The Amish first immigrated to North America in the early 1700s, and they've been growing ever since. There are over 300,000 Amish people living in the U.S. and Canada today.
You may have an idea of the lifestyle they live, but there is a ton of misinformation and misconceptions regarding their day-to-day lives. When you picture an Amish community, what comes to mind? Surely a horse and buggy. Long beards, with no mustaches. Modest dresses.
While those things are true, not all Amish live like it's the 1800s anymore. Their communities are thriving, both financially and in their quality of life. Because of their dedication to God and their love for honest, hard work, it shouldn't come as a surprise that they're becoming more and more successful.
Their retention rate is through the roof, and they have a 95% business success rate. Amish children are not leaving their towns, and thus, their influence is growing. They have more spending money than ever, which they never spend on frivolous items. Instead, that money is circulated back into their communities, which furthers their success as a unified people.
Let's take a look at 25 interesting things most people don't know about the Amish.
25 Baptism Before Marriage
Baptism is a big deal for the Amish. They practise adult baptisms, with most people doing it from the ages of 18 to 22. They are not allowed to get married before being baptized, either. Baptism is not a requirement, it's more of a social norm in their communities. Amish America wrote an article on the subject, saying,
"Peer pressure, as in any other sphere of life, plays a role here too — one may be encouraged to join by the prospect of one’s friends joining. Parents exert some influence as well.
Most Amish parents, concerned with the welfare of their childrens’ souls, hope that they choose baptism in the Amish church."
24 Walmart Shoppers
Surprisingly, the amish shop at Walmart! It's not uncommon to see a group of them at Walmart if you live near one of their settlements. They don't frequent the store, since they grow and make most things for themselves. But there are some materials and items that they can only get at a regular chain store.
In fact, several Walmarts in areas like Wisconsin and Indiana actually have hitching posts set up outside the store for their horses and buggies.
No one is really sure how they feel morally about shopping here, but they're all about frugality and practicality.
23 Peaceful People
They reject any form of violence and are strict pacifists. Because of this, members of amish communities do not join the military. According to Amish America, "If asked to describe their beliefs regarding use of force, Amish would likely choose the term 'non-resistant' from among a number of synonyms. These include refusal to sue in a court of law, or to use coercive force as a member of government." It all ties in with their religious beliefs. Their beliefs regarding non-violence and non-resistance is rooted in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
22 Faceless Dolls
If you've never seen an Amish doll, they're pretty scary-looking at first. They don't have faces!
Different sources make different claims as to why they don't add faces to their dolls, and most historians agree that they're not faceless for any one reason.
Instead, it's the collection of several religious traditions and beliefs. The Amish believe that vanity and pride are sins, so taking away the facial features of their dolls ties into this, coupled with the importance they place on equality. If the dolls are faceless, they're viewed as "equal."
21 Savvy Business Men
It's a well-known fact that Amish businesses are extremely successful. In fact, they have a 95% success rate. So what makes them so successful? It's the combination of several things that make up their lifestyle that make this possible.
First and foremost, their work ethic obviously plays a big role. They grow up in an environment that encourages children and neighbors to pitch in and help each other succeed.
Hard work is an integral part of their culture. They also have a low overhead, since they don't believe in purchasing unnecessary luxury items.
20 Sweet 16
When Amish children turn 16, they celebrate a coming-of-age ritual called Rumspringa, where they are not only allowed, but encouraged to leave their family farms to explore the outside world.
From there, they can decide whether or not they want to remain Amish.
It's actually pretty genius. Many people feel trapped and wonder what else is out in the world. Well, the Amish take care of that possibility by encouraging their teenagers to go out and see for themselves. They almost always come back.
19 No Music
Their stance on music ties into their belief that pride is a sin. They think that playing music is an extension of pride issues, and of course, like anybody else, the strictness of this rule varies from place to place. Some sects only discourage it, while others are vehemently against it. Singing, however, when about religion, is a big part of their culture. You won't find any church bands in an Amish community. It's a good thing they allow singing at the very least.
