Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 08/03/11
Personal Experiences from Amman, Jordan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, we also lived in Vienna, Austria.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Sterling, VA 14 hours direct flight.
3. How long have you lived here?
2 years (2008-2010).
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
It's a 5-minute commute to the embassy from almost any embassy house and in a nice location of Amman. Most of the government housing was apartment style, but very large apartments. Very few free-standing houses
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
A lot of imported American products at the grocery stores (although still not everything). Household supplies are easy to find. Groceries (not necessarily the imported items) are very cheap. Fruits, vegetables and meats are extremely affordable.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing in particular other than my bed. I always take my own bed. Otherwise, you can get just about everything you need there.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McD's, Subway, Burger King, KFC, Fuddrucker's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's pizza, Chili's, Houston's steak house, Quiznos, Popeye's, Hardee's. All are very affordable if not cheaper than the U.S.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
There is a grocery store with a pretty good selection of gluten free items and a few vegetarian items, but I don't recall a significant amount of organic items.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None that i was aware of.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy personnel can use the post office at the embassy. Otherwise, there is a local postal service that can be used to ship things to and from the US.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is very available and very inexpensive. I paid our help 3JD/hr ($4.50/hr), and I was paying the highest because I didn't need her full time. I know a friend who had a full time nanny and housekeeper for about $600/month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. On the embassy compound and out in the community
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Not many places take credit cards (restaurants, etc.) and if they do, they require a manager to handle it, etc., so it's easiest to use cash. ATMs are everywhere.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
There is some English-language TV, and the local paper is distributed in English. There are also a couple radio stations in English.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Very little. MANY people speak English. I really only used local greetings and otherwise could always find someone that spoke English. And they like to use their English. They are very proud of themselves when they do!
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I don't recall seeing ANY wheelchair ramps, etc. It is certainly not accommodating in that regard, so I think someone with physical disabilities may have some problems
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are generally NOT safe for women. There have been several unfortunate incidents regarding western women. There are buses, but I don't know anyone who took them because they don't look to be something you would want to ride on. However, taxis are EXTREMELY cheap.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
I'm not sure about restrictions. We purchased a used vehicle from there. Roads can be bad, although they are improving. MANY people get into fender-benders because there are no real 'rules' on the road. I'm not sure about parts, because we didn't require any. I would not take a nice car over there. Many people buy a car and then sell it before they leave. I would contact the embassy for the newsletter that lists the cars for sale.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, we paid up front for a year, and it was about $500 for installation and services for the year.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I know some people who brought theirs from the US (BlackBerries, etc.) but it's easiest just to buy a cheap phone locally. They don't even have voicemail on most plans, but you can 'pay as you go' for really cheap. I would put 40 JD ($55) on my phone every 3 months or so, and that was all that I would need.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
There are vets around, and cats are EVERYWHERE. But of course, the muslim people do not care for dogs. Plenty of americans brought their dogs, however, and I was never aware of any problems.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are very few that I am aware of.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Women need to have their shoulders, chest and legs mostly covered. I wore skirts that were below the knee. Capris were fine, and short sleeve shirts were okay. Men generally wear pants and short-sleeve shirts
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes. women need to be aware of how to address Jordanian males, avoid taking taxis, etc. And there are general security concerns for that part of the world.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The quality of medical care is generally okay, regarding physicians' knowledge, etc., but the hospitals can be close to unsanitary. My husband was hospitalized for three days and it was fine, but you have to close your eyes to the unsanitary actions of the nurses, etc. I would not choose to have any serious medical procedure done there.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good, although the dust storms can be a little rough maybe twice a year.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Excellent. Zero humidity and sunny 90% of the time. "Winters" are mild with a jacket required, although nights can get quite cool. Otherwise it is about 85 degrees F almost every day!
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty big. It's easy to meet Australians, British, French, etc., and the American Embassy community is quite large.
2. Morale among expats:
Very good. I think most people find life in Jordan to be pleasurable, aside from the minor irritations of cultural differences and driving!
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Plenty of restaurants and bars, hookah lounges, etc., and the embassy community is very active with consistent events.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Couples, yes. We were able to go out a bit to the movies, dinner, etc., but otherwise, activities are pretty limited.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I wouldn't think so. There is a small underground culture of gay men in Amman that I had heard about, but it's not really a culture that tolerates gays/lesbians.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is an overall tolerance for christians and christmas,etc although prostyletizing is against the law. Of course, there are gender prejudices that women especially need to be aware of.you wont see women in the general work force nearly as much as males.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Visiting Petra and living in a strong American community.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Visit Petra, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, Wadi Rum desserts and israel. There is a vast amount of history.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Some furniture and pottery.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Saving money. Touring is limited due to political turmoil.
11. Can you save money?
Absolutely! The cost of living is so inexpensive that I think most people save quite a bit.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. We have discussed doing another tour there.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
bikes. The roads are not safe for biking.
3. But don't forget your:
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Lion of Jordan (about the history of Jordan and the late King Hussein and the royal family.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Once people find a comfort zone in Amman, I think most of them will find it very livable for the most part. And I am not one who absolutely FULLY embraces expat life, so I'm a little more picky about where I live... and Jordan is okay by me!