Questions & Curiosities
Visitors to Ohio Amish Country can feel uncertain about how to behave in certain situations. There are questions about photography, Amish church, and pop culture representations. Here are our best answers to your frequently asked questions.
How many Amish people are in Holmes County?
Holmes County is a part of a larger Amish settlement. While the majority of the Amish population is in Holmes County, it also spills into adjoining counties. Holmes and surrounding counties are home to about 37,000 Amish.
Can I take photos of Amish people?
Yes and no. Use your best judgment here and remember that Amish people are...people. If you see someone plowing in the distance or a buggy on the road, snap away. If taking a photo will disrupt someone’s activity, invade their privacy, or disrespect them, just enjoy encountering a new way of life. No one is on exhibit here. Amish will not consent to posing in a photo and do not want their faces photographed.
Can I go to Amish church?
Probably not. Amish churches are comprised of several families in a localized area, and they hold church in the home. These services are conducted in High German, and Pennsylvania Dutch will be the language of conversation. Amish Church is held every other week and rotates between family locations. Non-Amish may be invited as guests for weddings, funerals, and gatherings of family and friends. It would be unusual for someone non-Amish to attend a typical Sunday church service.
Can I join the Amish?
You’ll need to do some soul searching on that one. Remember that the Amish speak PA Dutch among themselves, steer away from conveniences such as electric and cars, form social structures and bonds through family ties and church, separate from the outside world, and are living a heritage. Amish living is not the solution to a complicated life.
That Amishman was on a cell phone. What the heck?
If you see Amish on a cell phone, the use of that device has likely been permitted by their particular church for business or emergency purposes. Things that may seem contradictory to non-Amish have most likely already been evaluated and deliberated by an Amish church group. It’s hard to live a purely 19th-century lifestyle in a 21st-century world.
What is rumspringa?
Contrary to what you see on television, rumspringa is not Amish kids gone wild. Instead, it’s a period during which Amish teens are permitted to experience the world more fully before deciding to be baptized into the Amish church. They may dress as non-Amish, travel, and get a driver’s license. Remember, they are teenagers. They have teenage adventures.
Who is the leader of the Amish church?
The Amish are not as homogenous as the black coats and bonnets make them seem. In fact, there are even variations in these clothing items between sects and regions. Each church, which is created by a grouping of families in a community area, has a bishop and preachers. These men discern what is appropriate for their church. As such, there’s not one “code of conduct” or doctrine. Churches decide for themselves. This frequently stereotyped minority group actually has a many varied perspectives from many individuals and churches. There are likely about 300 Amish churches around the Holmes County area.
Where can I find more answers to my questions about the Amish?
Cultural sensitivity is important, even when we feel curious about different ways of living. Folks in Ohio Amish Country are used to helping visitors. But if you have questions that are more sensitive, intimate, or regarding popular media depictions, consider stopping at our Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center. Another excellent resource for data and cultural info is Elizabethtown College’s site for Amish Studies.