What is a basic summary of Amish culture?
Amish culture is based in religion, specifically the traditional Mennonite Christian Church, of which they are a minority group. The Amish group began in the late 1600s, when Jakob Amman founded a group of Anabaptists (those believing that baptism can only be done on an adult) in Switzerland. The group spread and in the 18th century colonies of Amish formed in the United States, specifically around Pennsylvannia. These groups are still very active today, and are notable among homogeneous religious groups for a general refusal to adopt technological advances, preferring to work the land as did their ancestors.
Modern Amish culture is remarkably similar to their older culture. The close-knit groups pass down traditions and avoid adopting modern conventions; for example, many Amish residences have no electricity, heating and lighting with gas or wood, and Amish families generally travel by horse and cart. Amish consider family and faith to be the most important parts of life, and stress religious learning, discipline, and strength in the face of temptations such as drugs and alcohol. Children are taught to respect their elders and have a strong work ethic, and as Anabaptists, are given the choice to leave or stay in the community of their own free will.
Many communities are bilingual, speaking both English and Pennsylvania German. The two most popular conceptions of Amish is their outdated clothing and their hand-built furniture; while the second is accurate, Amish people valuing skills and hard work to produce goods that last, the first is usually over-stated, as Amish clothing is styled to be simple, not ostentatious. This simplicity happens to overlap with outdated styling, and makes Amish communities easily recognizable, but often the subject of public ridicule.
All of these traits are symbols of the Amish stance on integration; while they have no problem with other faiths and societies, they want their own to be kept safe from cultural contamination, and so they take steps to keep their own culture separated from wider society.