How Many Plugs Does One Country Need?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Having lived in the Middle East for over a year-and-a-half, I feel like I've adjusted fairly well to the differences between life in Jordan and life in the United States. Yet there is one thing that I still have a hard time with—call it continual culture shock, if you will—and that's Jordan’s lack of electrical plug identity.

Now you're probably asking, lack of electrical...what? Let me explain what I mean. In my house, I have no fewer than three different types of electrical plugs: British 3-pin (Type G), European 2-pin (Type C) and Old British 3-pin (Type D). When I first moved to Jordan, the plugs in my first house also included German 2-pin (Type F) and Italian 3-pin (Type L).

The variety of outlets has necessitated an ongoing hunt for the perfect extension cord—an all-purpose cord that will meet my electrical input needs. It's hard to find a decent extension cord without paying 20JD or more. It's easy to find extension cords that feature a lot of a single outlet style, or ones that have too few of a variety of outlet styles, but I'm having a hard time finding a good combination of the two.

Along with extension cords, I also have amassed a collection of outlet adapters that should accommodate my every electrical need. Unfortunately, most of these adapters are cheap Chinese-manufactured junk, which means they either don't work from the start, break easily, or don't keep a tight connection.

But it's not just the wide variety of outlets that bothers me, but also the scarcity of outlets in my house. One outlet per wall in a house is not sufficient enough to power the plethora of electrical devices and fixtures that I own. I eventually have to resort to daisy-chaining extension cords together in order to supply the room with enough electricity to power everything. Not to mention, there are no electrical outlets in the bathrooms, which was fine in 1960 before we began using electrical razors, hair dryers, curling irons and other electrical bathroom necessities.

If I had to rate the effectiveness of an electrical plug/outlet system, I would do so based on the following criteria:

  • the plugs must remain reasonably small
  • the plugs must remain firmly in the outlet
  • the plugs must be grounded
  • outlets must have at least two inputs for accessibility

The only plug that meets all of these criteria is the Type B plug used in North, Central and South America and Japan. I've used plugs and outlets from all over the world and can say that the Type B outclasses the others by far.

I know there is no solution to this problem. Everyone seems to think that their plugs are the best, so no one is willing to give up their style in favor of another. And if by some miracle a global standard was introduced, the cost to replace all the existing plugs would be astronomical.

So it turns out that there is no hope for my electrical culture shock (pun intended). My only resort is to grumble under my breath as I wrestle with cords, adapters and loose plugs that continually fall out of scarce wall outlets.


Anonymous salam said...

And to top it all, you can never seem to find a good dependable adapter for all these plugs..thanks for writing about this:)

2/19/2007 9:30 AM  
Anonymous kinzi said...

Dave, you must be a prophet, my husband was wrestling with the plug for the microwave AGAIN yesterday. The cheap Chinese plug has a plastic covering that melted into the outlet.

Every outlet in our house has a jury rig of several adapters to make it work, and as I look around his office, there is a spaghetti like mess of cords everywhere.

MommaBean and I were talking about this last week, I bet she will laugh (or cry) when she reads it. My husband will be relieved he isn't the only one messing with this!

2/19/2007 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Mazz said...

i hear ya! but in the end all i care about is for the plugs to be grounded. other than that i always seem to find the proper adapted which i shouldn't need. you'll get used it.
just pray to God that we don't develop our own standard and have one more adapter to buy...

2/19/2007 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Batir said...

This is a fantastic oportunity for any influential businessman who wants to gain profit. He can use his powers to issue new national standards that limits plugs to one kind which he will be the only importer. This is the only methodology in Jordan to get things organized.

2/19/2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

"One outlet per wall in a house is not sufficient enough"
Count yourself lucky if you have that many! My last place had barely one per room, and none of them grounded!

2/19/2007 1:06 PM  
Anonymous jameed said...

the lack of standardized equipment is not only limited to plugs, although i have been discussing this same issue with my wife for the last week. but at least you know that whatever plug you use in jordan, you will get 220V. in s. korea, i discovered that you can either get 110 or 220, at least until they phase out their older 110 network.

2/19/2007 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Firas said...

Well Dave, this issue has been discussed before with the national institute of standards (or something like that) , it's mostly engineers who has been complaining about this.

