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Geneva??? Help!

by Barbara Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:35:09 PM EST

Hello ET,

This is not a proper diary, really, just a question. Any ratings and recommendations will therefore be accredited to the brilliant and thorough answers I shall receive below :).

Migeru is interviewing for his new (and this time hopefully safisfying) job, and there is a head-hunter with rather bad English but with an offer to get him an interview with a "hedges funds" (shhhruberryy!!!) in Geneva. I know "zero pelotero" about life in Geneva. My brief research shows that together with Zurich it's the city with the highest quality of life in the world. It is claimed to be safe, clean, with great education and transport system. Encouraging, undeniably, since we've both developed allergic asthma three years after we came to London, got robbed three times (once per year seems to be the norm) and spent countless hours practicing standing on one leg and holding to the overhead bar with one finger on the tube.

Now, my German can be defined as "used to be" and my French as "never has been". Although I'm not madly in love with England (or London at least), I'm reluctant to leave yet again, and again go through the painstaking process of learning (or re-learning)a language, rebuilding my business, finding friends. I know Geneva is an international city, but realistically speaking, how does a foreigner integrate? Any experience? Could I teach yoga there, perhaps in English to start with? (Fran, maybe you'd know...) Is this place worth making the gigantic effort of starting from scratch again?

Any feedback will be greatly appreciated!


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I'm sure everyone has seen this but...you never know!

"Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say 'Ni!' at will to old ladies.  There is a pestilence upon this land.  Nothing is sacred.  Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress at this period in history."

"...Did you say 'shrubberies'?"



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 12:58:07 PM EST
Right on topic, as always!

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:01:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks RG, I haven't seen it in years! :)

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:07:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As you know there's a big UN delegation in Geneva, as well as many international institutions. I suppose it's a bit like Brussels, but the city itself is smaller. You can live in the expat community, but it'll be like living in a (very international) village. That's my half-educated guess.

I loved Geneva when I was there. Very nice town. Neat, quiet, posh, überschaubar, kind people. A nice place to rest.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 01:15:49 PM EST
I used to do a bit of business around Switzerland, and I found the German (Zurich) Swiss more orderly and less agréable than the French, who in turn were less fun than the Italian (Lugano) Swiss.

But I wouldn't trade any of those places for Linlithgow...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 02:30:23 PM EST
I have a friend who went there to work in Financial IT. Halas, she is in an isolated recent couple, speaks French, and both work in Finance ; not sure it's very relevant to your questionings... If you are interested I could ask her to contact you.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 02:51:10 PM EST
Funny, I was just checking out the area this summer as my wife would like that I find a good job in the area, we've many very good friends in Annecy which is just to the south.

That would be my recommendation, Annecy, it's a bit touristy cute but still a great place to live and raise children; you can commute to Geneva from there, a lot of people do, I would actually probably do so by bike, but people do it by auto as well (a new thouroughfare is going in which will make it an even shorter commute).

Mig, get a job there and then tell 'em to hire me!!!!

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 03:46:43 PM EST
44km bike commute ? Impressive.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 03:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends on which side of the lake you live on, but actually 40km isn't that far if you're a "roady". I average between 400 and 500km/week depending on time of year and training cycle, 25km is pretty much a minimum distance for getting value out of a ride.


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 03:57:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are mountains, too, and SUV-driving Hauts-Savoyards (brrrr)...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's mostly piste cyclable from a bit south of Seyssel to Geneva, I'm told it's not that pitched.  So not so bad if you're on the northern eastern side of Annecy, northern tip of the lake.

I didn't ride it though, stayed off the bike the whole time in France this summer, so for all that I know, this might have been a marketing ploy from my friend Loran.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:25:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My hubby used to live and work in Geneva. His work environment (CERN) was multilingual, so I don't know about managing in English in other kinds of jobs. But he says it was quite easy to get along in English at first, but learning French pretty soon became a priority.  

He really enjoyed the proximity to the mountains: great bicycling, trekking, and climbing just 'round the corner. What he did not like that much: the prices. It's an expensive city. Don't know how expensive in comparison to London, though.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:09:38 PM EST
I think Geneva would be a great place to live. I haven't been there in awhile, but I used to visit often and mostly with people who spoke English and were connected to the UN. There is a big international community, so my guess is teaching Yoga in English should be no problem. I used to teach a few seminars in Geneva, also in English. Besides, it could be fun learning French - keeps the grey brain cells happy.

