Debunking Some of the “Amish Lifestyle” myths

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Living “The Amish Lifestyle” is a common phrase these days, especially among homesteaders.

To many, it conveys a simpler lifestyle, with whole foods, family, and faith combined into daily living. Many see the Amish as eating only organic foods, not vaccinating their children, living off their land only, and living the life we all dream of. But, is it really that way? I have lived in Amish heartland in Northern Indiana for 12 years and I don’t see it.

I showed some of the posts to my Amish friend.

It took her nearly 1/2 an hour to stop laughing. “Is that what you English really think?”, she said. Yes, to the Amish, non-Amish are “English”. She really couldn’t understand how people got some of those ideas. So, today, we are going to debunk some of the more common myths.

Myth One: Amish eat only the foods they grow on their own farm, and it’s all organic.

I think this is the one that made her laugh the most, to be honest. Sure, they garden, raise beef and pork and have chickens, goats or milking cows. Well, most of them. But, they are just like us and they will buy cereal, dairy, shortening, sugar, flour etc. at Aldi or Walmart.

They will buy canned soup by the case load for their recipes, and Velveeta cheese is a popular item. Hardly organic, and hardly home grown. In their gardens, they will also use chemicals like Sevin to control pests. Yes, some are organic, but it’s at the same rate the English are. They simply are NOT all organic. And, don’t even get me started on Amish peanut butter, chock full of corn syrup.

Myth 2: Amish don’t vaccinate or use doctors

Um, yes they do. They just normally use doctors within their own community, and they don’t go to Facebook and tell you all about what they do. Many of them are private people (just like everyone used to be before social media) and you also won’t hear about depression, abuse, or drug usage. They just don’t talk about it outside their community.

As a matter of fact, those things occur here all the time, just like the non-Amish. But, at the local center that helps them, the Amish have their OWN spaces and group therapies. They don’t mix with the English there. They also have the same rate of autism, downs syndrome and other ailments as the non-Amish, but once again, they DON’T TALK ABOUT IT with the Non-Amish.

Myth 3: Amish don’t use electricity and their lifestyle is so simple.

I am going to shock many of you here, but the non electric rule is under the local Bishop’s authority. Some allow it, some don’t. My friend told me a story about a young couple that bought a house that had electricity.

The Bishop at the time didn’t allow it so, they had to pull it all out. The next Bishop said it was okay, so they put it back in. The next Bishop had them pull it out again. Yeah, they really did that. Need a shocker? There are those who have electricity that use *gulp* microwaves.

Just follow some of them around the store and see all the frozen microwaveable pizzas, chicken nuggets and such that they buy. Sure, many do live without electricity, but among them, there are solar panels and wind generators. They just don’t use the local electric company.

Myth 4: The Amish don’t use cars

Okay, so my friend laughed really hard at that one, too. It’s just too general. Sure, a lot of them use horse and buggies. But, some have cars or trucks. It’s more the old order Amish that use horses, and the “Beachy” Amish that drive. But, they do.

They also have English drivers that will take them to the store, or to other places. As a matter of fact, there are several drivers in my neighborhood that make a nice living off driving Amish all over. The biggest factor there is that they are required to “make it a sacrifice” to use a driver, so they may pay up to $60 each for a trip to the store.

Myth 5: Their lifestyle is so simple and easy

Well, in the same manner that ours used to be in the 1950’s. Most of them just don’t have the distractions like social media that we do. And, yes, some DO use it and have cell/smart phones. Their days are generally full of keeping the home and farm running, like any homesteader. Doing laundry daily, hauling water if necessary, washing dishes, caring for children and making meals. Sound familiar?

Myth 6: The Amish live outside the rest of the world

The ones who say that make me wonder if they have ever lived near Amish. Sure, there are some who try and deal with only other Amish, but in today’s world, that is next to impossible. They live and do business among them daily. From their country stores, to roadside bakeries, to selling rabbits, eggs, chickens and other items, I’d say you are hard pressed to find an Amish person who has TRULY been able to cut themselves off from the rest of the world.

What you WILL find true about the Amish

They are wonderful, caring people who love to laugh and be among family and friends as much as possible. They are a close knit sort who generally don’t move too far away from where the rest of their family members are.

I have found them to be generous and very easy to talk to and I have learned a lot about gardening, chickens and goats from my Amish friends. They take their religion very seriously. As a matter of fact, you won’t find Amish dolls with faces, nor do they take ID pictures for driver licenses. That stems from the commandment of no graven images in the Bible.

They don’t like their picture taken for that same reason, which is why I have no real Amish pictures to show you. You can take a picture in the store “on the sly” but I won’t, out of respect. All in all, the Amish are just like you and me, except they wear bonnets and some only wear black dresses. Some wear different colors of dresses. (dependent on the Bishop again.)

So, if you think “Amish”, think of a great group of folks who are living just like you and me, and remember that they are not that different. And, get to know them…you may be surprised at what you learn from them directly.

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19 thoughts on “Debunking Some of the “Amish Lifestyle” myths”

  1. Thanks for sharing this.
    Around here even the word “Amish” has come to be an adjective meaning “high quality” or “old fashioned.” So you can buy “Amish storage buildings” that don’t seem to have anything to do with being Amish.
    I’ve gotten to know some Amish folks at the Farmer’s Market and I was surprised to learn that they’re not organic or opposed to using GMOs. You’re right that many of the things we assume about them just aren’t true. But I do admire their devotion to family and community. They make good neighbors (at least the ones I know do).
    I did not know about the “no faces on dolls” and the strict rules against graven images. Interesting.

