Geneva, Switzerland Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland 07/11/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. My first was in Stuttgart, Germany, as an Army bride.

View All Answers


2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Boston, MA, but I gave up my US nationality because of FATCA. I became Swiss in 2006.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Since 1990.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I sent out over 800 CVs to get a job in Europe. I was sending them to France, thinking I could never get a work permit for Switzerland.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

My first house was a company flat in a village with 600 people and 6000 cows. Quite a change from Boston.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

More expensive. However, we have a second flat in the South of France where things are much cheaper. A recent tooth cap would have been around 2000 Euros in Switzerland and was 600 in France. Two countries allow us to do some savings. It is possible to cross the border from Geneva.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

TV tables. When I was first in Switzerland, I missed Oreos. I never ate them in the States, but suspect it was childish wanting what I couldn't have. I still miss raisin bagels.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

In Geneva almost every national food is available. In the South of France we are just beginning to see more international food.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

France's service when they privatized degraded. I say they consider addresses a suggestion. Switzerland's is more or less okay.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Again France is cheaper. Household help depends on the salaries of the expat.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

In Switzerland, and, yes.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There is a problem with US cards because unlike the rest of the world, many institutions have not adapted to the chip that have been common here for well over a decade.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

In Geneva, yes. There are at least three English-speaking churches. Even our little French village offers a once weekly English service during tourist season, or at least they did.

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more the better. In Geneva its 47% international so all languages can be heard almost daily. All kinds of language schools are available. In France, where I am, French is needed for technical/bureaucratic stuff. It is always better to get at least functional. The French do not expect Americans to speak English, so whatever little is done, they consider you wonderful.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Toilets in restaurants tend to be downstairs.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

In Geneva I didn't need a car from 1993 to 2013. I saved enough money to buy a small flat cash.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I'd say get a local car. If you are in a major European city, you might check out car sharing or rely on public transportation.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is available in both places I live.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I do not have enough connections to the US. We have both Swiss and French mobiles.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes. We also use Trusted Housesitters for our dog.

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Work permits can be difficult in Switzerland. Salaries are far superior to the US.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It depends on the place.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Having been robbed twice in the US and having had two friends murdered in the Boston area, I feel far safer in both France and Switzerland. I was pickpocketed on a trip to Barcelona, but then that is the pickpocket capital of the world.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I would never, ever have health care in the US. I belong to a group that would fly me back to Switzerland from anywhere in the world. I have been treated for cancer twice and think the University Hospital of Geneva (HUG) is incredible. All my other doctors have been excellent. When I've need doctors in France they too are excellent and affordable out of pocket as are most procedures. Health insurance is mandatory, a bit expensive, but there is a limit on how much out-of-pocket you can run up.

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Mostly good.

View All Answers


4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

View All Answers


5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

It seems like it would be like anyplace in either France or Switzerland.

View All Answers


6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Right now Southern France is hot. Geneva can be gray in the winter.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Had I had a child of school age I would have put her in the local schools so she could develop a second language. However, the one my friend's daughter went to allowed her the chance to help build a school in Tanzania and produce a play in Jordan.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Of course. One of the problems in the Swiss schools is that the kids come home for lunch and schedules can make it hard for working parents.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Of course.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

I don't know, but I would say fairly large.

View All Answers


2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Yes. There is an American Women's Club in Geneva with lots of activities, for writers, The Geneva Writers Group, Drama group, etc. I would recommend to make the overseas experience more meaningful try and integrate into some local group.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Geneva is great for families. More women then men.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

My gay friends haven't reported problems.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

In Geneva less than in the German part of Switzerland.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I loved it so much I became Swiss. I also like where I live I can go to France for dinner or to leave my dry cleaning. In France I can do the same for Spain. I have investigated much in Europe and in Switzerland, sometimes just poking. A lot depends on a person's interest.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

It depends on the person. Be open and poke around.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

I am shopping phobic so I can't answer.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The absolute beauty of the mountains and lake.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Not really. The discovery was fun.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, yes 1000x yes. The same for Southern France.

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Electronic devices.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

I moved with nothing and it was fine.

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Living and Working in Switzerland, Watching Switzerland the land of milk and money, and The Gilded Chalet (if you love reading).

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

I consider living in Europe has been the best thing that ever happened to me for its quality of life overall.

View All Answers


Geneva, Switzerland 03/26/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First post overseas.

