The Amish are a group of traditionalist Anabaptist Christian denominations particularly concentrated in the Midwest. They are known for their simple dress, Christian pacifism, and simple life. They are closely related to the Mennonite churches, but this article will only consider Old Order Amish. The most famous place to see the Amish is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Typically rejecting many forms of modern technology, the Amish live a life that has long faded in most of Europe and the United States. It’s important to remember that they are ordinary people living ordinary lives. They are not reenactors or spectacles.
What not to do in Amish country
“As you speak and mingle with the Amish, please remember that they are not actors or spectacles, but ordinary people choosing a different way of life.”
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Visitors Bureau visitor brochure
In other words, refrain from staring at the Amish or seeing them as anything other than fellow Americans with their own beliefs and morals. Keep in mind that while most Amish people enjoy chatting with outsiders, they don’t feel like animals in a zoo.
When visiting Amish country, people should follow the “Golden Rule” and treat the Amish and their property as they would like to be treated.
In Amish country – not
- Point and stare
- Entering private property without permission
- Feeding or petting horses without permission
- Take photos of Amish without permission
In general, the Amish are private individuals who avoid contact with strangers and the “outside world” as much as possible, preferring to live in their communities. That being said, many offer tours of their farms and schools, and offer accommodation in their guesthouses. Many will also sell their products on the side of the road.
What to do in Amish country
Respect their beliefs. Refrain from swearing at and/or penetrating anyone. It is important to respect their privacy and property.
It’s also important to keep an eye out for the slow-moving Amish buggies – especially at night. Be careful not to startle the horses – so give a wide berth when overtaking, don’t honk, drive slowly and keep your headlights on low beam.
Do in Amish country:
- Watch out for horse-drawn carriages
- If possible, talk to men first
- Be polite
- Respect their privacy and hesitate to interact with the “outside world”.
When approaching a group of Amish people, it is generally polite to address a man if possible.
Amish country is worth a visit for those interested in learning more about the reclusive group and their way of life.
What to Expect When Staying at an Amish Guesthouse
It is necessary to generalize here as there are many Amish groups and each has their own way of doing things – for example some are more accepting of technology than others. There are many Amish housing options in Ohio—as well as in Pennsylvania.
Amish Farm Stay lists many Amish lodging options, noting that each has its own unique character (as do the hosts). Helpfully, the website provides a rough guide to what to expect at an Amish guesthouse.
Visitors can expect to have the entire property to themselves if they are staying with an Old Order Amish family. The guest house will be disconnected from the public electricity network. Don’t expect TVs, computers, or Wi-Fi (at least in the more “authentic” lodgings). The accommodation is basic with no frills.
However, they will usually still have electricity (fridges, lights, etc., with power coming from solar panels or generators). Some guest houses are plugged in for tourists, and some can be fairly modern with air conditioning (most have fans). Very few accommodations have no power sockets at all (read the description of each accommodation).
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are on a farm – so there will be animals and farm smells.
Breakfast is not served in some accommodations (it can easily be prepared in your own kitchen). Occasionally guests can have breakfast with the hosts. Some Amish families offer to have dinner with them at home (on a voluntary donation basis). In this case, expect home-cooked traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. This is one of those rare opportunities to actually spend time with an Amish family in their family home. This can be requested when booking.
Most Amish guesthouses offer tours of their farms and farming techniques.
Another notable religious group to learn about are the Mormons, and it is possible to go to their Salt Lake City temple.