Thursday, February 12, 2009

West Side Story

The search is over. We have an an apartment.

I my friends, am a man of simple needs. Give me a decent apartment with decent furnishings at a good price and location, plasma tv, sound system, playstation and I am easily satisfied.

My wife on the other hand is French and is not so easy to satisfy. We just about burned through an army of real estate agents and 80% of the rentals in Amman over the past 2 weeks because Elodie has what I would describe to the poor unfortunate souls helping us out as ‘Picky European Female Tastes.’

So just to describe to all of you who only see the Middle East through CNN, Amman is a very safe and modern city with a cool climate. It actually snows in January and February (although due to global warming, those days may now be over). It is like the Denver of the Middle East because it is so high in altitude (They call it the kilometer high city in arabic...just kidding).

Before moving to Jordan, I read a lot of posts about the best places to live in Amman and I think it all depends on what type of experience you are looking for. If you want the locals experience, you live in the East side where the buildings are crumbling and the products that you buy are all imported from China. If you are an expat, a working professional, or a wealthy businessman, you live in the West side. There, all the buildings are new and the products that you buy are all imported from South Korea.

So.. back to the real estate agents (poor things). The apartments in Jordan are built more for function rather than form so its hard to get a building that doesn’t look like it was built out of cement Legos. For the support of Korea exporting, we chose the West Side.

So we were taken to apartments in the West Side of town and we would bludgeon the hapless agents by pointing out the flaw in each place that they proudly presented to us.

The apartment conversations could usually be broken down like this:

Agent: Look this apartment has a view!
Us: A view of a parking lot is not exactly what we had in mind.

Agent: Look this apartment has new furniture!
Us: It looks like Arabian nights meets Saturday Night Fever (A spanish friend here coins it as Disco Rococo).

Agent: Look this apartment is walking distance to shopping!
Us: Walking distance to a canned food shop is not what we had in mind.

So we went through one, two, three, four, five agents. One day turned into two. Then three, then four. One week, now two. We were getting so many calls from Mohammeds that we actually had to ask ‘Which Mohammed are you?’

We finally narrowed it down to two choices and took a final viewing. One agent was a rich playboy who’s parents owned the Max Mara fashion chain in Jordan. The other agent was a ‘from the streets of Chicago’ Jordanian re-immigrated to Amman. After visiting the property of the Max Mara one, he dropped us off at the property being shown by the Chicago street agent. Suddenly I heard growls. Stares. Mad Dog looks and fighting stances. Agent vs Agent combat was about to ensue. These guys were ready to throw down!

Luckily for us, the two did not throw fisticuffs, but I think that in the right circumstance it could have happened if we all stepped out of the car and let the two debate in front of us the benefits of going with their properties.

So here we were at the final property. Its perfect. Its on the roof. Its got a full view of Amman below. It got a huge kitchen. Its new. Its too expensive. Damn.

The financial crisis effecting all of us is really, really a terrible thing for all of us to experience. Might as well turn those lemons into lemonade. When traveling abroad, you get to see the real survival instincts of your partner come out. She wanted this apartment and she would stop at nothing. First Elodie said she wanted it for 25% less. Done. Then she asked for a queen sized bed. Done. Then she asked for a gas bbq (she asked this for me because I was too much of a coward). They pleaded for a charcoal bbq. They folded. Gas it is. Every time they said no to her demands, she would come back and say that the neighbor with the empty rental apartment said they would do it for us. Man! I would just cringe while listening to her during the negotiations.

So here we have it folks:

The view from our new apartment with a spare bedroom for guests:

See you in Jordan!


  1. does elodie read what you write? half the time you are bagging on her.. hahaha


  2. Félicitation, great negotiations !!!

  3. For us guys our skin is too thin for this kind of negotiations. Congrats on the apartment, it looks great.

  4. elodie rocks. sounds like she knows how to take care of bizness.