18 Gender Roles
Whether you hate them or are indifferent about them, gender roles are prevalent in the Amish community. The women are expected to take on certain duties just as the men are. It's not that the women are oppressed or put under the man's thumb, they simply follow the roles that make the most logical sense to them. The women take care of household duties and children, while the men handle the hard-labor and business aspects of their lives. It's not uncommon to see them working together toward common goals and swapping duties where necessary, though. Generally speaking, they stick to their own path and work together as an entire community.
17 Experiences Over Material Goods
Amish people are far more concerned with creating memories than they are with material possessions.
Instead of purchasing items or objects, they typically put money back into their community or spend it in a way that allows their families to experience an activity together.
Remember, this is part of what makes them such successful business people. They don't buy frivolous things, therefore, they thrive. If there's one thing to be said about the Amish, it's that they are extremely resourceful.
16 Shunning And Excommunication
If you haven't heard of shunning and excommunicating within the Amish community, you've been living under a rock. While they're generally very peaceful and focused on creating a wonderful life for their families and community, they will not hesitate to shun someone that has done wrong. They will excommunicate for offences such as owning a computer or other device, drinking, or refusing to kneel during church. Shunning is far less intense, and it typically involves everyone in the community ignoring that person for a period of time.
15 Barn Raising
According to Amish America, "Barn raising is an example of a frolic, a work event that combines socializing with a practical goal." When someone in their town needs a barn built, the entire community comes together to built it.
The act of barn raising not only fulfills a practical need, it brings the Amish community together, "reinforcing Amish society through a very visible expression of the principal of mutual aid."
The barn raising is typically managed by two or three master engineers who coordinate the supplies and duties.
14 Why The Beards?
You may have noticed that Amish men grow full, long beards, but no moustache. The tradition stems back to when wearing an elaborate moustache was common in those in the military. Being strict pacifists, the Amish men didn't want to associate themselves with those in the military, and decided collectively to only grow beards. They're not allowed to grow moustaches, but growing a beard is practically a requirement — but not until they've wed.
Men will shave their face until the day they get married, immediately ditching their shave kit from there on out, to show those around them that they are spoken for, and are officially men.
At least this way, the women clearly know who's taken and who isn't.
13 Wedding Dress Must Be Worn Every Sunday
Before an Amish woman gets married, she must make her own dress for the ceremony. They're modest and practical — no frills or lace or anything of that nature. They're not required to wear blue, but it's a common favorite. What's even more interesting is the fact that they continue to wear their wedding dress long after the ceremony. Most women wear their wedding dress once, never touching it again. Amish women wear their wedding gown to church every Sunday after their wedding. They will even be buried in their wedding dress.
12 Great At Saving
Not only are they savvy business people, they really know how to save. The average Amish person saves 20% of their income, while the average American only saves about 6% of their income. It's quite remarkable, really! As with everything the Amish know how to do right, it ties in with their religious beliefs and modest lifestyle. Since they do not buy frivolous things or overindulge, they typically have money left over. What is not spent helping their community is saved for when they might need it, or possibly to pass down to their family members.
11 Following The book
The Amish do not live the lives they do because of governmental rule or because "the law says so." They follow the word of God and unsurprisingly, more often than not, it all falls within the lines of the law. They don't run around doing as they please and putting up the middle finger to the government, but there are instances where they feel the government is wrong, and will follow the word of God instead. They're peaceful and they don't hurt anyone, so it doesn't typically ruffle any feathers.
10 Eat Like Kings
When most modern people think of an Amish dinner, they probably picture food from the 1800s — bread, minimal seasonings, porridge. It's not true! The Amish eat like kings, they just grow everything themselves. Because they are so successful, so good at saving money, and so frugal, they have what they need and more. Again, they won't go too crazy with their feasts, since God doesn't like gluttony. But they eat well and their meals are a far cry from porridge and pemmican.
9 More Spending Money Than Ever
The Amish are more successful than ever. Their communities are thriving, and because they're such savvy business people, and so great at practising frugality, they have more spending money than ever. As I've mentioned, they typically cycle their extra money back into their towns, which only helps them thrive even more. It's a long-running joke that if an Amish person went to a bank to ask for a loan (which rarely happens) the bankers are always thrilled, because it's a sure thing. That loan will be paid off on time.
