Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 12/10/13
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?
I've also lived in Dhaka, Geneva, and Singapore.
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?
An easy way to get here is to fly direct from Chicago. People also transit via Vienna.
3. How long have you lived here?
4 months. I still feel new.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I work for the U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most people live in apartments in small apartment buildings scattered throughout Abdoun and Dier Ghabar, about 10 minutes drive or less from the Embassy. People either walk, take a taxi, or drive to work.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get what you need here for a little more than in the States. You'll want to bring or order paper products (like in many places). Produce is mostly cheaper, depending on what you buy, but the quality really varies. Imported items cost quite a bit more, but sometimes you don't mind paying more when you really want something. There were turkeys in the grocery stores at Thanksgiving, and what you can't find locally you can get find at the Embassy co-op or order from Amazon for the most part.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Kids' clothes, winter clothes, more paper products, more formal work clothes.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
They have all your favorite American fast food restaurants in the malls here, for about the same price as in the States. Decent restaurants charge quite a bit, like US$40 for lunch for two. We don't go out to eat much. There's a drive-thru Starbucks near the Embassy. When I used it the other day, I rolled down my window and my youngest asked why it smelled outside. It's not perfect here, but things are modernizing. There's a Chili's with a play area that we like. We also like to get falafel sandwiches and hummus takeoutlocally, which is very affordable (like US$1.00/sandwich).
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I haven't seen any.
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?
It's more expensive than I expected. Filipinas mostly live out and charge US$600-700/month for 40 hours/week. The other most common nationality is Sri Lankan. If you are an American hiring a domestic, you tend to pay more. There are currently complications with bringing in domestics, so be sure you have all the proper paperwork in order if you plan to do so.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes but not sure how much they cost. The Embassy has a small gym. There's a fitness first down the street, and some people join the Orthodox club. I see flyers for all sorts of things like yoga, zumba, belly dancing, etc.
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 use them all the time. Most gas stations are cash-only, but a few take credit cards. I use my credit cards at the grocery stores or malls.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is common in the area where we live, but knowing some Arabic helps a lot.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
We have a family member with physical disabilities, and we do just fine in the parking garages, supermarkets and malls. It really isn't the kind of place where you want to take long walks down the street, so it doesn't bother us that the sidewalks are uneven and full of obstacles. Our apartment is one-level, and we are fortunate enough to have an accessible patio area and elevator to the parking garage. Our habits are to stay home quite a bit, and living with disabilties day to day, I suppose we've grown accustomed to figuring out solutions for getting around with a wheelchair, much like someone with a baby gets around with a stroller. In some places it doesn't work out too well; in other places you're just fine. It's not perfect but not terrible, either.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I use taxis to commute, and they are affordable. I pay about US$3.00/day on taxis, round trip.
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?
We have a 4x4 but we could get by just fine in town with a sedan. Not sure about outside of the city.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High speed internet is about US$700 for the year, and we had to pay up front. It is fast enough to stream videos from the U.S. When combined with a VPN, you can use Apple TV and Netflix.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
If you bring an unlocked phone, you can easily buy pre-paid sim cards. There are also phone plans like you would find in the states. I also like to use the free-talk app and majic jack for calling the U.S. and having a U.S. phone number.
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?
Most who want to work do so at the Embassy. Local wages are much lower.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dress code at work is like in Washington. In public, American women will need to dress slightly more conservatively than they would in the States. Keep a lightweight jacket or sweater handy for when you feel the need to cover up.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes indeed. The situation in Syria has caused an influx of refugees, which average Jordanians aren't thrilled about, creating an undercurrent of tension. There's an uneasiness about what might happen if the civil war in Syria worsens or if the U.S. takes drastic action. There is also a slight threat of terrorism towards the Embassy. At the same time, people here live fairly normally. We go to modern grocery stores and malls. We can take taxis easily. We can travel within the country to tourist sites. There are modern hospitals and medical offices. Crime is low.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
You need to drink filtered/boiled water. You can find most of what you need for medical care here.
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?
It's fine. Occasionally it gets a little dusty.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Climate reminds me of southern California. Hot dry summer, but bearable; moderate fall, and cool winter. Locals here dress up in their wool coats in the winter, but I'm fine most of the time in a lightweight jacket.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We use three different schools. Hill House Preschool and Kindergarten provides English and Arabic instruction and has small student-teacher ratio and a really nice shady playground. We couldn't be more pleased with it. Al-Masar is a special needs school that has both English and Arabic classrooms. They provide therapy within the school day and can even accommodate children with significant special needs. It is small and a fairly long drive from where embassy families live, but they can provide busing. It is a terrific resource if you need special education or outpatient pediatric therapy. American Community School is pretty good. They are constructing a swimming pool which will open in 2015. Some embassy families also like ICS which follows the British system. A few use Kings Academy, which is both a day and boarding high school. All will provide bus service from your doorstep.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
In addition to Al-Masar, ICS will accept children with moderate needs, and I think ACS is at least open to talking about it. ACS has a lot of stairs, though, but also an elevator.
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?
I mentioned Hill House preschool (above). Others use The Little Academy and Ecokids, and some also use ACS (which more expensive). Costs range in the neighborhood of US$6-8,000/school year for part-time.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, some. Don't expect competitive leagues (esp. swimming) like you would find in the U.S.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The Embassy community is large and fairly impersonal.
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?
Going to movies. Going to receptions at people's homes.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for families. The Embassy has a club, but the club venue will be changing in 2014 most likely. There is a huge construction project planned which will relocate the restaurant and pool. I think singles struggle here; not sure about couples. Despite the large expat community and club, I can't say that the community is close. People tend to do their own thing or only socialize with others from their own office. Speaking of the office, in some sections it tends to be a busy, workaholic atmosphere. There are many visitors here.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I doubt it; it's a Muslim society, albeit somewhat moderate.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Jordanians are very kind and welcoming. Tourist sites within Jordan and Israel are within driving distance. Jordan is a kingdom that places an emphasis on peace in the region and modernization. We haven't seen too many of the tourist sites yet, but we did enjoy the Royal Automobile Museum. Families with kids like the children's museum.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Carved olive wood items, carpets, handmade inlay wooden boxes, dead sea minerals products, trips.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather is gorgeous, so sunny and clear so much of the time. Not too humid. It cools off in the winter and rains/snows occasionally.
9. Can you save money?
Not sure, maybe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I would have known how busy my job would be and how expensive household help and preschool are here. I also wish I would have known about the Embassy renovation project and the changes planned for the club facilities. I wish I would have known not to expect a tight knit community (but that is OK).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I haven't decided yet; I'm still adjusting.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Suit for work.