View All Answers


2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

8-9 hours direct to DC or Newark.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

For those with the U.S. Mission, it is an LQA post meaning you must find your own housing. This means everyone is scattered across the area. There is one apartment complex downtown where many singles/couples (and a few families) live. Otherwise most families seem to be scattered randomly across the villages outside of the city from Geneva to the smaller town of Nyon. Family housing is often in duplexes or townhomes as there are not many single family homes. Commutes are easy ranging from 5 to 30 minutes for most. Other non-diplomatic expats often choose to live across the border in France to save money.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find most of what you need. Prices in Switzerland are very high but quality is good. Mexican and Asian cooking supplies and traditional American baking supplies (brown sugar, vanilla, confectioner powder) are minimal though with a lot of shopping/asking around you can usually find it somewhere. Shopping across the border in France can save a lot of money. In general, the French grocery stores have more selection and are cheaper but they are not as pretty and organized as the Swiss grocery stores. In-season produce, milk and dairy products are reasonable in Switzerland. Outdoor markets across Switzerland and France are a fun way to pick up very fresh produce, cheeses, pastas, and meats.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

If I didn't have access to DPO, I would have shipped more diapers, baby wipes, and American-style paper towels. Children's clothes/products are limited and expensive here so those without DPO often buy ahead or stock up when they visit the U.S.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Burger King...the usual stuff but it's so pricey it's ridiculous. If you go into France you can save some money on fast food though there aren't many options.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing horrible. Ticks can be a problem so if you hike you need to take precautions. Lake Geneva has a problem with duck fleas which can infect those who swim in the lake. Flies are a major nuisance about half of the year for those who live outside the city in the villages/towns surrounded by agriculture. There are no screens on windows so the bugs from the agricultural areas do invade homes in the villages.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. I've used the Swiss Post several times within country and was amazed at how fast it was.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It exists but it is costly.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are a number though I hear they are very expensive. I prefer to run outdoors in the paths through the vineyards or along the lake. There is a gym available at the U.S. Mission.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards and ATMs are safe to use. There are some situations where you will be stuck if you do not have a chip/pin card (gas stations, toll booths, parking kiosks) so it's often good to have some cash with you as a backup.

View All Answers


5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Most people speak some English though they won't always use it. Speaking some basic French can go a long way to getting more respect and help.

View All Answers


6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Public transport is handicap accessible though it can be difficult to find the ramps/elevators. Cobblestone streets can make some portions of the city, and many of the smaller villages, difficult.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transport is very safe, easy to use, and can get you most places you need to be within Switzerland. If you live in neighboring France, the connections aren't as great. Trains sometimes have a family car with a playground in the train. Public transport can be expensive though there are ways to lower the cost (half price card, etc) if you use it frequently enough.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

It's Europe so small is best as parking spots are very tight and there are many shockingly narrow roads. On the other hand, if you're big into skiing you'll want something that can get you up into the mountains easily. While winter tires are not technically required by law, you are required to have the appropriate tires on for the weather conditions so most people do swap out tires for winter. They are available locally but are costly.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, it is available although the speed was adequate but not great. Our combined internet/phone/basic cable bill is about US$120/month.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I went with a pre-paid SIM with Orange and it was extremely cheap and easy. Coverage was fine.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. Pet care is good though pricey and decent pet food is very expensive.

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are some though they are competitive. You'll do best if you speak fluent French.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Geneva is on the border with France and that is definitely reflected in the dress, both at work and in public. People dress well.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Home burglaries are a problem. I have never heard of a violent one but I know many people whose homes were robbed - especially those who live on a road close to the border with France. In the city you must take the usual precautions against pick pocketing. I have never once felt unsafe.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is very good. I have never had doctors spend so much time talking to me before (of course, you/your insurance is billed by every 5 minutes they spend with you). The general philosophy is a more "wait and see" philosophy than in the U.S. so if you are concerned about something, you often need to fight to get additional testing/follow-up.

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

For most of the year it is very healthy - the exception being when the farmers fertilize their land and fertilizer and dirt get into everything for several days. If your lungs are ever craving fresh mountain air, it's an easy drive into the mountains (Alps or Jura) for the cleanest air I've ever experienced.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The stereotypical images of tons of snow in Switzerland is just not true. The weather is surprisingly temperate and I rarely needed my warmest winter coat. There are usually a couple of weeks of cold winter weather and ice but the snow rarely sticks around for more than a couple of days. For real snow you need to drive into the mountains.

The summers are mostly very pleasant with a couple of weeks of intense heat. The hardest part is not having a/c if you are used to it. The houses are built to lock heat in and even nice summer days can get unbearable inside, especially on higher floors. There is very little a/c - even malls and restaurants with a/c are luke-warm at best. Fall and Spring are gorgeous, although there are long bouts of rain and gray that sometimes feel like they will never end. On the other hand there are often long bouts of beautiful sunny days too.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I do not have personal experience though there are several options and with varying opinions on each.

View All Answers


2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Both public and private preschools and daycares exist and are very high-quality but waitlists can be VERY long and costs are also VERY high. Those with diplomatic status do not qualify for the subsidies on public daycares so the cost is essentially the same between private and public. If you need daycare immediately upon arrival, I suggest starting your search long before arrival. There are a number of unhappy spouses in the expat community who would like to work but can't justify it based on the cost of daycare. We used a private creche (daycare) and could not have been happier with it but the cost for part-time was much more than our mortgage.

