Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 11/18/15
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?
California, we flew from D.C. to London and then onto Jordan. I know there is a direct flight from Jordan to Chicago.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Department of State- US Embassy
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is apartments. Can range from small to 4/5 bedrooms. Nice with tile flooring. The housing here in Amman is typically really nice. We requested top floor so we live on the fourth floor. Families with young kids usually try to get a ground floor with a small yard. Both are nice. The floor is tile and post has large area rugs/carpet for living room etc. All homes come with "zombie blinds" on the window that when shut block out any light. Each apartment typically will have at least one balcony.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries range from cheaper fruits and veggies to more expensive specialty items. Definitely a mix.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Coconut oil is at least double the price here. I would bring a nice supply. Toilet paper is expensive and having a Costco pack or two is really nice. Same with paper towels. Also add Costco paper plates bowls and plastic ware.
Coconut oil (lots), TP, paper towels, paper goods, pancake mix, 220 volt bread machine (the sandwich bread here is very dry), container of Costco popcorn kernels, a plastic container of floor (you can get here but a little more expensive) syrup, favorite canned goods, spaghetti sauce, Jelly beans (to take to parties) a lot of Costco brownie mixes (to take to parties or anytime you need to bring something to share), favorite cleaning supplies, detergent, cereal. Cereal is expensive $8+ a box. We order our boxes through WalMart. Soap, shampoo and conditioner.
Gluten free: It is pretty easy eating gluten free here. Lots of veggies and fruits (in season). Kabobs and rice or potatoes. Bring gluten free noodles and a good supply of Gluten free flour.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots of local choices, also Chili's, Applebee's, Burger King, and some other fast food restaurants that I can't remember. Everything here can be delivered to your door. Even donuts.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No insects problem in Amman. The Dead Sea is experiencing a lot of flies because of the manure dumping practices of the chicken farms.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO, if you have to go through the Jordanian mail system, it is very slow and unreliable.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
4-5 JD per hr. A lot of people here have part-time or full-time domestic help.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
My husband and I like to exercise. We use the US Embassy Gym. It is adequate: four tread mills, four elliptical, 2 bikes, weights, boxing bag, a couple of machines and mats for stretching/abs. There are 2 gyms close to the Embassy. One is Fitness One. It was going to cost just me about $150 and twice that if I wanted to add my husband. The other gym is called the Orthodox Gym. It is a little cheaper but there wasn't anything there that I didn't feel like I could do at the Embassy. There are several Pilates clubs and Yoga clubs. Also other gyms farther away. We aren't going to lose the gym throughout the OBO construction.
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?
I use credit cards at larger Grocery Stores and Restaurants. The only ATM I know about is in the U.S. Embassy that is only open to employees.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Christian, including Catholic, LDS, and Evangelical.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It isn't necessary to learn Arabic. I do pointing and right/left hand gestures when taking a taxi.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Not a lot of access. It is rare to see a sidewalk and when you do, there is a tree planted right in the middle of it with the branches taking up the whole sidewalk.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxi's are cheap and plentiful. We don't ride the bus. The cost to the school is a little under $2. It is the law that the taxi's have to be metered. Make sure your taxi has one or they will try to charge triple.
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?
Definitely bring a car that you can service here. Parts will need to be shipped from the States. We bought an older Pajero SUV when we first arrived. Toyota, Lexus, Honda are all very common here. We have a GX470 Lexus. It is the Land cruiser. Another name for it here is the Prado. They are a great choice. Others have Rav 4's or Honda Pilots. When it rains here, it floods. Not for long but that and the possibility of going off roading to see some sites makes a 4 wheel drive Vehicle nice. The driving here is a little crazy. I am always on the defensive. The bigger the vehicle, the better you can push your way into the roundabouts. We expect to be dinged up before we leave post. People do have smaller cars here but since this is my opinion, I recommend at least a small SUV +. The 2 month wait for your vehicle is tough. That is why we bought a car here from someone leaving. Not everyone is allowed two cars so plan for that. For my next post, I will be looking for a SUV to buy from someone leaving post (if possible). Taxi's are cheap and plentiful.
I should add that there isn't a concern for car jacking.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, and it is pretty good. Cost about $60/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use Orange. The plans are cheaper than in the U.S. Try to bring an unlocked phone.
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?
Unknown but there are vets.
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 volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are different charities and I just found out that the Home of Love is a charity for abandoned handicap children.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business Dress at work, Modest for going around town. Kids can wear what they want. Teens and up should have shorts/skirts close to their knees and no tank tops.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
We stay vigilant but feel safe. Treat it like you are in a big city in the States but the U.S. has more crime and violence. Besides some passionate are jesters, I haven't heard of any problems.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
no concerns, and there are hospitals and doctors available. Braces are much cheaper here. I went to a local orthodontist trained in Russia and paid $1700. Others have paid up to $3000.
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?
