Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 10/13/21
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?
No. My prior post was Liberia, and I had shorter term assignments before that in Tel Aviv, Bangkok, Addis Ababa, and Port-au-Prince.
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?
Arlington, VA. It generally took fewer than 24 hours, and there was usually only one connection. Travel in and out of Amman is very easy and the prices are reasonable (even cheap if traveling to nearby countries).
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?
I was in an embassy-leased apartment in the Abdoun section of Amman, which is the wealthy area of the city. The unit was more than enough space, and I liked it better than any unit I've rented in the US. It was a five-minute walk to the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most everything is available, and what is not available I just shipped through Amazon. With the exception of local produce and meats, prices are on the high side, particularly for imported appliances and furniture. There is an IKEA, and a simple coffee table ran me $350. It would have been less than $100 in the US.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing since I could get everything locally or from Amazon through the embassy mail pouch.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Most anything you need is available. There are an abundance of restaurants, from fast food chains like McDonald's and Pizza Hut to high-end classy restaurants with virtually all types of international cuisine. I will say that the local Jordanian cuisine was my favorite. Takeout is also so abundant, you can even get McDonald's delivered at midnight (which I did once).
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are no insects that I recall since Amman is a mile above sea level. The weather is also arid, so I never experienced any infestations.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
There are a number of international services (I believe FedEx and DHL), however I used the embassy mail system.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I had someone come once a week to clean the house and iron my shirts. I don't recall the price, except that it was very cheap.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I used the embassy gym. There are a number of private gyms in Amman that range in price, but I do remember hearing that they are expensive ($150 per month or so).
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, credit cards are accepted and safe at most establishments in Amman and at the major ones in the smaller towns in Jordan. Even many of the family-owned small shops in rural areas use them. You'll need cash for other things like grabbing a shawarma on the street in a tiny town.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
While Jordan is primarily Muslim, there are other religions that have establishments. There are a number of Christian churches, although I do not know the denominations aside from Catholic. The Jordanian government is accepting of non-Muslim religions in-country.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most educated people in Amman speak English. Outside of Amman, most speak Arabic. You don't need Arabic to get around Jordan, but you will quickly learn the pleasantries of the Arabic language enough to make it fun to engage with non-English speakers.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It depends on the disability. In general, Jordanians are supportive of those with disabilities, but the infrastructure is not very disability-friendly. There are elevators and ramps at the hotels and major establishments, and even the local schools. But getting around the city itself might be a challenge for certain disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are no trams or trains, but taxis and Ubers are available and safe. If you are a man, it is no problem. If you are a woman, you may occasionally be verbally harassed. My wife had this happen once or twice, but it is not common.
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 an SUV if you want to go outside of Amman and explore the country. In Amman, a sedan is fine. There are many local mechanics that do a great job. Jordan has a very low crime rate, and I felt much safer there than in the US. I never heard or had a problem with burglaries.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is available and easily installed.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I used my embassy-provided phone, but many Jordanians had smartphones. I assume the local provider is affordable.
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 did not have a pet so I'm not sure, but many of my colleagues had pets and seemed to do fine.
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?
Jordan has a high unemployment rate, so I don't believe there is much on the local market. Most spouses had their own gigs with external governments or NGOs, or teleworked.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I'm not sure about volunteer opportunities, but I imagine there must be some.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dress in the workplace is quite formal due to the more conservative culture. I wore a full suit and tie every day to work. Outside of work, jeans and polo or t-shirts are fine. Shorts are usually not well-accepted except at the resorts or gyms. Women are generally expected to be more conservative. It is expected that shoulders should be covered, and tight clothes are not well-accepted. However, I will say that I saw many younger Jordanian women publicly flaunting these norms, so I believe the times are rapidly changing. Certainly there is no law against it.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None. Jordan is extremely safe with a very low crime rate due to cultural and communal norms, and gun laws are restrictive. Comparatively, whenever I came back to the US, I felt like I had entered a war zone.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Jordan has a range of public and private hospitals and clinics. I actually had to go to a private one when my wife and I were in an accident. The services were good, and the hospital equipment is standard (x-ray, lab, internal medicine, general practice, etc). The ambulance system is also pretty good. However if you have a major life-threatening incident or need some specialized medical procedure, it's best to medivac to Germany/UK or go back to the US.
