Before departing for Jordan, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I have had conversations with my Arabic professor and CET alumni from my university, alongside reading various blog posts, but no amount of preparation could truly prepare me for how different Jordan is than anything I had experienced in the past. Before Jordan, my only international experiences were in Northern Europe, which is still vastly different from the US, but still nothing like Jordan. Here are five things that have surprised me about studying in Amman, Jordan.
The people in Jordan are nicer than anywhere else I’ve been. I grew up in the Midwest, which is known for “Midwest nice.” Regardless, the kindness of Jordanians has surprised me. To practice my Arabic, I commonly strike up conversations with taxi drivers or Uber drivers, shopkeepers, and generally just new people I meet. Commonly I am met with, “Wow! Your Arabic is so good,” and questions about why I chose to study Arabic. Some of the best restaurants I’ve been to I’ve learned about from conversing with Jordanians. Additionally, people are commonly interested in learning more about the US. I’ve had conversations about differences between universities in the US and Jordan, the price differences, and even how many different cultures there are across the US.
Me and my language partner, a local Jordanian
I knew the prices would be far cheaper than the US equivalent– but I didn’t expect just how much. To save money, I planned to cook a lot and rarely eat at restaurants or order delivery. While grocery shopping is cheaper, it is still not very expensive to eat at restaurants or ordering delivery. In the US, you can very rarely find prices under $15 for a sit-down restaurant. However, in Jordan, it is quite difficult to spend more than 5 JOD, or about $7. Because of our busy schedules, many students will often grab lunch from a stand on the street (which commonly comes out to about 1 JOD). My favorite spot for lunch is a falafel stand near the CET Center, where a falafel sandwich costs just 0.65 JOD. For dinner, my roommate and I occasionally cook, order delivery, or go to a restaurant with our friends.
The menu at my favorite falafel stand
As comfortable as I am with the hustle and bustle of a large city, the streets of Amman were vastly different than I expected. Due to my experience in Northern Europe, I was used to very pedestrian-friendly streets. However, Amman is exactly the opposite. It is tough to walk around the city, and oftentimes, I resort to walking in the street since the sidewalks are covered with short trees, bushes, and uneven bricks. Additionally, the streets are always packed with cars, with lots of honking and tight spaces.
The view of a street close to my apartment
Wow! I absolutely love the food here in Jordan. Naturally, you have everything Jordanian and Middle Eastern, like hummus, falafel, knaffeh, shawarma, and mansaf. However, there is so much more variety available than I expected. Of course, you have your big chains like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and KFC to give you a taste of home. However, there are also plenty of burger joints, pizza shops, pasta restaurants, and more. One thing to note, however, is foreign cuisine is often slightly more expensive than going to a traditional restaurant.
Alongside the vast variety, one thing that surprised me about Jordan is the restaurant and café culture. Bread is served for free with nearly every meal, whether you ordered kebab, mansaf, hummus, or something else. Alongside a basket of bread are often some vegetables, such as pickles, pickled carrots, and celery. One thing that surprised many people was the requirement to pay for water– however, this is because tap water isn’t safe to drink, so you must drink bottled mineral water (which is still much cheaper than in the US).
The food spread at our CET welcome dinner
Additionally, café culture is vastly different than in the US. While you have some similarities, like cafés being a common study spot, there are also differences. When going to a café, you will often find decks of cards and games being played. Additionally, many people will be smoking shisha, or hookah. Cafés here are much more social gathering places than back home in the US– and I love it.
One thing that greatly surprised me about Amman was the everlasting presence of mall culture. There are tons of malls across Amman, and several are close to each other. When you go to the mall, there are so many people and stores open – much contrary to the US. Additionally, there are tons of fruit and vegetable stores on every corner (خضرجي). These stores are by far the best place to get fruit and vegetables, as they are the cheapest and often have the freshest produce.
Although many more things surprised me about Amman than I could put in a single blog post, these were the five that surprised me the most. All this being said, however, the cultural differences are why I love and would highly recommend studying abroad in Jordan. I hope this blog post helps if you’re considering studying in Amman.