Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 04/07/12
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?
Yes, this was our first experience living overseas.
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?
Maryland, United States. It is a 14 hour flight if you fly direct (Amman to NY).If you pass through Europe, then you would have to include time for layovers.
3. How long have you lived here?
We have been living in Amman for 3 years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My husband works at the US Embassy
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
99% of Embassy housing consists of apartments. The apartments are large, but they are still apartments. We have 4 children, so this has been a particular challenge for us. Ground floor apartments aren't always easy to get, but push for one if you have children. We all have to live within a mile or so of the Embassy, so the commutes tend to be less than 10 mins.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Again, produce is very inexpensive, unless it is imported. Avacados are really expensive. Everything else is reasonable. If you want your US manufactured American brands, then you do have to pay for that. Therefore, I get cereal via an Amazon subscription and have it shipped to the DPO.But most things are available and affordable. The only issue I have come across is that not all US items are available all of the time. Sometimes you have to make do with what is available, do without, or order on-line. It hasn't caused me any major inconvenience.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Bounty paper towels and paper plates. The local paper towels are worthless, and paper plates are expensive. I order cereal, diapers and wipes, and cosmetics from various online retailers. You just have to plan ahead.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything is available here. McDonald's, Lee's Fried Chicken, KFC..and those are just up the street from where I live!There are many fantastic restaurants here. Jordanians really understand service. Prices at American chains are about 40% higher than in the US.A great meal at my favorite sushi spot costs some, but you can get schwarma and falafel for very little. I haven't found an amazing Italian restaurant yet, but I can cook pasta at home. Fahkra Al Dein should not be missed. Seriously, Amman has a lot to offer.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Cozmo has an organic/gluten-free section, but it is about 40% more expensive than in the US.There is a lactose-free milk that can be found from time to time. This is a Middle East country, so there is a lot of hummus, falafel, stuffed grape leaves...etc.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitos can be horrible. They are small and fast. Bring bug spray.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use the DPO.If you ship internationally, you will have to pay import duties.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is readily available and far cheaper than in the US.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The Embassy has a decent gym and there are fitness clubs available.
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?
Small markets accept cash, larger super-markets will accept Visa and MasterCard. However if a merchant accepts credit cards, it will most likely only accept Visa. We only have a MasterCard, and we do just fine. There are many ATM's, including one at the Embassy.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, Catholic, Protestant, LDS, Orthodox Christian.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
We have AFN, but there is a satellite service that many subscribe to. The Jordan Times is an English newspaper that is available both in print andon-line.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Almost none. Pretty much everyone speaks English. It is such a blessing as Arabic is a difficult language.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Lots. There are very few passable sidewalks. For some reason, the Jordanians plant trees right in the middle of their sidewalks. You can use a stroller at the Embassy or at the mall, but nowhere else around town.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are cheap, but not all taxi drivers speak English. They are relatively safe, but there have been some issues from time-to-time.
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?
You can drive almost anything here. Some streets are narrow, but many Jordanians still drive their Land Rovers. Car repair has not been an issue for us, and labor is far cheaper than in the States.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We just switched internet providers and are really happy. There are many internet providers, but not all are created equal. Ask around before settling with a provider. The cost per year is comparable to the States.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Everyone has a cell phone. Most plans are pre-paid, but the Embassy has recently offered a phone plan through Zain that I am completely happy with.
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?
I don't believe so.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Vets are available, and again, we haven't had and problems. Our vet (we have taken in a few cats while staying here) makes house calls.
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 some job opportunities.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At the Embassy, work attire is business. Women should dress somewhat conservatively. I never wear shorts in public. Skirts should be knee length and longer. If you are wearing a shirt that is sleeveless, then I would wear a wrap of some sort until I got where I was going. I can dress in jeans and a short sleeved shirt to go shopping and have no problems.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
We are in the Middle East, so there is some concern, however, I have not had any problems. The driving can be interesting, to say the least. Just be hyper-vigilant when you drive and assume that anything can happen at any time.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Pharmacies are numerous and you can get almost anything just for asking. Medical care is generally good, just remember that procedures pay. So pay attention to what is being done, and don't be afraid to ask, "Why?"We haven't had any problems, and we have made a few trips to ER.