Do you really wanna know what their reply was? (as far as I remember)

1. It's too late, and would cost a lot to adopt one type
2. We just want to make it easier for Jordanian dealers to get goods from any source,factory,country.
3. Get yourself an adapter,extension cord,plug, it's not rocket science.

Anyways, I'm starting to think it's a governmental conspiracy aiming to promoting detachment of materialistic and earthly things. Let me explain, so you get your self a nice new Plasma TV, you are so excited, you go home only to discover that it got some weird plug,it's 11pm and you don't feel driving around looking for an what you do? You take the scissors and cut the thing, then take the bare cable and plug it in the wall,so if you don't get sparked, you'll live with the pain of ruining a bran new plasma TV, thus you become less attached to materialistic things.

[ok, your word verification thing is just evil] TAKE 5

2/19/2007 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Mazz said...

dewd, this post actually remained in my head for a bit. so i head over to our IT Manager, and i ask him about what the best PDU "Power Distribution Unit" or extension cord for other was. he showed me this massive 8 plug PDU. each plug is compatible with everything but what the pasta making italians use! but here's the catch, while it may last you a life time, it's for 25 JD's. and that's the whole sale price. but i think it's worth it. in my bedroom, i have a need for the following plugs
2 Type G plugs "PC, Sound System"
9 Type C plugs "aquarium lightsx2, Bio-Filter, Air pumpsX2, laptop, creative 4.1 speakers, Aquarium heater and my two massive 500 watt Hal-lights on a stand"
1 2pin that's tightly aligned into a triangle "i think it's French" for my external HDD.
so in total, i have 12 plugs in one room in my house. still feel like complaining?

and yes, your word verification IS evil.

2/20/2007 1:03 PM  
Blogger Dave said...


That is exactly what I am looking for, except for the price. ;) I hate to pay JD25 for such a thing, but it may be what I have to do.

As for the word verification, I agree; it's evil. But it's a necessary evil, unfortunately, in order to ward away spammers.

2/20/2007 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny funny stuff. When I was living in Jordan (over 20 years ago), my Dad was so enraged by this, he had me replace every plug on every device we owned to make them match. This is just Funny. You can do the same, buy some plugs wholesale, and every time you buy a new device, just replace the stinkin plug. I bet it would be cheaper and in a way safer.

Roll Tide.

3/06/2007 10:06 PM  
Blogger Claire in Tuba-Town said...

Wow, thanks for the information. I'll be traveling to Jordan in a few weeks and was wondering about what kind of relationship my blowdryer and I would be having in that time. Much more complicated than expected! Thanks for the heads up!

9/27/2007 3:59 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

I've been going nutZ trying to find out if I should take my new little Netbook with me on my upcoming trip to Jordan the end of October. After reading these posts, I think I'll leave this little dude home. Sounds like a gaggle of plug adapter types. I've traveled all over, but I do believe Jordan wins first place for seemingly having such a symphony of different plugs! Oh, well, I'll just use a butane curling iron, and forget the elec one. As for my Netbook; I just hope the hotels will have Internet access. Do most of them? Thanks for the heads up on potential elec. hair-puller-outers.

10/07/2009 2:22 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Patricia, you should be fine if you want to bring your Netbook to Jordan. In fact, I recommend it. Just make sure you have an adapter. I recommend the European round 2-pin adapter, as it is the most common. It also fits in the British 3-pin socket if you take a key and release the socket safety catch.

As for electronics in general, just make sure to check the device (or the plug) to make sure it works in the range of 110-240 volts. If it does, you can just use an adapter without having to lug around a heavy converter. But if it is 110v only, don't even try to plug it in without a converter; you'll fry your device instantly.

Some hair dryers and curling irons have a small switch on them that allows you to switch from 110 to 220v. If yours has that, you won't have any problems. Most mid- to high-range hotels in Jordan have hair dryers standard in the rooms.

As for internet, Jordan is just getting to the place where Wi-Fi is gratis, and then it is mostly in some restaurants and cafes. Hotels generally don't offer free internet but then again, it's been a while since I've stayed in a Jordanian hotel. :)

10/07/2009 5:16 PM  

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