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Living in Switzerland: Articles, Resources and Websites
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Living in Switzerland

Moving to Geneva

The Cost of Living is High but the City Has its Rewards

Geneva attracts people from every corner of the world to work at international corporations, to volunteer at one of the 200 UN organizations, or to study at one of the many universities and language programs. At the foot of the Alps and just a few hours from the Riviera, Geneva is a fantastic city to call home. However, it is also one of the most expensive cities in the world. For anyone planning to relocate to Geneva, some background on the city’s housing situation is essential.

Geneva is French-speaking, but it's easy to get by speaking English, Italian, German, Spanish, or Arabic—all of which can be heard in the streets. The city is compact enough to make anywhere in town an easy commute to the UN buildings, major banking and corporate headquarters, and schools. The local bus system is fast and affordable. Walking and biking are also great options.

The city is divided by Lake Geneva and the river Rhone, which snakes through suburbs to the west before heading into France. The south bank contains the main shopping and banking street, Rue de Confederation, as well as the Vieille Ville, or Old Town, and its winding alleys and historical buildings. The north bank, more modern and less quaint, includes the small red light district, Les Paquis, as well as the main train station and transportation hub at Cornavin. Apartment buildings on both banks are usually large, four to ten stories, with elevators, laundry, and storage space (called a cave).

Once you find an apartment (see below), you must prove that you are legally staying in Switzerland for an extended period of time. This can be done by making copies of your Swiss Carte de Legitimation or a copy of your contract and a letter from you employer (sometimes referred to as an attestation). Swiss rental agencies, called regies, will also want to see your passport as well as copies of recent bank statements.

Apartments are rented completely bare—no light bulbs or curtain rods; in many cases, a renter is responsible for buying a stove, refrigerator, as well as kitchen cabinets. A typical deposit is three to four months’ rent, which is placed in a trust until the end of the lease.

Relocation Resources:

Welcome Geneva Center (Centre d'Accueil Geneve), www.cagi.ch, is the best place to start looking for an apartment. The friendly English speakers on the staff can also help finding schools, language lessons, and other local resources.

Rental Agencies (regies): Alain BORDIER & Cie, Rue du Vieux Collège 8, Case postale 3056; 022-819-11-19, fax: 022-311-40-39. Grange & Cie SA, Siège, 21, ch. de Grange-Canal case postale 300, 1211 Genève; 011-41-22-707-10-10, fax: 011-41-22-707-10-00. Naef et Cie SA,14-16 Avenue Eugène-Pittard, CH-1206 Genève; 022-839-39-39, fax: 022-839-38-38; naef@naef.ch.

World Radio Geneva Classifieds, www.wrgfm.com, has ads in English for sublets and rooms for rent, as well as yard sales. Other classifieds can be found in the daily papers, Tribune de Geneve and Le Temps.

Temporary Housing: A good place to stay while you're searching is Studio House Acacias (4 route des Acacias, 1227 Geneva; 011-41-22-304-03-00, fax: 011-41-22-343-10-21; studiohouse@bluewin.ch), which rents small studios by the day, week, or month. Rooms start at CHF 60 per night with discounts for longer stays.

MICHELE ANN JENKINS works as a technical consultant to various UN organizations in Geneva. Maj@majink.org.