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?
In Amman, the air quality is usually pretty good all summer long. We do have dust storms in the spring which can make life for people with asthma uncomfortable. Many of us also suffer from allergies in the spring. But a trip to your local pharmacist should help.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Amman is arid, so hot and dry in the summer. It rains off and on from November until February/March, and then it is clear blue skies until the next winter. The Embassy pool opens at the end of March!It can get chilly during the winter months, but I usually don't need more than a fleece in the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is the American Community School and the International Community School (British).We homeschool, but I think most are pleased with either of the above mentioned schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There is a special needs school here. From what I hear, it is quite good.
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?
There are a few pre-schools, but they are expensive.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes!The Family Tae Kwon Do Center in Sweifiah is a great place for children and their parents. There are little league sports, as well as private club soccer teams. Jungle Bungle is a great spot for children to play. And in the summer, we spend all of our time at the Embassy pool!The biggest issue we have had with being in Amman, is that the local children don't go out to play after school. In the States, everyone goes outside in the afternoons, and that is not the case here.(And it is not safe to play in the streets) We have missed that. So, you end up taking your children to places to play. That can be a little tiresome.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a decent sized expat community.
2. Morale among expats:
Morale?Some like it, others don't. Amman is not without it's challenges. Driving can be crazy and stressful. For an American woman, living in the Middle East can be a "unique" experience. Women here have as many rights as their father/uncle/brother give them. But, just meet every situation with a smile, and all will be well.
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?
As I have already mentioned, Amman has a variety of fantastic restaurants and lounges. Jordanians like to go out, and they stay out late.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is a lot to do in Amman, and there are many quality restaurants. Most of the big hotels have lounges that are first rate. Therefore, singles and families are fairly happy. However, if you are single, your dating pool is fairly restricted. You probably won't be dating a local and will have to find someone at the Embassy. This is a good family post. As I have already mentioned, the locals love children. There is a little league type sports league which offers Soccer, baseball/T-ball; there is Tae Kwon Do, etc. Lots for the kids to do. The Embassy also has a great pool - we spend a lot of time at the pool.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Jordan is a Muslim country, so if you are gay, you won't be able to be openly gay outside of the Embassy.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Every society has its prejudices. Westerners are treated fairly well. The migrant work-force is looked down upon.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
As previously mentioned, Aqaba and Wadi Rum have been two highlights for us. We have made several trips into Israel and have never been disappointed. We have toured many of the religious sights, and have made many friends here.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are many great restaurants (they actually have two amazing sushi restaurants here!), major hotels have first rate lounges, lots of sightseeing, beach to the south, Israel to the West. But in the end, it is all what you make of it. Amman can get to you (especially the driving).But when it does, just go somewhere else.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Furniture, pottery, jewelry, trips to Aqaba and the Dead Sea.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
There are many advantages to living in Amman compared to living in the USA.First, you have the opportunity to build relationships with various merchants around town. (ie:your local bakery, your favorite jewelery store, etc)And once you have a quasi-relationship with one or more of these vendors, you will find that they will do what they can to accommodate you. Second, Arabs love children. Children are welcome pretty much anywhere. Teach your children to smile and say hello to everyone they meet and the local Jordanians will love them. There are many Roman ruins to be seen here:Um Quais, Jerash, the castles in the desert...Aqaba is four hours away by car, and the Dead Sea is 45 mins away. Most hotels are 5 star. The Movenpick Tala Bay in Aqaba is an experience that should not be missed!Wadi Rum is amazing. There is a lot to see and do...just get out of Amman whenever it starts to get under your skin. You can definitely save money as well as spend it. There is some great pottery and jewlery, and you can easily spend money on travel - Turkey and Cyprus are quite close. Egypt is also close, but, it is having a few problems at the moment. Everything you really need to survive (bread and produce) is very inexpensive. But, if you must have your American brands, then you will pay for that.
11. Can you save money?
It is possible.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Impatience, first-world standards. Things don't always happen right away, and Jordanians are NEVER wrong. But just keep smiling and all will be well.
3. But don't forget your:
Smile, sense of humor, and ability to see the good in most situations. Oh, and bug spray. You will also need sunscreen and sun glasses for the summer months.