Roadtrip USA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Countryside

Before he met me, Mr. N and his best friend always did a yearly road trip in the United States.  We’ve reinstated that tradition with the children in the last couple of years.  This summer we are driving up the East Coast from Pennsylvania where my family lives through New York, Connecticut. Rhode Island and ending up at our summer home in Massachusetts.

In Pennsylvania, we took the children to Lancaster County which has the oldest and largest settlement of Amish people in the country.  The Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720’s escaping persecution for their conservative Christian beliefs in Europe.  To this day, they prefer living a simple life foregoing modern conveniences such as cars and electricity.   Approximately 30,000 Amish live in Lancaster County today.

Amish farm
Amish farm

The family is the most important social unit for the Amish.  Families tend to be large and it’s not uncommon to have 7-10 children.

typical home - laundry on the line and a buggy outside the garage
typical home – laundry on the line and a buggy outside the garage

The Amish separate themselves from the “English” (a term for any non-Amish) by their mode of dress.  The men wear dark suits, suspenders, shoes and straw hats.  The women wear modest, long dresses, with caps and aprons.  Their hair is pinned back under their caps.

The Amish speak a dialect of German, called Pennsylvania Dutch, amongst themselves.  This language acts further to separate themselves from the English.  The novels I found below were in English.

Amish women love romance too!
Amish women love romance too!

The Amish travel mainly by horse and buggy.  They are permitted to accept rides in cars from non-Amish which is helpful in long-distance transportation.

Child peeking out from a buggy being driven by his mother
Child peeking out from a buggy being driven by his mother

The horse and buggies also follow traffic rules applicable to cars.

parked buggies

The Amish are famous for their quilts which is considered a recreational, communal activity for women.

beautiful hand-made quilt
beautiful hand-made quilt

For the Amish, the word “progress” does not automatically connote something better.  They are pretty happy with their simple way of life.  Anachronisms, however, have crept into their belief system because they are part of the American way of life by necessity.  For example, the Amish need to sell their goods and be part of the national economy.  Therefore, they need to use transportation and telephones.  (Similar to transportation, the Amish are allowed to use telephones but are not permitted to own them. )  They are not part of the English world yet they are not apart.

signs advertising local produce
signs advertising local produce

In the next post, I’ll talk about some family activities to enjoy in Amish country.

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I am an American expat based in London with my travel-loving family. I write at Just Go Places Blog about luxury, cultural and family travel.

9 thoughts on “Roadtrip USA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Countryside”

  1. I was going to say ‘so interesting’ too. In fact, I still am. Wow, it’s amazing how the Amish people live in today’s society, but separate. Do young people tend to leave? It would be hard looking at the way everyone else lives, and sticking to tradition. Your children must have been intrigued by it all. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Some do leave but many stay on. They are given a choice of going out into the “English” world for a year and making up their minds on which society to live in.

  2. So cool, I have read some of the Amish romance novels actually and am intrigued by their lifestyle. Such a life enriching experience for your family, to be able to take a trip there. By the way, I found your linky on BritsMums.

    1. Well their grandparents live nearby so it’s not that big a trip. But it was definitely enriching. It’s hard for children to imagine a life a different from theirs.

    1. Autumn is a great time for the area. In fact, I prefer it to summer because it isn’t so hot. The leaves on the trees are gorgeous colours and there are lots of harvest/Halloween things to do for the children – hay rides, spooky mazes etc.

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