Say hello to Rachel, a mother of a boy, married to a Jordanian, expecting her 2nd child. She has been living in Jordan for about 3 years and talks about the things she likes and doesn’t like so much about being in Jordan. Rachel recently started her own YouTube channel – Mummy in Amman – in addition to her blog talking about life as a mom, learning Arabic, learning to cook the Arabic cuisine, and other topics about living in Amman, Jordan. Thanks for her contribution to the blog!
If you like this article, don’t forget to check the other guest posts about expatriate life in Jordan from a Canadian, Italian, German, Irish, Japanese, French, Spaniard or American, and make sure read my The Ultimate Guide to Living in Jordan as Expat.
Four things I like about life in Jordan
The passion for dance and music
I’ll never forget my second day in Jordan. To celebrate my husband returning home with a PhD, the family closed the street and set up a marquee. Around 300 men sat around chatting and eating in the marquee and about 100 women were invited up onto the roof of the villa (we could look down and spy on the men but they couldn’t see us). Music blared out of the speakers and neighbours leaned out of their windows to join in. It was my first taste of the Arab party spirit and in the hazy desert night with twinkling lights and smiles everywhere I immediately felt at home.
Late into the night when the guests had gone and it was just the family, tribal songs started up and about 30 men, women, and children were dancing and chanting and singing in the living room with absolutely zero inhibitions. It was so refreshing. The thing is that Arabs don’t really need an occasion to start singing and dancing, they’re triggered by the slightest thing and coming from a very prohibitive, quiet, quaint English background… it’s absolutely bloody lovely to see.
The family dynamic
I lived with my in-laws for two years and got a real sense of the family dynamic during that time. It’s loud, it’s obtrusive, it’s fun, it’s communal, and it’s honest. But I’ve got to know it even better since moving out and having a child. My son is raised by the entire family, and there’s a little something of everyone in him.
But it’s not just their love of children that’s so wonderful, it’s also their immediate and innate desire to help and support one another. In England, we’ve lost some of that family spirit that keeps people close and it’s something I never realised I had missed out on until I got here, and I’m so glad I’ve had the honour to be absorbed into an Arab family.
The traditions of Arabic cuisine
One of the first things that broke the ice between me and my mother in law was her love for feeding and my love for eating. We bonded over preparing food together and her teaching me recipes – something that we didn’t need a common language for, but that helped me hugely in learning Arabic.
Arabic food is so rooted in family and community. You don’t make wara aynab for just two people. You band together in a team and you make a mountain of little rice stuffed cigars and you spend all day doing it! And that’s what’s so lovely about it, the community aspect. And it’s damn tasty.
This is particularly true for mansaf, the national dish, which is made to be enjoyed by many and ought to be eaten off the same platter rather than individual plates.
I hated mansaf when I first got here, but something about the experience of eating it made that cooked sour yoghurt grow on me (in a good way!).
The first recipe I learned was makloubeh and I’ll never forget the moment the reins were handed over and I was finally allowed to cook it for the family on my own. So much pressure and so much pride!
This is quite a specific thing, but I often find myself telling people about the great cleaning system here. In England, we’re trained to keep water outside of the house, and generally tiled floors are cleaned with a damp mop. In Jordan, however, there’s a drainage hole in every room, and the floors are often all tiled, so if you don’t have carpet down you can just slosh water everywhere and give the floor a really thorough clean. It’s such a great system!
Four things I don’t like so much about life in Jordan
Kids not wearing seatbelts
I’ll start this list of negatives off with a bang. The majority of babies and children are not restrained while in the car, and it makes me boil.
There is a clear law that says they should be adequately restrained in the back, but it doesn’t go into further detail and it is not upheld in the slightest. It’s fairly common place to see a dad driving his toddler on his lap, or a mother holding a heavily swaddled new-born in the passenger seat, and of course, not a seatbelt in sight.
No postal system & no addresses
Being a Brit, I am profoundly proud of our Royal Mail. I doubt I’d ever given it much thought until I started travelling and was shocked that not all countries have a comparable postal system, but Jordan really takes the biscuit. Being mostly landlocked and surrounded by conflict, Jordan is, in some ways, quite isolated from the rest of the world. However, it also does not have an address or functioning street-name system, which is a whole other drama in itself. This means you need to pay for a PO Box, and may be subject to shocking and arbitrary import taxes on certain products.
In our experience, all our packages end up at the sorting office which is the other side of the city and you have to go through all kinds of bureaucracy to actually obtain your post, including describing the contents while a police officer the other side of a glass booth unpacks it for you. It’s laborious at best. We’ve had several packages never arrive and never get returned to the sender, and just recently discovered that a package sent in time for Christmas had arrived at our PO Box, had been opened, looked at, replaced in the box, and sent back to the sender in the UK back in January without even the decency of taping it back up (let alone notifying us of its arrival). The sender received a Royal Mail Box two months after sending the package with a letter stating that the contents had been returned in the condition they found it in – of course everything was smashed to pieces. Thanks, Jo Post!
The (lack of an) electrical system
Jordan doesn’t have a specific electrical system so one house might have every single electrical outlet on the market but the system can’t necessarily handle all the plugs. This means you will often see sparks and melting plugs receive electric shocks, or – like what happened to me last week – a plug might explode right out of the socket, leaving half of it behind in the wall.
Tiny checkouts at supermarkets
Logic tells me that the size of a shop should be reflected in the size of their checkouts. However, regardless of the size of the grocery shop, it will have the same sized mini conveyor belt, and the aisle itself is so narrow that you and your trolley have to line up, making unpacking it hard work. This is the case for the giant two-floor Carrefour in City Mall that stocks everything from iPhones to cabbages to parasols, so doing a family shop that inevitably ends with an impossibly over-loaded trolley can leave you feeling like you’re pushing an elephant up the stairs, or rather, through a mouse hole.
There are of course many pros and cons of living in Jordan, but it is our home of choice and we’d choose it any day of the week over England!
One of Rachel’s Videos teaching how to make Galayat Bandora and Mtabbal
If you enjoyed reading this article, make sure to check the other posts in this series about life in Amman.