Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/16/17
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?
I have had prior experience in Europe and Africa.
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?
Washington DC area, USA. Many flight options through Frankfurt or London or Paris.
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost four years, 2013-2017.
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?
Spacious duplex with small yard. This is one of the better houses in the pool although even the apartments tend to be large, well-maintained, and in good locations. RSO mandates that all housing be within 3 km of the embassy meaning easy commutes, even walkable for most.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Good availability with large chains such as Carrefour, Safeway, etc. A lot of imported goods so prices are more than the US but not significantly so. Local produce is very cheap and great when in season.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get just about anything but it is useful to ship brown sugar, Tex-Mex items. We still use the pouch quite a bit.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Great restaurant scene, wide variety. Jordanians love eating out! Although they do tend to start much later than we were used to. Prices are a bit high but there are a lot to choose from. Some of the eating out is the "to be seen" scene and there is a lot of just lounging smoking hookah so I wouldn't necessarily say that the quality makes it foodie heaven.
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?
Not much local service, we use the diplomatic pouch which is quite efficient. DHL also available.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is provided by third country workers, mainly Filipino or Sri Lankan.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Many modern gyms, Fitness First/Vega Fitness and Crossfit are very popular. They tend to be expensive. The US embassy has well-equipped gym that has been sufficient for us. One of the great benefits has been the ability to run outside. I need to do it in the mornings before much traffic and there are a lot of hills but I've been able to train for and run marathons while here.
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?
Mainly a cash economy but many grocery stores and restaurants take credit cards. ATMS are easy to find and, in most areas, safe to use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
A few Christian congregations offer English services, including Catholic, Adventists, Evangelical, Mormon.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Arabic classes are widely available but, to be honest, I have never met anyone who achieved anything close to working proficiency through such classes. Arabic is not something you dabble in, either do some sort of immersion or just content yourself with simple phrasebook level.
The truth is, you can get by quite well with English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, sidewalks and building access is often blocked and not well designed.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are fine and affordable. Uber has gotten very popular here. Buses are not recommended.
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?
A sedan is fine, the roads here are quite good and even driving out of the city to major sites (Dead Sea, Jerash, Petra) is all by smooth roads. The drivers here are quite aggressive so sometimes being in a big SUV is nice just to make sure that you are seen.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, DSL and fiber is available at reasonable cost. Installation is pretty quick.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Big providers are Zain and Orange with reasonable plans. Be careful about exceeding allowable data however, that gets expensive fast.
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?
Great in-home service at reasonable prices. Have not used kennel services yet but they do exist. No quarantine required, we brought a cat straight here.
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?
Many embassy jobs and some in the NGO community and at schools. Getting work permits can be difficult, there is a big problem with jobless youth and college grads so the government tries hard to prevent foreigners from taking what jobs there are.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are a ton of groups working with refugees and disadvantaged populations. The groups would prefer donations rather than labor but you can find places to use your talents.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business dress at the office, business casual when you go out. You see some people wearing shorts on the streets but it is usually foreigners. Women are much more limited in what to wear, depending upon where you are going.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is a high threat post, formerly receiving danger pay. Jordan is in the eye of the hurricane in the fight against ISIL so precautions must be taken. That said, most parts of Jordan are safe and we have not felt any limitations on our movement or felt in imminent danger. There is surprisingly little street crime, particularly in West Amman. The only problems are usually late at night and for women on their own. As always, awareness and avoiding risks is key.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health care is excellent, some expats choose to stay here to give birth. The US embassy has a great medical unit and there are specialists for referrals.
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?
It can get dusty at times but strong breezes and relatively high elevation keep the air pretty good most of the time.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
A lot of nuts in the cuisine here so you have to be proactive to avoid them. I know several vegans who have done fine here.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Stress. This is a high-tempo post and even though it is safe there is a sense of constantly being on edge because something bad could happen at any time. This wears people down.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate here is quite wonderful with noticeable season changes. In the summer it gets hot but in the evenings it cools down quite a bit and there tend to be nice breezes in Amman. We use our patio quite a bit for barbecues and entertaining. It does get cold in the winter, two of the years here we had significant snow that shut the city down for a few days. It was great! Some rain from late fall to early spring but mainly clear blue skies.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Quite a few options. The main school for US embassy kids is American Community School which has some great teachers but the quality declines in the higher grades. Other options include the International Community School (British) and the French school. There are also international schools that are have mainly Jordanian student bodies such as the International Academy Amman and the Amman Baccalaureate School. lso a top-notch boarding school in Madaba.
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?
Tons of pre-schools, especially popular is Eco-Kids.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Not a huge sports scene outside of school and even for the school it is limited. Seasons are very short, and the quality of coaching is mediocre, in my opinion. With all these international schools you would think there would be some robust competition but that doesn't seem to be the case.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Quite large with a broad mix. Interestingly, a lot of "Gulfies" (Arabs from the Gulf States) maintain residences here so that makes up a broad swath of the expats. Also, many international organizations are based here.
Morale seems quite good. There are many who have lived here for years. Compared to other places we've been living , Amman is quite comfortable and convenient so it is hard to find things to complain about (although some do, of course!).
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?
Jordanian culture is very tribal or family based so it can be hard to truly break in, even though the people are very kind and hospitable. There are lots of activities like hiking, biking, music, and art that can be an entree for like minded people. There are many Facebook and WhatsApp groups for both general and niche interests.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For families, we've found that it is great. Very family and child friendly, safe with appropriate activities. For singles it can be tricky to break in, there is not a lot of dating with foreigners, particularly for Muslims although it does happen. A lot of my single friends find Amman a bit sleepy but they still enjoy it.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Probably not. The culture here is very hostile to LGBT. There have been several same sex couples that have been fine but they were not living particularly openly.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is a bit of a hierarchy of ethnic groups. Jordanians definitely seen themselves as the peers of Gulf State sheikhs, just without the money. Certain jobs are just assumed to be performed only by Egyptians. It is not particularly overt, just understood.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Great in country travel opportunities: Petra, Jerash, Um Qais, Dead Sea, desert castles, Aqaba and Wadi Rum.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
We've loved finding some off-the-beaten-track hikes up wadis that have been a lot of fun. Fun indoor climbing gym Climbat just south of town. Organized hikes with rappels through Tropical Desert. Dead to Red Relay Race (182 miles of pain!)
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are some crafts and local handicrafts but most of the nice stuff is brought here from somewhere else.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Ease of living, convenience. Mobility around the city although traffic can be bad at rush hour. Large expat community with a wide range of interests.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I had traveled in Jordan a few years ago so I felt like we came in with eyes open with regards to living here. The pace of work and stress involved in such a high profile mission was the hardest part of my tour.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. This has been a great four years.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Misconceptions about Muslims and Palestine.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, hats, snow boots!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
"Leap of Faith" by Queen Noor.