One of the most misunderstood facets of Amish culture is the practice of “rumschpringa,” a period of adolescence commonly thought to be a rowdy, a time when youth are “allowed” to do non-Amish things before settling down to the traditional Amish lifestyle. The truth is that while some rowdy elements do exist, their behavior is frowned upon and the majority does indeed adhere to the Amish way of life even in their teen years.
“Rumschpringa” starts at age 16 when Amish youth get their own horse and buggy and are allowed to go out with other young folks their age. Yet as with any unsupervised youth, peer pressure can cause them to do a host of off-the-wall activities; the wildest groups may even drink and experiment with drugs.
Traditional Amish youth lead a very modest “rumschpringa” and stay within the rules of the Amish Church. Because they have no experience with the media, only the extreme type of “rumschpringa” behavior is portrayed on television.
Dating usually starts at 18; the average boy finds his loved one and gets married around age 21 or 22. Courtship is usually kept pure; if abstinence hasn’t been adhered to, there’s an immediate wedding. In a secular world that is somewhat antiquated in today’s standards, the Amish community maintains a zero divorce rate. A lot of fun and camaraderie does exist, but as divorce is not tolerated, rumschpringa has some serious implications as it ultimately leads to marriage.