If you’re looking to step back in time, there’s no better place to go than Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Horse-drawn carriages trot up and down the streets, and people use their own elbow grease to churn butter. It’s a world like no other.
The Amish built a community that focuses on strong, interpersonal bonds, and so much of its beauty gets lost in translation. There are so many little-known practices about this this society that outsiders can’t see on TV or even when they visit in person!
1. All Amish believe in what’s known as the Ordnung. It’s basically an outline of how life should be led, detailing everything from religious practices to dress code. Interestingly, none of it is actually written down.
2. The Amish are aware that not everyone wants to stay within the community their whole lives. The practice of “Rumspringa” allows 16-year-old kids to explore the outside world and then decide if they want to stay.
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3. Once a person fully commits to the Amish’s set of rules known as the Ordnung, they must live their entire lives based on that code. Anyone who strays from the path is shunned by the community.
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4. The Bible instructs readers to “be fruitful and multiply,” and the Amish truly take that to heart. Rarely is birth control used, and the average household has about seven children.
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5. The Amish believe baptism is a personal choice best left for adults. As such, they don’t baptize children at birth, and instead wait until they’re much older for the lifelong commitment.
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6. Many of the older men in the Amish community have beards. Once a man gets married, he begins growing it out. The longer the beard, the longer he’s been hitched.
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7. Intimacy does not happen in the form of sex like most cultures. Instead, the Amish engage in “bundling.” Two people lie next to each other, often wrapped in sheets, and they simply talk and never touch.
8. One of the most important customs in the community is the tedious barn-raising. Everyone comes together for one specific goal, and the activity builds close bonds between each of the members. The Amish can build a huge barn in a single day!
9. Except for rare occasions, nearly all Amish reject the idea of electricity and don’t use any of it inside their homes. They want people to come together to get things done instead of just flicking a switch.
10. The Amish believe only basic education is necessary, and no child attends school past eighth grade. Once a child finishes school, they begin training in some kind of vocation, such as agriculture or craftsmanship.
11. Instead of having an actual church where religious ceremonies take place, someone in the community hosts the prayer services. The pastors rotate each week and are drawn from a lot.
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12. Unlike many other religions, the Amish really have no interest in preaching their beliefs to try to increase their numbers. Instead, they remain a closed society and focus all their efforts to improve life for those in it.
13. Imagine getting a faceless doll as a child. You’d be kinda freaked out, right? Well, these are the gifts Amish children receive from family, and the lack of face supposedly represents uniformity in the community.
14. Even though tourists visit Amish country every year, picture taking is prohibited in many areas. This is due to the Bible preaching about humility and idol worship, and many members will refuse to have they photo snapped.
15. Tons of live music blasts throughout Amish country. They believe the human voice is the greatest instrument, and slamming on a guitar or tickling piano keys is seen as vain.
16. The “Ausbund” is the name of the Amish’s best known hymnal. As musical instruments are frowned upon in the community, the entire song relies on only the voices of those singing it.
17. One thing you’ll see on the streets of Amish country is horse-drawn carriages. While many people travel this way, it’s not unusual for someone to grab a taxi if they’e in a hurry.
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18. As you can imagine, a place like Amish country that proudly shuns anything that brings someone vanity and hubris has very simple clothing. You won’t find any Air Jordans or Izod polos on these folks.
19. While husbands and wives can determine their own power dynamics at home, women are expected to be subservient when out in public with the family. Women are expected to be a loyal wife and mother.
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20. PETA would have a field day at the Amish country if they visited one of their puppy mills. It sounds unusual for such peaceful people to engage in, but many Amish breed puppies in mass quantities and sell them to make money.
21. Most people in the United States manage to save just 6% of their income, but Amish people set aside at least 20%, talk about thrifty! An Amish man once said he’s “happy to get a little richer every day from interest accrued on savings.”
Another man managed to save up a whopping $400,000 in the bank in 20 years, despite renting a farm and raising 14 children. With those savings, he could finally buy his own farm and a trampoline for the kids.
22. The Amish do their best to make sure they’re getting good-quality items at a fair price. But that doesn’t mean they don’t spend money on fun times! Most enjoy hunting trips, for example, and they often buy books, games, and other amusement items.
33. To keep families big and costs low, shopping for second-hand clothing and household items at thrift stores and garage sales is something the Amish have mastered. And for gifts, they usually produce their own baked goods or decorations.
This trend is picking up all over America, with thrift stores noting record sales as people try to save money and shop responsibly (by not supporting inhumane labor conditions, for example). There’s even a song about thrift shops!
34. You won’t see an Amish person waste anything if they can help it. For example, clothes that have surpassed their wearability are often cut into strips for quilts or rags. This applies to any material or household item.
They also make sure to never overstock on anything perishable, and when they do, they often use it to feed animals on their farms. Not over-buying saves money and not having to buy new things like rags or cow feed does too!
35. They don’t overstock, but since the average household has six to eight children to feed, buying bulk makes life a whole lot easier. Most Amish stores carry 50-pound bags of oats, 400-pound bags of flour, and 200-pound bags of sugar.
For people who live in big cities and lack storage space, buying in bulk is not always an option (especially if you don’t have a vehicle for your groceries)! But Amish people usually live quite spaciously, so it’s no problem for them.
36. If it wasn’t clear already, the Amish loathe being in debt and try to avoid credit cards if they can. Owing nobody money gives them peace of mind, and they don’t have to deal with interests on loans.
On the other hand, most Americans have up to 5 credit cards and carry debt on them of about $16,000. Amish people tend to be more careful with their spending, but they also have a lot fewer expenses.
37. If the Amish do take out a loan or have debt, they view it as a moral obligation to pay it back as soon as possible. This is to avoid racking up more interest and to carry on with a worry-free life.
Because of their speedy payback rate, banks are always happy to lend money to the Amish. They also look at personal facts, like whether a person’s parents paid back their loan fast, instead of traditional methods.
38. Many of the Amish who choose not to farm go into skilled trades like furniture building, construction, and metal parts manufacturing. While these products may not be permitted in Amish homes, they can be sold to outsiders for a profit.
Perhaps that’s why most Amish small businesses see a 95% survival rate, while the five-year survival rate of all U.S. small businesses is about 50%. They’re also willing to work alongside the average employee, thus creating good leadership.
39. Those with money make sure to “pay it forward” to the community. The price of land for farms is increasing and the land can get divided up quickly, so neighbors are always game to lend a helping hand.
There are even low-interest loans to help young adults buy their own land and get their start in the economy, which consists of money donated by wealthier families. Giving back matters!
40. So what do the Amish do when they can’t afford something they need but don’t want to go into debt? They get an extra job and work until they can afford the expense, no matter how much work it is.
Of course, a lot of younger generation Americans do the same thing, but it already has to cover student loans and high costs of living. Since that is not a big of a problem for the Amish, they can use all their extra money for emergency expenses.