Amish communities are pretty and very peaceful. You will find outlaying areas full of rolling hills, green pastures, lovely farm land and immaculate homes with the wash drying in the wind. The Amish are an amazing group of people who are private and knowing a few things about them will help you enjoy your trip to Amish country and will leave them feeling respected.
For a few years I worked at a visitor center in an Amish community. During my time there, I was surprised at what people expected. Many a visitor asked which house they could go in and walk through. Our community did not have any such place, but the visitors insisted that they see the inside of an Amish home. I had to finally ask them if they would let anyone who knocked on their door come inside their home, walk through and look at everything. They always said “why, of course not!” then why would you want to do that to someone else. Respect is all they ask.
Again, the Amish are very private. I am sure they wonder why the English are so interested in their simple lives. But we are. The appeal of the Amish life is so strong especially during these difficult economic times. Maybe we have too many choices, maybe all the conveniences we have are not really convenient after all, maybe we are all so ragged from the pace that we just need to stop and see for a moment what the other side of the fence looks like. The simpler life of the Amish is like a tonic to our hectic lives.
That being said, remember that all Amish shops (and most of the surrounding shops and restaurants) are closed on Sundays. They are also closed on Good Friday, Ascension Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and a few other holidays that may not land on a Sunday. Also most Amish shops do not accept credit cards or out of town checks.
The Amish do not believe in having their picture taken. They will generally just quietly shy away from a camera if it is out. I have seen visitors try to make them be in a picture. Please do not do that. This is an important issue to them and it should be respected. Feel free to take pictures of the landscape, but not the people.
If you really want to see inside an Amish home, the way to do that is through a professional tour receptive. They have arrangements with local Amish families and businesses that usually include a tour and a meal in an Amish home. These tour receptives have built the trust of the Amish community and are the only way to experience a real Amish home setting. Some Amish communities do not have tours like that, so be sure to check ahead of time. You may have to contact AAA or another travel agency to arrange such a tour.
The most important thing about visiting Amish country is to be very careful when driving. A car driving the regular speed limit can come up on a buggy or a pedestrian much quicker than you might think. We have had our share of awful accidents between buggies and cars. It is something neither the Amish nor the English forget quickly.
When entering Amish country, be on the look out for buggies, tractors and pedestrians. This is a good time to not be distracted with cell phones, changing the radio station and the like. Watch around you. If you see a buggy, slow down and pass only when you are sure it is completely safe. One thing I have learned is not to worry about the car or truck behind me. I make sure that when I pass I am safe and so is the buggy. I cannot express it enough how keeping your eye on the road and your head clear can safe lives. Some locals may be a little impatient with the Amish and visitors as well. Just ignore that and remember the best times are the safe times.
When you are shopping in an Amish store, you will get a feeling if you can ask questions to the shopkeeper. Many Amish are happy to answer most questions. They feel the more we know, the better. If an Amish person does not seem interested in discussing things, just wait until your next stop and try again.
Traveling to Amish country can be a great time. All we need to pack with us is common sense and respect and your time in Amish country will be a good one! Happy Travels!!