View All Answers


3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. My only experience is with gymnastics and soccer for the 2+ crowd but every kid I know is involved in something.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large - last I heard, Geneva is 45% expat. The morale varies greatly. There are a lot of organizations for English-speaking mothers to connect.

View All Answers


2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Dining out. Fondue boat cruises. Hiking. Skiing.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, it can be good for all if you're willing to seek out activities and fun.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I believe so.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I have never heard of any problems.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Walks along the shores of Lake Geneva and through the surrounding vineyards. Hiking in the Alps. Boat rides on the lake. Travel throughout Italy, France, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Germany. Enjoying cheese...fondue, raclette...and wine that's rarely available in the U.S. Exploring gorgeous, quaint little villages across the region. Learning the local customs/culture through various festivals throughout the year.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Snowshoeing in the Jura's on a full moon night in the winter followed by a fondue dinner on the mountain top. Hiking among the vineyards in the UNESCO Heritage Lavaoux Wine Region along Lake Geneva. Fun fall festivals involving cows wearing cowbells. Taking the various gondolas and cable cars up into the Bernese Oberlands and in the Zermatt region for summer hiking and amazing views.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Fondue pots, cow bells, Swiss wine.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's a clean, beautiful, and organized country. The travel possibilities are endless and easy.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

No - not if you eat out, travel, ski, or send kids to daycare.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

While it's a lovely place for small children (clean air, lots of outdoor space), this is not a child-friendly society. Kids are often not welcome in stores and restaurants and you'll get dirty looks for bringing them especially if they make any noise (with some exceptions, notably the restaurants associated with grocery stores). Highchairs are hard to find and when you do find them they're in poor condition. There is a surprising lack of indoor play space for kids on those gray, rainy days.

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. The good far outweighs the bad.

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Desire to break rules. This is a rule-abiding society with rules/regulations for everything. Be prepared to be yelled at a lot, often when you don't even know what you're doing wrong.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Camera - this country is beautiful and you'll want to take lots of photos to make everyone back home jealous.

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

I've heard a lot of people refer to Geneva as the city with no soul. I don't think it deserves this title. Yes, the actual city itself is a little small and can easily be seen in a day or two but there is lots to do if you're will to explore and look for it. The real beauty to living here, in my opinion, is everything there is to do outside the city limits. If you like nature and beautiful scenery your options are endless.

View All Answers


Geneva, Switzerland 03/05/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is our 7th overseas tour.

View All Answers


2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Rio, Brazil. 10h.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

3 months.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Rent is expensive, but public transportation is good, so people can live in France, pay less rent and commute.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Very good. Very expensive - it's cheaper 10 minutes away, in France.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Affordable beef.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

It was actually the best McDonald's burger I ever had! Really tasty! Even fast food costs a lot, though. There are great restaurants, Swiss and other nationalities.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nope.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

La Poste.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

US$25 to 30 per hour. At that price, fairly available.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Not so much. Expensive.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problems.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Basic French.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Public transportation is accessile, mostly, as city center streets. Not so easy to find hotels or housing with accessibility.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe. Taxi are crazily expensive.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Winter tires and chains if you are going skiing.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, expensive as everything else.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They work fine, but are also expensive.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. Yes. Pets are very welcome anywhere - shopping malls, restaurants, hairdressers...

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Its getting harder and harder to get a visa to work.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many at schools, retiring homes, ngos, etc.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No. I had an eye problem and couldnt believe there was only one eye clinic - at the cantonal hospital - I could go to! The first day I waited for 3 hours to be seen by the doctor. The second 4 hours! Appatently it gets better when you have a family doctor (primary care physician), which was not my case.

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Surprisingly - it's been a mild winter (2014) so far.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Lots of them, but with few spaces. Expensive and not for all kids, unfortunatelly.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

NONE! This was my biggest disappointment in Geneva so far. My daughter is 9 and has Down syndrome. She has been included in ordinary schools with typical peers since age 2 in the U.S. and Brazil. I was appalled to find out that such a rich country as Switzerland is in the middle ages as far as school inclusion goes, despite international and federal laws saying that students with disabilities must be integrated.

11 local international or non private schools said no to my daughter. Apparently the only one that does have a program for kids with disabilities is Ecolint, but of course it cannot cope with the demand, so there are long waiting lists. As for the public system, they do tons of evaluations and meetings before deciding which school your kid has the "competence" to go to - neighborhood school with an aide 1 x week (very few cases), special class inside ordinary school (few cases) or specialized school (most cases). The essence of inclusion, where the school has to adapt to the student, not the other way round, is considered lunatic talk around here. The public school system is also very slow. We have been here nearly one month and a half and my daughter is still out of school! Plus, they offer French lessons for kids who do not speak French, but not to my daughter!

Here is the link for special education public services
http://www.ge.ch/enseignement_public/enseignement_specialise.asp

Here is the link for ASK, an organization that helps expats find schooling and services for kids with disabilities
http://www.allspecialkids.org/wp/schools/

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but not familiar.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Mainly winter sports and hiking.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big. Mostly from international organization, so they are used to get around.

