Sitting on the Swiss-French border, Geneva boasts a very high quality of life as well as a high cost of living. Surrounded by the idyllic Alps and the crystal Lake Geneva, there are so many outdoor activities to enjoy in the area. Geneva now rivals Zurich as a major business and banking centre and has recently become the preferred European site for many international organisations, most of which are involved in biotechnology, finance and trade industries.
If you’re considering a move to Geneva, you may be interested in what life is like there. We’ve put together the ultimate international relocation guide to provide further information on moving to and living in Geneva, Switzerland.
The municipality of Geneva is home to around 200,000 residents, with a further 500,000 in the canton region. The official language of Geneva is French, however, the city is home to approximately 100,000 English speaking residents, as this is the official language of many of the international corporations based there.
Geneva currently falls under the Central European Summer Time (CEST) zone, which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Geneva has a continental climate, which is typically characterised by pleasantly warm summers and very cold winters. The high altitude of Switzerland results in year-round rainfall, however.
Geneva Public Transport operates the vast majority of the public transport system in Geneva. This system operates a range of trams, trolleybuses, and buses, whilst also serving some regions in France. The best way, however, to get around Geneva is by foot or tram. Given the small size of the city, Geneva can be easily navigated. When using public transport in Geneva, tourists can access a free Geneva Transport Card, which can be used on all water taxis, trains and buses.
Geneva International Airport serves the city, and is only about 5km outside of Geneva itself. Getting to the airport is simple, with trains running to and from the airport station. You can also make direct connections to destinations within Switzerland and Europe.
In addition to the useful rail link, a shuttle bus is available. This leaves the airport every 10 minutes, and the service is quick and reliable. You can purchase public transport tickets at the airport’s Unireso arrivals desk or from a ticket machine.
Driving in Geneva
Geneva’s road system is very modern and effective. Whilst traffic jams are a regular occurrence in the city centre, (especially in the morning and evening rush hours) roads are often clear and easy to navigate.
If you plan on driving in Geneva, a problem you should be aware of is the parking. With so many cars and very limited space, it can often seem impossible to find a parking spot in the city centre. Parking garages are therefore the easiest option.
Upon registering to live in Geneva, you will have one year to trade your foreign license for a Swiss one. If you fail to exchange it within this time, you will have to apply for a Swiss drivers’ license, which can be a lengthy and costly process.
The Expatriate Community
Living in Geneva as an expat is usually a very positive experience. Switzerland has always ranked highly as one of the most desirable places to live for expats, due to its strong economy and plentiful career opportunities. With so many major corporations settled there, Geneva offers a large mixing pot of cultures. There is a growing expat community there, and with English widely spoken, you will not struggle to find friends.
Geneva is very much a city of culture, where museums, galleries and theatres are common. With the French alps and lakes galore, the outdoor lifestyle is favoured in Geneva. If you’re looking to get out and meet new people, we would definitely recommend engaging in some of these activities.
Geneva locals are known to enjoy the finer life, and whilst they can seem charmingly grumpy, most are welcoming to newcomers. If you are planning on moving to Geneva, take a look at some expat networks or blogs to join ahead of your move. Doing so is a great way of meeting people with similar interests to yours:
Can I Move to Geneva for Work?
You can move to Geneva for work without a Visa from any EU / EFTA nation but if you plan on staying longer than 90 days you will need to obtain a residence permit. UK nationals face immigration caps following Brexit, but most people that have secured work can apply for a 12-month residence permit. You can only apply for a permanent residence permit after 10 years of continuous residence in Switzerland working.
Housing Areas in Geneva
The downtown area of Geneva is located at the intersection of the Rhone River and Lake Geneva. The Vieille Ville (or Old Town) is on the left bank of the Rhone, and is just a few steps from the major shopping street of Rue du Rhone. To the south you can find Carouge, a former village now incorporated into the main city. The charm and numerous cafes of this area make it a popular after dark destination.
Popular suburban villages outside of Geneva include Commugny, Founex and Nyon et Gland. These areas are great if you’re looking to escape the buzz of the city.
If you’re moving with children and are looking for international schools, you can find many located on either side of the lake. A bus service is also available.
Schooling in Geneva
Expats will find a wide assortment of schools in Geneva, including a range of public schools, private schools and international schools. Typically, sending your child to a private or international school can prove expensive, so be sure to research your options.
Space at schools in Geneva can be limited, with new arrivals needing to register their child as early as possible to secure a space. The majority of schools in Geneva have lengthy waiting lists that will only accept students at the start of term.
In Geneva, the international schools offer specific language and national curricula. Many expats opt for these schools, as they allow students to continue with the teaching and language of their home country. This is a great option for those living in Geneva on a short-term basis, however is still a popular option for long-term students.
Here are some of the best performing international schools in Geneva:
Collège du Léman International School
Tel: 41 (22) 775 55 55
Fax: 41 (22) 775 55 59
Deutsche Schule Genf
Tel: 41 (22) 7950710
Fax: 41 (22) 7950719
Geneva English School
Tel: 41 (22) 7551855
Fax: 41 (22) 7791429
If you’re moving to Geneva with your family, you might find our blog helpful. Read 5 Valuable Tips to Help Families Prepare for an International Relocation now.
Interested in information on another country? Take a look at our other International Relocation guides.
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