Most of us know the Amish exist and think of them as people in old timey clothes who travel by horse and buggy. But there’s a lot more to Amish life than many people realize, not the least of which is the fact they’re often confused with Mennonites who are similar but definitely not the same. There’s plenty going on in Amish country you probably never realized.
10. Amish Computers Are A Thing
A very common misconception about the Amish is that they don’t use technology. This is not true at all. Some will use technology but only if it’s in service to the work they do and it’s as minimally invasive as possible. While “Old Order” Amish avoid it almost entirely, New Order Amish may make exceptions.
Because of their acceptance of technology, especially technology that helps in their day to day lives, there are even Amish computers available, designed specifically to cater to the needs an Amish family might have.
Any computer can technically be an Amish computer, so what makes this one special? It absolutely does the bare minimum. Normal computers can take you to YouTube or let you play games. Not the Amish computer. No internet, nothing fun, just business. It won’t even play music.
An Amish computer does inventory spreadsheets, makes receipts and other simple business needs like that. Consider it a souped up word processor, or a machine that runs a ramshackle version of Microsoft Office and nothing else.
9. The Amish Don’t Have Mustaches Because It Means Military Service to Them
Amish men of a certain age are easily identifiable by their beards. They usually have long beards with sideburns and no mustaches. This look is so unique to them that if you try to grow this on your own and are not Amish, you will absolutely get told you look like you’re Amish. But why do they all do it that way?
To start with the beard, that’s a sign an Amish man is married. They don’t wear jewelry and don’t wear wedding rings as a result. When a man gets married, he grows the beard to show that as both a sign he has become a man and as a sort of visual tribute to the way folks looked in Biblical times. If an Amish man has no beard then ladies, he’s up for grabs.
The mustache never accompanies the beard for a specific reason. For the Amish, a mustache indicates military. Once upon a time, British soldiers were required to have a mustache as part of the uniform. This was the 1800s mind you but the Amish are nothing if not old-fashioned.
Because the Amish do not engage in violence (or they’re not supposed to) and they absolutely will not serve in the military, they kept their upper lips shaved to show they were not military men.
8. Amish Sidestep Driving Rules By Having Amish Taxi Drivers
We already touched on technology issues for the Amish briefly and traveling has long been a sticky issue for them. The fact is that a horse can only take you so far. For that reason, the Amish had made several allowances and loopholes for themselves over the years.
While a New Order Amish may have their own truck, what about an Old Order who needs to do some traveling? Maybe even stopping to buy some large items they couldn’t carry in a wagon? That’s where the Amish taxi comes in.
Old Order Amish allow that they can travel in motorized vehicles, they just can’t own them. Amish communities may have several taxis that cater specifically to their needs. Taxi drivers are typically paid a per mile fee plus an hourly rate on top for any time they spend waiting. This way an Amish person can go to a hospital, for instance, pay for the mileage, and the taxi will wait for them to finish an appointment or a visit based on the hourly rate, and then take them home or wherever else they need to go.
The job can be time consuming and may require a full day of work that can take a driver through several states and into Canada, but the pay seems to be worth it.
7. Amish Run Businesses Succeed At Far Higher Rates Than Non-Amish Businesses
Obviously Amish people are not making video games or designing new apps but they do run thriving businesses within their communities and they do incredibly well. After 5 years, Amish businesses have a 95% success rate compared to businesses in the rest of the population which have about a 50% survival rate.
The community tends to stick to small scale businesses of less than 30 employees. They focus on skills and trades that come naturally in the Amish world including carpentry and furniture making, baking, various construction trades and so on,.
Despite being small in a physical sense, Amish businesses can be very successful well beyond their little communities. Amish goods are sold nationally and internationally with some of these businesses making millions of dollars per year. That, in turn, implies there are several Amish millionaires out there most of us never knew existed.
6. The Amish Are One of the Fastest Growing Populations in the World
They may not be rabbits but the Amish are a growing population in America and also one of the fastest growing in the world. Just because they seem to eschew most modern conveniences doesn’t mean their way of life isn’t appealing. Most Amish children remain in the community when they become adults, with retention rates of about 85%. Factor in that many Amish parents will have as many as 10 to 12 children and the growth of the community is inevitable.
In Minnesota alone, the Amish population rose 230% in 20 years. When a community reaches about 40 families, they will splinter and form a new settlement. Research has shown that new settlements start every three weeks in the US.
