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GENEVA

The downsides of Geneva you should be aware of before moving there

There is no doubt Switzerland’s most international city and canton offers many perks for the nearly half a million people who call Geneva home. But there are also some drawbacks to living in the beautiful city on the shores of Lac Léman.

Geneva. It can be a lonely place (while being far busier than this. Photo by Will Truettner on Unsplash
Geneva. It can be a lonely place (while being far busier than this. Photo by Will Truettner on Unsplash

Nobody can deny that, overall, Geneva, is a great place to live. It is picturesque and lively, with interesting historic landmarks, diverse neighbourhoods, and a good public transportation system (but then again, you can say these things about all Swiss cities).

Another plus is that if you come from another country, you will never feel out of place in Geneva, as 40 percent of the local population are foreigners.

READ MORE: Is Geneva the worst place to live in Switzerland?

And for the internationally minded, Geneva lies right on the border with France — though some people see this as a huge negative (see below).

But despite its attractiveness and an almost mystical aura of luxury, there are also some downsides to living here. Here are six to be aware of. 

Cost of living

Geneva is notoriously pricey, regularly ranking (along with Zurich) among the most expensive cities in the world.

You need very deep pockets to live here: in terms of rents, “Geneva is well above the Swiss average and positions itself even ahead of other expensive cities such as Zurich”, according to public broadcaster SRF, which based its report on data from the Federal Statistical Office.

High rents have a lot to do with Geneva’s geography.

The canton is nestled in the southwest corner of the country, where it is wedged between France and Lake Geneva. Therefore, the land for new constructions is limited, while the demand is growing steadily.

READ MORE: Why is Geneva’s rent the highest in Switzerland?

Traffic!

Traffic in Geneva can, literally and figuratively, drive you crazy.

The canton’s territory is relatively small and compact, but in terms of road congestion and bottlenecks, it has the worst record of all Swiss cities.

According to TomTom GPS data, Geneva drivers lose 69 hours each year sitting in traffic jams.

READ MORE: Bottlenecks and delays: Which Swiss cities have the worst traffic?

But road congestion is not the only problem in Geneva — the canton’s drivers are among the worst in the whole of Switzerland, according to a survey by AXA Insurance company.

It shows that they have between 120 and 140 percent more accidents than other cantons — a statistic Genevans naturally blame on French drivers.

Only one canton is ahead of Geneva for the number of car accidents: Ticino (whose drivers no doubt assign the blame to Italians).

READ MORE: MAPS: Which Swiss canton has the worst drivers?

Safety

While Geneva is generally safe and violent offences are rare, the city ranks as most dangerous in Switzerland.

Here too, fingers are pointed at the canton’s French neighbours, who are blamed for all the petty crimes committed on Geneva’s territory.

Generally speaking however, Switzerland is an incredibly safe place to live and Geneva ranks among the world’s safest cities. 

Safety in Switzerland: Which areas do Zurich residents avoid at night?

Hustle and bustle

The bulk of people who are present in Geneva during the day come here to work either from nearby Vaud or from nearby France  — the latter being convenient scapegoats for everything that is out of whack in Geneva.

Figures from Geneva’s statistical office (OCSTAT) indicate that well over 26,000 people commute to work in the city from Vaud, and over 90,000 from the French regions of Haute-Savoie and Ain.

A 2016 federal study found that Geneva has the highest amount of nighttime traffic noise in the entire country, with 60 percent of the population having their sleep disturbed. 

To sum up, with traffic jams, congestion, bad drivers and the French, Geneva may not be everyone’s idea of a paradise.

READ MORE: MAPS: The best commuter towns when working in Geneva

No space, no space at all

In the same official 2016 study comparing Swiss cities had a surprising revelation about Geneva – the overall lack of privacy or personal space. 

The city at the end of Lac Léman has the fewest number of people living in individual houses, as opposed to apartment blocks, and the largest number of homes comprising more than one person per room, found the study.

“Houses often offer a larger living area per person and a garden,” it said.

“Having enough room in a residence is important to preserve private life and to create a comfortable living environment. Overpopulation can lead to health problems or create problems for children at school.”

I’m so lonely, it’s just me only

A consequence of living in a town with a large number of international residents is a regular turnover of residents – which can lead to loneliness and feelings of isolation. 

Swiss citizenship ranks among the hardest to get which often means people come to Switzerland on a temporary basis, even if that temporary basis is two decades. 

In Geneva, where almost half of the residents are foreign, this is a particular problem. 

Loneliness is a common theme in Switzerland in general, with academic journal articles written on the phenomenon.

Local readers often tell us they struggle with loneliness in Switzerland, such as in this 2019 article

“The majority of Swiss are insular. They keep friends from childhood forever, don’t like change, and believe that their way of life is superior to most”, said one reader. 

‘It’s a lonely country to live in’: What you think about life in Switzerland

One further respondent, Magc, said that this could make Switzerland an isolated and lonely place to live in. 

“The Swiss tend to stick to other Swiss people and don’t like to include outsiders into their circles… As an expat from Canada, I don’t look foreign, but as soon as Swiss people speak to me in Swiss German, they hear my broken German and see that I can’t fully understand what they are saying and tend to not go further to communicate,” she said. 

“It’s a lonely country to live in.”

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here

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