Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 08/04/23
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, have lived all over 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?
USA. New direct United route to Dulles will soon be the contract carrier, meaning you won’t need to unnecessarily connect via NY or Chicago anymore.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
2020-2023 aka COVID
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?
In my opinion, this post has extreme housing disparities. Many families, especially those with kids, had massive apartments or duplexes with spacious yards. Others had smaller apartments but had newer, nicer layouts and designs. We ended up with neither: we got an old apartment with no yard and endless issues (almost no hot water for years, non-potable water for over a month, mold, aggressive leaks into electrical outlets). Our building was in a terrible location, complete with daily street harassment from the mobs of teenage boys loitering outside the building, cigarettes burning our patio furniture and smoke entering our apartment from the neighbors. A band moved in above us and started having practice until the wee hours of the morning, and soundproofing is nonexistent. We had roaches, mosquitoes, and ants. We had to park on the street as our spot was unusable (all residences are supposed to have parking).
Abdoun tends to have nicer, newer units within easy walking distance of the Embassy and close to shops and restaurants. Deir Ghbar had many spacious properties with a very fast commute via car but not of neighborhood restaurants. Swefieh (where we lived) is surrounded by streets you can’t actually turn on, so the work commute is much longer and more frustrating than it needs to be. It is much louder in Swefieh.
Commutes are pretty short (0-10 minutes in the morning but can be up to 30-45 minutes to go 1 mile in the evening if you’re trying to turn onto the streets of Swefieh).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get almost anything here, but it will cost you. Things are expensive here and COLA somehow dropped to 0 while we were here. Prices look similar to USD but are in the Jordanian dinar, which is fixed at 1.41 USD to 1 dinar. That said, you can even buy haram items such as alcohol and pork in grocery stores.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Sunscreen and other liquids. You can get most things delivered from Amazon or other online vendors.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Talabat, Careem, and Eat Delivery allow you to order from almost any restaurant. Lots of variety/cuisines of varying authenticity.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We had roaches, aunts, and mosquitoes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Most people employ a housekeeper/nanny, who are usually women from Southeast Asia. Typical rates are 5 JOD/hour plus transportation. The sponsorship system here is daunting. Foreign workers must be sponsored, and that requires liability for the employee’s activities in the country. It’s a lot of responsibility to have on behalf of another adult, and I feel sure many of the household employees are taken advantage of in Jordan as in the rest of the region.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Most people use the Embassy gym. Other options are pricey but well-regarded (Quicksand, Vy).
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 accepted throughout most of Amman and in hotels. Some places are cash-only.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by with English but won’t be able to connect with locals. Learning a little Arabic goes a long way in casual encounters. The post language program contracts with a company whose teachers have no teaching experience and no course resources, so, in my opinion, it’s not great.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, this would be almost impossible. You can’t use sidewalks; streets are uneven and full of holes.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber and Careem are cheap and available in Amman but full of cigarette smoke. Taxis are aggressive and insult you if you decline a ride in Aqaba (no Uber there). No other real options for transportation.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
Don’t bring a nice car; the environment and driving conditions are tough on vehicles. Small SUVs are best (sedans won’t allow you explore as much; big SUVs may not fit in your garage). People have had their windows smashed in their cars.
Driving is chaos, so you’ll need to learn how to drive like the locals.
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?
If you get a yard, then having a dog is much easier. If you don’t have a yard, it’s tough. Sidewalks don’t exist and dogs are not allowed in parks. You can find places to walk outside Amman, but you are likely to run into extremely aggressive shepherd dogs or strays. The embassy has a dog park, but it has issues (unusable most of the year due to large and sharp thorns). They recently built a new one, but it is full of leftover metal scraps and has grapes growing in it (grapes are deadly to dogs).
Locals are usually terrified of dogs and will run and scream when you walk past. Some people (and the municipality) put out poison, which almost killed our dog. On the other hand, dog theft is common.
There are good vets at First Pet, but some other vet clinics are questionable.
Boarding can be a mixed bag, but Kerry’s is fantastic. Some other companies have had serious issues such as stealing dogs or not watching them properly, resulting in dogs getting almost killed.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Refugee assistance, spay and neuter for stray cats
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
People dress conservatively in public. You’ll get stared at/harassed if you don’t.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I got harassed daily every time I left my house (I am female). Our neighborhood was full of hordes of teenage boys attending (but never in class) a local school, and they made every morning miserable. They chased me down alleys, and I was routinely followed by men in cars. Our patio was broken into, and our friends’ cars had their windows smashed and items stolen from inside. People say Jordan is safe, and most of the time I did not feel threatened, but the harassment is real.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Mold in residences is common. Healthcare seems fine here but medevacs are not uncommon. Lots of people have allergies to things like olive trees. Everyone smokes everywhere, and excessive perfume/cologne is common, so your lungs will be in poor shape.
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?
Not as much trash-burning as Afghanistan, but it happens. Lots of seasonal allergies (olive trees, pollen), mold, cigarette smoke, and perfume.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
It would be difficult to communicate about food allergies. I hope you’re not allergic to sesame.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot (80-110 F) and dry with no clouds from May-September; mild in October; cold and rainy from November-March. Green and lovely in March-April. It snows here too!
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Massive embassy with many other countries’ embassies present in Jordan. Morale among those with young kids is high. Singles and those without kids don’t have much to do and, in my opinion, are left out of the embassy community with lower morale.
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 some clubs reforming after Covid (lockdowns banned all socializing for a long time).
In Amman, people mainly socialize at restaurants. Cultural events like exhibits, concerts, etc are very rare and almost impossible to find (no advertising). No sporting events. Lots of local holidays but no public celebrations/festivals for them.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Singles and couples: No, the entire community at post is about families with kids. It would be difficult to date locals due to differing relationship expectations. There isn’t much to do once you’ve hit the main destinations.
Families: Everything is about and geared towards families with young kids. Jordanians love kids too, and every event is kid-friendly.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Not really, it’s probably easier if you speak Arabic, but most Jordanians seem to have their own circle already. There is noticeable racism and discrimination against people of Asian or African heritage.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No, the culture is very homophobic.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is noticeable racism and discrimination against people of Asian or African heritage. Women are not viewed as equal to men.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
North Jordan in the spring is green and beautiful, Aqaba is a nice oasis, and the Roman ruins are spectacular. Wadi Rum is a welcome respite from the city noises. The Amman airport is easy to navigate and has direct flights to many great spots (Cyprus!).
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Explore the minor historical locations like Abila...you’ll feel like Indiana Jones and will be the only person there! Wet wadi hikes in the summer are refreshing.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The food is good. You can easily get to Europe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Jordan is very dirty. There is trash everywhere.
If you like being in nature, hiking, walking, or running outside, it is very difficult to do here. We have done many hikes that were enjoyable, but they involve driving many hours and always have the potential to be ruined by aggressive dogs or creepy men.
This post is focused on families with kids. If you’re single or don’t have kids, you will not feel incorporated into the community. There are some adult events planned for the future, so perhaps that will change.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you have any other comments?
The housing can really make or break your tour. Unfortunately we ended up in awful housing that we were literally stuck in during what amounted to months of COVID lockdowns and quarantines.