5. The Amish Find Technology Loopholes
So we saw the Amish can use vehicles if they have someone else drive them, and that they can even own a computer if it’s the most boring computer ever, so how does technology work in their communities and what are the rules?
As mentioned before, the Old Order Amish will avoid all technology that they can. But New Order find many creative loopholes. Electricity, for instance. The reason that the Amish don’t use electricity is because it comes from a public grid and to use it is to literally tie yourself to the world. Their beliefs prohibit tying yourself to worldly things, which is not uncommon in Christian theology, they just take it very literally. But that’s just one kind of electricity.
Off-grid electricity has been accepted by many Amish as not being the same. They are not connected to the greater world by it and so electricity that comes from batteries, generators or solar sources that they control can be accepted.
Homes may have battery operated lights inside and even radios. Many Amish also have telephones but they may prefer to keep them in an out building like the barn. They will also use power tools but then to use ones that either operate with battery power or even pneumatic tools which skirt the issue of power altogether. You can find propane-powered forklifts and hydraulic saws in Amish businesses, too.
As long as it serves the good of the community or their way of life, the Amish will adapt as necessary to many things. That said, it’s also very much on a community by community basis so what one group of Amish will accept, others may not.
4. Amish Children Only Get Schooled Until the 8th Grade
The Amish work with the rest of society begrudgingly. They are polite and even friendly with outsiders, but they don’t want to sacrifice their beliefs. Because of this, Amish education is very limited. Amish children go to school until eighth grade, and that’s it.
The Amish still use the single room schoolhouse model so all children in a community are educated together. It was a Supreme Court ruling that allowed for this, partially based on the assumption that an Amish education was equal to a non-Amish education up to the eighth grade. This has been debated, of course, with the suggestion that the Amish education is not on par at all. The other factor was that the Amish argued that high school would affect an Amish child’s ability to practice their religion, and the court agreed.
Not all Amish are happy about this and some members left the community as children because they wanted a proper education. They feel the court decision was wrong and should be overturned.
3. The Swartzentruber Amish Are So Strict They Avoid Plumbing and Bicycles
We’ve seen that some Amish are a lot more lax with the rules than others. That implies there are some who are the exact opposite, and those are usually the Swartzentruber Amish. The Swartzentruber can be found in Ohio and Canada and they are throwbacks to the original Amish from Europe 300 years ago. Even the name means “black” and “to refrain,” which means they remain plain and conservative and do not partake in what the rest of the world has, even colors. Their horse-drawn buggies don’t even have colored reflectors.
As the most conservative group they will not only avoid electricity, they don’t even have running water in their homes or gas lamps to provide light. They avoid technology as simple as bicycles and Velcro.
2. The Amish Have Low Cancer Rates
In the summer of 2023 there was a social media conspiracy theory that Amish children were immune to things like autism, cancer and diabetes because they were unvaccinated. This was inspired, in part, by genuine reports that Amish people have much lower cancer rates than the rest of the population.
The truth of it had nothing to do with vaccines, of course. While many recent Amish survey participants said they might reject a Covid vaccine, back in 2011 only about 14% of respondents admitted to rejecting vaccines in general meaning most Amish children would be vaccinated like the rest of the population.
That said, cancer rates are lower, and there have been several potential explanations. Though Amish are more likely to suffer certain genetic illnesses than others, they tend to not smoke which limits tobacco-related cancer risks. They eat healthier foods that they grow themselves and have very limited processed foods in their diets.
Amish people often have more physical jobs so they exercise frequently and obesity rates in Amish are very low. They also have incredible community support systems whenever someone needs help so stress levels are likely lower among the Amish. All of this goes to show their lifestyle may have a tremendous impact on why those cancer rates are about 60% of the rate for the rest of the population.
1. A Place in Florida is Referred to As Amish Las Vegas
Like anyone, the Amish need time to unwind and cut loose. They even have their own version of Las Vegas, after a fashion. When it’s time for the Amish to vacation, they’ll head to Pinecraft, Florida.
Calling it the Amish Las Vegas is to take great liberties with everything that name brings to mind. There’s no gambling, drinking, debauchery or really anything at all even remotely similar to Vegas other than electricity. The Amish will happily use lights and ride the bus in Pinecraft.
You can find cellphones and even cameras in use, showing just how far the Amish will push their limits. They will even ride bicycles! The clothes are even a little more risque with sunglasses and tank tops being acceptable attire.
About 5,000 Amish will visit Pinecraft per year during their off season when they can leave the farm for a little while. They play shuffleboard, socialize and party down like only the Amish can.