Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 04/27/21
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?
This is our third post and first in the Middle East.
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?
You can get to Chicago or New York on a 12+ hour direct flight several days a week on Royal Jordanian, which is an OK airline. You can take connecting flights through Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, or Jeddah too. Before the pandemic there were several options through Europe (Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna, London, Rome), but the downside is that these airlines mostly used the tiny, short-haul planes for a 4-6 hour flight and they left Amman in the middle of the night to make connecting morning flights. Ryan Air and a few other discount airlines provide deeply discounted fares on daytime flights to Europe/Turkey, and they are slowly returning as COVID drags on.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
More than 3 years on a 4 year tour.
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
American Diplomatic mission - 10th largest in the world!
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
For Americans, housing is in West Amman and proximate to the embassy compound. Most families have apartments with a few single family homes in the pool. If you don't mind a little sweat from the heat and hills, you can walk to work. Some face rush hour traffic, but those in Deir Ghbar and Central/South Abdoun usually avoid that.
Most apartments I've seen are in buildings with 4-10 units, with 3 or 4 bedrooms. Most housing here has two living rooms (I believe so men and women can socialize in their own space), with decent kitchens. I adore the rolling blackout shutters -- it's my favorite thing about living in the Middle East and will miss it when I leave.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Local produce and staples are quite cheap and are excellent if you get into the local cuisine. You can get almost anything else at the bigger international grocery stores in Amman, but you'll likely pay twice as much as you would in the U.S. Sometimes it's hard to find niche products like sour cream or ricotta, but usually they show up in the store after a few weeks, so it pays to check. You can even buy cans of LaCroix for like $1 a piece at Cozmo, which is really the only comfort from home that I miss.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
The American Employee Association has wine, beer, hard liquor, and whiskey (far more whiskey because their purchase limits are separate from other spirits), but the prices are a little high if you like to entertain. For context, it's maybe $2-3 per bottle of beer, $15-30 for bottles of mediocre wine, and anywhere from $15 to $150 for different spirits, but closer to $40-50 a bottle on average. These prices are better than what you'd pay at the highly taxed liquor stores, but I'd recommend shipping some boxes of wine and whatever else you like to drink if you can.
Cleaning supplies are available, but the brands you know are quite pricey, so I'd recommend shipping those. Also, it's hard to find good quality toilet paper, paper towels, etc. so those can be good to ship or order through the DPO.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Delivery is really taking off due to COVID and the current curfews/lockdowns (early 2021). There are a few gems in the embassy neighborhoods for cheap, local fare. You can find higher end restaurants throughout Amman, many that are excellent and decently priced. You can also find several American chains like McDonalds, Hardees, Popeyes, PF Changs, and others.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We get some mosquitos during the rainy months (Dec-March) in our apartment, but it's not much more than an occasional annoyance. I think I've found 3 or 4 roaches during our entire tour, which is a pleasant surprise.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO is wonderful and great for so much.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Almost all domestic help is guestworkers from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh (and there are terrible tales of exploitation outside of the embassy community). People with kids usually hire full time nannies, and we pay about $7 an hour for a cleaner once a week. Sponsorship is a common thorn in the side of families responsible for it, but it's a manageable process. It's also usually expected that part time workers get an additional $6 a day for transport.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Many different types of gyms are available when the government lets them open (closed currently due to a COVID spike), and you can pay about the same prices as the U.S. The Embassy also has a weight room and exercise room that many used during the lockdowns.
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?
Credit cards are taken almost everywhere in Amman and in most tourist locations (including the Bedouin stalls inside Petra). I use ATMs often and they are very safe, but the fees vary widely from $1.50 to $10 to withdraw cash. The embassy has a cashier that will cash checks for a $1 fee that a lot of people use.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Inside Amman, most folks speak some or a lot of English. Outside of Amman, not so much. You can take classes through the Embassy or local tutors.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Ubers and taxis are relatively safe and affordable. The safety isn't from being robbed, mostly distracted drivers on their phones.
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?
If you stick to Amman and the major highways, you can get around the country in even the smallest car. If you want to do offroad desert driving, get yourself a good 4x4 from someone leaving. Usually you can find a diplomatic 4x4 from someone leaving for $2000-10000. Don't bring something brand new as you'll likely leave with some dings and scrapes.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We use fibre at home and it's faster and cheaper than what I had in the U.S. ($70 a month for 160 MBPS). I think you can get it set up in a week, but if you have a good sponsor they may do you a solid and set it up before you arrive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local cell service is cheap and pretty good. The Embassy has a good deal through Zain, but Orange is better for getting service when wayyyy out in the desert.
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?
EFM jobs are plentiful at post, though there are limited local work opportunities. Because the internet is so good here, many spouses telework to U.S.-based companies.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Distracted drivers and people trying to turn left from the right lane are common and can be mitigated through defensive driving. Petty crime is almost non-existent and terrorism hasn't affected our day-to-day life in the last few years.
2. 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?
The embassy has an Air Quality Monitor that reports on the EPA's website. Quality is surprisingly decent, though there are hazy and dusty days from time to time.
3. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Yes, there are weird allergy seasons, including the fall when olives are harvested. Bring some Claratin.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot in the summer during the day, pleasant at night. Pleasant during the day during the winter, but cold at night. Wet in the winter (Dec-March) and dry the rest of the year. It's a nice place to live overall.