An Introduction to Life in Geneva, Switzerland
The beautiful city of Geneva is one of the 26 Cantons (districts) that make up Switzerland. Located at the southernmost tip of the expansive Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), the largest lake in Europe, Geneva is surrounded by the Alps and Jura Mountains offering breath-taking views all year round.
Geneva is the European Headquarters for the United Nations, the Red Cross, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and numerous multinational corporations making it a global hub for diplomacy and banking. It truly is a diverse and complex culture, rivalled only by New York, Washington DC and Brussels.
Below we explore what it is like to live and work in Geneva, then here are some fast facts:
- Time zone: GMT/UTC +1
- Currency: Swiss Franc (although the Euro is widely accepted)
- Geneva City has a total area of 15.93sq km (6.15sq mi), with the Canton covering 282sq km (109sq mi).
- Population: 201,000 (2015)
- Over 40% of Geneva’s population comes from outside Switzerland, making it one of the most international cities in the world!
- Almost two-thirds of the canton's population live in the city of Geneva. The rest inhabit small towns and large villages in the rural parts of the canton and along the lake's shores.
- Dog droppings are annually listed as the top complaint from citizens in Geneva.
- The World Wide Web was invented and developed in Geneva at CERN Lavatories.
- It is often referred to as the “Peace Capital” of the world.
- Switzerland has four official languages; German, French, Italian, Romansh – although English, Spanish and Dutch, among others are widely spoken.
- Geneva is home to eight international schools that cater to the city’s large expatriate community.
Geneva has a rich history that dates back more than 4000 years and continues to influence the development of the city today. One of its best attractions is the Flower Clock (pictured) which is located in the English Gardens. First built in 1955 it is an ode to the watch industry of which Geneva sets the standard. Geneva is also home to the Jet d’eau; one of the world’s tallest water fountains.
Living in Geneva is a wonderful and enriching experience for expatriates of all ages. The city prides itself on being one of the most beautiful and cultured places in the world, combining the splendours of nature with a rich palette of historic and architectural offerings.
While many expatriates often have demanding jobs (the main industries in Geneva are banking, inter- and non-governmental administration, technology and tourism), exceptional parks (public parks cover a quarter of the city), dozens of unforgettable museums and the close proximity to the best skiing in the Alps combine to offer relief from the rigidity, meticulousness and punctuality of the Swiss working week. Other activities on offer include wakeboarding, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, kitesurfing and paragliding.
It is important to note that health insurance is compulsory for everyone living in Switzerland. Medical staff are well-trained and generally speak English as well as French.
Transport & Getting Around
Getting around in Geneva is easy and there is limited need to purchase a car. Public transport networks in the city are extensive and consist of buses, trams and boats. The city is also well equipped for cycling which is a fast and affordable way to get around.
Transport out of Geneva is also easily accessible with the International Airport being a 20-minute drive from the city centre with a wide range of flights all over Europe. Regular trains and buses are also available making neighbouring towns and destinations great options for weekend’s away.
When it comes to shopping then Geneva is a paradise for luxury brand names. Rue du Marche and Rue du Rhone are the main shopping streets and are lined with many watchmakers, retailers and cafés.
The Place de la Madeline is great for finding clothing and book bargains while the Plaine de Plainpalais is home to Geneva’s largest flea market, stocking everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to leather goods.
Geneva isn't known for its lively party scene but there are still plenty of opportunities to grab a drink, meet new people and enjoy a night out. Plaine de Plainpalais is popular with the younger crowd and Place du Bourg de Four, near Geneva’s old Town Hall is also a good bet for a great atmosphere.
Food lovers will be spoilt for choice in Geneva. The city boasts more than 1,000 restaurants making it undoubtedly Switzerland's cuisine capital. Local specialities like fondue, raclette, lake fish and smoked sausage are defiantly worth trying! Those looking for familiar tastes from home shouldn't struggle to find what they're looking for, as the city does its best to caters for its large expat population from all over the world.