have different rules when it comes to technology, clothing, home furnishings, and so on.

    At that point, people tend to respond with ‘Oh.Ok. Got it.’ Or, with something negative.

    I understand the criticism. One group I know allows cell phones for work, but often use it for non-work. When people see this, they often make negative comments. It’s as if they feel lied to, or misled.

    I think some people are disappointed to find out that the Amish are are more like us than they thought. Almost hoping the Amish would somehow be better by staying away from the cell phones, drinking, and so on.

    It’s as if some people would like there to be some good, a breath of fresh air, in a stress-filled world. And the Amish could represent this. Then seeing some Amish drive cars, party, play on their cell-phone, leaves some people thinking ‘not you, too.’

    It’s hard to explain, but some negative comments seem to stem from a sense of disappointment.

    1. Paula

      Reply to J.O.B.

      You expressed everything I wanted to say. We have a romantic notion of the Amish…& don’t want that dream of an idealistic life, free from all incumbrances…to be true. Maybe something to aspire too? An escape? I am guilty of this myself.

    2. Dolores

      J.O.B.

      I agree!! Tho I have also seen man comments that sound more bigoted than disappointed. Either way, it is not our place to judge. I appreciate that many are willing to take this blog as a means of learning more about the culture of our neighbors that we might not otherwise get a chance to learn.

  28. Jeffrey C Masters

    Ha ha ha! The respondent has never been to visit, or stay with our dear Amish friends! I am reminded of the saying” better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt” Some people!

  29. Dewey Moses

    Kerosene Refrigerator

    Hi,
    Would anyone know where to purchase a kerosene refrigerator and freezer?
    Any feedback would be appreciated.