Most of you have, no doubt, heard of the Amish community. After all, their simple way of life is so different from ours that it tends to capture the imagination. But there are plenty of surprising things to learn about this Christian sect. So from forgoing modern technology to having faceless dolls and banning divorces, here are some of the interesting rules that these people live by.
At the heart of the Amish way of life is the Ordnung – a set of codes guiding how you should go about your business. What you may not realize, though, is that this isn’t actually written down. Instead, it’s passed on from person to person. And its precise nature can vary between Amish communities depending on the specific circumstances of each neighborhood.
Got a lot of bold, bright prints in your closet? Amish women can’t say the same. They tend to wear long, plain dresses that are designed to be modest. But apparently they still have a sneaky code. If an Amish woman wears a white apron to church, it supposedly means they’re unmarried. If the apron is black, on the other hand, they’ve already got themselves a man.
Best not to stand out from the crowd if you’re Amish. And you can’t just focus on yourself – not when there’s the rest of the community to consider. Basically, the Amish value being part of a collective whole. They also, of course, emphasize reverence to God.
You may already know that the Amish are pretty suspicious of technology. Checking your social media feed or nuking a Hot Pocket? A total no-go. These things will ultimately put a strain on the collective. And for that reason, electricity is banned within Amish residences.
In some ways, Amish children are just like any kids in the U.S. They too learn to read, write and do basic math from a young age. After eighth grade, though? That’s it. Then Amish kids focus on learning practical skills. Yep, running a farm or perfecting a craft are considered to be much more important than advanced algebra. And in a way, we can see the point!
The Amish have little truck with institutions, so decisions are taken at a local level. Each district adheres to its own version of the Ordnung, meaning there’s no dominant authority dictating life for everyone. It’s instead down to smaller groups to decide on the best course of action to take.
Amish men don’t grow any facial hair until they’ve married, but from that point on it’s beards all the way. No mustaches, though! This is because hair over the upper lip reminds the pacifist Amish of military figures from the 19th century. And those folks definitely aren’t to be emulated.
No, the Amish won’t ever become cops or sign up to the military, as they’re a strongly pacifist community. They won’t even concern themselves with the workings of the American courts, as legal proceedings are perceived as acts of violence as well.
Having kids is a huge deal in Amish culture, and big family units are all the rage. Birth control, too, has largely been frowned upon. But this old-fashioned attitude may finally be easing up a little. As author Donald Kraybill told the website Amish America, some men and women in the community use both artificial and natural ways of avoiding pregnancy.
Even if Amish folk did use dating apps, they’d have to pick marriage partners from other members of the community. And while this obviously limits the number of potential matches out there for a budding bride or groom, that doesn’t mean they can marry close relatives. Cousins definitely can’t wed. Second cousins are advised not to do so, either.
Remember the dolls you had as a kid? Now, imagine being given one without any facial features. Yikes! That’s the reality for Amish children, whose toys also lack toes, hair and fingers. But this is all for a good reason – and no, it’s not just about frightening the life out of the little ones. When dolls all look the same, no one is better than any other. Kids can’t boast about their playthings, then, and become vain.
The Amish are Christians, so they go to a church to worship, right? Well, no! They praise the Lord right at home. Individual families take it in turns to host the services, although there is a snag to this arrangement. Sometimes, the preacher has to go from room to room so that everyone can hear what they are saying.
Back in 1965 the U.S. Congress allowed the Amish community to break from the Social Security system. In other words, they would no longer contribute funding to it – nor would they be eligible to collect money either. The Amish are instead happier to look after each other without relying on the program.
Generally speaking, music in Amish communities will come exclusively from the use of people’s voices. Instruments tend to be banned, as they’re considered to go against the Amish way of life. Yet according to Ranker, the harmonica is one of a limited variety of instruments that’s occasionally allowed.
The Amish are a culturally conservative people, and they have strict views on how women should live their lives. These ideas, of course, extend to the way that the group’s religious activities are run. Specifically, females in the community aren’t allowed to take up any prominent roles within the church.
The clothes of the Amish are plain – ensuring that individuals aren’t elevated over their peers by the things they wear. But there are also even more specific fashion rules that must be adhered to. Ranker writes that pockets are often prohibited, as are zippers and buttons. Instead, clothing can be secured in place with pins.
The Amish are a sexually conservative group, and they’ve even developed a practice to help keep young people from engaging in premarital relations. Ranker notes that the custom is called “bundling,” and it involves an unmarried pair lying in bed alongside one another. The couple aren’t allowed to touch, and they might even be rolled up into blankets to keep contact from occurring. They then stay up chatting – apparently.
Plenty of religious groups are delighted when they receive new members – often going to great lengths to make it happen. The Amish, on the other hand, like to keep their community closed off from outsiders. This doesn’t mean that they turn away wannabe members, but they don’t actively seek people out, either.
You aren’t likely to ever see a member of the Amish community getting behind the wheel of a car. No, they prefer to get around the place with the help of a horse-drawn carriage instead. And these buggies are often painted a certain color to represent the specific group that they belong to, according to Ranker.
