Making it in Jordan is harder for… Jordanians

So, today I’m mourning the loss of  a lovely lady whom I didn’t get to know nearly well enough.  She is moving with her family back to the US.  Barely a few years ago, she moved here.  Now she’s given up and gone back.  If bringing home educated, top of their profession people is Brain Gain for Jordan… what is losing them?  Brain Drain Deja Vu?  This year has seen me saying goodbye to numerous friends.  I know at least 5 families that gave up and went back to the US.  And, nearly universally, the ones having the biggest problems living in Jordan were the Jordanians.

In couples where one is Jordanian and one American, the Jordanian is almost always more frustrated and has a more difficult time living in the reality that is Jordan.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a number of Americans hate it here.  But it seems like it’s even harder for the Jordanians who lived many years abroad and then returned.  We’ve found that.  With El 3atal, the time he spent traveling to Dubai helped keep him sane.  Working in Jordan, staying in Jordan, living in Jordan seems to drive him a bit crazy.

The funny thing is that while living in Jordan can be very difficult (and certainly simple things are much more difficult) in some ways it can also be easier.  It takes a while to get your footing.  But, as an American, you should be able to find a group of friends with similar interests.  I’ve got a couple of different support groups of lovely ladies whom I enjoy greatly.  In fact, if we moved I would mourn the distance from such great friends.  I can think, off the top of my head, of at least 10 ladies that I would miss on a weekly basis.  El 3atal has fewer close friends.  In some ways, I think it’s harder to find affinity groups when you’re “at home”.  For me, I started out trying to find a way into local groups of ladies.  You know, moms in the class, that kind of thing.  But Jordan, much like my home state of Alabama, is a bit of a closed society.  It takes alot of pushing to find an in.  I’m not so much into pushing.  So, I’m friendly with the Beans’ friends parents, but I haven’t pushed my way into friendship circles with them.

Instead I found, as many do, that I shared the most in common with others like me.  American ladies with Jordanian husbands, Christians living in a Muslim land, people like that.  I’ve found that finding other people straddling two worlds has created natural affinities.  I find that there are some ladies in the group who I would be friends with in any country.  It just so happens that having something in common in Jordan made it easier to find each other.

Once you’ve found friends, I also think that life gets more comfortable.  That may be something that makes it harder for the Jordanians that come back.  Work life is hard as much of what they’ve done abroad is discounted as not being of great value.  Those who attain high-profile positions in the rest of the world suffer from the “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” syndrome.  And, then socially it’s hard to find a way back in.  They had friends in school, but they likely found it hard to remain close.  As you move out into the world, you have a very different set of experiences than those who remain back home (wherever back home is).  It doesn’t mean that one set is better, it’s just that you are exposed to different things.  So, fitting back into groups of which you were once a part can be very difficult.  Finding new friends can also be very challenging as you’re the one who is “home” and affinity groups are harder to find.  I’m not are of any on-line groups of men who lived abroad for ten or more years and then returned.  Are there such groups?  How would you find them?  So, it’s a slow process of finding friends one by one.  And the chances of finding the ones who really would be your friends anywhere is much harder.

Bottom line, I think that making it in Jordan after life away from it is a tough proposition all around.  You have become accustomed to a different work environment, a different social environment, a more independent life.  Coming home can feel at once lonely and stifling.  As Jordan contemplates its future, one of the issues it needs to address is finding ways to make those who live abroad and decide to return comfortable in being here.  Because, the mass-exodus of people leaving Jordan (again) that I’ve seen lately is troubling.  The lady leaving this week is a journalist.  She’s smart, savvy, ethical, and committed.  Can you imagine anyone that Jordan needs more?  I can’t.  I hope we’ll all find ways to make reintegration easier…

Happy repatriation!

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11 thoughts on “Making it in Jordan is harder for… Jordanians

  1. I’ve noticed this too, Momma Bean, and I was really surprised.

    That’s not to say that I didn’t have a difficult time adjusting (and sometimes still do), but DH is miserable in Jordan – much more than I am.

    Connecting with the ladies group makes a difference for me, no matter how infrequently I can join in on activities.

    But I also wonder if it is a matter of expectations? We knew that moving to a foreign country would be challenging at best. We were at least slightly prepared for it.

    But I wonder if our native hubs idealized their homes all the years abroad? I find that I idealize home now. And – OK – going back home IS wonderful, but living abroad is also changing us. It is likely that living abroad changed our hubs as well. They perhaps came back and found that home wasn’t quite what they remembered all the years they were away.

    One of the ways I clearly remember my hub idealizing home was when we were shopping. Specifically, I remember the “ketchup rants.” He would go on and on about how in the U.S. there were so few brand choices – Heinz, Hunts, a few other less popular brands and generics. “In Jordan,” he would say… and talk about the shelves being lined with more ketchup brands than I could ever imagine. Then he would switch to shampoos – so many more choices “in Jordan.” Much more variety on the shelves, he would say.

    Coming here, I wasn’t seeing it. OK, there ARE a lot of ketchup brands, but nothing really appealing to me – you don’t see me comparing my options between all of the regional ketchups. Shampoos – definitely not. I mean, was he kidding or something?

    Perhaps his shopping rants were about finding brands that were familiar to him, what he liked as a kid – idealizing.

    • Emi, absolutely the case. I agree they sort of idealized home (as we all do). In addition, I think they both expected greater changes in the frustrating parts of living here and expected lesser changes in the things they loved. I think both turned out to be false. I’m totally with you on this one, I intentionally set low expectations for myself and was pleasantly surprised ;). And the ladies group has a lot to do with it. But I didn’t find them for a bit over a year and didn’t get really integrated for maybe 2 years… It’d be interesting to see how we’d feel living in the US again. I’d imagine making friends might be a challenge ;).

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  3. I know before I went to Jordan, I had idealized it and when I got there the reality was much harder to cope with. I did end up coming back to the US after a year but I think I will try again…someday.

    Adjusting to a new place and lifestyle takes time and patience and sometimes it’s hard to find them.

    • Winter, indeed. It is hard to adjust and many end up heading back. I hope you will try again someday and, more importantly, I hope the country will be ready for you!

  4. I recently went back to the states due to some of the reasons you mentioned in your post and many more: Exorbitant school fees was my number one reason, poor customer services, chaos every where you go to do something, people cut the line infront of you, people are always angry about something, and yes illegal parking every where bothered me a lot in addition to too many suicidal drivers. There are other secondary reasons such as not being able to find american made personal care products, and cheating at the gas pumps, and not getting back the correct change, but these were silly reasons if compared with some of the main others.

    • Max, I know where you’re coming from. School fees for local-style schools are close to what you’d pay for private schools in the US… but the international schools, Yikes! Customer service continues to be a struggle in a country where people honestly have a tough time getting why the customer is important. Sorry you ended up back in the US, as we need more of us here in Jordan, but I can certainly understand it ;).

  5. I’m here, I am struggling. I think my husband left his mind back in the US. September will be one year for us here, just wondering when, and if, it will get better. I always loved vacationing here, but living here is very different.

    • Sherry, living here is definitely very different than visiting. I think all of us go through that. For me, just past the one year mark was really my turning point. In part, I found a group of friends, got to know people, and found a little niche for myself ;). Not sure how that process has gone for you. If you haven’t found a place yet, drop me an e-mail (mommabean at windowslive dot com) and we’ll see if we can’t get you plugged in somewhere! I’ve got a variety of different networks of people to fit most interests, so maybe we can find the right fit for you!

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