Clear with a few random dust storms that fill the air with sand.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I had allergies when I first got here in April from the olive trees. Gluten and Dairy free eaters can find a lot to eat. Especially if they like Swarma, various rices, hummus, etc. Just can't eat the flat bread.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
A lot like Northern California. Shorter winter, nice spring and fall. Summer was mid 90's F with one week over 100F degrees.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a lot of private schools to chose from. Most all of the embassy Community attends ACS, ICS (British School) or Kings Academy (day and boarding school). I have four kids at ACE (in all three levels) and I toured the other two schools. We are happy at ACS. There is over 700 children from K-12. It is a top choice for the more affluent Jordanians. The teachers have been great. They require each student from 6th grade up have a laptop at school. Upper grade school up through high school goes on an extended field trip in the spring (May). High School's "Week Without Walls" lasts 7-10 days. There are 4 or 5 choices to go out of country ($2000-$3000) and students can also chose to stay in country and participate in a dig at Petra, get diving certified in Acaba or attend Flight School (these choices are about $750).
The school is building an auditorium and pool but the project is behind schedule. When it is done, it will be beautiful. The construction is off to the side behind a wall so it doesn't affect the kids. Security has been rated as one of the best inspected. There is a playground, turf field for soccer, basketball and an large indoor gym. Unfortunately no uniforms. There are after school activities for a fee and they can fill up pretty quickly. The kids can ride home on a late bus.
ICS is a nice, the newer campus is on the other side of town from ACS.
Kings is a wonderful, academically strong school. My daughter was accepted into their high school program but we decided not to pay the $10,000 + extra from the allotted education amount and the students get home around 7:00pm. It makes for a long day. Again it is a great school...
The other private schools are mostly Arab and follow different curriculum. I considered putting my kids into one of those schools so that they could learn Arabic but it has been nice to have a more balanced mix of kids. As it is, Arabic is spoken a lot at ACS between the students.
I hear there is a big home school coop here in Jordan.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not a lot. My daughter has mild learning disabilities and the teachers are understanding. If a child has savvier learning disabilities, they are less helpful.
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?
Yes there are a lot and they are affordable.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Soccer, baseball, basketball, horse riding,
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large and good.
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?
The Jordanian Culture eats late. When we go out around 6:00pm getting a seat at a restaurant is usually easy. It doesn't get hoppin until around the time we leave. So restaurants, movies, outdoor shopping at Old Town City Center (that is the only place that women should be covered from elbow to ankles. It is a more traditional part of town), malls. and plain old hanging out at the embassy and having dinner. Kids- play dates, soccer practice, baseball/sports. OBO is working on a big mutli-year remodel. They are taking out the pool now but will have a little smaller pool built this spring behind the ambassadors' house. That will be open to the mission until OBO rebuilds a big pool and Club house. A lot of families go home for the summer but the kids who stay here in Jordan swim everyday.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for families and couples. I think it is a little harder for singles. The dating norms here are different than in America. Usually the girls are set up on a date through family connections.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No, it is highly anti-gay/lesbian. The government prohibited gatherings and specifically included that the U.S. isn't to participate either.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I don't know about racial, religious I would say no. There are Christian, Muslim, etc. churches available.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We flew to Egypt Sharm Al Shek and it was awesome plus cheap. Israel, local trips all around Jordan. I would like to fly to Turkey and Dubai.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hummus, Shwarma, Fatoosh salad, and Chocolate. There are a lot of Chocolate Specialty stores.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Mosaics, art, Imported Rugs.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Lots of amazing history. There is so much history here in Jordan. From the biblical standpoint, and from the Knights and the Crusades. The Romans occupied Jordan for a time and their ruins here are the most well preserved in the whole world. Petra is amazing, Aqaba is beautiful and the Bedouin tents in Wadi Rum are not to be missed. Israel is a fun weekend trip. When you get your residency card, you will be given the local discount for all of the entrance fees. Petra will be a couple of dollars instead of 50 JD. etc.
10. Can you save money?
Yes, but budget for food, hotels and excursions. Also school has expensive trips to plan for.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had know that with the residency card we pay pennies on the dollar for entrance fees to ruins and Petra. Everything at the malls is really expensive. Bring extra makeup, shoes, clothes, socks... you can order a lot on amazon. It takes about 2 weeks to arrive. I also didn't know that our post post-office accepts packages up to 90 days before arrival. I would have sent myself some things (e.g., cereal, oatmeal, tp, sponges, sheets and blankets). The sheets are really scratchy and the blankets that we were given were thinner than Motel 6's. Be sure to send to yourself and your official sponsor can pick up on your behave.
There is a SafeWay.
The welcome kit includes a TV and DVD player.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, definetly. My children have told me that they are happy here. They like living in Amman and we have learned so much about this region of the world. My family kept saying, "are you going to be safe." Yes, we are safe.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Bikes. I didn't believe it and brought ours. For sure leave the kids' bikes behind. Some adults go on bike rides around town and outside; your fear of driving aggressively.
4. But don't forget your:
Jackets, snorkel gear, camping gear, coconut oil, popcorn (you can actually buy kernels here as well.