Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/18/15
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?
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?
Ottawa - a 10 hour direct flight to Montreal, or about 18 hours to connect through Frankfurt or London.
3. How long have you lived here?
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?
Low-rise apartments. Most expats live in Abdoun, Swefieh, or Deir Gabar, where most embassies are also located. Commutes are pretty short - rarely more than a 15-minute drive. I'm within walking distance but it's not pleasant or safe to walk given traffic and the lack of functional sidewalks.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get pretty much anything, although you'll pay through the nose for imported things (especially cereal) and availability is spotty. When I see something I like (ie natural peanut butter) I buy in bulk. Local produce is amazing and cheap, but buy it at a local veg shop, not the big chains.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Natural peanut butter, more tampons, cereal.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Every kind of American fast food, plus a lot of local shawarma/falafel joints. I don't really eat at the American chains but you can easily have a feast of hummus, falafel, etc for under 5JOD a person and it's delicious!
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes are tiny and seem to be able to slip through any window screen. Occasional ants and roaches in some apartments but nothing major.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Widely available but not super cheap - we pay 35JOD for two half-days. People with live-in help pay a much better per-hour rate.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, but very expensive. Most of the embassies have at least small gyms.
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?
Easy - I've never had a problem.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot of people speak at least some English but having Arabic is helpful for taxis, ordering food, and communicating with building caretakers.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes - uneven, broken, and garbage-covered sidewalks that usually have dumpsters and cars parked on them. Elevators are common but there are usually at least a few steps leading to them.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are very cheap and safe-ish, as long as you don't mind no seatbelts and smoking while driving (and talking on the cell phone). The city buses look terrifying, although the JETT bus to Petra is fine.
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 drive a small hatchback with no problems but some people prefer SUVs, as drivers are pretty aggressive and tend to follow a "might has right" approach. 4x4 is needed if you want to do any off-roading. Diplomats aren't allowed to import motorcycles, unfortunately.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, for about 50JOD a month. For some reason I can stream hi-def Netflix no problem but web pages often don't load.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
After a year of frustration with a post-paid plan with Orange (who kept cutting off our service because they'd change the plan and not tell us), I gave up and bought a prepaid Zain sim card. Prepaid seems to be a lot easier to manage yourself and Zain has much better coverage outside of Amman.
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 need for quarantine. Good vets and at least one good kennel available, although diagnostic and treatment capabilities are pretty limited. People are pretty scared of dogs here, and there are a lot of stray cats.
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?
Not really, unless you are in the aid/development field. Arabic would be essential.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
About the same as North America, although women are restricted in terms of how much skin can be showing (regardless of how hot it is). Anything above the knees is pretty risque, and shoulders (at minimum) need to be covered. I always keep a scarf in my bag.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty crime has increased during our time here, and women tend to face a fair amount of street harassment - cat-calling, aggressive staring, following, flashing, and gropings are sadly quite common. There have been threats on malls and western interests (particularly since Jordan joined the anti-ISIS coalition) but so far nothing has occurred.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
I've gotten several stomach bugs and parasites from the water here. Medical care is decent but they tend to over-medicate (I've had antibiotics prescribed to me for viruses, which I can't seem to explain to my doctor doesn't make any sense).
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?
Pollution from vehicles is pretty bad, and it's extremely dry and dusty.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
My husband suffers from seasonal allergies back home but hasn't had any problems here, presumably because there's a lot less pollen. I imagine asthma would be bad here because of the dust.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Summer gets hot - mid-30s (C) - but because it's so dry the evenings are gorgeous no matter how scorching the day is. Fall and spring are brief but perfect - mid-20s and sunny. Winter (December-February) hovers around 0-10C and we've received at least one big snow storm every year. It will also rain more during the winter, which makes driving difficult.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
No personal experience but people seem pretty happy with ACS and the Lycee.
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?
I think so.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge - the U.S. embassy has something like 300 families here and most other countries have a fair sized presence. Morale varies - as mentioned above, singles and people without kids can get bored. I find that I need to leave the country every 6-8 weeks or I start getting twitchy. Luckily Tel Aviv is an easy 4-hour drive!
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
It's patio weather at least 8 months of the year, so eating al fresco is always nice (either at home or at a restaurant, as long as you're okay with heavy shisha smoke).
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families seem to enjoy it here because it's a big diplomatic spot so there are lots of other families and some of the embassies have pools/clubs. For child-free couples and singles it's a bit boring as there's not a lot of night-life. Single men do a lot better on the local dating scene than single women, although the cultural differences can create a fair bit of drama.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
In theory you could get away with more PDAs than a mixed-sex couple, but I couldn't imagine having to keep such an important part of my life "under cover." Homosexuality is technically legal in Jordan but heavily frowned upon.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, yes, and yes. visible minority expats experience prejudice - if you're of Asian decent, expect to be mistaken for a housekeeper quite a bit. If you're Christian or Muslim that's fine; don't out yourself as Atheist, Jewish, or anything else. In terms of gender, as a woman I'm at best treated with paternalistic condescension.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Visiting Petra, driving across the border to Israel, and competing in the Dead 2 Red relay run.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Downtown Amman is worth a wander, and there are a growing number of independent cafes and restaurants, particularly in Jebal al-Webdieh, Rainbow Street, and Abdoun. Cooking at Beit Sitti is a fun evening. For the most part, though, the best thing to do on a weekend is to get out of the city - go up to Ajloun or Jerash, trail running in Wadi Shitteh, go for a hike, or zone out at the Dead Sea.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Textiles, pottery, spices, dead sea products.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is fantastic 10 months of the year - Jordan receives 3600 hours of sunshine a year. There are also great tourism opportunities and because the country is so small, you can do pretty much anything on a regular weekend trip.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Touring Jordan and living in Jordan are very different. The country has some amazing things to see but living in Amman can get pretty boring. There's also a veneer of things working like they do in North America - 3G service, high-end malls, flashy buildings - but beneath the external layer things have a tendency to break, leak, and in general not function properly, to which the predominant local attitude is a shrug. Keep your expectations low and learn to make your own fun.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
To visit, definitely. to live, no way.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Short-shorts, bicycle, club gear, expectation that things will work the way they're supposed to.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunglasses, sunscreen, patience, adventurous attitude, and moisturizer!