View All Answers


2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Restaurants, movies, festivals, short trips.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Mainly for couples and families.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Do not think so.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Public transportation, views - Alps, lake - proximity to France.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Little villages around Geneva ate gorgeous. In half an hour you can reach ski stations. Restaurants with lake view, etc. in Pakis you can find anything, from massages to great ethnic restaurants, nice bars, boutiques and brothels.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Chocolate, cheese, watches, Swiss knives.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Touring Europe, winter sports, chocolate and cheese.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

No way!

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That there is no school inclusion for students with disabilities. But we will change that ;)

View All Answers


2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Its early days to answer that. Maybe I will review these answers some time in the future.

View All Answers


3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bikini.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Hiking boots.

View All Answers


5. Do you have any other comments?

Other than the school problem, I like it so far.

View All Answers


Geneva, Switzerland 03/03/13

Background:

1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):

View All Answers


2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

View All Answers


3. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

There is an 8- or 9-hour direct flight from Washington, DC to Geneva with United Airlines.

View All Answers


4. How long have you lived here?

I have been working for an international organization in Geneva for the last five years, a fourth expat experience.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The housing market is one of the most expensive in the world. Many people live in France, right across the border, because it is cheaper, but even then it is much more expensive than a major city in the US. Commute times vary. The farther out you live, the cheaper the housing, but the longer the commute. In Geneva, people take public transport or ride bikes to work. It is important to live on the same side of the lake on which you work, since crossing from one side of Geneva to another in a car is problematic, i.e., traffic jams.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Ditto. More expensive than in the US. Food is of high quality, and there are farmers' markets in every neighborhood and village. Even the produce in local grocery stores is of very high quality. Many people cross the border into France and shop in the large grocery stores there where the prices are much lower and quality is very high.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Any items for children, as they are more expensive here. Buying birthday presents for your children's friends can run you broke.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants of any kind, from fast food to gourmet, are very expensive and limited compared to what you would find in a large cosmopolitan city.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Regular mail.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available. Cost varies.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, there are several chains, as well as indoor and outdoor pools in every neighborhood.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Same as in the US.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are a few English-speaking churches including Catholic.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is a popular English-language radio station which is comparable in quality to NPR in the US, and they even play many of NPR's shows.
Geneva skyline. Photo by the author

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to speak French. Some people get by on English only, but then you are not really functioning normally in society.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Trains and buses have subscriptions. Taxis are expensive.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I'm not sure about local duties because we bought our car here, but in terms of size, the smaller the better for manoeuvering around and getting into parking spaces. We have one big car and one small one, and I always take the small one when I do errands or I just don't go at all. Taking the big one is not worth the trouble.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

No, but it is much more expensive than in the US.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, but you should speak French.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Stylish.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Home break-ins in the city and suburbs.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Healthy.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter is cold and grey in Geneva. The blue sky is there, but you must climb in altitude in order to see it. Geneva is on a lake. Summer is gorgeous: warm, dry and sunny. Fall and spring are very short.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are tons of international schools of all types, but I don't have direct experience with them. I live in bordering France (like many expats) and send my child to a local public school which has international/bilingual sections because of the large international population.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The international schools do make accommodations.

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but I have no direct experience with this in Geneva. In neighboring France, the kindergarten starts at age 3.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. In Geneva they have a very well developed sports program for children as well as camps during the school vacations. In neighboring France, each village has sports teams.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very, very large.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Mixed.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Families invite each other for dinner at home. In the summer there are a lot of barbeques due to the nice weather.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It depends on lifestyle and interests. Geneva is a small city, and it is geared towards the outdoors.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I think so, but it is a small city, so there are not as many social outlets as there would be in a larger city.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Winter sports, Alps, travel.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Winter sports: skiing, sledding, skating, snow shoeing. Hot baths, sauna, spa, etc. Summer sports: hiking, biking, Alps.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wood crafts/home decoration items.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The high standard of living, the Alps, central location in Europe, international organizations located here.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

If you stay home all the time and don't eat out.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not sure.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Cold weather clothes and equipment.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


Geneva, Switzerland 02/17/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We have lived in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Dhaka, Frankfurt and Moscow.

View All Answers


2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC to Geneva is about a 7 hour flight.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Since August 2011.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My husband and I work at the US Mission.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The full range -- we are in a house in the countryside quite near to Geneva. It's nice. Many have apartments in town.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive in Switzerland. At least double your US bill. Seriously. At least double. But in France it's reasonable. I go there most of the time. Maybe in France it's just 25% more than your US bill would be. But if you are USG, you get a very good COLA. You just have to keep reminding yourself of that!

