Main article: Amish religious practices
A page of ornate old German text. See description.
A scan of the historical document Diß Lied haben die sieben Brüder im Gefängnüß zu Gmünd gemacht
Amish couple in horse-driven buggy in rural Holmes County, Ohio, September 2004)
Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut (humility) and Gelassenheit (calmness, composure, placidity), often translated as “submission” or “letting-be”. Gelassenheit is perhaps better understood as a reluctance to be forward, to be self-promoting, or to assert oneself. The Amish’s willingness to submit to the “Will of Jesus”, expressed through group norms, is at odds with the individualism so central to the wider American culture. The Amish anti-individualist orientation is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on community. Modern innovations like electricity might spark a competition for status goods, or photographs might cultivate personal vanity.
Way of life:
Main article: Amish way of life
Amish lifestyle is dictated by the Ordnung (German, meaning: order), which differs slightly from community to community, and, within a community, from district to district. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another.
Bearing children, raising them, and socializing with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family. All Amish believe large families are a blessing from God.
Main article: Pennsylvania German language
Most Old Order Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and refer to non-Amish as “English”, regardless of ethnicity. Some Amish who migrated to the United States in the 1850s speak Bernese German or a Low Alemannic Alsatian dialect. According to one scholar, “today, almost all Amish are functionally bilingual in Pennsylvania Dutch and English; however, domains of usage are sharply separated. Pennsylvania Dutch dominates in most in-group settings, such as the dinner table and preaching in church services. In contrast, English is used for most reading and writing. English is also the medium of instruction in schools and is used in business transactions and often, out of politeness, in situations involving interactions with non-Amish. Finally, the Amish read prayers and sing in Standard German (which, in Pennsylvania Dutch, is called Hochdeitsch) at church services. The distinctive use of three different languages serves as a powerful conveyor of Amish identity. “Although “the English language is being used in more and more situations,” Pennsylvania Dutch is “one of a handful of minority languages in the United States that is neither endangered nor supported by continual arrivals of immigrants.”
See also: Cuisine of the Pennsylvania Dutch
Amish cuisine is noted for its simplicity and traditional qualities. Food plays an important part in Amish social life and is served at potlucks, weddings, fundraisers, farewells and other events. Many Amish foods are sold at markets including pies, preserves, bread mixes, pickled produce, desserts and canned goods. Many Amish communities have also established restaurants for visitors.