Two British teens on Living with the Amish

Charlotte and Jordan from the C4 reality series tell us about their time with the American religious community

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Charlotte, 18 The party-loving student had never washed a dish in her life… 

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Why I went: I wanted a simpler life. I was bored with the pressure to look a certain way: to wear make-up and clothes that were quite flaunty in order to fit in. I wanted to draw back from our society. 

It was a struggle at first. I missed putting on my make-up — it usually takes an hour — and setting out a new outfit, because it was kind of my religion, my routine. But I soon lost that need when I realised that for the Amish, it’s all about inner beauty. They taught me not to judge people on their appearance, but to get to know them as they really are. 

Doing the chores: It was a shock that, as a woman, you have to do all the cooking, cleaning and laundry, and look after the children. I remember thinking, “How do you wash a dish?” At home I never had to do any housework. 

At first I left a lot of food on the plates and Marietta [the Amish woman she stayed with in Ohio] asked me to scrub them again, but she taught me to love chores, and how to quilt — I had never sewn anything before. The women cherish the home and want it to be perfect for when their husband comes back. I would never have thought cleaning would make me happy, but it did. 

No touching: At home I might meet someone in a club, over a drink, but the Amish find a mate through activities such as playing volleyball. I loved their way of dating; it was so innocent. Because they have a no-touch policy, they have respect for each other. It was so pure and lovely to see how they didn’t need to sleep together, they could just chat things through and that made their relationship stronger. 

Daily prayers: I struggled sometimes, when I got very tired, because we got up early and worked really long days. But the love and care of the Amish kept me going. I wasn’t religious before, but their faith wore off on me. Every morning we had devotions, and they’d read a Bible passage and we’d reflect on that. At night I prayed that I’d be able to get through the next day. Every morning, even now, I still read the devotional book I was given; it helps guide me through my day. 

Back home I was very sad to leave Amish-land, even though at times I thought they needed more freedom and choice in their lives. For example, it was a shock to discover that children’s education stops at around 14. 

When I got back to England I didn’t like it at all. But while it was hard settling back, I’ve got used to it. I found I have more respect for my parents, and it’s helped me to become more independent. I don’t think I’d have coped at university without that experience. I really want to go back. 

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Jordan, 18 The BlackBerry-addicted geek came with arms like cocktail sticks 

Why I went: After I watched the original series about Amish teenagers visiting Britain, I wanted to find out more — they seemed so content with their lives, whereas in our society everyone always wants more. 

I happily spend all day on the internet or tweeting or watching TV. And I couldn’t imagine how I could cope without my BlackBerry — it was such a big part of my life. It was weird when it was first taken away, but I was surprised how soon I realised I wasn’t bothered about it. And now I’m back, I don’t even know which pocket my phone’s in. 

Working with the men: I grew up a lot in the five weeks I was there, because we were hanging around with men, not kids — real geezerish men, who were lifting trees bigger than me. There’s no way I could match them — my arms look like cocktail sticks — but the physical work made me feel satisfied that I’m not a weakling.

 That’s why barn-raising was my favourite. About 50 of us used big wooden sticks and sheer brute force to push up this heavy, 28ft timber structure. We started at 5am and by 10am the barn was up. I remember thinking, at home I would still be in bed, and yet I’d achieved so much. It made me realise the value of getting up, and that has stayed with me. 

It was also a big community effort, with neighbours taking the day off to help. I kept trying to think of even ten people I could ask to help me for no pay; at home I know only one neighbour’s name. 

Daily life: Even though we went to bed by about 9pm, the mornings were a big shock to my system. The hardest was the dairy farm, where we started milking between 4am and 5am, which at home is the time I’d be coming home after a night out. But I didn’t miss alcohol. At Amish parties we played volleyball and had a lot of fun. I don’t like sports usually because I’m no good at them, but there, if you lost, it was, so what? 

Women’s place: When I first heard that the women were in the kitchen while the men worked outside, I thought it seemed so old-fashioned and sexist, and we used to joke about the girls making our breakfast. But my opinion changed. The women have such an important role, so how can that be sexist? 

Every man I met said he wouldn’t be anything without his wife; she is the one who holds the family together. If anything, it’s good to have order like that. That’s why I think their families work: you don’t hear about Amish couples getting divorced.

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Living with the Amish begins tonight at 9pm on Channel 4

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