Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 01/27/21
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?
7 post in Asia, Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
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?
DC - flights are changing all the time. Currently the direct flight on RJ from Chicago to Amman is the one the Embassy is using.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
If your family has more than 3 accompanying children/family members you will almost certainly be under housed. The housing pool simply has not been managed and expanded to cater for large families. You will probably be sharing bedrooms in an apartment, most without outdoor space. Please consider this before bidding as it has been very difficult for families during lockdowns.
If you get assigned housing in Abdoun or Swefeih then you will be closest to the embassy and also services and stores. Increasingly the embassy is housing families in Deir Ghabor which while new, is further and has fewer options for services and stores. Walking and bike riding can be difficult depending on where you live because Amman is quite hilly, cold in Winter and very hot in Summer. It is also quite dusty/dirty and lacking in footpaths/sidewalks.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
We recently had our COLA cut completely. Having said that, I find that buying locally is no more expensive than in the US depending on what buy. If you are only interested in buying imported/organic products you will pay a premium. There is a wide range of good quality local produce, dairy and meat readily available. There are many supermarkets here all with many options from budget to high end. There is even a pork shop.
Food options have improved even over the 2.5 years I have been at post. No, it's not North America or Western Europe. If you can only bear to eat organic food, increase your carbon footprint and ship it in. Eat at home, because all that food you won't eat from the supermarket is the same food they serve you in restaurants.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Pepperoni, canned pumpkin, aluminum pie plates, hair mousse, and sunscreen.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything under the sun is here. Check Talabat delivery service for options. As with when you live in foreign countries, the Chinese food is never as good as when you lived in China, etc. Set your expectations accordingly. But do enjoy all the Middle Eastern food you can. There are also restaurants and delivery options that understand and cater to people with allergies and food restrictions.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We get mosquitos seems like any time of the year... And I have heard of a few people have had serious mould/mold issues in their houses.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the embassy, although I have successfully sent mail through the Jordanian postal service. It doesn't work so well during Covid though.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I have heard it is 5JD an hour. Always lots advertised through the embassy newsletter.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are workout facilities (and a pool) at the embassy and other local gyms too. Gold's Gym is close to the Embassy. There is a 9 Round and other local varieties. Some offer women's only times.
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 have had no problem using credit cards. ATM's are common and there are many to choose from. Smaller stores will work better with cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I know of English speaking Christian services (Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal, Baptist, Non-Denominational) and LDS. Current options are printed in the Embassy newsletter.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more language you know the better your experience as with living anywhere. You can manage in Amman very well without Arabic as the general population is so well educated. Outside of the city it is more of an issue. Classes are readily available.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I think so. Handicapped spaces are designated at larger malls and stores, but they are reserved for special people who are running late. Sidewalks are erratic, and often there are steps up to a ramp...
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are metered, but you will need to know your taxi Arabic. Uber and Kareem are options for people who can manage a smart phone. They can bill directly to your credit card. I have not had any safety issues personally, but it pays to be less engaging if you are a single female.
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?
One you don't mind getting in an accident with and one that can go off-road if that appeals to you. Sometimes smaller is helpful with finding parking.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We usually get this installed for you before you arrive these days under quarantine, and pre-buy your SIM cards. You will want to give at least two weeks notice. There is a nice man who comes to the embassy from ZEIN who has never let me down. Cell phone SIM cards, home connections, paying bills and queries - he solves all problems but only come one or two days a week.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I personally use ZEIN (see above) but Orange network is also recommended.
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?
I wouldn't say there is a lot of choice, but there are good vets. Ours, Dr Faisa, does house calls.
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?
Lots work through the embassy, NGOs or remotely from home countries.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Not as many as you might think. Arabic helps. I teach English through a local center for Refugees.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It should be respectful. For special events, locals dress up more than you will. If your work is outward facing, you should wear smart business clothes. Unless you are completely comfortable being ogled at and are comfortable with the negative comments, leave the short shorts at home. Downtown and out of Amman are conservative places - dress accordingly by covering your legs and shoulders
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Always be careful, but nothing in particular that I can think of.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
We have received excellent medical and dental care. Usually with shorter wait times. I think my root canal was about $750 from a British trained Dental specialist. The specialists the embassy refers you to will speak English very well, and have probably studied and trained in a Western country. There is a reason why people with medical concerns are able to come here. People have babies here all the time. You will be medivaced if the Health Unit feels the problem is beyond local care.
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?
Lots of people end up getting seasonal allergies even if they didn't come with them. I don't think the air is bad here, but then I have lived in China and Egypt...
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Be prepared, be vigilant, bring meds, know your hospital emergency rooms, learn the words for things you are allergic to. Sesame can be an issue as Tahini is in lots of things and used in dressings. Cozmo supermarket has lots of products that cater to people with special dietary needs due to allergies.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
We have an RMOP here at post.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Summer is hot and dry, but not too hot compared to the region. Winter is wet and can even snow. Generally very pleasant throughout the year. We are at elevation. Evenings are cool even in the warmer months, especially in the desert.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
For school aged children, families at post use ACS, the British school, Kings and the French school. There may be others. All seem good for different reasons - curriculum overlap with previous schools, special needs acceptance, sporting opportunities are all things that I know people consider when making the choices. My kids go to ACS and I find the management generally to be uncommunicative and unresponsive, but the teachers are great. Counsellors in HS provide excellent college preparation. Playgrounds and outdoor spaces are small and compact. There is no soccer field or track facilities if that matters to you. But there is a great theatre and library facilities, basketball sized gym if that is important to you. All schools have their pros and cons. I hear that the British school works better with you if your child has learning issues. If you put children in more than one school, know that the holiday schedules vary widely.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Most private schools prefer to not know about your special needs child. I know there are schools in Amman that cater to special needs (in one case, Autism) but you would need to ask the Community Liaison Office (CLO).
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, swimming, boy/girl scouts, horse riding, climbing, sports, music, dance. Many options.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a large Expat community based here serving the wider region. Lots of embassies and NGOs. I think the moral is 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?
There are many clubs and activities, eg. running, hiking, ultimate frisbee, service organisations, faith communities.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There are many families here - but larger families need to see my comment about housing being inadequate.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Jordanians are generally very friendly people.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It is a conservative Muslim majority country.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Sure, but people are accepted here from all around the region. It is generally accepting of religious minorities.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Dana, Ajloun, Azrak, diving at Aqaba, Dead Sea, lots of incredible history and ruins dating back thousands of years. When the borders are open, Jordan has flight connections to Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean that used to be inexpensive.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
I think all my gems are known.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Needlework, carved olive wood, artisanal soaps - you see some very creative products at markets.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Proximity to embassy for working adults, safety, lots of activities.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Amman is one of the most livable cities in the region due to climate, safety, choice of activities and schools, availability of goods and services, general level of English in the city. Go to the tougher cities in the region first.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Short shorts and mini skirts, complaints, expectations of a house and yard with grass.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, umbrella, and hiking boots.