25 Things You Might Not Know About The Amish

Posted by , Updated on April 21, 2024

The Amish are globally recognized as a fascinating religious minority, noted for their distinct culture and way of life. Celebrated for their simplistic, conventional lifestyles, which often revolve around farming and handicrafts, the Amish are known for their commitment to God and their divergence from the Mennonite traditions over the centuries. The television network, TLC, has in recent years aired several shows shining a light on the lives of the Amish youth, offering the global audience a peek into a culture that typically forbids photography and remains wary of outsiders. Even though certain segments have introduced modern amenities like indoor toilets and single community telephone, the Amish have largely managed to retain their conventional lifestyles. There are many captivating facts about them you may not be aware of. For instance, did you know that the primary language among the Amish is a particular German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch, which comes from a misinterpretation of the German word “Deutsch”? Or have you ever wondered why certain Amish men have long beards while others are clean-shaven? Or do you know the reasoning behind their acceptance of only faceless dolls and their rejection of automobiles and other technological advancements? You can find answers to these questions and gain additional insights into the Amish culture in this compilation of 25 Things You May Not Know About the Amish.


Origin of "Amish"

group of amish peopleSource: National Geographic, Image: Pixabay

The term “Amish” is derived from the name of Jakob Ammann, a Swiss Anabaptist in the Mennonite church who strongly advocated for a literal interpretation of the Bible. His ideas caused a schism in the church and the followers who sided with him were thus known as Amish.


What's an Anabaptist?

Spread_of_the_Anabaptists_1525-1550Source: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

Anabaptism is sometimes considered to be a sect of Protestantism known for its opposition and refusal to baptize an infant. Anabaptists believe baptism should only be done once one is able to willingly confess their faith.


Baptism and marriage

AmishFamilyNiagaraFallsSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

Baptism in the Amish faith happens most often between 18-22 years old. Until this happens, the person is not permitted to marry and when they do marry, it must be to another church member.



amish family in the gardenSource: National Geographic, Image: mlavoie8 via Flickr

Strict pacifists, the Amish reject any form of violence. To this aim, Amish members do not participate in the military.


The faceless dolls

Amish_DollsSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

Take a look at an Amish doll (if you can find one) and you’ll see it has no face. The faceless dolls are believed to deter against pride and vanity.



Amish_farm_morristown_new_yorkSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

When a child in an Amish family turns 16, they enter a limited time period called Rumspringa. During this time, the youth is allowed to go out and do things normally forbidden by the Amish community. Though more symbolic for some as they go to a movie theater or for a driving lesson, some have been known to consume drugs and alcohol.


The Amish, in numbers

Traditional_Amish_buggySource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

The Amish first immigrated to North America in the early 1700’s, primarily settling down in Pennsylvania. Today, over 300,000 Amish people live in over 28 U.S. states and Canada.


No music

anabaptists singingSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

Similar to the reasons for having faceless dolls, the Amish do not play any musical instruments, claiming they are a method of self-expression which would encourage pride and feelings of superiority.


An Amish woman's role

amish kitchenSource: National Geographic, Image: wirawan0 via Flickr

An Amish woman is primarily a homemaker, taking on a more traditional gender role including cooking, home management, and helping neighbors. In public, an Amish woman will generally follow her husband’s lead.



amish farmstandSource: National Geographic, Image: ilamont via Flickr

The Amish can exclude members in two different ways. The first, shunning, involves members of the community limiting contact with the transgressor to shame them back into the church and show them the errors of their ways.



amish buggy for saleSource: National Geographic, Image: jbmac via Flickr

The more serious charge – excommunication – is a total shutdown of contact with the person and a banishment from the community. Even parents must cut contact if their child has been excommunicated lest they are excommunicated themselves.


No cars

Amish_Buggie_signSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikimedia

It’s generally a well-known Amish fact that members cannot use motorized vehicles such as cars. The Amish horse and buggy may even be the most commonly seen picture of Amish life. Since community members are mutually dependent on each other for survival, the speed and efficiency of a car is seen to undermine the need for a neighbor to ask another for help.


Church services

Amish_School_near_Rebersburg_PASource: National Geographic, Image: Wikimedia

Since before the Amish’s founding as a splinter group from the Mennonites, Anabaptists were persecuted and thus held church services in their homes. A different member usually hosts the community with the host changing weekly.


Barn raising

Barn_raising_in_LansingSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikimedia

Beyond the horse and buggy, Amish communities are widely known for the festive time known as a barn raising. Both an economic and social event, barn raisings are where the community comes together to build a barn for one of its members. The act typifies selflessness and neighbors helping neighbors, bedrocks of Amish culture.


The famous beard

amish man with beardSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

Looking at an Amish man, you can tell if he’s married or not – just look at his beard. An Amish man begins growing his beard (though not his mustache – they’re not allowed) immediately after his wedding.


A woman's church dress

Femmes-AmishSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikimedia

Similar to a man’s beard, an Amish woman uses her wedding outfit – which she must sew herself and which is sometimes required to be blue – for Sunday church services after she is married.


Political leanings

Amish_children_playing_baseball,_Lyndonville_NYSource: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

Though the Amish place the Word of God above governmental rule, they support the separation of church and state.


Amish education

inside of an amish schoolSource: National Geographic, Image: wm_archiv via Flickr

Amish children learn in one-room parochial schoolhouses taught by Amish teachers. After that point, the child goes to vocational training with their family and members of the community where they learn skills such as farming and carpentry.


Reasons for excommunication

young amish people working on computerSource: National Geographic, Image: anthonyalbright via Flickr

The Amish can excommunicate someone for owning a computer, drinking alcohol, or even refusing to kneel during church.



amish peopleSource: National Geographic, Image: Pixabay

The Amish are set apart from other Christians in that they do not engage in missionary work or evangelism to gain more converts to the faith.



Lancaster_County_Amish_03Source: National Geographic, Image: Wikipedia

Referred to as “English” people, the Amish are normally uncomfortable by non-Amish people. The Amish aim for peaceful coexistence in their lifestyle with the outside world. Some groups, such as in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, frequently see outsiders (as tourists) as they show them their way of life.



amish family on a strollSource: National Geographic, Image: johnny_appleseed1774

Amish groups generally are not opposed to the use of modern medicine and do use it in serious cases. Since they don’t have insurance, the community pools together funds to pay for a sick community member.


No selfies

amish man at atmSource: National Geographic, Image: justinmosebach via Flickr

The Amish are mostly opposed to being photographed because they feel the photo is a fixed image. Most refuse to be in a picture though some agree if it is in a natural setting (in contrast to posing) or if their faces aren’t showing.


Retention rate of Amish children

amish boysSource: National Geographic, Image: Public Domain Pictures

One of the most interesting Amish facts to outsiders is that 80-90% of Amish children stay within the church. This retention rate plus a high birth rate means that the Amish population doubles in size every 20 years.


Converting to the Amish faith

young amish peopleSource: National Geographic, Image: lwpkommunikacio via Flickr

For anyone wanting to join the Amish, the process is pretty rigorous. One must learn the Pennsylvania German dialect spoken by the Amish (some only speak German) and leave behind their familiar modern luxuries which are in contrast to Amish society. The potential convert is put to live with an Amish family to adapt to the household and lifestyle. After a sufficient period of acclimation, the final say rests in a church vote on whether to admit the potential convert.