8 Side Hustles Over Credit Cards
Whenever money does get tight for an Amish person, long before turning to banks for loans or credit cards, they work extra hard.
They would sooner pick up an extra job or ask for help from their own community than get a loan.
It has been known to happen on occasion, but it truly is a rarity. They shudder at the thought of being indebted to someone, even a bank. This is becoming less of an issue, as their communities are becoming more successful every year.
7 No Missionary Work
As religious as the Amish are, they do not do any missionary work. The Authors of The Amish Way writes about their travels for disaster cleanup work, saying, "Amish relief workers did not expect to convert others to the Amish way through such brief contact, even if their work was deeply appreciated. Their service was an end to itself, not an effort to proselytize."
Many Amish people view the notion of seeking to convert others and bring them into their community as "prideful" which, as we all know, is considered sinful. In other words, they simply live their lives as they see fit, and if others want to get in on it, they're more than welcome to. They believe God will send them their way, but if not, it doesn't make a difference to them.
6 No Outsiders, Please
While the Amish aren't opposed to outsiders converting and joining their lifestyle, they're typically pretty weary of them. It takes a long time to gain their trust, and they won't say anything rude or make you feel unwelcome, but they won't be comfortable either.
They do not appreciate tourists or other onlookers coming into their towns to gawk or flaunt their technology around.
I suppose that's true for just about any small town, though. Some communities have to deal with it more than others, but none of them are fond of it.
5 Some Modern Stuff Is Allowed
In serious cases, the Amish have no problem loading up and taking a sick family member to the hospital for aid. Like most people living off the grid, they try herbal, holistic treatments before turning to modern medicine, but they're not off their rockers. They know when someone really needs the help of an experienced doctor and they will not hesitate to provide them with any and all forms of treatment. This isn't something that most people are aware of. The Amish don't leave their sick and wounded in a hot room to sweat it out, and they certainly don't perform surgeries with nothing more than lemon balm and a knotted rag.
4 Exempt From Social Security
Yes, it's true! The Amish are exempt from paying into social security. Many people think they do not pay taxes, but they do. Social security is the only thing they're exempt from. Amish News writes, "While the Amish have no objection 'paying unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,' they do have problems with commercial insurance. In a sense, insurance was seen as not trusting in God. Insurance plans were a worldly operation."
The Amish are strong believers in the separation between church and state. They were not comfortable paying money to the government and receiving benefits in return. They simply want to fend for themselves.
The Amish take self-reliance to the next level. They're the kings of self-sufficiency and doing for themselves. Their "why-buy-it-when-you-can-make-it" mentality has served them well throughout the years, and despite what people think, they have benefited from modern advances in technology. They don't necessarily take full advantage of modern technology, but the fact that it does exist helps them out. Take Walmart for instance, they don't prefer to shop there, but they do it occasionally because it is so cheap and they can buy their materials there every so often. They don't prefer modern medicine, but they will turn to it. They do what they can on their own, but they're not impractical people.
2 You Can Join
You can join the Amish, but it's not easy. Anyone who wishes to join in on their old-fashioned way of life must learn how to fully integrate into their society. First and foremost, you must have a connection with God, obviously. There is no being Amish without religion. You must also pick up on their Pennsylvania German dialect. The others in the community will most likely be distrustful of you at first, until you prove that you're serious and committed to their way of life. No one sits down with you and goes over the qualifications. Instead, you just jump right in. You're set up in a home where you're given direction on how to help the community, you participate in the daily chores, and you learn as you go.
1 The Amish Community Is Growing
The Amish community is growing all the time, believe it or not! Not from converts, but from their high retention rate. They continue having children (as people do) and almost all of them stay within their communities, going on to have several children of their own.
More than 80% of Amish children end up sticking around and joining the church, with some areas being as high as 90%. Many believe this is due to Rumspringa. You give the teenagers the freedom they desire, and in the end, they find that the life they're used to is more suitable to their needs.