Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/14/12

Personal Experiences from Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan 03/14/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our third expat experience. We have also lived in Kabul, Afghanistan and Ankara, Turkey.

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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?

The East coast. There are direct flights from Amman to New York (12.5 hours) and Chicago (13.5 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy housing is all garden apartments in West Amman. Housing is not clustered, but Amman is not a very large city so everything is close. The longest commute is about 10 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and household supplies are fairly available but expensive. Almost all produce is imported, and all "foreign" foods (e.g. chocolate chips, celery, Western brands) are very expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing really, you can get almost anything here if you're willing to pay for it.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food is widely available, both Western and Arab. The Middle Eastern restaurants (fast food and upscale) are great, there are a couple of Asian restaurants that are okay, several European/American/bistro style restaurants that are also okay. Meals in a "real" restaurant are priced comparably to major metropolitan cities in the U.S.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

All fairly available, but for a price.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

ANTS. If you have a ground floor apartment, you will be battling ants nonstop. Some people have roach problems, and outdoors bees can be a nuisance, but ants are the only serious insect issue we've encountered and they're ubiquitous.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Widely available and very inexpensive, most people have at least part-time help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Absolutely. There is a gym at the embassy, as well as many private gyms all over the city.

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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?

Widely available and generally safe to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Anglican, Catholic, LDS, and Evangelical Protestant services are all available. Most services are in the evening.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Jordan Times is in English, generally a good paper and widely available. TV is mostly satellite, and there are packages available with English stations. AFN is also available through the embassy.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

In West Amman, everyone speaks English. In East Amman you may need Arabic, but at all the major tourist spots people will speak English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Significant. There is very little accommodation for people with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are very cheap and fairly safe, very few incidents have been reported. We don't use buses as taxis are so affordable, and there is no other public transport.

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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?

Any vehicle would be suitable, although most people here drive SUVs.

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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 costs about $400-600 a year depending on your speed.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are widely used, relatively cheap, and service is reliable.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We don't really know, but we've heard it's not great. Arabs don't like dogs as a general rule.

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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?

Yes, English is very much in demand and we have a number of friends who have local jobs.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Somewhere between business casual and business attire.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No. There is virtually no crime, and Amman is very stable politically. Jordan is a safehaven in the region, wealthy residents of surrounding countries come here when their home countries become unstable.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is excellent, some of the best in the region. You are still in the third world, however, and everyone deals with food-borne illness at some point.

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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?

Moderate. There are dust storms in the spring and fall, and some locals burn coal in the winter.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Weather is one of the highlights of living here. We have nine months of dry, sunny days with temperatures between 75-95. The winter is fairly mild and lasts two or three months, we've had one (minor) snow per winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several good international schools in Amman. ACS (American) and ICS (British) are the big English-language schools, there is also a French school that offers bilingual instruction (either English-French or French-Arabic). There are a multitude of schools offering bilingual Arabic-English programs and several that have trilingual Arabic-English-French programs. Our son is in the French school (preschool), and we've been very happy with it.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I doubt there is much accommodation made for special-needs kids, although ACS may have some programs.

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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?

Preschool is widely available from age 2.5 up, in English, English-Arabic, French, or English-Arabic-French. I don't know of many daycares, but nannies are widely available and fairly inexpensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. There are gym programs for kids as young as 12 months, and for older kids there is soccer, baseball, Tae Kwan Do and others.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large. There are expats from all over the world, between the embassies, the UN, and other foreign workers there's a huge English-speaking expat community.

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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?

Jordan has a lot of nightlife, we have several single friends who enjoy it very much.

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3. Morale among expats:

Morale is very high.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families, good for couples, okay for singles.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not. The country is 90% Muslim, and although Jordanians are relatively progressive they would be unlikely to embrace open homosexuality.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. This is arguably the most progressive Arab country, but it's still the Middle East. Hatred for Jews is fairly open and accepted, mistreatment of people of African descent is common. Arab Christians and women are treated as inferior as a matter of course.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Petra, Wadi Rum, and Jerusalem.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Roman ruins, ancient desert castles, the Dead Sea, Petra, Aqaba, Israel. There's a lot to see and do, and it's easily accessible.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Syrian furniture and glass.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The weather in Amman is great. Travel in Jordan is easy and there are several good day/weekend trips.

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11. Can you save money?

If you choose to, but you can also spend a great deal of money. One night in the nicest hotel in Jordan is half of what you'd pay in Dubai, but you can easily spend $300/week on groceries.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

In a heartbeat.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bike (Amman is very hilly).

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, water bottles, and sunglasses. And your winter coat, believe it or not you'll need it in January!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you wanted a Middle Eastern experience but were afraid of the Middle East, Jordan would be the perfect post. It has a lot of the nice qualities of the Middle East with few of the negatives...it is as many like to say "Middle East lite." I would live here again with no hesitation.

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