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

To save money, if you have room in your shipment, you might send dry things. But you can get anything you want here. I always bring maple syrup with me everywhere I go. But that's just me.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Food. Ah, the food. Amazing food. Fast food, though? OMG, why in heaven's name would you want fast food when you are in Switzerlan and a few steps away from France and a short drive to Italy??? But okay, if you must, there are McDonald's here too. Expensive. Very expensive. One full meal is about $14-16.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Great, fresh, organic food everywhere you go. The full range of all food options. Better than anywhere I have ever lived in America, without a doubt. If your standard is American, then you will be very pleasantly surprised! They put us to shame.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes. And I oddly had a bee problem in my house, but that can happen anywhere.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use DPO and the pouch. It's slow. Like everywhere.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and very, very expensive.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yup. One at the US Mission for USG expats. But it's oddly expensive even here.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

it's all fine. You can use it all.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Don't know. I assume whatever you'd want would be here.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

I have cable. It's okay.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Enough to shop and be polite.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's an old city. Not very navigable if you have mobility issues.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Expensive, but safe. And if you live in the country, they don't come very often. You really need a car. It would be extremely inefficient to take public transport, and not much cost savings. We feel we need two cars because we both work and we have two teenagers.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any kind. But small parking spaces. I find it difficult to park our van in underground parking lots. It barely gets through the place where you take your entrance ticket and the arm goes up to let you through. But we have another car, a normal Volvo sedan, and that's mostly fine. The smaller the better though, if you plan to park in city areas a lot.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. I don't know the cost though.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can get them here, like in any European city. The normal sort of thing on that subject.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I have a vet I like a lot. I've never kenneled my cat, so I can't say, but a friend with a dog likes the kennel she uses. It's just very expensive, as with everything.

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really, unless you speak fluent French. Not many US Mission jobs for EFMs and what's here isn't extremely high level, but there are a few that are excellent. There are some professional associates jobs (maybe 3 at the moment?). You'd think you could find something at the UN or other international organization here, but people say they have no luck finding anything there. It is a very closed system that's hard to break into. If you aren't fluent in French, don't even bother to try, I'm told.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Normal for Europe.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. There was an armed robbery in my little village at the town post office/bank. The robbers escaped by car, parked in the woods about the distance of two streets away, and then burned their getaway car. Quite a crime for a sleepy little Swiss village on the outskirts of Geneva! I'm told that crime is on the rise. Especially the sort that involves opportunity and an easy getaway in which home owners in summer leave a French door to the patio open, or leave their front doors unlocked, and a robber comes in very quickly while no one is in that room, grabs a purse, cell phone, wallet, then leaves. The fines for this kind of crime, even if caught, are very low, and no one ever goes to jail for it as long as no one was hurt and there was no physical threat. For this same reason, pick pocketing is epidemic. No jail time for it. Just a small fine, if the person is even employed. Then they are back on the street to do it again.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Ecellent care. The health unit at the mission has no doctor, but you just find a Swiss doctor and it's no problem. Don't expect post services, and you'll be fine.

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very good.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Perfect, in a four seasons sense. I haven't seen spring yet, but Autumn was warm and up until late October felt like a mild New England summer. Winter has been snowy and pretty and nice. Hovers at freezing for the most part, or slightly higher. Some cold snaps, but they rarely last for very long. It's really great weather.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My kids go to Collège du Léman (CDL) and we don't like it. Many Americans send their kids to one of the International School of Geneva (ISG) campuses and I also hear many complaints from them. The teachers are disengaged and seem not to care at all, the school won't really back you up, no after-school sports or activities to speak of and the expectation is you'll find sports in your town, in the club sports places for kids, but if your kid doesn't speak French, then good luck with that. No teacher-to-parent communication. My kid was failing a class, but I didn't even know till I got the report card and it was too late to do anything about it! He's in high school. These grades matter. I could have gotten him a tutor. My daughter says the teachers are very strict. Not the friendly high fives in the halls she'd get from teachers at previous posts, where they know the kids, talk to them, coach their teams and so on. This is very much a "come to school, go to class, listen to the teacher talk, then go home and do a lot of homework" kind of place. No sense of community or family ... Lots of problems with the schools.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not much. Really.

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I don't have experience with that. But if you have pre-kindergarten children, check the prices before you come! I hear it's astoundingly expensive, so many families who would like to have the non-working spouse find work when they arrive at post, find they can't afford it as day care costs far more than the salary the person could ever earn. And spaces are hard to get on top of it all. There is a LOT of complaining about preschool care options, availability and cost at this post. LOTS. Be diligent before accepting this posting.

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not at school. But if your child speaks French, you can find a local team easily. My kids do not speak French, so there is almost nothing for them. It's a big problem. Very bad. And it was so unexpected too! I figured it would be fine here. It's not. But that's mostly because I'm used to the schools providing those opportunities, and the international schools here simply do not.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Extremely large. The largest in the world, perhaps. They say 40% of the population in Geneva is expats. I believe it.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Fair. No sense of community, but what an amazing place! You just have to be self-sufficient. And if you don't have kids in school, I imagine your morale would be very, very high. That's our only stressor.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Absolutely!