Besides you have the lake, not far from the mountains, its within a stones throw of France an in approx. 2 hours you are in Italy.

Maybe you should organize for a few days in Geneva, and get a feeling for it. And a good person to ask is someone who lives currently in Geneva, she might to be able to give you more up-to-date information.

by Fran on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:22:47 PM EST
US buddy of mine used to work in Genf/Geneva/Geneve for a couple of years.  He is half African-American and looks kind of vaguely Third World, also a big imposing guy physically.  He said the Swiss seemed to assume he was Turkish and were -- not overtly rude, exactly, no one was ever openly rude -- but definitely he felt the prejudice esp when seeking housing.  He would have a very chummy phone chat with a prospective landlord or -lady and then as soon as they saw him in person (a great big 'Turk') -- there would be polite excuses and mysterious problems and misunderstandings.

After two years of this, despite the scenery and the food and the cleanliness and the musical Swiss chitchat and the Kulcha (all of which he loved), he transferred back to the US.  Said it was just too lonely being big and dark in der Schweiss.

Might be better now, might be worse, who kmows, but when he told me the story I remember thinking it sounded a bit like some towns in Texas, real nice, lovely people, so long as you ain't too Mexican...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 05:59:50 PM EST
Wikipedia Geneva
The population of the Canton is split between 148,500 people originally from Geneva (33.7%), 122,400 Swiss from other cantons (27.6%) and 170,500 foreigners (38.7%), from 180 different countries.[3] Including people holding multiple citizenship, 54.4% of people living in Geneva hold a foreign passport.[4]


We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 06:15:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so... locals feel threatened by high percentage of visibly foreign residents?

or is there something particular about Turks, as iirc there was in Germany in recent years?  I seem to recall that Turkish "Gastarbeiter" were unpopular, similar dynamic to "illegal immigrant" hullabaloo in US.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 07:25:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many foreign residents are there for tax-haven-associated reasons, and these are no doubt highly acceptable. "Turks", on the other hand...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 03:49:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if this applies anymore, or even applies to Geneva, but the Swiss correspondent of the BBC once moaned at me that if, as a foreigner (not EU remember) you have a job in a town, you have to reside within the town. Which means for places like geneva that everything is expensive cos all the many foreigners have to live in the restricted zone. You're NOT allowed to live outside.

Now that could have changed, but it's worth checking cos that will make a huge difference to what you can afford. I suspect that studenty places like CERN etc get dispensations, but financial may be different.

However, good luck

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 06:11:38 PM EST
I'm trying to get my head around the practicalities of enforcing that rule...

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 06:17:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would not that conflict with free movement of people?

Switzerland and the European Union - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From the perspective of the EU, the treaties largely contain the same content as the EEA treaties, making Switzerland a virtual member of the EEA or even the EU. Most EU law applies universally throughout the EU, the EEA and Switzerland, providing most benefits of the free movement of people, goods, services and capital that full member states enjoy. Switzerland pays into the EU budget and extended the bilateral treaties to the new EU member states, just like full members did.


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 08:12:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru, I think this would not affect you. As far as I know this is only for asylum seekers. It seems every canton has to take in a certain amount of asylum seekers, so that not a few places like Zürich or Geneva end up having to deal with all of them.

It is usually the community that handles the process of integrating them. They organize and pay for language courses, they pay at the beginning for the living expenses, they help with finding work and if they do not earn enough money they are supported from that community.

I have two friends who were asylum seekers, it was frustrating for them - because it takes approx. 4-5 years to get a B-permission, which allows them to move freely all over Switzerland. However, one of them has now his own company and the other a good job. They are well integrated, speak German and understand Swiss German and they always had the financial support. No Asylum seeker ends up on the street with no roof over the head or no food, like we read the other day about the UK.

It seems to be a very burocratic system, and probably more could be done to make it more human, but some of the problems might stem from the cantons and communities being responsible for the integration process and not the federal state.

I think if you would move to Geneva for a company the will apply for you for a B-permission, so that should be no problem.

by Fran on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 01:27:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know excatly how it is handled now for EU citizens, but with that new agreement you probably get the B-permission automatically.
by Fran on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 01:38:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if you have a French licence plate ending in 74 (the number for the département of Hauter Savoie which is next to Geneva), you'd better have a really good reason to be in Geneva late at night - and crossing the border.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 03:25:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A great number of people working in Geneva have their residence in France, either around Ferney-Voltaire or around Annemasse. That's mainly because housing prices are quite high in Geneva. And they have no problem commuting everyday.

