Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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What Do the Amish Think of their Neighbors?

Anon wrote: I would like to know what the Amish think of their non-Amish neighbors in general. My next door neighbors are Amish but we’ve only lived here for about 9 months. They seem to work SO HARD that I wonder if they think we are wimps? (I’ve seen the husband spreading manure in SEVERE winter weather, for example). We are born again Christians, I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom. So I wonder, do they think us less “worldly” than the cussing gritty farmers we’re surrounded with? The 14 year old girl borrowed my Anne of Green Gables books and devoured them – the mother seemed pleased. When I let her know that we also have the Anne DVD’s and that the girl is welcome to come over and watch them, her whole attitude changed – it was very awkward – She said “Going to the movies is something that the Amish just do not do.” I appologized up and down and wanted to explain that it wouldn’t be the same as “going to the movies” but I just thought I better drop it. I am used to being judged for being too Christian but now I find myself in the odd position of being looked at as too worldly. It’s been strange! I would love for our kids to play together more but I’m afraid they’ll think we’re a bad influence. What did you think of English children when you were a child? Did you know any Christian ones?


Anon, you have several layers of questions here. Let me start in the beginning. About what the Amish think of their neighbors in general — this is a question that can only be answered in the specific… it is as hard to answer as how do mainstream Americans think of their neighbors in general. Each relationship is different… 


Most Amish are indeed hard-working. And they don’t usually think about whether their “English” neighbors work hard or not. If you were part of the community, then they may have an opinion, but they simply don’t judge the English people. They may get along better with you than the cussing gritty farmers you are surrounded with, though the Amish men seem to know how to get along with their tough neighbors oftentimes. 


For most Amish I know, they feel uncomfortable being around born again Christians because they do not believe in evangelizing. All you have to do is tell them you are born again, and they will then be afraid that you will try to convert them. They believe in keeping their faith quiet and within their own communities.


About Anne of Green Gables — it doesn’t surprise me that you got the response you did. Most Amish make no distinction between going to the movies or watching them on television.  You were wise to not try to make that distinction.


It depends on the family and community as to whether the parents are comfortable with having your children play with your children. When I was a child, my closest friends and neighbors were “English.” We were inseparable. My mother used to call over to the neighbors when she wanted us to come home and say, “Cumm du doh rivvah!” (You come over here!) My neighbor, Susan, used to laugh and say it sounded like she was saying, “Come to the river!” 


Some Amish parents actually like when their children play with “English” children, because it is the easiest way for their children to learn the English language. Other families/communities are much more reclusive. My best advice is to ask the mother how she feels about it. 


I know that many people like to be liked by the Amish. My advice is to be yourself, and not worry too much about what they think of you. The Amish, like anyone else, really respect someone who is authentic, and they are also good at knowing when someone is not putting on airs or being too careful around them. The Amish are not as breakable as you think. In fact, unless you are part of their community, they are about the most non-judgmental people you would ever want to meet.
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