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Absolultely. Great city for all. Just expensive.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I imagine it would be fine.

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Very traditional women's roles in this country. It would be quaint if it were not from time to time offensive. They think it's funny. I don't. But it's not a big deal.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling, the bucolic day to day life, the fresh produce that is stunning.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Oh, so very much! I can't even list it. Sports of all kinds for the family. Skiing, of course. Hiking, golf, tennis, etc. Not a lot of water-park, fun-park kind of things that I've seen, but my kids are older. I think you just go hike!

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Cheese!

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Nature is astounding, of course. I can see Mont Blanc from my patio as we eat barbecue or play croquet on the lawn. Idyllic! I am surrounded by farmer's fields, but am a 15 minute drive to work in Geneva (with no traffic - but max a half hour with some morning traffic). I live near the border to France, so I shop in France for the most part as it's very nice, of course, but also half the price! There is a great outdoor market on Sundays all year. I drove to Genova, Italy a few weeks ago. It was a 4 hour drive plus a bit. Drove through the Alps. It was gorgeous. The drive was as nice as the visit to Italy. Easy 1 1/2 hour drive to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France. We go to Germany for a amusement part there that we like to bring the kids to, and that's about 3 1/2 hours to drive to. Easy. Geneva itself is a small, navigable city. Smaller than I'd like, but nice.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Nope.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, if I didn't have kids in school.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations of finding work here if you are a trailing spouse. Or finding affordable preschool care if you have young kids. But if you don't come here expecting it, and just come to enjoy it, you'll have a very good time!

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Money. You'll need it all!

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

I love it here. But for those pesky schools. I just love it!

View All Answers


Geneva, Switzerland 07/25/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, first international move.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

Completed half of a 2-year assignment.

View All Answers


3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of foreign service employee.

View All Answers


4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

United Airlines direct flight IAD-GVA is the most convient way to/from the States. For comfort, I recommend KLM, though you will have to lay-over in another European country to reach Geneva getting to or coming from the States.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

This is a LQA post, so plan for great flexibility and plenty of rules. It is recommended to make a trip to Geneva ahead of time to find a place to live (about 1 month before arriving); however, if that is not an option, use the internet to scout out places. I had great luck with www.homegate.ch and also www.immostreet.ch Apartment living is in vogue here. You can find houses, but be prepared that part of your financial responsibilty will be the garden maintenance, and the Swiss take that seriously. (Think Home Owner's Association to the extreme.) Most (though not all) single family homes are outside Geneva in the countryside (about 10-30 minute drive, depending on how far out) while apartments are in most cities/villages. The landlords are able to discriminate regarding who their tennant will be, so making a good impression with the real estate agent is a plus. In regards to animals, the landlord cannot say "No," but he can have a weight limit. The housing office will take all the necessary pictures and test things throughout the house to ensure it all works, so when you move out there are not "needless replacement fees." Be aware though, that legalities and politics play a role in leaving your rental property -- you may not find out about fees until the bill arrives. One such example is the cleaning fee when you vacate: if the landlord requires a cleaning company to do the job and issue the certificate, you could be out up to 3000CHF. Most Mission employees live between Geneva and Nyon with a focus around Versoix, Coppet and Mies. Nyon is a 12-minute train ride or 20-30 minute drive north of Geneva. Both the highway and lake road offer good driving, even in snowy weather.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

For groceries, most any local store has a very good selection of items. MIGROS is the cheapest grocery store, COOP is probably next, with MANOR being the most costly. Dairy items and fresh bread are all cheaper here than in the States. Produce is pretty expensive (5CHF for 5 apples, 1 head of broccoli for 1.50CFH, 2 nectarines for 2CHF). The meat is expensive, but if you buy cuts that are not as common in CH (for example: brisket, ox tail) the price is better. Also, join the grocery stores so you get the ACTION (sale) prices. I was able to get .32kg of steak for 11.50CHF recently. The real price for non-members is not listed, and you can be shocked at the register. I recommend shopping at the local version of SAMs CLUB or COSTCO called ALIGRO. ALIGRO is great on the common bulk items, TP, paper towels, dry goods, laundry soap, etc. You need a free membership to go; however, all that is required is filling out a form with your address, name and that you want a private card. They mail it to you.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I shipped items like paper towels, sponges, and small cleaning items; next time I would ship a really good broom and mop, since they are expensive here (70CHF). The American Store in Nyon and Geneva carries a pretty good selection of "home-food products," but plan on shipping Mac & Cheese, your favorite soup mixes, mexican food spices and BBQ kits. Also, if you have sensitive skin, ship your soaps or any skin creams. Cortizone cream is a prescription here.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's and Burger King are throughout CH; however, the menu is slightly different and smaller. The value meal is around 13CHF at either. The food in Geneva seems very repetitive at most restaurants: filet of perch, rosti, fondu, rochlete, pizza, pasta, and a variety of salads. The menu does not really change much from lunch to dinner, except lunch offers half portions. The average price for two at any restaurant: lunch 50CHF, dinner 100CFH