Amish are banned from ever driving an automobile, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hitch a ride. Ranker notes that members of the community are allowed to sit with an outsider. They can even book a chauffeur to get them from A to B if necessary.
The Amish tend to give mechanical farm machinery a wide berth and opt for horses instead. But in some cases, you might actually see tractors being used on their farms. According to the BBC, these vehicles have wheels made out of steel, so they can’t be driven on a road.
Given the old-fashioned nature of Amish society, women are often tasked with running the family and the household. Though there are instances in which young ladies can take up work outside of the home. Typically, these young women could be teachers, textile workers or waitresses in Amish establishments.
The Amish are expected to live by the community’s rules, and they have a system for dealing with people who don’t. The BBC notes that if there’s a misbehaver in the group, all the other members may “shun” this person. This means that they do not speak or consume food with them. The ignored person will then be reintegrated if the group decides that they’ve been redeemed.
Individuals within the Amish community who’ve been found to have behaved particularly badly are kicked out of the community entirely. This isn’t a decision taken lightly, and the group will try other things first to pull the misbehaver back in line. But if they fail and everybody agrees to it, the individual can be banished.
Did you know that the Amish tend to avoid baptizing their children? Yes, instead they apparently wait until a person has grown up and is capable of voluntarily making such a decision themselves, Ranker notes. The idea is that this means young people join the Amish faith of their own accord.
Amish tradition dictates that members of the community can’t swear an oath in court, according to the BBC. Similarly, they can’t become politicians. For that matter, they’re prohibited from taking up any roles in elected office. And generally speaking, Amish people won’t be found on their way to the voting booths for any elections.
The Amish generally keep to themselves, but that doesn’t exactly mean that they’re totally isolated from wider society. As a matter of fact, they do sometimes interact with people from beyond their own community. As per the BBC, they refer to these outsiders as “English,” and they can sometimes forge beneficial relationships with them.
A certain degree of interaction with the outside world does exist within the Amish community, though it tends to be minimal. And contact is generally avoided whenever possible. That’s why the Amish aren’t allowed phones inside of their homes, though they can apparently be found in some communal spaces.
The Amish hold some very old-fashioned values when it comes to the subject of family. Relationships may only take place between a man and a woman, and couples aren’t allowed to engage in sexual relations before they get married. And you’d better pick the right partner because divorces aren’t permitted in the community.
Erecting barns within an Amish community is a huge deal. They even have a specific term for the act. A “frolic” sees men doing the heavy lifting and the women running the festivities. Though Ranker claims that agriculture is becoming less important to the Amish, so frolics aren’t occurring as much as they used to.
When an Amish kid is 16 years old, they’re sent to the outside world in a practice known as Rumspringa. This allows them to see what life outside the community is really like. This means that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to commit to the Amish lifestyle for the rest of their lives.
Ministers in Amish society aren’t compensated for running religious services. No, it’s just another aspect to their duties within the community – like farming or any other tasks. Ministers are selected by the community, and they are made up of three ranks. At the top is a bishop, followed by a preacher and a deacon.
The Ausbund is the established hymn within Amish culture, yet it doesn’t actually have a set tune. Instead, it’s actually different for each community. Other songs can be performed during an Amish religious service, with some even going on for half an hour, according to Ranker. And the singing itself is often delivered in a slow manner.
The holy days that are most important to other Christian communities are also observed by the Amish. It’s just that the specifics might look a little different. Christmas, for example, won’t involve kids getting to meet Santa Claus. But other traditions like baking traditional cookies can be seen in Amish communities.
If you ever visit an Amish settlement, it might be better to leave the camera at home. Most communities don’t take kindly to outsiders coming in and photographing them. According to Ranker, they are of the view that taking pictures is against biblical ideas of idol worship and humility. The publication adds that not only do Amish not like posed shots, they even receive government identification documents without a picture.
Every effort is taken to avoid outside intervention when things go wrong in an Amish community. Where possible, the problems will be dealt with by bringing everyone together and trying to work things out. But there have been instances where lawyers have been called in to help sort things out.
The Amish don’t want their way of life to be tainted by external forces. Naturally, then, they don’t own TVs or radio sets. In an article from 2009, the BBC quoted one Amish person as saying, “Television is the sewer line that connects you directly to the cesspool of Hollywood.” But any Amish out there looking to get their fill needn’t worry too much. There’s apparently a loophole that allows them to use someone else’s devices.
It’s an innocent and joyous act for many of us, but the Amish think of dancing as an indecent act. Grown-up members of the community are consequently banned from ever getting down and having a boogie, according to Ranker. Younger folk, though, can shake it during their trip to the outside world during the Rumspringa.
The Amish are compelled to dress in a plain and simple manner. And this, of course, extends to the ways in which ladies wear their hair. Generally speaking, women should tie it into a bun, which they’ll then cover with a cap. And it probably won’t be a surprise to learn that they can’t apply any makeup.
It’s an important belief within the Amish community that God wants us humans to appreciate and respect nature. That’s why you’ll always find the group living in the countryside – rather than in any urban areas. Ultimately, members of the group seek to experience their lives in unity with the natural world.