Geneva is a nice city, not as lively as London or Paris, but with a big international community mainly made of people working in the many international institutions and organisations which have their siege there.

Annecy is a wonderful place to go to, but the housing prices are sky high.

The country around Geneva is beautiful, and if you like skiing, it's the right place. Lyon is only 1h30 to 2h away by car or train and it takes between 4h and 5h to go to the south of France and the Mediterranean.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 04:14:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since 1 June of this year, there is no restriction on free movement anymore for people from EU-15 (+Iceland, Norway and Liechstenstein). The last restrictions will be lifted in 2014 for people from "new" Europe.
See this for more info on Geneva and bilateral treaties (only french).

In june 2009, there will be a referendum on these bilateral treaties. With the recent gains of SVP /UDC (nationalist right party) in Switzerland, I fear what the issue could be.

by Hansvon on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 04:39:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The treaties are a two-way street. If the Swiss repeal them, they will feel it more than the EU states.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 05:08:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The last restrictions will be lifted in 2014 for people from "new" Europe.

Are you telling me that Barbara won't be allowed to move freely within Switzerland?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 05:31:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DT > Bilatérales > Libre circulation des personnes
L'accord sur la libre circulation des personnes a été étendu aux 10 nouveaux Etats membres de l'UE (Chypre, Estonie, Hongrie, Lettonie, Lituanie, Malte, Pologne, République tchèque, Slovaquie, Slovénie) grâce à une quinzaine d'accords le 1er mai 2006.

...

La Suisse pourra maintenir jusqu'en 2011 des restrictions à l'accès à son marché du travail  vis-à-vis de 8 des 10 nouveaux Etats membres de l'UE (Estonie, Hongrie, Lettonie, Lituanie, Pologne, République tchèque, Slovaquie, Slovénie). Elle maintiendra la priorité des travailleurs déjà intégrés sur le marché du travail, le contrôle a priori des conditions de travail ainsi que le contingentement des permis.



We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 05:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've had a few friends live in Geneva at various points and the basic summation is:

Nice place, especially with children, so long as you can afford the cost of living. (Whether that's purely by salary or commuting arrangement or whatever, that was always the number one quality of life issue cited.)

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 06:58:41 PM EST
I worked in Geneva and in other Swiss cities for short periods over the years.  I would just echo what Fran and others wrote and say that I found Geneva to be a very nice city and wouldn't mind living there.  I kind of preferred the German speaking cities, particularly Bern and Zurich, if I had a choice; however, that's just my personality coming through. I've heard many Americans say Switzerland is overly ordered/regulated, but I don't agree.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 10:55:34 PM EST
I live in Geneva! It's, um, nice?? I don't leave my apartment much, other than to go snowboarding, so don't really know all that much about the city. People here do speak French, so occasionally I have to pretend to do so as well, but the amount of French required to get around is not much.

People are generally friendly, though on occasion I've had my hair pulled to see if it attached to my head. Will probably not be a problem unless yours is pink too, however. (And this happened in Paris as well, so it is not a unique Geneva phenomena.)

Getting an apartment is a bit of a pain! They have this 'nice' system whereby one visit some apartment, then go to the regi and fill out paperwork to apply for it, applications are gathered, and one gets it or not. It can take some time and several applications. There is a clause in the papers one signs to apply that says that if it is offered but declined one must pay CHF200. I did decline a few (got several offers) but did not have to pay, so I don't know under what circumstances this really happens.

