Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 05/05/15
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?
No. Milan and Taipei
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?
Salt Lake City. It takes 24-29 hours to get home, depending on layovers. We usually fly Amman>Paris>Salt Lake. We have also flown through Frankfurt and Vienna with a layover on the east coast of the U.S.
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?
Most embassy families live near the Embassy. Most are in large apartments with a few in duplexes. Ground-floor apartments have small yards. Housing is decent.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Amman has wonderful grocery stores. Cozmo is our favorite. American products are pricy--but available. Amman also has great family-run produce stands. Meat can be pricy. Some grocery stores deliver for free.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I'm picky about hair supplies and makeup, so I stock up when in the U.S. Otherwise, we get pretty much everything on the local market or through the DPO from Amazon.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Why would you eat American fast food when you can eat fantastic Arab food? But if you have to: McDonald's, Subway, Chilis, Fridays, Burger King, Popeyes, KFC, PF Changs, Pappa Murphys, Pizza Hut. There is ok Thai and Indian. But seriously, stick with the local Arab food! Our favorite Arab restaurants are Hashems, The Great Amman and Levant. Burger Shack makes good American burgers--though way overpriced. Also, most food is available for delivery through ifood.jo.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We occasionally have ant problems in our kitchen. Otherwise, bugs aren't a big problem.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch are available through the embassy. There is no local mail service.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We have a Sri Lankan helper who comes 2x per week and we pay 20jd for 4 hours work. It's pretty reasonable. Also, be aware that if you are in an apartment, you will have a building caretaker that you will be required to pay monthly. This ranges from 30-120jd per month; but is completely negotiable between you and him.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are widely used at grocery stores, large restaurants and malls. Use cash in produce stands and bread stores.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholic, Mormon, Protestant.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Jordanians speak surprisingly good English. You can get by with a few Arab pleasantries. But knowing Arabic will help when you leave Amman.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The sidewalks in Amman are terrible. When there are sidewalks, most are impassable because of large trees and bushes planted in the middle of them. Many of the sidewalks are crumbling and poorly maintained.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Public transportation is limited to taxis. We were warned not to have females ride alone in taxis. I have ridden alone in them a few times, without any problems. Our teenage sons take them all the time, with no problems. Be warned that most taxi drivers smoke--even with no smoking stickers on their windshields. There is a limited bus service in Amman, but we are advised not to use it. Jett Bus is available and safe for trips to Petra.
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?
Many people drive SUVs, but they're not necessary. You will see cars of all sizes on the roads--compact to full-sized pickup trucks. We drive an American mini-van which has been fine. I haven't heard of any carjackings or break-ins.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is available with embassy plans through Zain and Orange. It can be spotty and slow and the Jordan caps the Internet. Zain is putting in fiber throughout most of West Amman. This should make Internet better.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cell phones are super cheap here. Zain has a plan for 1jd a month through the embassy. I have an iPhone and the data plan is cheap.
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 a few jobs at the UN, schools and NGO's.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Men are fine in whatever. However, women need to wear skirts and pants at least to their knees and cover their shoulders. Women can get by wearing less modest attire, but it is considered very disrespectful.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Obviously, we have dicey neighbors, so terrorism is always on our minds. However, we haven't experienced any security problems. There is petty theft, but that's rare. We take normal precautions for any city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are decent hospitals in Amman for minor health problems. I wouldn't have anything major done here, however. Dental and orthodontia are cheap and good.
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?
Dusty, but rarely foggy or smoggy.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Very dry. Hot summers, but not sweltering. Winters are cool, but not cold. It generally snows 1-2 times per winter, which shuts down the entire city for a few days. Most of the time the skies are bright blue and cloudless. The weather is one of the best things about Amman.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We have 4 children who have attended ACS. It is an above average school, with its share of problems. There are some really good teachers--as well as some really bad teachers. Many of the local kids are disrespectful and spoiled; which can cause some problems. Having said that, there are some really good things happening there as well. They are adding on a big new section, which will be really nice once it's finished. By-and-large, we have been happy with the school. Parents who send their kids to ICS seem to like it.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Swimming is big. ACS has some after-school activities, but they're limited and not great.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The U.S. Embassy community is large, tight-knit and friendly. There are very few private sector expats in Amman. Educators that I know that work at ACS, ICS or Kings Academy are happy. Those working at any other schools in Jordan have horrible experiences and many leave within a few months.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's a great post for families. I think that singles might find it a little boring, as there isn't a vibrant night-life. But there is a good community feeling through the embassy. And the CLO does a lot of fun activities--especially for families.
3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Arab food is fantastic! You will be ruined on hummus. The people are very friendly and genuine. Petra is amazing and should be on everyone's Bucket List. Also, living right next to Israel (but not in Israel) is great. We have made the border crossing 7x in 2 years.
4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Great Arab restaurants. The food here is fantastic! Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, Umm Qais, Madaba, Aqaba, Dead Sea. There are lots of fun hikes. Access to Israel. If you like history, this is a great place!
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Mosaics, textiles, rugs, gold, olivewood products, Dead Sea products, Syrian furniture.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Food!!!! Weather, culture. This is a very interesting culture to experience. It is also historically amazing.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Arabs are extremely friendly, hospitable and genuine.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely! Amman has been a fabulous place to live.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts, tanktops, bikes, rollerblades.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunglasses, sunscreen hiking shoes, good camera.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life,
Married to a Bedouin,
The Source: A Novel,
and The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.