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Interview with Sarah - An American expat in Jordan

Updated 8 Nov 2018

Sarah is a 29-year-old American woman living as an expat in Amman, Jordan. She has always loved travelling (having planned and booked her first solo trip to New York City when she was only 12 years old) and learning about people and cultures. Sarah has visited Italy, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Austria and Canada; but moving to Jordan is her first time living outside the United States.

She views every day of expat life as a learning experience and a chance to be a blessing to others. In her free time, Sarah enjoys singing, photography and video creation and editing. Follow her adventures on her Instagram or YouTube channel.

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Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I am originally from Charleston, South Carolina.

Q: Where are you currently living?

A: Amman, Jordan.

Q: When did you move here?

A: I moved to Jordan in September 2018.

Q: Is this your first expat experience?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?

A: I moved alone.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?

A: I moved partly for work (I’m a private English tutor). My boyfriend also lives here (he’s Jordanian) and I wanted to experience his native culture first hand.

Living in Amman

Q: What do you enjoy most about Amman? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?

A: I love the food! In Jordan, food is like their love language. 

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?

A: It’s not a negative exactly, but I moved from coastal South Carolina where everything is green and super lush. Jordan has it’s own rugged desert beauty, but sometimes I do miss the ocean and the green of home.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?

A: I’ve been really lucky that I haven’t experienced a ton of culture shock. I think this is partly due to the fact that I had a built-in support system from the moment I arrived (my boyfriend and his family). I think the biggest adjustment overall has been the language barrier. I’m in the process of learning Arabic, but there’s no way to become fluent overnight. I try to take all the language learning opportunities that I can, but also have grace for myself that learning this language is done a step at a time. Every new word is a small victory!

Q: How would you rate the public transport in your city? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?

A: I primarily travel around the city using Uber or a local app called Careem.

Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?

A: The best area in Amman for expats is probably West Amman. Khalda, Abdoun and Umm Uthainah are all really nice, even by American standards!

Meeting people and making friends in Jordan

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular groups?

A: All of the locals that I’ve interacted with have been very kind and tolerant. Many of them are anxious to show that they like Americans because they know that the news often portrays people from the Middle East as terrorists or radical. Occasionally, I do notice people staring at me, but this is because I have naturally blonde hair, which is a fairly unusual sight in Jordan.

Working in Amman

Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?

A: Getting a Visa into Jordan (as an American) is very easy. Initially, I just purchased a visa at the airport when I landed. After that, I can go to a local police station to have it renewed. If you are working for a recognized organization or business, it’s also very easy to apply for a work visa.

Final thoughts

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Jordan your city or country?

A: I would advise new expats to get out and explore the city and the culture. Don’t just hole up at home. Try to learn Arabic and use what you know when talking with locals. They really appreciate the effort (even if you only know a few words) and it will help you build confidence. 

If you are feeling culture shock, again don’t isolate yourself, but structure your days so they are a mix of one or two new experiences and the rest can be comfortable, familiar things (familiar food, favourite TV show, plenty of sleep, talking with a friend, etc). It gets easier every day, when the new things start to become your new normal.

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