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Great salaries but 'no human warmth': Your views on living and working in Geneva

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The Local - [email protected]
Great salaries but 'no human warmth': Your views on living and working in Geneva
What is actually cheap in Geneva? Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Geneva is one of the world's prettiest and most peaceful cities, but as our readers revealed, living there can come at a price.


At the start of October, we asked your opinions on living in Geneva. From being one of the world’s most beautiful towns to concerns about affordability, we wanted the inside scoop on life in Switzerland’s second-biggest city. 

While Zurich might have the most expensive neighbourhoods in all of Switzerland, Geneva’s high median prices make it the most expensive city to rent in the country. 

We also brought you the story about Geneva mums rushing to give birth early just to get their hands on a nursery spot, pursuant to the city’s strict childcare laws. 

READ: Geneva still among the world’s most expensive cities, but where to get a cheap haircut

All of our respondents - bar one - lived in Geneva, while many had chalked up close to two decades in the city. 



What’s living in Geneva really like?

When asking our readers to rate their views on Geneva on a scale from 1 to 5, the responses were overwhelmingly positive. 

Nobody picked “I can’t wait to get out”, while only 15.4 percent of respondents said they were sure they wouldn’t be sticking around in Geneva for ever. 

The biggest response to the question - which attracted just over two thirds of responses - was that our readers were happy in Geneva and had “no complaints”. 

Despite this, the same readers managed to find the time to complain when given the opportunity later in the survey. 

In a great endorsement of the city, just under eight percent told us that life was “perfect” in Geneva. 

The best things about Geneva?

Our readers were in agreement about many of the positives of Geneva. From peacefulness to cleanliness as well as safety, our readers largely agreed. 

JF told us Geneva was “Quiet, easy to manage, kids friendly, safe, a bit of everything! Close to all big European cities. Easy airport. Clean and international”. 

Mahesh agreed, saying “Great quality of life, high degree of safety, short-commutes, proximity to nature and an accessible airport”. 

Brian simply responded that the best thing about Geneva was "you can swim in the lake". 

Not all agreed however, with one respondent, Albert, saying the best thing about Geneva was the road to Lausanne. 

And the worst things about living in Geneva?

Almost half of our respondents told us that it was expensive, echoing a sentiment we’ve heard frequently over the years from our readers. 

Parking problems and a lack of nightlife were other concerns. 

Mahesh gave a list of Geneva woes: “The gloomy winter weather and high costs (especially rent), difficulty for new expat arrivals in getting to know the local Swiss related also to the language barrier (particularly for english-speaking newbies).”


Work Work Work Work

With a thriving economy and some of the world’s best-known businesses and NGOs, Geneva is a major draw for workers. 

But what’s the major advantage of working in Geneva? Money - and lots of it - say our readers. Several told us that high salaries brought them to Geneva and kept them there. 

Short commuting times and being part of an international environment were also pointed to as major benefits. 

The downsides to working in Geneva sound like a top list of gripes from anywhere, indicating Geneva perhaps wasn’t that unique. 

Suhaib said “public transport (to work)”, Roman said “taxation” and Memphis told us “starting work rather early”. 

Tyu’s opinion of the biggest disadvantage of working in Geneva? “Having to work at all”.



Local readers’ view of the locals?

Recently we’ve been asking our readers to give us cultural insights, where we found that the Swiss were polite but tended to be cold and unfriendly. 

The story is apparently much the same in Geneva, where readers like Roman told us the Swiss were “Polite, but officious, with no human warmth. It can feel very lonely.”

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Kaushik explained however that Swiss attitudes were cold towards expats as they didn’t want to invest in a friendship with someone who would soon be leaving. 

“It is hard to find locals, it takes years to become friends with any. People are polite and used to the fact that much of the ex-pat population is transient, it isn't unreasonable not to invest in relationships with people that are likely to leave within a few years.”

Albert shed a little more light on his ‘road to Lausanne’ comments, saying simply that the problem with living in Geneva was that “no one cares” 

A local Genevan taking a dip in traditional headwear. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Advice for anyone moving to - or already living in - Geneva?

The main advice was simply ‘learn French’. Others said joining clubs with people around shared interests was the way to break the friendship ice in Geneva. 

Another hurdle may be based on your own interests. While Geneva is known for outdoor sport, Roman told us “If you like city life like cinemas, restaurants , operas etc. you will suffer.”

A version of this story was first published in October 2019. 



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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