Living With The Amish

THOMAS SELYWN-SHARPE puts on his bonnet and gets really into corn.

Thursdays, 9pm, Channel 4


Living with the Amish is reality television as it should be. It’s gentle pace and open-minded nature helps to remind us that the genre can actually be taken from reality, unlike artificially constructed shows such as Sorority Girls or Made in Chelsea. The clue is in the title for this social experiment, as a group of teenagers are sent to live with Amish families in Ohio.

The six teenagers chosen to represent Britain’s youth include one of Cambridge’s own, Siana Bangura. Siana sharply and noisily made her views known, and controversially states early on that she hates wearing her bonnet. For six weeks the British girls performed nothing but household tasks, and I can’t imagine that Siana or her fellow guinea pigs will be holding back their views on the role of women in Amish society by the end of the series.

Street Style: Ohio

The most warming aspects of the show were the relationships between the hosts and their ‘children’. Patriarch Jonathan and James grew closer as the episode went on, and James offered his host the ultimate sign of respect for a modern teenager by having his hair cut in the Amish style.  Similarly, Marietta demonstrated her maternal love when teaching spoilt Charlotte (who appeared visibly shaken by the presence of a dust-pan and brush) how to perform the daily chores.

An interesting addition to the group was George, an Eton student, who certainly saw the irony when describing the Amish community as ‘archaic’ and ‘insular’. Whilst his introduction (walking through Eton in his tail-coat) may have prepared us for a stereotype, his carefully considered actions best represented both himself and his education.

Always on hand with humour and charm, George offered Jonathan a listen on his iPod and encouraged James to take over the shovel in the stable that he wielded with such ease. While the scene of him getting changed into Amish costume may have fluttered the hearts of a few of the female members of the audience, it was certainly not something the Amish would have approved of. We can look forward to him putting his 1st XV Rugby muscles to use next week as he helps the community raise a barn in a day. Clearly, as one of his admirers put it, ‘chicks dig the simple life’.

In fact, judging by the popular reaction to Living with the Amish, we all ‘dig the simple life’. Eight-miles an hour (the maximum speed of their beloved buggies) would be a welcome change to the hectic life of a Cambridge student. If you’re feeling the void left by the end of Downton Abbey and Fresh Meat, then try to catch this fascinating look into a culture which is nowhere near as ridiculous as Weird Al Yankovic would have us believe. It’s not to be Amished.


University of Cambridge channel 4 culture living with the amish Reality TV Siana Bangura THOMAS SELYWN-SHARPE TV