Do the Amish Like Tourists in Lancaster, PA?
Lancaster, PA is a tourist hotspot for about six months of every year.
From roughly April through October, tourists from all around the United States (and internationally) flock to the heart of Amish Country to get a glimpse of the Amish themselves.
The tourists clearly have some level of love for the Amish, even if they don't know much about the Amish in the first place.
But how do the Amish feel about tourists?
In short, it's a complicated relationship. The Amish probably have just as many reasons to like tourists as they have to dislike tourists.
In this blog, we'll take a look at some of the reasons why the Amish do and don't like tourists.
1. Why the Amish May Like Tourists
When it comes down to brass tacks, any Amish person could have a variety of reasons why they like tourists. Reasons can stretch from enjoying the ability to meet new people, learn about new places, and generally have a novel conversation.
But by far, the biggest reason the Amish like tourists comes down to the "bottom line," so to speak.
Lancaster, PA is -- on the whole -- a middle-class place to live. No one is extraordinarily wealthy, and it has its own struggles with poverty, homelessness, and other issues.
However, the Amish of Lancaster are fairly well-off when it comes to finance. A large part of this wealth has to do with the equity in the land on which they have their homes and farms.
Other wealth may come from market sales, contractor jobs, and more.
But for the Amish who live in areas that are frequented by tourists -- like those living around Lancaster City -- tourists are the true goldmine.
There are a few reasons for this.
As we said above, Lancaster doesn't have anyone in it who is phenomenally wealthy, though there is certainly wealth. So when exceptionally wealthy tourists come from places like New York City or Silicon Valley, the cash that they bring with them is an immediate economic injection to the county at large -- particularly Amish vendors.
Some Amish families are content to participate in these tourist-based sales by having stands in places like Central Market, which serves native Lancastrians just as much (or more) as tourists.
Other Amish families may be too far removed from areas like that to be practical, so they try alternative methods.
Some Amish near hotels may start offering authentic buggy rides and tours through the back roads of their local area.
Others open up shops in tourist hotspots like Intercourse.
And still others go so far as to contract with local tour groups -- like The Amish Experience -- to have tour buses stop at their homes or farms.
Once there, these Amish families have the ability to freely engage with tourists on an enormous level with everything from conversation to sales of food, crafts, souvenirs, and more.
As a result, the income from this opportunity -- among others -- can be staggeringly high. In effect, the Amish are brought customers straight to their doorsteps.
Even so, it's important to note that not every Amish person in Lancaster caters to tourists or even has an interest in them. For those who choose not to participate in the tourist industry, tourism may be a barely-observed part of everyday life or an annoyance for half of the year.
But for those who do participate, they often enjoy a powerful influx of cash.
The Amish may also enjoy tourism because some of them are people-people -- just like the non-Amish. They may enjoy meeting other people, hearing about other places of the world, and more.
This isn't always the case. In fact, the Amish have a semi-serious reputation in Lancaster for being fairly removed and uninterested in the world outside of their own walls.
But there are still those who like to chitchat, hear about others, and expand their horizons -- even if it's just through a brief conversation.
For those Amish individuals, the tourist industry represents an opportunity to hear something new and novel, an opportunity that may not come as frequently as they would like.
After all, the majority of Amish life is based around faith, family, and work. These are all noble endeavors, but without some level of external stimulus, life can feel monotonous, repetitive, and boring for anyone.
So while money may be the most practical benefit of tourists for the Amish, the idea of learning, seeing, or hearing something new is also appreciated.
2. Why the Amish May Dislike Tourists
For the few reasons that the Amish like tourists, they likely have more reasons to dislike them.
However, these reasons rarely outweigh the benefit of having tourists at all, primarily because of the income.
Even so, the Amish are conscientious of some undesirable traits and behaviors that tourists may bring with them, particularly to their own property.
There's a palpable sense of entitlement that accompanies tourists in Lancaster, PA. It can be hard to put into words, but the short version is that tourists have a tendency to treat Lancaster as though it's there for them -- and them alone.
