Amish 101: What Islanders can expect from their new neighbours

We asked some of those close to the Amish community for a primer on what people might like to know about their new neighbours.

How the Amish live, from dating and religion to education and shunning

A couple of Amish men attended a farm auction in Stratford, P.E.I. in summer 2015. (Sara Fraser/CBC)

Islanders are already seeing the signs — literally. Several Amish families are settling on P.E.I. over the coming months, and the P.E.I. government has posted signage along rural roads encouraging Islanders to slow down and share the roads with Amish buggies. 

About 80 people — 15 or 16 families — from two Amish communities in southern Ontario will form two distinct communities in eastern P.E.I., but they won't go to local schools or churches, and are reserved and shy to chat extensively about themselves. So far about 30 have arrived, with more coming throughout the summer.

They are just so peaceful and fun-loving, a great personality to them, great respect for family.- Alan McIsaac

Those from Norwich near Woodstock, Ont., are settling in Summerville and New Perth, P.E.I., while those from Millbank, Ont., near St. Jacob's and Kitchener-Waterloo, are buying farms in the Bridgetown and Dundas area of the Island.

Besides being "a delightful group of people," according to P.E.I. Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac, what else can Islanders expect?

We asked some of those close to the Amish community for a primer on what people might like to know about their new neighbours. 

They don't use electricity

They use kerosene lanterns as well as battery or solar-powered flashlights to see in the dark, said Tony Wallbank, a neighbor from Ontario who's been helping the Amish plan their move to the Island and has himself settled in eastern P.E.I.

This sign warns travellers in the Montague area to watch for Amish horse-drawn buggies. (CBC)

If the Amish purchase a farm that has electric wiring, they just have the service disconnected, said Brad Oliver, a realtor who's been showing Amish buyers local real estate. 

They pump water using a 3-horsepower gas engine or wind energy and run farm equipment — for example, milk tank coolers in a dairy operation — using larger diesel engines. 

They use large wood stoves in their homes to heat and cook.

No phones or TVs in homes

The Amish settling in Bridgetown-Dundas will have phone in a small shed on their properties, while the other group have arranged to use a phone at a neighbor's house.

The Bridgetown group also use cellphones for business during business hours only, and have given Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac their phone numbers, he said, after he went to Millbank to visit some potential Amish newcomers to P.E.I.

"I've never seen them use it, so it's not like they're pulling it out while you're talking to them like may happen around here a bit," McIsaac said.

Unique and simple look

Amish wear clothing that looks like it could be from centuries ago. Plain, simple shirts and pants for the men, who also wear untrimmed beards, which they begin growing after marriage, and hats — straw for everyday, and black felt for dress. 

Women and girls wear plain dresses, aprons and starched white caps. No eye-catching bright colours — plain, simple and functional. Each group will tend to use the same dress pattern, and they make their own clothes. 

Plenty of kids

The average Amish family has seven children. 

"I'm from a family of 10 though!" laughs McIsaac — he sees it as further evidence the Amish will fit in on P.E.I..

If you're not Amish, you're The English

It doesn't matter if you're from Montague or Mumbai — if you're not Amish, the Amish call you The English, said Wallbank. 

Unique language

Among themselves, Amish speak an old German dialect. When among English people, they speak English. 

They use horse-power

The Amish usually use Percheron and Belgian draft horses for farm work, which is their primary business, and trotting Standardbred or Morgan horses to pull their buggies.

Amish people began to settle on P.E.I. in the late winter. (Janet Sanderson)

Some of the families will bring some of their existing equipment and horses from Ontario, Wallbank said.


The Amish people farm crops and livestock and sell the produce from their land. 

Some are looking at setting up businesses including furniture-making, construction and a farrier, which will be open to non-Amish customers as well. 

Islanders will likely see several new Amish roadside farm produce stands and possibly one or more new farmers' markets. Amish and Mennonite in St. Jacob's, where some of the P.E.I. newcomers are from, run a very successful farmer's market, billed as Canada's largest. 

Some will work off their farms too, for other farms or local businesses. 

Christian religion

Amish and Mennonites come from a Protestant tradition known as Anabaptism which began in the 1500s. They don't baptize babies — adults choose to be baptized and become a member of the church, which is seen as a lifetime vow. The faith has no central church authority, leader or governing body. 

