Amish Culture: Their History, Lifestyle and Population

amish culture
Amish culture Source: Wikipedia

The world is in its 21st Century. To imagine a life without using any electricity or modern appliances sounds next to impossible. But, there’s a group of people who follow a culture called, ‘Amish Culture’ who do not use any technologies. For us it might be a cultural shock, for them, that is their reality.

Amish people live a life untouched by anything modern. They live a simple and plain life. In this article, we will discuss Amish Culture and everything about it from its history, lifestyle, and population.

Girls of Amish Culture playing a softball (AP Photo/Scott R. Galvin)

Who are Amish?

The member of a Christian group, primarily the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church, in North America are called Amish. They are also known as “Amish Mennonite”. People following Amish culture are reluctant to adopt the modernity of the world. The majority of them is live in the United States and Canada. They live a very plain and simple life.

History of Amish Culture

Jakob Ammann introduced the Amish culture. This culture came into existence after Ammann’s controversial teachings caused a schism among his coreligionists in Switzerland, Alsace, and southern Germany. He believed  “excommunicated members of the Mennonite church should be shunned socially”. The belief of his was the major cause of this schism.

He introduced foot washing into the worship service by following Jesus’s example. Similarly, he also taught his church members to dress in a uniform manner. He taught them that beards should not be trimmed and that to attend services in a state church was not right. Later in time, even though Ammann sought reconciliation with the Mennonites his consistent insistence on avoiding excommunicated lead to its failure.

In the early 18th Century, the Amish began emigrating to North America early. At first, they first settled in eastern Pennsylvania. A large settlement of them remains there. It was after 1850 that Schism and disruption started occurred because of tensions between the “new order” and the “old order.” While New order Amish accepted the social change and technological innovation, old order that is traditional Amish did not.

Because of this schism by the next 50 years about two-thirds of the Amish formed separate, small churches of their own or joined either the Mennonite Church or the General Conference Mennonite Church.


The majority of Amish speak two languages which are The Pennsylvania Dutch and English. However, the Pennsylvania Dutch is not Dutch at all. The language they speak is an ancient dialect of Dutch. So, the language they speak varies from the actual Dutch that the people of Germany speak.

Because of their isolation from others, the language they speak has a very different pronunciation than that of current German. The English of surrounding populations highly influences their pronunciation. Some Amish, notably in Indiana, speak a version closer to Swiss-German.

Where do Amish People live?

Amish farming is at the center of their lives. Since their population is rapidly expanding they are always seeking out new lands that are far from urban areas. They initially settled in Pennsylvania.

Amish are living in 30 states of the USA and in Canada too. Ohio has the largest Amish population currently. Pennsylvania and Indiana are closely following it.


Amish are governed by the “Ordnung.” Ordnung is a German word for order. The rules of Ordnung vary from community to community. According to the Young Center,

Most Amish groups forbid owning automobiles, tapping electricity from public utility lines, using self-propelled farm machinery, owning a television, radio, and computer, attending high school and college, joining the military, and initiating divorce.

One thing that makes people of this culture different is their use of electricity or rather the lack of it. They try to stay away from urban technologies as much as possible.

Matter of fact, they cannot take photos as they believe that photos cultivate personal vanity, which runs against the church’s prohibition of “Hochmuth,” which means pride, arrogance, and haughtiness. They are also not allowed to drive around in motor vehicles. But they can, however, hire non-Amish people to drive them around.

Amish do not consider technology evil in itself, but they believe that it has the potential to bring about assimilation into the surrounding so0ciety. According to the Young Center, “Mass media technology, in particular, they fear, would introduce foreign values into their culture,” says an article on the Young Center’s website. “By bringing greater mobility, cars would pull the community apart, eroding local ties. Horse-and-buggy transportation keeps the community anchored in its local geographical base.


According to the Young Center Amish children only attend school up to eighth grade. About 10% of the people of this culture study in public schools. Meanwhile most of them finish their schooling at private schools.

Their right to end their schooling at the age of 14 was confirmed by the 1972 ruling of the United States Supreme Court. They are taught both English and their German dialect.

Dress Of Amish Culture

Amish Women
Source: Amish subculture

Amish people dress in very plain and simple clothing. They only wear clothes in solid color and don’t wear any pattern or colorful clothes. Plainness is the governor of their clothing. Black and white clothes prohibited in some groups of Amish while others allow muted colors.

Buttons are also restricted because of their potential for ostentation. Similarly, they don’t use Velcro and zippers too. Pins or hook-and-eye closures are used for fastening clothes. Slightly smarter clothes such as capes are used for religious services. Women are also restricted to wear makeup. Even cutting their hair is not allowed. They believe doing all of this makes them a better Christian.

Religion followed by Amish People

Amish do not believe in worshiping at churches. Every Sunday their religious services are held in homes. Families within their settlement take turns hosting. The Amish are Christian Anabaptists.

Additionally, only adults are baptized in their culture. They believe only adults can make such an important decision. Before being baptized taking part Rumpspringa is encouraged to most teenagers.

What is Rumpsringa?

Rumspringa is a time when the Amish in their teenage years can experiment with more colorful clothes, talk on the phone, or perhaps drive around in cars.

Population Of Amish Culture

Amish Culture is hard to follow. One shall expect their number to be going down. But according to a new census, the Amish are growing faster than ever. According to Ohio State University researchers, there are nearly 251,000 Amish people in America and Canada. That’s more than double the estimated population in 1989 of about 100,000. Within about 21 years researchers estimate the population to double again to half a million.

This growth has a lot to do with the fact that more Amish children are staying with religion and starting their own high-fertility families. Lead researcher Joseph Donnermeyer, a professor of rural sociology at OSU says, “Some people would claim 90 percent of daughters and sons get baptized Amish and start families.” This number has been increasing steadily since WWII.