Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 09/03/18
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?
France, Japan, Bolivia, Zambia, Egypt, and Jordan.
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?
East Coast, USA. There is a direct flight from NYC to Amman, but we like to break it up with a stop in France, Germany, or England. You can make the trip in fewer than 24 hours door to door.
3. How long have you lived here?
Over one year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
USAID at the US Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Good housing. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, eat-in kitchen, living room, dining room, den, sun porch, and bonus room. We live near the embassy, as all families do. Many shops and restaurants walkable. We have a small yard. Most people live in spacious apartments with gardens and/or patios. Commute time is minimal, maybe 5-10 minutes for most, within walking distance.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are not expensive, though some items that are imported can be high. Many people set up a schedule for household and grocery items on Amazon.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Vanilla, ham, and wine, though even these things can be found on the local market, just not as easily as in the US.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Local restaurants are very good. Lebanese, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc. Talabat is the local app for restaurant delivery. It is quite good. Restaurants can be pricey if they are specialty, but many are reasonable.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We have the occasional ant near the dog's food dish. Nothing major.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO is fantastic. We receive packages and mail a few times per week. They are very organized and timely.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We have a Filipina housekeeper that comes three afternoons a week. We pay her 5 JOD per hour which is around US$7.50 per hour. We are appreciative and thankful. Many people hire full-time for less per hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym that is pretty good. There are many others available in Amman. They seem reasonable.
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?
Yes. Yes. Yes. No problems at all.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
For churches, there are many to choose from. We go to Amman International Church which is great. Our kids enjoy the weekly youth group that is a mix of kids from several different churches. For another Protestant service, there is Oasis International Church. We also have friends who go to the Anglican Church led by an Australian pastor. As for Catholic churches, I have a friend who said she is happy with one she found in her neighborhood.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most everyone speaks a decent level of English. That being said, it's always nice to know some Arabic. There are (free to us) local language classes offered through the embassy, and tutors are available and affordable.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be pretty hard, but there are staff at the embassy who use wheelchairs. I think the embassy has tried to be accommodating, but I wouldn't say that this is city-wide.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I see local buses, but I wouldn't take one. They might be safe, but they seem crowded and slow. No trams or trains, but taxis are safe and affordable. Uber is great, too.
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?
4WD is good especially if you want to go desert camping. It's not completely necessary otherwise. City driving is pretty smooth and easy with the typical "I can't stay inside the lines" type of driving in the Arab world. Parts seem to be available, but you can easily order through DPO for some parts. I just wouldn't bring a Volvo because parts would be hard to buy. I haven't heard of any theft.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Just a couple of days.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use Zain. It has been good. We recently installed magic jack, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you want to be bombarded with telemarketing calls. My husband uses it to call the US, so I tolerate it. I do turn down the ringer so it's more of line that we use to call out and not receive calls. We also have Skype that we use on occasion. Facebook messenger is a favorite of mine for calling friends and family back home in the US.
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?
Yes. There are local favorites. Our cats did not have to be quarantined upon entry, so, I think that this answer is "no." Just make sure records are up to date. We recently adopted a dog from the local Humane Center for Animal Welfare.
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?
I taught for a year on the local economy. It was a good opportunity, but I won't do it again because the pay was about half of what I am used to making. Many jobs are available at post, but there is always that "Do I really have a master's degree to be a secretary?" sigh when perusing the newsletter job announcements.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty of opportunities to help with refugees.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Seems pretty Western. Most women steer away from short skirts and tank tops, though I comfortably wear short-sleeves. It's not a big deal. Save formal dress for the Marine Ball.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There is occasionally a peaceful protest near the Embassy, but I have never felt overly concerned other than the angry voice coming from the mosque the day after the "Embassy in Jerusalem" announcement. I feel safer in Amman than I feel in the US, honestly.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
I can't think of any. Medical care is good. Pregnancies usually require a medevac.
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 air quality. Great weather, really. Even in the summer if it is hot, the evenings are cool, and we enjoy sitting outside on the patio. There might be some seasonal allergies, but they aren't long-lived.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Spring might bring some pollen-related allergies. I can't think of any food allergy-related problems.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
I can't think of any other than typical post-related ones. There is a little bit of a lack of a variety in spousal employment opportunities, although it's getting better. I am a little put-off that I can't wear shorts freely, but I grin and bear it in my capris.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Great seasons, really. Nothing extreme except it does get hot in the summer during the day. It does get cold in Amman, too. It has been known to snow on occasion in the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
People used to enroll their kids in ACS without giving it any thought. However, when we read reviews of the past few years, we decided to visit several schools in the area. ACS admin seemed overly-impressed with themselves, and gave us the attitude of "if there's space available for your kid, we'll consider your application," so we didn't even bother applying.
