Trying not to Look at the Amish like Animals Spotted on Safari

Amish Buggy Crossing Road SignDriving through Amish Country, Pennsylvania I was giddy when I saw my first buggy! And then a man with a grey beard riding a scooter (unmotorized). And then buggies parked at WalMart! Whodathunk?

My impulse was to grab my camera. But then decency stopped me. These are people, not safari animals. And just because they live a different life than mine doesn’t mean I should photograph them. Besides, they don’t like to be photographed: because of the spectacle factor and for their own philosophical reasons.

I don’t think twice about taking pictures of people coloring at the Crayola Museum or eating at the Moonpie Festival. And I don’t know why that’s different to me. Perhaps because they’re part of the experience that I’m enjoying; not observing. They bring it to life. And they’re doing exactly what I’m doing, too. I just find it more fun to show pictures of diverse people doing things instead of me doing them.

No Pictures this Time

So nope, no pictures of the Amish. If you’re interested, and you have every right to be, Google them and you’ll find fascinating pictures and details. Plus, the information I learned is conflicting–new tour guides, depends on the clan?

The Amish are in More Places than You’d Think

27 states and Ontario! Lancaster, PA is the second largest population at 30,000, after communities in Ohio.

A Small Insight into Religion

They’re pacifists, which is not surprising. Baptism is performed as adults so they can make the choice to join the church and understand the commitment.

Church services are held every other Sunday, and rotate between homes in the community. A room is dedicated with hard benches without back rests. Services last four hours and are conducted in the formal German. Like Orthodox Judaism, men and women sit on different sides. Also like Judaism, they were head coverings (both men and women) because they are in the presence of the Lord.

Amish Distlefink

The Amish wish you happiness and good luck via this Distlefink, or thistlefinch

Family Life

Married around age 20 for females and 23 for males, most families have an average of six children. With this birth rate, and only one per cent of of people leaving the community, the population doubles every 20 years.

Women wear a white apron to show that they’re single and a black to show that they’re married. They do not wear wedding rings. Men show that they are married by growing facial hair–a beard, but not a mustache. And it’s never shaved.

When a man’s oldest child get’s married, the man is considered a community elder. The youngest child inherits the house; and with it the responsibility/honor of their parents living with them until passing.

Rumspringa happens at age 16, when teens are exposed to “English” culture by going on field trips to movies, skating, and such. It’s a chance for them to interact with the world they see but don’t touch. They shop at WalMart, but only for certain items like fabric. They see signs, but don’t engage. They know about cars because they ride their bikes on the same highway. But the communities are starting to rethink Rumspringa as it’s been a path to debauchery with drug and alcohol problems that stay longer than the taste of exposure during its tenure.

Contributing Members of Society

Yes, the Amish pay taxes.

They don’t however, have medical insurance. They give 25% of their income to the church, who pays for full-price medical bills as needed. And yes, they do partake of Western medicine.

Fifty per cent are farmers, with the other men working as carpenters, painters and other manual labor. Education stops at 8th grade! Being productive is considered a better contribution and priority.

Pennsylvania Farm

I love the contrast and harmony of a freshly harvested field abutting still-growing crops.

Be Not of the World

The Amish are strict followers of the above verse from Romans, hence their preference for buggies over cars. Zippers are considered vainglorious; no decoration in the house–only items that are functional. Interior walls are painted one of three colors: white for purity, blue for the sky, or green for nature.

While they won’t use electricity, there seems to be some flexibility in recent years, and things like mix masters, refrigerators, and washing machines have been adapted to run on propane and air compressors. I personally don’t understand how this works within their belief system, but since I know so little about it, am no one to question and certainly not to judge.

Hex Barns: Just for Nice

Hex Barns scatter the countryside and are lovely decoration on barnsides and covered bridges. The comment of “just for nice” confuses me–there’s not supposed to be anything without function. But I’ll take it; it made for a lovely drive and scavenger hunt!

Amish Nex Barn, Pennsylvania

Amish Nex Barn, Pennsylvania

Amish Nex Barn, Pennsylvania

The Irony of this Post

So here I am, adamant not to treat the Amish as a spectacle by taking pictures, yet I describe what little I know about them in book-report format. A few posts from now I’ll write about my encounters with folks on the Jersey shore–with no qualms whatsoever. All food for thought–for you, for me. Where’s the line of sharing what I learn and observe, and when is it crossed by objectifying people? Does the fact that the Jersey shore is already objectified make it acceptable for me to do the same? Certainly not. Paula’s got some thinking to do….


What do you think about writing about people?
Photographing them?

3 Responses


Anyone in a Walmart is a candidate for people of walmart. We do not discrimincate when we may make fun of people … we make fun of all.


Paula, I applaud your sensitivity and decision not to take photos. Very interesting facts…your pieces are stirring up the desire to follow your path to many of these places.


I can not wait for the Jersey Shore pics!

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