Whenever anyone discovers that I grew up as Mennonite, they instantly become curious, lean in and interrogate me with questions. So what is it like living with out electricity? What is it like riding a horse and buggy? What language did you speak?
I don’t mind answering these questions because Mennonite culture is a very closed society that doesn’t allow for joiners. No one can become a Mennonite. Unless you’re born into it, there is no way of getting in.
The biggest problem though is the one question people don’t ask: You’re a Mennonite, not Amish correct? Thanks to Hollywood, everyone assumes that both Mennonite and Amish are the same. In terms of religion, we are fairly similar as we are both Judeo–Christian but the lifestyle, appearance and traditions are completely different.
For the differences in appearance, take a look at the photos to the right. As is clearly evident, we dress differently. As well, Amish men grow beards while Mennonites see it as unclean. Mennonite women wear colourful and patterned dresses while Amish stick to the solid and often dark coloured garb.
Our lifestyle choices are much different too. Mennonites are much more modern and now allow members to drive cars and trucks, use tractors and have electricity in the home. Amish on the other hand reserve these earthly technologies for work only. For example an Amish man who owns a construction company will have a van and cellphones for his crew of Amish labourers. However, he will hire a heathen to drive the van for him but is at the end of the day the owner of the technologies.
We also speak different languages. Amish speak a Pennsylvania Dutch while we Mennonites speak a Dutch German dialect called Plautdietsch.
There are many differences between the Amish and Mennonites and will proceed to dispel the rumors in the weeks and months to come but it is most important to realize there is a difference between the two.
And before any Mennonites who also read this blog throw up their arms in despair, yes I am generalizing for this initial post. Both Mennonites and Amish vary based on location. Mennonites in Canada have different views and dress compared to those in Paraguay or Mexico. Same can be said for the Amish.
This post was meant mostly for those who have never had the view from inside the buggy.