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The mosquitoes here are surprisingly abundant; however, they do not bite often. The only insect problem I have noticed over the summer would be the duck ticks at Lake Geneva. If you swim in the lake, be prepared to shower and towel down immediately. They will bite you IN the water. The winters are cold enough that no bugs survive.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The US Mission has an address based in Dulles that you may use to get items -- following the pouch rules. The turnaround time from Dulles to Geneva is about 2 weeks. From the mission, you can only mail items the size of a VHS tape. Large packages can be shipped through the local post, but it is a bit expensive, from what I understand.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I have not hired any help with the cleaning, but it is a "full time job" with the windows open all the time and the tile floors. Talking to other people who have hired help, house cleaning will run about between 70-100CHF an hour, babysitters are about 15CHF an hour, nannies (non-live-in) are about 30CHF an hour. There are always people seeking domestic jobs because the job market is so competitive here. You just have to be prepared to pay for it.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Geneva offers many gyms and private country clubs. There are two chains in the area which offer many locations you can use with your membership; Harmony and Silhouttes. The average price for the gym is 1000CHF a year. For the country club, I believe it is around 1500-2000CHF. Tennis and squash clubs are also very popular here.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can get most big things done with a credit card. However, at most of the smaller stores (bakery, butcher shop, and flower shop) you need the francs. The ATMs have worked fine, but make sure to notify the bank of your moving overseas to ensure no problems.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are English-speaking churches around. The Swiss cantons are usually either Catholic or Protestant, with Geneva/Vaud cantons being Catholic. I know of a Lutheran, Presbyterian, and non-denominational English services in Geneva.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

I have not seen an english newspaper, but there are two free french papers available each weekday. The cable company SwissCom has an internet, phone and cable package called BlueWin that is great! The package has the highest internet connection speed and also the best selection of TV stations. The cable has over 150 channels with 10 in english all the time, and the other stations have programs that you can select the language on. I highly recommend this package compared to other company's offerings.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to have a good grasp of French to set up house and live in this LQA post. The 3 languages of CH are German, French, and Italian; but in Geneva some vendors are even resistant to speaking German/Italian. The frustrating part about Geneva and the surrounding area is that each village has its own style of French. So with a good basic knowledge of France's French, you can figure out what they are talking about. But 20 minutes away they may use another expression for the same situation. This makes learning French at post VERY hard.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Wheelchairs or severe joint problems might limit what you have access to here. The Old Town part of Geneva is full of steep hills and stairs. There might be another path to get to a certain point, but I think it might still be difficult. Many of the old buildings do not have elevators -- or if they have been installed at a later point -- they are extremely small. Those who are visually or hearing impaired might find things more frustrating in regards to the public transportation system. The crosswalks do have a crossing system; however, if this system makes any noise it is at a frequency not easily heard. Most of the trams and buses have a display for the upcoming stop, but the smaller trains do not. For those with physical disabilities, fluent French would be a must.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

As mentioned, the trains/busses/trams are very reliable. The clientele is what you would find at a bus/train stop in the US with perhaps a few more homeless. You can get a demi-tarif card for 150CHF that is valid for one year and provides half off your tickets. A bus ticket is usually 4.50 CHF, so with this card it is 2.20CHF.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The public transportation system works quite well here, and if you are planning on living in Geneva, a car would be almost more hassel than it is worth. If you are planning on living in a surrounding area, then having a car is advisable to provide more fleixibility. The buses only run once an hour in some outlaying areas. For sightseeing and getting to a ski area, the trains do run to many, and also some hotels offer shuttles to and from train stations. I prefer being on my own clock, so I have a 4-wheel drive car, which is VERY advisable for CH. Also, it is law to have chains for your tires in the car during winter, so plan accordingly. The import regulations are pretty strict, and be prepared for costly repairs or upkeep to meet Swiss requirements.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

See above; 120CHF a month for BlueWin.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

For cell phones, use the pay-as-you-go plans. The SIM cards can be ordered ahead of time and shipped to you in the US,. Then all you have to do is activate them on arriving in CH. The rates are very good, even on international calls. And you do not have to pay to receive international calls on them. I used LEBARA.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Just make sure to have the USDA Health Certificate of good health, rabies vac., and tattoo or European micro-chip for ID (which a US vet can special order and activate).

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is an abundance of vets in the Geneva area and also a good pet supply chain store. Dogs are recognized as part of the family and can eat at a restaurant with you, go inside the mall, and even may ride on the public transport system. Kennels are available; however, there are plently of animal sitters to use also. As with most everything in CH, it is more expensive to have an animal here than in the US.

