Because their lifeways are so unique to the America that exists outside of their communities, the Amish are seen by outsiders as quirky and eccentric in their old-school ways. Known for shunning modern conveniences, conveyances and traditions outside of their own, the Amish can appear isolationist and standoffish from afar. However, anyone who lives near an Amish settlement could tell you how much of that is hyperbole. Amish communities are simply interested in following their own folkways, but you might be surprised at some of the truths behind Amish myths and misinformation. One of the biggest misconceptions is that all Amish are concentrated in Pennsylvania. In fact, Ohio and Indiana are the other top two states in terms of Amish population. Meanwhile, Wisconsin, New York and Michigan have considerable and growing Amish enclaves. Below are five of the biggest misconceptions regarding the Amish.
The Amish Do Not Travel Outside Their Communities
The horse and buggy image is so much a part of Amish identity that it is easy to see how this myth came about. Because the Amish generally do travel by horse and buggy, it’s easy to assume they stick to the strictly local route. However, just because they don’t own cars or drive, that doesn’t prevent the Amish from getting out there when they feel like it. Amish families might hire drivers to take their kids to school, make trips to the store, take them to work or hit the road for a vacation -- all while being chauffeured.
The Amish Don’t Utilize Traditional Western Medicine or Doctors
While Amish people don’t have individual health care plans or pay into health insurance programs, they do embrace modern medicine. When the need arises, trips to the doctor, emergency room, or surgeon are utilized. To pay for such procedures, the Amish community pools resources to cover the costs -- sort of their own health care collective.
Amish Communities Don’t Celebrate Christmas, or Other Holidays
Their specific traditions and ways of celebrating may be different than those of their Christian counterparts outside of the Amish community, but the Amish do indeed celebrate Christmas in their own way. They’ve done other Christmas celebrants one better, by observing yet another day -- Second Christmas. Amish communities also celebrate New Years, Thanksgiving, and Easter, among other major holidays.
All Amish are Farmers
A verdant green farm with white fences, barns and buildings is the iconic Amish homestead. Horses for plowing and pulling buggies to church are also part of the picture. It is true that many Amish carry on the agrarian tradition their families have plied for generations. But in this day and age, Amish people aren't relegated to the farm if they don’t choose to be. Plenty of Amish have chosen other lines of work. Man have developed reputations as master carpenters and craftsmen, especially fine furniture building. Still other Amish own their own businesses and shops.
The Amish Don’t Use Electricity
The Amish are probably the original proponents of being “off the grid.” They don’t pay the electric utility for power to be run into their homes. However, that doesn’t mean they have anything against a little electric assist. Many Amish families and businesses have generators, which are used to power various appliances and devices in their homes. In a related myth, although the Amish don’t allow phones in their homes, some Amish do own cell phones for business purposes, and there is nothing that prohibits having a landline phone in an outbuilding or in the barn of an Amish property.