Before coming to Geneva in 2010 I had worked in several different cities. But Geneva is the place where I have stayed the longest – six years and counting. It is also the only expat location that I have been to with a child.
A confession – during first months and even years in Geneva I did not really appreciate it very much. But slowly slowly it has grown on me. What I wanted to share with you today is my list of Geneva’s highs and lows:
Geneva at its best:
- Multiculturalism is definitely one of Geneva’s forte. Almost half (48 per cent, 2013) of the city’s population are foreigners coming from almost every country in the world. Quite amazing! I like the fact that my daughter’s school friends come from such diverse backgrounds – a great way to learn about and accept diversity!
- This might come as a surprise but Geneva has a lot to offer in terms of events for children/families. Check Geneva Family Diaries – a web site with all sorts of useful stuff, including listings of child-friendly restaurants, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, museums, exhibitions and what not.
- It’s very conveniently located – close to the mountains (sports!) and not too far from the seaside (Italy, France) – with good connections to the rest of Europe/world. It’s airport can be reached from the central railway station Gare Cornavin in seven minutes and Paris is just a bit more than a three-hour train ride away. Not to forget the numerous holiday destinations in Switzerland – there is something for every season.
- Geneva is small (population less than 200,000) and easy to navigate. This does not mean the absence of traffic jams, especially in the rush hour (including in public transport), but rather that one can easily get around the city centre on foot/by bike. It is also relatively safe, although it has the highest crime rate in Switzerland.
- Not Geneva-specific but if you are a cheese lover, fondue and raclette are the absolute must in terms of Swiss cuisine, especially as it gets cooler.
This is also Geneva:
- On the flip side, the first shock one experiences as a new arrival is the scarcity of apartment rental options. Finding a place to live, usually rented out by one of the real estate agencies, can take a while. If in a hurry, the best bet is to visit and express interest in as many as possible (and keep fingers crossed). In the meantime, one can opt for a sub-let.
- Something you have probably heard before – Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Yes, in the world! After so many years here, I can still not get my head around spending insane amounts of money on my rent and groceries…
- Early child care options are extremely limited. It came as a complete surprise but I had to wait for my daughter to turn a year and a half before we got a part-time spot in the local crèche. And this despite the fact that I signed up when four months pregnant. Not an uncommon situation, unfortunately, and not much is being done to remedy it.
- Geneva is not very customer-friendly. Take the opening times, for example. Most of the shops close at 7 pm on weekdays (Thursday is an exception) and as soon as 6 pm on Saturdays. The only two bigger shops in Geneva open on Sundays are at the Gare Cornavin and at the airport.
This one does not fit in any of the above categories as it really depends on each individual – it can be extremely positive or all but that;-) Parlez-vous français? While one can get by without speaking much French in Geneva it is definitely a big plus to be able to communicate in the local language. And an excellent opportunity to learn to do so!