One of Europe's prettiest cities, Geneva is sprawled around the southern tip of the impossibly picturesque Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). The Alps and Jura Mountains surround the city, which boasts staggering views of the famous Mont Blanc.
As one of the European headquarters of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and several multinational corporations, Geneva's identity is diverse and complex. The official language is French, but expats are just as likely to hear its multilingual population speaking English, Spanish or German.
Living in Geneva
Expats are lured to Geneva by the promise of high salaries – usually in the finance industry – but residents enjoy a good work-life balance. There's ample opportunity to find respite from the working week to enjoy the varied lifestyle that the city offers.
Getting around in Geneva is easy, and there is little 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.
Another advantage is the city's location. Other European countries are in easy reach, making it a fantastic destination from which to explore the continent.
Cost of living in Geneva
The cost of living in Geneva is dear: Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey ranks it fourth in the world. Expat salaries tend to be high to match, and price-conscious expats look to France for savings on groceries and accommodation.
Competition for the limited housing supply in Geneva is high, and finding somewhere to live can be challenging. The standard of accommodation in Geneva is nonetheless excellent and in line with European standards, although space can be limited.
Families and children in Geneva
Geneva has a well-established network of international schools, but competition for places is fierce because of the large expat community, and parents need to act fast to secure a spot for their children.
Expats can rest assured that they will have access to exceptional healthcare. Medical staff are well trained and generally speak English as well as French. However, it is important to remember that it is compulsory to have health insurance in Switzerland – another expense to add to the list.
Climate in Geneva
Geneva has a moderate continental European climate. Winter months are relatively cold, bringing snow to the ski slopes in the region, while the hot summer brings beachgoers, swimmers and boaters to the waters of Lake Geneva.
Public parks cover a quarter of the city, and dozens of museums stand as monuments to the past, with striking views of the Alps painting the horizon. The weekends are for hiking (in summer) or skiing (during winter) or just exploring the city's epic restaurant scene.
While expats may take some time to adapt, the benefits of living in Geneva are difficult to ignore. Those who move there may well find themselves staying longer than intended thanks to the high quality of life offered in this beautiful Swiss city.
►For more on the country, read our Pros and Cons of Moving to Switzerland
"I like that it is a small city, which feels cosy, and that it is so close to the lake and the mountains. As far as quality of life, I think that it is slightly higher than where I’m from simply because the salaries are so much higher. It makes things like travel much easier. I think, too, that people here stop and enjoy life more – either by going for a hike or taking hours to have a meal with friends."
For more about American expat Melissa's experiences in Geneva, read our interview with her.
Are you an expat living in Geneva?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Geneva. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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