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?
Amman is high and dry. It does get very dusty from sand storms, but other than that it is fine.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Jordan is mostly desert so I suppose air allergens are virtually non-existent. The food is perfect and sanitary in every corner of the country. I never had a single problem either in the city or the countryside.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
None that I am aware of. It is sunny most of the time.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The summers in Jordan can be extremely hot; high 90s in Amman and over 110 in the lower lying regions in the south,b ut the humidity is low so it's not bad. The winters can get below freezing in Amman and in the north, and it snows sometimes. Rains also come in the winter and early spring, but they are short and sporadic. It generally does not rain for most of the year. South of Amman is 100% desert, and north is more vegetated (mostly olive trees, poppies, and short grass).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a number of international schools that we visited, and we were quite impressed with a couple of them. Jordan is very family-friendly for expats.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I recall seeing ramps for the disabled, and I heard there were accommodations for other disabilities.
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 it is affordable.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes. Our 7 year old kid took swim lessons at a local gym and learned a great deal in only a few weeks. There are also playgrounds, climbing gyms, trampoline parks, movie theaters, and tons of outdoor exploring throughout the country.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It's probably small relative to the population, but that's just a feeling. Morale is generally high for most. I rarely heard an expat say a negative thing about the country, and we all really enjoyed being there.
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?
Expats and Jordanians often hang out together outside of work. It is common for the 20-something expats to go to the nightclubs and bars with their Jordanian counterparts. There are also many co-mingled running, biking, and hiking groups, most of which have Facebook pages. Most expats also really enjoy exploring the country with friends.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For families and couples, it is wonderful. There are so many amazing adventures to be had throughout the country. It might be a different story for singles, but there is definitely a thriving nightclub and bar scene, so the opportunities are there. I will say that dating is not a cultural norm. It's definitely done, but sort of on the down-low among some of the more liberal younger Jordanians.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It is very easy to talk and socialize with locals. I often had tea with Jordanians and had great conversations. Jordanians are very hospitable and welcoming.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It is not the best city for openly LGBT expats. Non-heterosexual relationships are mostly shunned and discriminated against. There is an underground LGBT scene in the southern city of Aqaba, about a 4-hour drive south of Amman. Regardless, the LGBT community stays mostly hidden throughout the country. But the country continues to liberalize, and I am optimistic that this will change in the future. I knew several LGBT expat couples and they loved living there, and one couple recently extended for a fifth year.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
If you are Israeli (or perhaps Jewish) it might be an issue with Palestinian Jordanians. But as long as you avoid "the debate", it's probably fine. It is a relatively misogynous culture, so some expat women will experience certain looks or disrespectful comments from some men. But generally, my wife found most Jordanian men to be quite polite and courteous.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Where do I begin. It is the most incredible country I have ever visited. I'll start and end with Wadi Rum. Just google image it. There are too many adventures and memories to list here, and all of them good. You just have to visit to understand.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Tons of natural wonders, a great local art scene, fairs, rug shops, incredible food, archeological ruins, the Red Sea and Dead Sea, exploring the wadis, camping with the Bedouins, the stars in the desert at night, hiking and biking, the local customs, cultural and historical mystique, and the hypnotising sound of the call to prayer. My little boy always said it sounded like the Imam was singing "I love you". I think that's an apt description of Jordan.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are lots of interesting things on the local market; mostly rugs, paintings, and antiques. I have a beautiful Bedouin rug that I still use in my living room, and a couple of amazing paintings.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Everything works and is readily available for the most part.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Men are not supposed to shake hands with Jordanian women, and it is illegal to openly eat or drink in the daytime during the month of Ramadan.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely. In fact, I plan to do another tour hopefully later in my career.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Any propagandized negative stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs or the Middle East in general.
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of adventure and wonder.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Due to my profession, I personally enjoyed 'Our Last Best Chance' by King Abdullah.
6. Do you have any other comments?
I highly recommend working/living in Jordan for any expat. It is a beautiful and interesting place with wonderful people.