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really. The standard method of obtaining an interview is to create a CV (similiar to a resume) that contains information about race, language, martial status, etc. and any of these points can be used for discrimination. The qualifications for jobs are a bit over the top (master's degree or doctorate, with 8-15 years experience required). The language barrier for those who do not speak French will prevent most interviews from taking place. With this said, those who can tele-commute to their job back in the States will find the all the needed computer and phone connections here. Self-employment in CH is a long paperwork battle in French, but it may be possible; just be prepared.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Overall, day-to-day life requires a bit nicer dress code than that of the US. Women will wear pants (or designer jeans) with a nice sweater and heeled boots to the grocery store during the winter. Summer is slightly more casual, with a lot of women wearing dresses. Men wear suites to work and slacks in the evenings.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

No pollution. The hardest part for this non-smoker was all the smoking inside common places, (i.e., the grocery store, shopping centers, and "indoor malls").

View All Answers


2. What immunizations are required each year?

I have not seen that adults need any yearly shots other than those you would get in the States.

View All Answers


3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Geneva has a decent amount of protests; however, they stay in control. Watch out for the gypsies and pickpockets around the train and bus stations. It is Switzerland, but still, always lock all doors and windows in your house if you will be away. Trespassing is apparently accepted here, so using appropriate caution is wise.

View All Answers


4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I have not had any direct interaction with the local medical community except in social settings. I would recommend checking the creditials of a health professional before going. I would not plan to have any big surgery or life event (childbirth) happen here.

View All Answers


5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Spring and summer are lovely! The weather is so perfect, many times there are two harvesting seasons here for fruits and vegetables. The humidity during the summer can be a little high at times, but usually a rainstorm will take care of that. The weather turns cooler and cloudy starting mid-September and becomes progressively colder and "darker" until February. The snow this past winter was the best in over a decade. The tempuratures range from -4 C in the dead of winter to around 25-30 C in the summer.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I have seen soccer and snow sports for kids.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Geneva seems to be the melting pot of CH.There are many people here from the UK, Austrailia, and from other European countries. Most of the expat community is shifting constantly, due to TDYs and 2-3 year assignments; about one-third of the popluation in this area is expat, though not all English.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

For the English-speaking expats who are not coming to a job, there is a level of frustration in lack of things to do. Finding a job in the local economy is extremely competitive, and most activities seem to take place in the evening hours, not during the afternoons. Also, I have heard from many that the turn-around time for people coming and going seems very short here, perhaps due to UN TDYs. At the Mission, the morale needs a bit of a boost.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are malls, movies, and restaurants all around. The shops all close no later than 6:30pm and are not open at all on Sundays. Sundays are the day to rest and socialize with friends and family. The movies can be seen in English (version original = v.o.) and tickets are 18 CHF per person. Dining out is quite an experience. The table is literally yours for the next 2-3 hours. Service is usually friendly, though it takes quite a while. There is no rush to anything about dining out, so I would not recommend it for families in need of a quick bite. The US Mission/Marine activities in Geneva are not a valid way to fill the social calendar, so networking is vital.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Overall, I would say that anyone can find their place here; however, you need fluent French to make connections easily and to find some activites. While there are some locations that offer more English activites, having even some broken French is better than none. While I do not have children, the women I know who do seem to have more interactions with others who speak English due to the children's activities. For singles and couples who enjoy the nightlife scene, there are English groups that plan outings. However, for just an average night out I recommend having French.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

The only things I can say for sure are: -July 4th features a huge festival in downtown Geneva. Zurich also has a huge festival in August. The wig shops in the Old Town part of Geneva are not there just for the women!

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I have noticed when I am doing errands that many vendors/sales people, who speak English, will pretend to speak only French. The attitude that English is something they wish to not be hassled with is clear in some places. I have heard and experienced many stories of not getting anywhere with someone in English, only to have them speak perfect English the next time.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Geneva and the surrounding villages have a lot to offer during the nice-weather months. Boat tours on Lake Geneva, hiking, mountain biking, sailing, wind-surfing, roller-blading are common things to do. The cafes and restaurants almost all have outdoor seating. The surrounding villages offer plenty of sightseeing, and the ski resorts turn into ropes courses; also: golf courses, hiking and mountain bike extreme adventures, and white water rafting. During the winter, snow sports rule the area. With the Swiss and French Alps being a very short ride from Geneva, there is never a lack of places to choose from. My advice: plan to go above the clouds when you get away in the winter to get a little sunshine.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Coo-coo clocks, watches, chocolate, and cheese.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

There are ways to pinch pennies, but do not come to CH if you are trying to save. Come when you are ready to retire and just want to indulge.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

While I have made it my home for the time being, no I would not return. This is a good post for those who are towards the end of their career, do not need to save money, and have lots of vacation days.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

US appliances.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

credit card, snow gear, hiking and biking items.

View All Answers


4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

To live in Switzerland takes a certain degree of flexibility and understanding. This is a country that has done things their way for many centuries, so why learn from others or try something different? The lifestlye is much slower-paced, with plenty of coffee and smoking breaks. It is also surprising to me that in this beautiful area people will actually complain about the birds chirping or a baby crying.

View All Answers


Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)

Read More