9 Myths Busted About the So-called Amish Simple Life

 

by Vicki Nemeth

 

The mainstream narrative tends to portray Amish life as idyllic. “If I could just join the Amish, I wouldn’t have all these modern problems!” people say.

 

9 Myths Busted About the So-called Amish Simple Life

 

 

The problem with this wish is that most human problems pop up no matter what culture you live in. So here are 9 everyday problems that the Amish most definitely have not solved with what the rest of us like to call “simple living.”

  1. Taxes never go away

     
    So you think joining the Amish will get you out of paying taxes? Actually, Amish people still pay most state and federal taxes. Amish communities are exempt from social security taxes, because of their belief in not depending on the surrounding world. However, community members pay for each other’s needs. It’s not tax in name, but it is people paying to take care of their neighbors.

  2. Health care is part of the human condition

     
    Health problems encompass everyone, and almost all Amish people use modern doctors except for fringe groups. Instead of making regular insurance payments, Amish communities come together to pay the health expenses of any member in need.

  3. Healthy living is not legalism

     
    Don’t assume that everything an Amish family eats is “clean eating” fresh from the garden. Many Amish people shop frugally in mainstream stores. You’ll find things like plastic and cake mix in an Amish household.
     
    You will also find a larger proportion of real cooking and local fare on Amish dinner tables. A social emphasis on working with the hands encourages cooking and crafting.
     
    simple life
     
    The emphasis on hard work also drives a preference for rich, old-fashioned meals. This may sound inconvenient to clean-eating Instagrammers, but people who work with their bodies need calories. They need to enjoy their food for how rich and nourishing it is, not for how trendy it looks on social media.
     
    Yes, Amish kids seem to develop better immune systems and fewer allergies because they grow up in outdoor environments where their bodies can learn to deal with microbes. They may also have to grow up sooner, beginning apprenticeships in their early teens.

  4. Hard work is not easy

     
    Office life can be annoying and stressful, while working with your hands can be good for your mental health. However, farming and manufacturing come with hazards too.
     
    A saw blade is potentially as dangerous in an Amish workshop as it is in yours
     
    Amish people may generally be healthy and long-lived, but working with saws and climbing in rafters can cause accidents. Of course you’ll never hear about it. Why would you?

  5. Closed communities require careful management

     
    Amish districts often encourage their youth to visit other districts in search of marriage partners, to limit the risk of marrying relatives. Remember, Amish populations arrived in the US as very small communities, and they prefer marriage partners that share their beliefs. Couples may be distantly related, although they don’t purposely inbreed. Unfortunately, these marriages still create genetic problems at a higher rate than the globalized world. Thankfully, these cases occur in a tiny minority of Amish families.

  6. Transportation still stinks

     
    Horses are expensive to take care of! You need a large amount of land and preferably other animals or horses to socialize with each other. You need shelter from extreme heat and cold, nutritious feed in addition to grass, and you need to pay for vet bills.
     
    In addition to horses needing special care, they complicate very long trips by being slower and needing periodic rest. This means that as Amish people spread around the country, establishing a new community requires a much longer ride in a buggy than in a car. Buggies may not have the same shocks, and they may be less weatherproof, so that ride isn’t always comfortable in climates with extreme heat or cold.
     
    About the So-called Amish Simple Life
     
    There is also danger from encountering cars on the road. Automobiles are more powerful than horses and buggies, so Amish drivers and their horses are more often gravely injured during collisions with cars, trucks and SUVs. Some Ordnungs allow drivers to use reflective tape to make buggies more visible at night, while others consider the bright tape to be a thing which draws too much attention to the self. It’s always important for drivers in rural areas to drive carefully, whether to protect wildlife or people on the road.
     
    Of course, some New Order Amish groups allow old or simple cars. That simplifies things, right?

  7. Real estate is still getting more expensive

     
    As America gets more populated, Amish families are growing even faster. Meanwhile, land gets more expensive as it becomes more crowded. Amish adult children don’t escape the pricey real estate market that affects the rest of society. Some Amish families leave farming and swtich to businesses that require less land, such as furniture making and construction. Others look for cheap land in other parts of the country and start new communities there.

  8. Teenagers are still running wild

     
    To ensure that teens are free to make their own religious choices, Amish communities let them go through a phase called Rumspringa, which literally means “running around.” During this phase, Amish youth socialize in youth groups and try aspects of the outside lifestyle such as colorful clothing and technology.
     
    A teenage girl taking a picture of her beverage in a cafe
     
    After having been raised in a strictly pietist church, the reality is that Amish youth don’t go completely out of control with dangerous behaviors. They often maintain their relationships with their home churches during this phase. Rumspringa ends with official church membership or a decision to leave and join mainstream society. Youth who leave their Amish communities might even join similar churches where modern living is the only major difference.

  9. Off-grid living calls for extra technology

     
    Amish people don’t shun technology. They shun the world. Many Amish workshops run power tools using diesel generators. If they didn’t, they would never be able to ship enough furniture to run a business. The point isn’t to avoid technology, but to stay off-grid, and that can put Amish communities ahead of the surrounding culture in certain ways. For instance, they may try to save diesel by installing passive architecture such as skylights.
     
    Skylights help Amish workshops make better use of natural light and heat, so they can save on off-grid generator power
     
    Amish groups that allow limited computer use create a demand for specialized computers and fax machines. You might find an Amish business with a computer that only runs invoicing software, is all buttons and very little screen.
     
    In districts where Ordnungs allow computing with limits, Amish people have to stay savvy about which computers fall within these limits. Even farm tractors can have impractical computers these days. You really have to watch out.

Still crave the simple life?

 
Amish living may look simple, but in many ways it’s just a different kind of complicated. Still want to join the Amish? You can check out these Steps to Joining the Amish. Whether you’ve found a new appreciation for modern life, or are determined to leave, post your thoughts in the comments below.


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