Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/27/16
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, our 5th
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?
Washington D.C. transiting London, Frankfurt, or Vienna.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. 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?
The vast majority of housing is apartments. The apartments are large and pretty nice. You will feel like you are living in a white marble box. Most have two living spaces (traditionally one for men and one for women). You will need to request a ground floor if it is something you want. Lower your ground floor expectations. Regardless they are small and have limited grass. The housing isn't the best we've ever had but it isn't bad. Most places are super close to the Embassy and have neighborhood pharmacies and markets.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
EXPENSIVE. You will use your entire COLA and then some. US$10 box of cereal. US$4 for a liter of milk. Order what you can online. The local stores have everything, you will just pay through the nose. Meat Masters is the local butcher and it carries Australian and NZ grass fed beef. They are super helpful and friendly. The co op is well stocked but expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Wrapping paper (it's near impossible to find), scotch tape, birthday gifts for kid parties. Art or craft supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything from McDonald's to Popyes to Pizza Hut. ifood.jo does delivery which is awesome. However, the local food is amazing. ifood.jo delivers everything!
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants that seem to come out when it rains.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch. Takes 1-2 weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Readily available. If you are coming from Europe you will think help is cheap. If you are coming from Asia or Africa you will think it's expensive. Full time help,usually charge a flat monthly rate. Part time charges roughly 4JD/hr.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a small gym. There are several embassy spouses who do yoga or Pilates out of their homes.
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?
We have never had a problem
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
In Abdoun, where the embassy is, not much. Once you leave the neighborhood you will need some.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. There are some sidewalks but they stop suddenly or have landscaping plopped in the middle.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Cabs are fine but you need some Arabic.
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?
Anything goes. people have sedans, suv's, and minivans. There are really good and reliable mechanics that even do door to door service.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. We pay about US$60 a month.
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?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Um, yeah. Jordan likes to say it is an oasis of calm in a bad neighborhood. It's true to a point. I've never been concerned about petty crime. There is, however, a constant threat of terrorism and it's real. Syria is a stones throw away. I've been amazed by the number of people who are shocked or uninformed about the security situation when they arrive. Do your research before you come.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Allergies. Worrying about being injured in a car accident due to crazy drivers. Good medical care locally. We've been pleased. Doctors take their time with you and call for follow up later.
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 great at times , surprisingly. There is a large concrete factory nearby and you will see clouds of dust and funk rolling in. The olive trees, while cool, make for terrible allergies. I know of many people who had to go on allergy meds upon arrival. The apartment buildings are made of concrete and absorb moisture like a sponge which leads to mold in homes. My kids developed persistent coughs here that seem to disappear when we go away.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
You may develop allergies due to olive trees.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Beautiful weather. Most days are blue skies and zero humidity. Spring and fall are fabulous because you get some rain and nice breezes. Winter gets some snow but not too much. Summer is hot but dry. A wonderful change from hot and sticky D.C. Bring an umbrella, rain boots, and a winter coat.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most people send their kids to ACS and some send theirs to ICS and King's Academy.
People are split on ACS. My take is the teachers are great. We have been very happy with that side of things. The administration? Awful. That is actually the general consensus. They are remote, obtuse, out of touch, and a disappointment. The school is closed over 36 days a year for holidays and "development days". The administration seems more focused on the facilities aspect of the school than education. The library was turned into a "learning center" which just translates into computers and study pods. They left some books but I was underwhelmed. I hear that bullying is a huge problem but I can't speak to that first hand. My advice? Research all the options before choosing a school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ACS- none from what I have heard. They do have an amazing speech/language therapist but I'm not sure if they are replacing her when she leaves. ACS doesn't have gifted programs either. I asked about that but the Superintendent said they treat all kids like they are gifted. Totally false.
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?
There are tons of great preschools. I hear wonderful things about them all. The CLO has a complete list.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
I've heard of kids doing baseball and soccer.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Massive and growing. Morale is ok. Again, for many it's a sprinting marathon and it impacts morale.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I'd say best for couples. Hard for singles. Families? Maybe good 5 years ago. Before we came we heard what a great family list it was. I think times have changed. There is a massive construction project going on now that took away the pool and club which were central to embassy life. The playground was replaced, which is great. However, there is no longer space to ride bikes which is tough since Amman is not/not pedestrian friendly. There should be a small temporary pool soon but everything is in flux now. The embassy is busting at the seams and is just huge now. Adding to that is the work pace. It's just brutal and not family friendly. It's a war zone pace at a family post. Kind of a sprinting marathon. Be prepared.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Being able to visit Petra, float in the Dead Sea, see amazing ruins. Petra exceeds all expectations. It's just amazing. Bobbing in the a Dead Sea is a once in a lifetime experience. Jerash is definitely worth repeat visits. It's so well preserved it is as if it has been dipped in amber. Egypt is a quick flight away and not at all expensive. Visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are popular. Desert camping or "glamping" at a tented camp in Wadi Rum. Obviously travel is the highlight of Jordan.
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of nice day trips. Madaba, the Citadel, Jerash, the Scandanavian forest, downtown Amman, Aqaba, the Dead Sea, Jesus' baptism site, and of course, Petra. Eat at Hashems, Reem, Gerard ice cream, Arabic coffee, local street food, go to Rainbow Street. Wadi Rum.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Tea sets, daggers, tiles, mosaics, and Syrian furniture.
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Touring, weather, and food. There are lots of great trips within Jordan and Jordan is a great launch point for regional travel. The weather is close to perfect. The food is just so good.
8. Can you save money?
We have, but not as much as we thought we would.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That the driving would be a real stressor. That the embassy construction project would happen snack in the middle of our tour.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes but I'm glad we didn't extend. The good outweighs the bad here. The food is amazing. The travel opportunities are once in a lifetime. The weather is great. The Jordanian people are really wonderful and welcoming.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Dreams of saving a ton of money.
4. But don't forget your:
Patience, umbrellas, and desire to travel.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the Martian were filmed here.