While visiting Amish country, it is very important to be considerate of the Amish and their lifestyle, however. Just like you, they do not solicit or encourage people to take their picture or knock on their door. The Amish are private people who avoid as much contact with strangers and the "outside world" as possible for important religious and cultural reasons. When visiting their community, please keep the following basic courtesy rules in mind:
- Don't stare, gawk, or otherwise be disrespectful of the Amish.
- When driving, keep an eye out for slow-moving Amish buggies (especially at night), and give them plenty of room when following or passing. Keep headlights on low-beam and stay away from the horn, except for a short toot when passing, to avoid spooking the horses.
- Do not enter private property without permission.
- No photos or videos, please. Most Amish consider posing for photographs to be an unacceptable act of pride and do not allow pictures of themselves. The Amish will usually allow you to photograph their homes, farms, and buggies if you ask respectfully, but even this can be intrusive and is better avoided. If you must take pictures, consider a telephoto lens, and avoid taking any photos which include recognizable faces. A picture of the rear of an Amish buggy as it travels down the road probably won't offend anyone.
- Do not feed or pet horses that are tied to a hitching rail or harnessed to a buggy.
- Out of respect for their privacy, it is best to avoid approaching the Amish unless they appear open to company. They are just like you and don't really appreciate strangers knocking at their door. When you do have a need to approach a group of Amish, it is polite to speak to a male, if possible. If you are sincerely interested in talking to the Amish to learn more about their culture, then your best bet is to patronize an Amish-owned business and talk with the shopkeepers. Most Amish people enjoy talking with outsiders, if they dont feel like they are regarded as animals in the zoo.
- In some Amish communities shops and attractions may not be open on Sundays, so be sure to call ahead and plan accordingly.
Enjoy your visit to Amish country, but be sure to follow the 'golden rule' and treat the Amish and their property the way that you would wish to be treated. This statement from a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Visitor's Bureau brochure sums it up well: "While you talk and mingle with the Amish, please remember that they are not actors or spectacles, but ordinary people who choose a different way of life."