    1. they ARE amazing people, but honestly, no different than anyone else. I can’t understand how “Amish” became synonymous with “high quality” on everything….

  2. Thank you for this! We have many friends who are Amish and no they aren’t like those “Amish are perfect “articles. I also live in northern Indiana, in Rochester, so were pretty close!

    1. Heather Harris

      Hello, fellow Hoosier! You are so right, my friend was actually embarrassed to find that the “English” put them almost on a pedestal as a model life. They are just like us, aren’t they?

  3. One of my close relatives has started an Amish person hauling business in their retirement. It has expanded their worldview and I am really happy for the freedom, education, and money this brings them. I’m considering this as my kids get older and into school.

    The Amish are definitely living in a different world than we do, yet not as different as everyone expects. They’re very hard working and very tight with their money. Most are very pleasant people to be around (minus their smell, they do not wear deodorant around here).

    Thank you for choosing not to post photos without their permission. I live in an area where we have people travel into to visit our Amish stores, and I often see people ambushing them with their cameras or sneaking in photos behind their backs – I just think that so disrespectful since its against their religion.

    1. Heather Harris

      yes, the no deodorant thing…:) you are right, it’s so disrespectful to take someone’s picture behind their back. I wouldn’t want someone to do it to me 😉

  4. I’ve read that many Amish support themselves with puppy mills which is horrible and for me would negate anything positive about them.

    1. Heather Harris

      Yes, some of them do that…but again, at the same rate as the non-Amish run puppy mills. They are really no different than “regular” people.

      1. It’s an issue in Indiana, too…breaks my heart! They don’t realize what is happening, I am sure. They are doing it for income, but it’s not going humanely obviously!

  5. we live in an area with Amish neighbors. I thought about writing a similar post! Thank you for putti g this out there-the Amish post I see circulating are amusing and as you mentioned full of myths.
    Not to take away from the fact that most are very good people who help and support each other and do have a self reliant mindset but they are not all that different from some of their English neighbors.

    1. I don’t know any. I am not saying it doesn’t happen, but I am sure it happens among the “English” as well. I would hate to be judged based on what someone else does.

    2. Heather Harris

      exactly! They are truly a wonderful people, but I see so many put them on a “pedestal” and they are just like any other group! 😉

  6. Great article! We live among a small Amish community in the South Eastern part of the US. You are right on the dot. Sadly the English here have mixed feelings for the Amish, some like myself, respect and appreciate their diverseness while others treat them with disdain, as second class people. Do you see this in your area? How can we help change people’s mindset? The other myth that I find is that people assume because they live simple that they are poor, on the contrary most have thriving business from agriculture and tourism. Their simpler lives allow them to hold on to their money unlike we English.

    1. The mindset that “they are different than I” makes it hard for some people to see beyond the barriers. It would be awesome if we could all look past our differences, and see our similarities!

  7. I live in Maryland and drove to Pennsylvania to buy our border collie pup from an Amish family. I got really nervous as I approached the town because there were signs up everywhere about stopping the puppy mills. Someone told me I might be going to a puppy mill. I had no idea that the Amish would be in that kind of business!
    Well, we arrived at the farm, and the mama border collie came running up and greated us as we got out of our car. Next thing you know her pups came running up too! They had free range of the house yard and barn area of the farm. There was one older family pet dog and that was it! No puppy mill! I was so relieved — and we just love our border!

    1. Heather Harris

      I am so grateful you had that experience! I have “heard rumors” about the Amish running puppy mills, but I have never bought a puppy. Glad to know they aren’t all true!!!

  8. The rumors are just that … rumors. Percentage wise, there are no more Amish puppy mills than there are English puppy mills. You are just as likely to find a puppy mill outside an Amish community as you are to find inside … I dare say more. Not quite sure how they got that unfair reputation. Also, on another topic … here in Ohio (especially northeastern & eastern Ohio) the reason for their reputation for quality products is because THAT is exactly what they produce! QUALITY! Everything from solid hardwood furniture, to barns and coops, to quilts, to pies & cakes and they can fix ANY piece of broken equipment or vehicles you own! If you buy it from the Amish, I can promise you will not be disappointed! Straight up! Sure they charge a little more but it’s not cheap stuff from China that falls apart first time you wash it, sleep on it or drive it. Furniture from them? Lasts GENERATIONS! Someday, I will inherit my parents’ dining room table, chairs & china hutch. Has already been around for 35+ years and still going strong. Solid oak and QUALITY craftsmanship. Worth every penny!

  9. We homesteaded for 20 yrs. Built our place for lumber logged off our own woods. Totally off grid. Then the Amish began movibg in. They soon began adking for favors. Rides,help with fixing broken stuff,etc. Ok for awhile but not calls all day and night. They think English have nothibg to do and take advantage. We worked just as hard. Yes,they breed dogs. No they aren’t cared for. Getting to be a big problem. The buggy horses are overworked. Because they wear long dresses,etc. Doesn’t make them any better than us. Yes,we buy from the farmstands,but carefully. Some are very dirty. I had to stop buying eggs at one place after finding the woman was using a bucket of dirty water to wash eggs and pack them for sale. The broken ones all over the floor. The smell was so bad I gagged. They are NO different from anyone else. Stop romantising it. There are good and bad just like anyone else. There are multiple birth defects as they inter marry and a small gene pool. The women keep having kids to work the farm. The Amish near our old farm were a different group than where we live now. Just a few miles away these people use modern farm equipment and most have cell phones and some form of electricity. Fancy buggies. Much more friendly as they have shops and farm stands and need to sell products. So don’t lump them all together.

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