Over our time in Jordan I have developed several perceptions of Jordanian life & culture...I don't say "observations" because that might indicate that these things are unbiasedly true, which they may be, but I only am aware of my own perceptions.
So, without further ado, here is Jordan through my eyes:
- They love to add their two cents to your parenting...even the men. Every time I go out, the security guard or trash man or shop owners or random ladies have to comment that the kids aren't dressed warm enough or need their hat on or shouldn't be sitting a certain way in the grocery cart, etc. They usually tell me these things in Arabic with a few Enlish words sprinkled in, so I just smile and pretend they're saying something nice and move on. They aren't being not nice, just nosy.
- They have no concept of respecting your personal "viewable" space...Not sure how else to phrase that, but the point is: People will stare at you unashamedly and continue staring even after you've spotted them staring, and will not look away. If you try to stare them down into the submission of averting their eyes, you will end up having a staring contest--and you will lose. This issue is always a bit disconcerting to me; it makes me uncomfortable. It's very un-Western.
- Gas prices are uniform at every gas station across the country, and prices do not fluctuate. They have been the same now for six months, and counting.
- Hair salons are called "saloons," and are for men. I know that they have salons for women, but I have not yet seen one...Probably because they have to be private so that the general public is not exposed to the letting down of a woman's hair? Men's saloons are everywhere, however.
- Stores have the funniest names...What would you anticipate is sold at a store called "Baby and Lady"? To me, I would expect it to be a baby clothing and maternity store; but nope, it's shoes and bags! There also is the "Whatever Outlet," "Needs Supermarket," the store advertising "Open 8 days a week!" (where are they finding an extra day each week??!!), etc. There's also the "Ladies Fat Breaking Gym." The "True Value Home & Garden" store, with the same font/logo as in the States, surprisingly is a toy store, with a sprinkling of camping and blow-up pool supplies. I know this is juvenile, but our favorite store name is "Haboob."
- They still have real, old-school tailors and shoe smiths, working out of hole-in-the-wall shops packed with supplies. I feel like I've traveled backward in time every time I see one, and I love it!
- They don't seemed concerned with quality or presentation, but simply do things for adequate functionality. I say this as a generality, and does not apply to every situation. To their credit, they can rip up, grade, and pave a huge section of road in less than a day (where the same section in the States might take a week), and build a massive apartment building in a matter of weeks.
- People are extremely hospitable. A taxi driver invited us to his house for dinner after meeting us for 5 minutes. Sweet shops always hand out free cookies. When shopping in the souk, almost every shop keeper offers tea, coffee, soda, water, etc.
- They seem to attach no gender value to colors. I will consistently be asked if Safita is a boy or girl, even when she's wearing a pink outfit. I also have noticed little boys dressed in purple, etc.
- There are lots of Asian/Polynesian/Philippino nannies and housekeepers about that accompany their employing families out and about. I've been told that Jordanians will not do this type of work and so they hire people of other ethnicity for the jobs