The so-called Amish Mafia aside, it’s a pretty well known fact that the Amish people live a life amongst themselves. From what I can gather, they just want to be left alone to pursue their faith and worship their God as they see fit. In order to do that, they live by a certain code of rules called the ”Ordnung”. According to our friends over at Wikipedia, “ordnung is the German word for “order, discipline, rule, arrangement, organization or system.”
Unlike most other religions, the Amish don’t follow a specific code of conduct set down from on high. Instead, the ordnung that they follow will differ from location to location. This is because each Amish district is considered a separate church within the religion and the bishops and elders within the community get to decide what is permissible and what isn’t for members of their flock. What follows is a general list of do’s and don’ts within each of the Amish sects.
Automobiles or any other motorized vehicles are not allowed to be driven or owned by members of the Amish community. If they can’t get where they’re going via their horse and buggy, they may ask a non-Amish person to drive them or they can hire a driver and rent a car.
Did you ever wonder why you’ve never seen an Amish person on an airplane? That’s because the ordnung (in most cases) has deemed it verboten.
When it comes to matters of attire, the ordnung specifies that males must wear hats when they are outdoors. In the winter months, black is the color of choice and straw hats are worn in the warmer months. They also don’t believe in belts to hold up their trousers. Instead, they use suspenders as their fashion statement.
You’ll also never see an Amish person shopping at The Gap or any other clothing store. All of their clothes must be sewn at home.
Once a young man gets married in the Amish faith, they are expected to grow a beard. No mustaches though, due to their German heritage they associate mustaches with military figures from their past. Young men or boys who are unmarried are expected to remain clean-shaven.
As far as their women folk go, forget about anything to do with razors. For the most part, they are not allowed to shave any of their body parts nor to cut their hair. Speaking of hair, women, whether at home or in public are to keep their head covered at all times via the use of a prayer bonnet. The color of the bonnet will also usually indicate marital status and will vary from church to church.
Here in the States, there’s usually some kind of debate going on over Social Security. The Amish don’t have to worry about that since it’s forbidden as is any other form of commercial insurance within the community.
As far as the kids go, they are expected to go to school through the eighth grade. Most of them are one room school houses that teach the basics such as spelling, English, German, math and geography. Surprisingly, religion is not part of the curriculum, most of that is taught at home. After they graduate, it’s time to go work on the family farm or do chores around the house.
You’ll also never see an Amish person gazing at themselves in a full length mirror. They consider that sort of thing as vain and trying to call attention to themselves is not considered acceptable behavior. That’s also why you’ll never see them wearing any jewelry or wedding bands.
If life on the farm without modern machinery isn’t hard enough, try doing it on buggies and other farm equipment that don’t have rubber wheels. They are also expected to work from Monday through Saturday with Sundays off to attend services.
Among the more traditional or “Old Order” Amish, telephones and any other means of modern communication is forbidden. They are allowed to use non-electric typewriters for correspondence and business purposes.
The same thing goes when it comes to taking their picture. If you find yourself in Amish country and want to grab a snapshot, you should always ask their permission first.
It should probably come as no surprise but divorce is also forbidden as is joining any branch of the military, filing a lawsuit of any kind (that’s probably why they’re such an easy target for exploitation), using central heating or electricity within their homes and for some strange reason, having wall to wall carpeting.
I’m pretty sure most of us have heard of the practice of “shunning” that the Amish use when a church member breaks or flouts any of these established rules. Usually that only happens as a last resort. If a church member violates the rules and is discovered, they’ll usually be paid a visit by the bishop or the elders and told to tone down their behavior. If they persist in said behavior, then they can be shunned for a period of time or, as a last resort, excommunicated from the church.
I’m sure there’s some more rules and regulations that are in place with regards to Amish behavior but as I stated earlier, since the ordnung varies from church to church, a comprehensive list just isn’t feasible.
All in all, the Amish seem to be pretty self-contained. When amongst themselves, they’ll usually speak some version of Pennsylvania Dutch. While they do interact with the “English” (by English they mean any non member of the Amish community) by selling their wares and goods, I’m pretty sure that’s born out of necessity of living in the modern world rather than choice.