Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/17/12
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?
Third. Previous tours elsewhere in the Middle East.
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?
Homebase is Washington, DC.Several flights to choose from to get to Amman. Direct flights from JFK or Chicago; connections from DC through London, Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris. Having flown all of them, my preference is United to London then BMI from London to Amman.
3. How long have you lived here?
18 Months out of a total of 24 planned, 2010-2012
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Foreign Service, US Embassy, Amman.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most US Embassy personnel live in 3-4 bedroom apartments. Houses are few and far between. Housing is generally fine, there are some people who really luck out and get fantastic places and some people who have awful places - most are in between. Everyone lives within in (literally) a five minute drive of the Embassy. It's a bit silly.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There are a number of decent grocery stores that offer a wide variety of local and imported goods. You can largely find most of what you need/want, though logistics and supply chain issues here abound...if you see XYZ product at the store, get it, lots of it, cause you never know when/if you'll see it again. Again - things are expensive here, expect to pay about double what you'd find at home for brand-name products.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More paper products (paper towels, TP, etc) because the local stuff is terrible and the imported stuff is insanely expensive. We buy most of it on amazon and ship it in now. Dog food, same story.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All kind of restaurants from American fast food and casual restaurants (Chili's, Applebee's, etc), and a wide variety of other restaurants. Many of the high end restaurants are quite mediocre, but still have the crazy price tag. It's a bit frustrating as prices have risen remarkably in Amman in the past 5 years, it's hard to find a good value anywhere. Amman sees itself as a very cosmopolitan city and offers a wide range of restaurants and a number of price points...unfortunately that cosmopolitan feel is largely a veneer and the quality of the food here is not high. That veneer cuts across many facets of life here, not just the food...
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
The green movement is en vogue here, which is hilarious because littering and general trashing of the environment is so prevalent.that said, there are a number oforganic produce, gluten-free products available in several of the grocery stores.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes in our apartment in the fall, nasty flies at the dead sea in the fall which makes visits there almost unbearable.thats about it.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch. Typical hit-and-miss service here.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Prevalent and pretty cheap.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has an alright facility, and there are plenty of nice gyms in the area, similar to other high end gyms back in the states. Membership is expensive however.
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?
ATMs all over, many places accept cards, it's never really been an issue for me.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
People should be pleasantly surprised by this: there are a number of options to choose from, many different Christian denominations, obviouly plenty of Mosques to choose from, and there is even a decent-sized LDS population.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Plenty of TV options. AFN via the embassy, OSN is great, and there are a number of other satellite providers.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Around the diplomatic areas, no arabic is necessary. Even out and about in the rest of town, it's not difficult to get around. Many many people speak English here.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Even able-bodied people have problems getting around. It is avery hilly city, the sidewalks are not well maintained and inexplicably have trees/shrubs/etc planted in the middle of them most often which makes them generally unusable and forces many people to walk in the (already unsafe) roads. I think anyone with physical difficulties would find this a very challenging place to live.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are prevalent and largely safe/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?
Any kind of vehicle is fine here, as long as you are prepared to drive defensively/aggressively any time you're on the road. If you want to go offroad, there are plenty of options, just get a 4WD vehicle.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
HIGH speed...no. There is WIMAX available throughout the city and ADSL. None of if it is HIGH speed, all of it is expensive. Orange ADSL is kind of a hassle to set up, but we seem to have better/more reliable service than most of the WIMAX folks...i recommend getting orange ADSL over the other options.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Plenty of coverage. Data networks (3G, etc) are limited so dont expect to breaking out your iphone and using all your apps all the time.
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?
No. USDA health certificate, and that is mainly to get out of CONUS with the dogs. When we arrived our paperwork wasn't even looked at.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
NO. There are vets available, but most of them are NOT good care, and it is nothing like in the States, no matter how the vet's office looks and feels like a vet back home. There is a kennel, though, and the owners are great people. That said, any time we travel we have our maid stay to watch the dogs. It's worth the money in my book. Dogs are generally not welcome here, and we always get looks, harassing comments, etc., any time we walk the dogs or have them in the car. Or we scare people -- there is a great cultural fear of dogs here.