This myopic point of view has a tendency to bring out some of the worst in tourists. "The worst" can include things as minor as violating the highly-conservative beliefs of the Amish on their property or around their children.
It can also be as intrusive as honking at horses pulling buggies, harassing Amish while they travel the roads by foot or scooter, and more.
The most common form of rudeness is probably taking unsolicited and unrequested photos of the Amish, particularly children.
For whatever reason, tourists in the Lancaster area feel that it's free to photograph people -- including young children -- in any capacity, provided the law protects their ability to do so.
But the law isn't necessarily concerned about someone's feelings, in this case.
Because of this, it's become increasingly common for non-Amish natives to Lancaster to stick up for Amish who they see being photographed unwillingly.
The most common argument is that it would be very, very weird for someone to photograph a group of 10-year-old girls walking to school because of what they were wearing -- so it's equally disturbing to do the same to the Amish.
Shockingly -- and somewhat disgustingly -- an increasingly-common response to this argument is that the Amish are themselves a novelty and, as a result, they're "asking for it."
This is, of course, total and absolute nonsense (to say it kindly), and holding or promoting that viewpoint does nothing but show just how little a tourist may think of other people in general -- the Amish included.
So in the event you travel to Lancaster, PA as a tourist and you see an Amish child walking on the side of the road, resist the urge to photograph them so you can keep the memento in an album that no one will read.
Instead, let them go about their lives.
In addition to intentional rudeness, there are also some small bits of etiquette and process that are different in Lancaster from other places.
The best example of this is how to pass an Amish buggy on the road.
In the US, slow-moving vehicles must be accompanied by an orange triangle on the back to designate that they're slow-moving and eligible to be passed.
But if you don't live in a place where slow-moving vehicles are common, you may have never seen this before.
Just out of sheer inexperience, that makes for a dangerous situation. It's not just buggies that may have this triangle on their back -- it could also be wagons, pony-drawn carts, and even farm equipment.
At any rate, passing these vehicles requires patience and caution above all else. This is because Lancaster's roads -- particularly the county and town roads -- weren't necessarily made with visibility and space in mind.
The width of the shoulder on roads can change in a matter of a mile, and some roads turn so harshly that it can feel like you made a 270-degree turn.
At any point in those many blindspots on the road, there could be a buggy, pony, or even a horse just around the bend.
And if you're going too fast, you simply cannot stop in time.
In the event you can, the next big task is passing the vehicle (or animal) safely. Generally speaking, you should be able to see about 10 seconds down the road before you are considered safe to pass.
You are never safe to pass when you're going up a hill, approaching a bend, or in any other spot with low visibility.
You're also never safe to pass if you're behind a car that's behind a buggy. When you pass, you legally must pass in the order in which you're behind a slow-moving vehicle.
Finally, it's also never safe to sound your horn when passing an animal-drawn vehicle. It's rude anyway to honk at the Amish when they're on the road, but it's especially dangerous because even the best-trained horses can still "spook," buck, and lose their cool.
Reining in a horse -- literally -- is exceptionally hard. Loud and sudden noises like car horns can make a horse go out of control.
In the unfortunate event that you do have a collision with any vehicle -- including an Amish buggy, animal, or farm equipment -- it is imperative that you stay at the scene of the accident.
Even though a horse-and-buggy isn't a "motor vehicle," accidents with buggies are treated exactly the same as accidents with cars. All parties must remain at the scene, and if they don't, they can be charged with fines and even jail time.
In the event you panic and think you can get away with it, you can't. Lancaster, PA holds a dubious distinction as being one of the most heavily-watched locations in the United States when it comes to surveillance cameras and recording devices.
In fact, in 2016, there was one camera in Lancaster City for every 352 people. It doesn't guarantee that you'll be caught, but it's certainly a strong incentive to stay at the scene.
Want to Learn More about the Amish?
Sign up for our newsletter!
We write about the Amish, Lancaster, and more on a regular basis.
If you want more, click the banner below!