Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 07/30/13
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?
This is my second overseas tour.
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?
DC requires a stopover, usually in Europe.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Embassy family.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Low rise apartments within 5km of work. They are all fairly nice. Some are very close to work, some aren't. Taxi availability is hit or miss, sometimes it takes 1 minute of waiting and other times it takes 10-40 minutes, especially during Ramadan. Some residences are set very far back in residential neighborhoods, and it will take 10-15 minutes of walking uphill just to get to a busy street to catch a taxi.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most U.S. products or the European equivalent are available.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Paper towels and toilet paper are overpriced here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's, Burger King, Papa Johns, KFC, Popeyes, Hardees, and many others are around at about DC prices.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy DPO takes about 2-3 weeks and occasionally longer. Personal pouch takes 3-5 weeks usually.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Most American staff at the Embassy pay about US$3-4 per hour for part time work. Many have live-out nannies/housekeepers. Most choose a Filipino because they usually have good English reading and writing, but many are available from Bengladesh, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. 40-48 hours per week help is probably US$500-800 per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, a free one at the Embassy (rumored to be demolished in early 2014 and rebuilt elsewhere a few years later) and several very nice gyms around town. Expect to pay upscale U.S. prices for membership.
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 are everywhere and easy/safe to use. Credit cards are generally not used except at major hotels or well established dining locations.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None in western Amman, but like most places you can have a better adventure if you learn the language.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Like much of the developing world, the concept of accessibility doesn't really exist here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No trains. Buses are few and far between in western Amman. Taxis are safe. Women should always sit in the back seat or it's perceived as suggestive. Taxis at night for women traveling alone are not as safe or require a bit of caution. Most rides cost between US$1-3.
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?
Anything is fine. Jordan has a significant import tax on vehicles which artificially raises the cost of vehicles. Jordanians have a big incentive to take care of their vehicles. Roads are generally fine for normal cars. Parts for uncommon cars will be more expensive.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about US$40-60 per month. Good but not great quality connection. Downloads are capped each month but most people do OK with reasonable amounts of online streaming.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Electronics are overpriced here. Bring an unlocked GSM phone that will take a SIM card. The service is extremely inexpensive compared to U.S. prices, including data plans. Yes there is 4G data, yes it's inexpensive, yes it's good quality.
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)?
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?
More conservative than in the U.S. for women, but in western Amman it's far less of an issue. The elite Jordanian women can (mostly) dress however they please, so it's fairly accepted that western women will also in those same expensive neighborhoods.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Generally you can move about the city without restriction. Most American employees spend most of their time in western Amman, which virtually never has problems. Occasionally there are reports of civil unrest that require using an alternate highway when heading toward the southern part of Jordan.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Hit or miss. Jordan has many excellent specialists trained in the U.S. and U.K. The hospitals and clinics can look a little run down with cleanliness not always to U.S. standards. Your doctor will give you his or her cell phone number and actually answer your calls.
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 to great air quality.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Amman is at a high altitude so the temperatures are nice considering the region. Winter is slightly too cold and it can sometimes snow. Summer is slightly too hot with perfect, cool evenings. Spring and Fall are long with perfect temps.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most parents send their children to ACS and are happy with the school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I don't know. Some families have networked in the community to find U.S. or U.K. trained therapists for their children.
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?
A variety have cropped up with varying quality and standards. Overall a good selection.
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?
2. Morale among expats:
People are happy in Jordan, although morale may take a huge hit for American Embassy families in 2014 as explained at the bottom of this review.
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?
Amman has a decent variety of things happening all the time. For nightlife, there generally isn't mixing between groups of people. You can't easily walk up to a group of strangers and make friends, but if you're introduced by a mutual friend then they'll quickly adopt you.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families yes, couples maybe, singles depends on the person.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
In western Amman, not really. I imagine Jewish people need to be cautious about identifying themselves to people they don't know to avoid potential for verbal harassment. Women traveling alone or groups of women without a man present are more subject to verbal harassment.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Jordanians are very kind to families, especially those with small children.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Dead Sea, Petra, Aqaba, Wadi Rum.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Excellent weather. The Dead Sea is a great getaway to get out of town.
11. Can you save money?
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:
Perception that Jordan culture is as conservative or stifling as the Gulf countries.
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and hat.
4. Do you have any other comments?
For propspective American Embassy bidders:
Bidder beware! A major renovation project will start in 2014 and continue on for 4 years. They will be ripping out the American Club which is the social nexus of family life for embassy families. Most especially this is goodbye to the beloved swimming pool and playground. The administration is hinting that they will put in a temporary pool but as of July 2013 nothing has been promised.
Extra warning for Diplomatic Administrative & Technical staff with families:
Amman is a driving town. If you don't live within close walking distance to the Embassy or close to a major road you will absolutely need two cars or have to get your spouse to drive you in the mornings. You'll only get one duty-free vehicle (full dip get two). Expect prices to be US$3,000-5,000 higher for a used sedan because of the duty. Also if you're planning to head to Israel for a weekend getaway, you can no longer use the nearby bridge crossing. That crossing is no longer open to A&T staff. You'll have to drive out of the way to the other bridge and spend a lot of extra time at passport control.