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Standard embassy-type stuff at work. Out in public I'd recommend modesty. I get lots of looks if I have to run errands in shorts after I hit the gym, and my wife would never do that. Not worth the looks and the odd harassing comment. The weather is comfortable enough, even in summer jeans/long pants during the day aren't that big a deal.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Terrorism is a concern but not overwhelming. Amman is generally a safe place, except for driving, but that is not a security concern per se.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Knock on wood, we've never had any major issues. I know people that have had successful care here, and lots of people have had babies here. Personally, I wouldn't, but hey. For anything serious, I'd go back to the States or over to Israel.
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?
Air quality is generally moderate...some days are pleasant, some days are marred by burning trash and insane exhaust from vehicles that ought not be running.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Weather is almost always awesome. Winter can be kind of terrible, rainy/gray/cold in December through March. Spring, Summer and fall are awesome.even in the hottest months it's not that bad, and cools of nice at night.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Cant comment really, but most people seem to be happy with ACS.
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?
Plenty of options it seems.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are a number of sports leagues available for kids and the community in general.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large. The US Embassy community is huge, and there are lots of western expats with the other embassies, NGOs, and business community.
2. Morale among expats:
Mixed. Some people love it, some people hate it and some people think it's alright.
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?
This is also a mixed bag, per my earlier comments. There are plenty of clubs that are just like back home if that is your thing, lots of options for dining out, etc. Sometimes there are comedy shows, theater, concerts etc, but I would say those are few and far between.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Amman has a history of being a great family pos, and there certainly are a lot of families. That said, not everyone here right now is happy. The Embassy compound is nice enough and parents tend to let their kids run wild because it's a safe place....I get it, but it can be really annoying. I think if one was single and made an extra effort to meet people outside the Embassy community they would be happy.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
This is not an incredibly progressive place, but there are actually some options for a gay expat.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, people here can be close minded, but it's no worse than any other place I suppose.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Despite my complaints, I have had some awesome experiences here. Most of them revolve around getting out of Amman and into the hinterlands with my dogs. Camping/hiking in Wadi Rum is fantastic, it's hard to describe just how wonderful it is. The dead sea is fantastic and so close to the city, it's a wonderful place to spend a day or a weekend. HIking options are good there as well...you can literally pull off the side of the road and start hiking up a wadi and go for hours. Petra is cool, Jerash is amazing, Jerusalem is an easy drive.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Plenty of outdoor activities, dead sea, red sea, Jerash, Ajloun, etc etc.see above.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Plenty of the standard Middle East items. There isn't much unique to Jordan.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Advantages?Few. Amman is generally a boring city. There are fun things to do outside of town, such as hiking, canyoning, spending the day at one of the Dead Sea resorts, touring/camping in Wadi Rum, driving down to the Red Sea at Aqaba. Weather is generally great for most of the year...the winters can be wet and a bit of a drag, but as Jordan is so water poor they definitely need the rain so it's hard to really whine about it. There is almost no infrastructure for dealing with rain water so when it rains heavily....there are essentially rivers and flooding everywhere in the streets. Generally not a big deal though. Most Embassy folks and westerners in general live in an area called Abdoun, which is kind of it's own reality in Amman...very westernized, full of wealthy Ammanis and many ME expats (Iraqis, gulfies, etc) so there is an air of entitlement and much of the famed Arab welcoming/hospitality is lacking here because people are too self important to be nice and respectful to one another. Abdoun is different than most of Amman and Jordan in general which is much more conservative and, unfortunately, poorer than in Abdoun. It's almost too easy to spend all of your time in Abdoun and not experience the 'real' Amman. Amman is ridiculously expensive (for what you get).Customs and taxes for imported items really jacks up the prices, even with your tax free privileges as a diplomat. Dining out is always expensive and almost always underwhelming.
11. Can you save money?
If you try hard.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Hate to say it, but probably not.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
$$.This place is pricey.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
We have had some great, great times here. But unfortunately, for us, they have often been outweighed by the frustrations of living here. I'd say that is probably a fairly common sentiment, but I would also say that there is a slightly larger contingent that like it here more than we do.