They gather only every second Sunday. 

The Amish observe Christmas, Thanksgiving, Ascension Day, which is 40 days after Easter, and Pentecost Easter — which is 50 days after Easter. 

School goes only to grade 8

The Amish children will be home-schooled at first, but at least one of the groups is already looking to purchase a building to use as a school, McIsaac said. The P.E.I. government even changed the School Act to smooth the way.

They will hire their own teachers.

Amish education goes only from Grade 1 to Grade 8. Boys then farm or apprentice, while girls train at home until they marry. 

"We would never allow that for our children," admits McIsaac. "But that's the tradition they've grown up in. They have that belief system. They also have very strong religious system where they gather as church folk — I think that's absolutely awesome. They seem to survive very, very well living with a grade 8 education." 

They're good for the economy

Provincial finance officials confirm P.E.I. Amish will pay taxes. 

"They look after their grandparents and parents until they pass away right on the farm, and they don't have any unemployment, so they don't use employment insurance, nor do they go on welfare," said Wallbank.

"They have never asked for one cent," added McIsaac, and he doesn't anticipate they'd ever use social assistance. 

They eat fast food

Realtor Brad Oliver said he's often visited Tim Horton's or ordered pizza with Amish people shopping for Island real estate. 

What about drinks?

Alcohol and tobacco are not forbidden but are not encouraged. They do drink coffee.

No photos please

The Amish on P.E.I. have requested people not take their photographs, Wallbank said. The elders and those in the New Perth settlement especially don't appreciate it. Don't ask them to pose! 
Photos of Amish people and their buggies from far away or behind are ok, just don't ask them to pose. (Lesslie Akin)

Health care 

Babies are delivered at home, but P.E.I.'s Amish will go to hospital for injuries like broken bones or for cancer treatment.

Provincial officials confirm the Amish will not use provincial health cards, but rather will have a certified letter confirming they have been registered with the Medicare Office which can be presented to any public health service such as doctors or hospital care.

"The Amish do have a philosophy of paying their way and so wish to be advised of the cost of any services they use," Health PEI said in an email to CBC News. 

"With this information they have a sense of the value of donations they can make back to local health care facilities or other health programs in recognition for the services they received."

"They live a very healthy lifestyle," noted McIsaac. 

They will set up their own graveyards.

Good neighbours

​Amish people are eager to help their neighbours in the event of disasters. 

"They are just so peaceful and fun-loving, a great personality to them, great respect for family," said McIsaac. "It's very peaceful and calming when you speak with them. They're not in any great big rush." 

McIsaac said he's excited about the Amish moving here and thinks they will fit in very well, noting so far neighbours in eastern P.E.I. have positive feedback. 

Teen life

While Rumspringa is a traditional rite of passage for many Amish teens, the groups coming to P.E.I. do not practice it.

Translated as "running around," Rumspringa is a time off from their faith, when they are permitted to embrace modernity, date and experiment with things like smoking.

The idea is that they can then make an informed decision on whether to join the church and give up modern ways, or remain in the outside world.

Finding love

Amish only date other Amish. Courtship usually begins around age 18 in the P.E.I. communities. They meet at social events like visits and church times. Youth usually get together to sing and socialize on Sunday nights.

Amish couples may meet a mate through writing or visiting to other Amish communities in North America. Families to check lineage to ensure genetic diversity. 


"The Amish only have one wife, and she's the boss," jokes Wallbank. Men are the major breadwinners in an Amish family and make all the major decisions, but as in any marriage there is consultation. 

"He makes the decisions as long as she agrees," said Wallbank. 

Women are in charge of running the household: cooking, cleaning and gardening, as well as making clothing and raising the children and looking after elders. 


The P.E.I. Amish do use the controversial practice of shunning or social exclusion, based on the Bible, to enforce church rules, but very rarely.

An Amish person may be shunned if they are not following traditions or fall in love with an English person.

Those who are shunned can not eat at the same table or do business with other Amish. 

The idea is to encourage wayward Amish back into the fold.

It is extremely rare for people for those who are not born Amish to become Amish.

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan