Amish Etiquette Do's and Don'ts
Whether you shop for local Amish-made goods and furniture, purchase an authentic Amish quilt, stop by a shop set up by the Amish to sell their products, or explore the scenic countryside to view travel by horse and buggy, a visit to Amish country can be a rewarding and fascinating experience. From tranquil Amish farms and the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies to busy birdhouses, to energy-producing windmills, and tasty Amish foods, plenty of opportunities exist for a glimpse into the Amish way of life.
When visiting Amish country, it is very important to be considerate of the Amish and their lifestyle. Just like you, they do not solicit or encourage people to take their pictures or knock on their doors. The Amish are friendly, but private people who avoid much contact with strangers and the "outside world" for important religious and cultural reasons. "While you talk and mingle with the Amish, please remember that they are not actors or spectacles, but ordinary people who believe deeply in Christianity and have chosen a simple, humble, and peaceful way of life that is different from the outside world." edited from Lancaster Co., PA Visitor's Bureau.
When Visiting an Amish community, please keep in mind the following basic rules of courtesy:
- Don't stare, gawk, or otherwise be disrespectful of the Amish. Do not enter private property without permission.
- When driving, keep and eye out for slow-moving Amish buggies (especially at night), and give them plenty of room when following or passing. To avoid spooking the horses, keep headlights on low-beam and stay away from the horn, except possibly a short beep when passing.
- Amish horses are valuable property. Do not feed or pet horses tied to a hitching rail or harnessed to a buggy.
- No photos or videos, please. Most Amish do not allow pictures of themselves and consider posing for photographs to be an unacceptable act of pride and imagery. The Amish will usually allow you to photograph their homes, farms, and buggies if you ask respectfully, but even this can be intrusive and is better avoided. If you must take pictures consider a telephoto lens, and avoid taking any photos which include recognizable faces. A picture of the rear of an Amish buggy as it travels down the road probably won't offend anyone.
- Out of respect for their privacy, it is best to avoid approaching the Amish unless they appear to be open to company. They are just like you and don't really appreciate strangers knocking at their door. When you do have a need to approach a group of Amish, it is polite to speak to a male, if possible. If you are sincerely interested in talking to the Amish to learn more about their culture, visit an Amish-owned business and talk with the shop keepers. Most Amish people enjoy talking with outsiders, if they don't feel like they are regarded as being 'on display.' The Amish don't have television or radio and are just as curious about the outsiders, or "Englishers."
- Amish communities' shops & businesses are not open on Sundays (used for worship, visitation and rest).
Facts about the Amish
- The home of an Amish family averages seven children, and almost 25% have ten or more children.
- A religious family home is the important and central focus for Amish communities. In most Amish settlements, the homes are not far apart from each other allowing close personal contact with parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The Amish hold church services in their homes every other Sunday.
- Amish communities follow an Ordnung, a set of rules governing Amish lifestyle, touching on such issues as the type of clothing men, women, girls, and boys are allowed to wear; the color and the style of horse and buggy carriages; the language dialect allowed at home, the workplace, school, and church; the type of wheels allowed on buggies or farm equipment; marriages; use of electricity and telephones; and education and divorce.