We have been very impressed with ICS. With my experience of American schools, the transition to ICS has been great. Less drama, good uniforms, easy to understand homework routines, more diverse international community, more after school activities, good special needs accommodation, etc. We have one child in elementary, and one in middle school. I would give two thumbs up in a heartbeat. In fact, the enrollment of US Embassy children nearly tripled from last year from around 12 to 33. So, that should indicate a growing preference for ICS. However, I have heard that there are good teachers at ACS, so, I would just do my homework and ask several families who have their kids there. ICS is a longer bus ride compared to ACS, but that does not bother most people since ICS is just a 20-minute bus ride.
And now a shout-out to King's Academy for high school. We have a high schooler in King's Academy which is a top-of-the-line boarding school modeled after the King's alma mater, Deerfield Academy. If you have a high schooler who would thrive in an academic setting with eclectic staff, this school is for him or her. The embassy covers most of the tuition, but you will still be out of pocket 10K. (If you didn't choke, keep reading.) It is well worth every penny because they recruit the best of the best staff from around the world, and their graduates can basically go anywhere they want after graduation. Quite a few embassy families have chosen to put their high schooler there as a day student or even a week-day boarder. It's an exceptional school with a very high bar for academics and extra curricular alike.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I would ONLY consider ICS for special-needs kids, even mild cases! They are great. They have in-class help as well as varied IEPs. Call the school for details.
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 and yes. I don't think that they are too expensive. If you want elementary school-aged children and middle-school aged children to have two (back to back) after-school activities, I would go with ICS. They are more accommodating for a longer day if you need that because of a parent's work schedule.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, there are some. Fall and spring baseball, soccer, horseback riding, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc. Plenty of after-school activities at the local schools, too.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
US Embassy Amman is a very large embassy (our Facebook group alone is huge) and has just recently expanded to accommodate the growing number of US employees. I would say that morale among expatriates is good. It can always be better, but part of that is on us. We need to host more events, etc. I think it's good considering where we are ("the eye of the hurricane"). The work load can be a lot on the staff, but that's understood considering the location and the times we are in. If we ever need an escape, I have to say that travel is easy to Europe. Many people were thrilled when Ryan Air announced more direct flights from Amman.
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?
BBQ outdoors almost all year-round. The embassy has weekly pizza night, monthly Taco and Trivia night, etc. There could be more things happening, but I think that there are plenty of things to do if you look for them. Even locally there are great things to do like desert camping and going to the Dead Sea for the weekend. Jordan is packed with little interesting day trips, too.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, but I wouldn't assume that the dating scene is similar to the one in the US. singles here seem to have fun mixing and mingling. For couples and families, it's a great post- just speaking from experience.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I'm not sure that I would say that it is a good city to be very welcomed in, but we do know LGBT couples. It's a majority Muslim country, and Islam frowns upon homosexuality.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
On the surface, no, but there definitely seem to be religious prejudices. We have had quite a few friends affiliated with the church we attend have their visa renewal application rejected for no apparent reason. The only common denominator is that they are Christian families. And gender equality? What's that?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Desert camping, Petra, Dead Sea, easy access to Israel, easy flights to Europe.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are definitely some hidden gems. Think, "Old Testament." We have seen Lot's cave, one of Herod's castles, the River Jordan, Mount Nebo, etc. If Biblical archeology interests you, take advantage of this location. It's packed with history.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Some, but I think I'm getting bored of buying things from other countries, so, I'm not the best person to ask. There are, however, some great works in mosaic to purchase in Madaba. Items carved out of olive wood are nice, too.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's a good, family-friendly post. There are many day trips to take. The weather is great. It is low-crime. You don't have to learn a lot of the local language if language learning is not your thing. It's a large post with many people to meet. The people are friendly for the most part.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I can't think of anything that I wish I had known about Amman before moving here because we had just moved from Egypt which is similar. (Egypt is more chaotic and crowded .) I think you will have more interesting responses from other people who have answered this question.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely! Although, I wouldn't live here long-term.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts and mini-skirt collections, car turn signal, punctuality.
4. But don't forget your:
Jacket. It can get chilly in the winter.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Rough Guide to Jordan.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Ask as many people about their Amman experience as possible before coming to any conclusion.