The Am-ish, by @orla27marie
By Orla O’Connor
While travelling around the USA we wanted to go and see the Amish community in Lancaster Pennsylvania. We asked a guide the best place to go and she drove us out to Bird in Hand. We entered this market in a barn excited to see how another culture could function without a reliance on technology. Behind the desk of a sandwich place was a young girl, dressed in traditional Amish attire. As she created my one of a kind sandwich I looked at her feet, to find she was wearing Nike trainers. It was obvious then that this was not a traditional Amish establishment. I spoke to the guide, she stated not to worry as she would take us to an Amish village next.
She pulled into a quaint village, built entirely from wood. I began to think to myself, “perfect this is it”. We stepped out of the car with anticipation and began walking around the town. Only to find that the town does in-fact not have a single genuine Amish person in it. There was even a Santander and a Pandora shop within the village. All I could think was it is truly a shame how globalisation has made so many streets around the world look the same. Who would have thought that these big name brands would have been interested in setting up a shop within the middle of nowhere Lancaster Pennsylvania? It does seem most of the time if you walk down a high street you walk down them all.
Not only that, but the locals that ran the village branded the Amish community. Created logo for the Amish and merchandise for their tourist shops. Selling T-shirts that are printed via transfer a process that the Amish do not even endorse as it uses electricity. The locals were making money off another culture, branding their culture and educating tourists about it.
In frustration we stormed into a local art gallery. The owner over hear our conversation about how this was a sham. He directed us to a genuine Amish shop that was about 45 minutes up the road in the town of Intercourse. We reached the shop by late afternoon after passing several traditional Amish carts and horses. It was run by a middle aged Amish lady, the store had been in her family for 3 generations, she and her friends hand made and sold quilts, they were at a fraction of the price as the replicas in the Amish village. I asked her how she felt about the village, and that the local community is attempting to profit from her culture. She state that that was there business. But many visitors are not culturally aware enough to realise that it is not an authentic Amish village. As a consequence her store suffers.
It is a shame to think that culture are branding other cultures. Selling them on a secondary branded culture with their own logos that has no true origin. And it is frightening to think how many people buy into these secondary branded cultures without realising it, and evidently how many tour guides now seem to think it is acceptable to promote this secondary culture. And if cultures can be bought re-branded and sold what really is left that is sacred in the world.