I will echo those saying that it should be no problem teaching yoga in English. Many, many foreigners, and most people further have the attitude that language problems can be dealt with, no real need to understand each other, some how it all works out.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 01:55:31 AM EST
I've had a number of meetings over in Geneva (I live 4+ hrs East), and have gotten to know a number of people there. Here's some of  I've heard from them: that about 20% of the population in Geneva speaks English, and with the UN and numerous NGOs, there's a lot of people coming and going...which is good and bad...good for business, maybe not so good in getting to know people (who are expats, anyway, as they leave soon). There are Swiss schools and lots of other private schools to choose from for your son, and the schools are good. Geneva is a pretty town...I particularly like the old town. The main town of Geneva is quite expensive, and can be challenging to find housing in...but if you look in between Geneva & Lausanne, there are lots of towns that have plenty of housing and better prices. And I have been told numerous times that I could have found work much quicker here in Switzerland if I lived in Geneva, because there are so many people who speak English...and I definitely think you can find/create work there. Good luck! I hope this works out for you!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 03:02:06 AM EST
It seemed to me I'd seen Geneva high in the most expensive cities ranking, and it is:

  1. Moscow
  2. London
  3. Seoul
  4. Tokyo
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Copenhagen
  7. Geneva

But you'd only be moving from N° 2 to N° 7!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 03:43:36 AM EST
A friend moved to Geneva about four or five years ago, and your diary made me realize how little I really know about her, in that I have no idea whether she speaks French or German (she's Swedish) but I have to assume that she does, because I think her job would be impossible to do otherwise.

I do know she had trouble adjusting there, found it rather lonely at first and difficult to make friends.  She seems to have settled in quite comfortably now, but I think she also enjoys the fact that her job requires a fair amount of travel, so she doesn't have to be there all the time.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 05:53:01 AM EST
I've been several times for brief visits to Geneva and Switzerland (visiting CERN, touring the italian lakes, a trade fair ...)

There are two things that rebute me in this country:
1) Cost: when in Geneva 13 years ago, all items in a boulangerie where the same price tag as in Paris, except it was Swiss Franc instead of French Franc (four times increase over Paris).

Also, an ad board in CERN for house rentals-swaps between physicists on distant assignments, listed houses on the french side of the border (Pays de Gex) which where basically the same price/rent as Neuilly (Sarkoland near Paris).

I don't think any of these has changed much since.

2) Ambient Fascism: Switzerland is a teaser show of what is to come in America, and it has been for decades, people just pretend not to pay attention because it is a tax haven. Yet a country of widescale autistic paranoia. Foreigners are traced, littering is punished like murder, denunciation are the expected social norm.

When crossing the border by car going to a trade fair a couple of year ago with a pack of commercial leaflets (wow, subversive materials !), the customs officer wanted to tax us on the leaflets arguing that is was inconceivable that we could hand them out for free at a trade fair ("gracieusement ? ça n'existe pas ça Monsieur").

A colleague with a Swiss girlfriend explained me that he once got in trouble, because he dumped opened mail envelopes in a trash can in the street, that was about to get taken away (but it was from another building as his). Well the concierge had seen him, got his name from the envelopes, and he later had a visit from police and a fine (it turned out this is because the waste truck measure the weight of waste for every building for billing-on-weight scheme, and there are fines for cheating this, but this was 20 grams of paper !).

And of course, you know about all the polls and the mainstream opinion of the Swiss on all major social issues.

Pierre

by Pierre on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 07:45:35 AM EST
Hmm, I don't think Pierre likes the Swiss too much...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 02:24:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What makes you think so?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 02:31:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks to all of you for your input... you've confirmed some of my fears but it's not all bad. I guess London was not the easiest place to adjust to either, so we'd have a bit of practice. The main question, shall Miguel actually get a job offer there, will be whether I can work there (be employed, not only self-employed) or not.

I am lured by the nature and the cleanliness, and when thinking about how much people mindlessly litter in London, I kind of don't blame the Swiss for being so militant when it comes to punishment for littering (although the envelope story was a bit too much!!!). I do worry about their other attitudes. Fran, yes, learning French would be good for the brain, definitely, it would be nice to get another language under the belt (and actually experience what it's like learning it when one's out of college ;) and not a kid anymore).

I'd like to try those 40 mile bike trips... but as a commute I think it's better suited for Miguel -- he leaves me in a cloud of dust when we bike together.

Again, thanks a bunch, I read all this with great interest and I'm happy to have such a community at my fingertips :).

Wishing all of you a lovely Sunday...

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Sat Nov 10th, 2007 at 12:49:44 PM EST
Well, I, for one, would be happy to see you three escape Leyton, having been harassed by the locals with only the good fortune to be a few feet from the Underground in the area.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 11:37:50 AM EST
but if you stick it out till 2012 theres the oppertunity  to make pile from renting out olympic accomodation. ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Nov 12th, 2007 at 12:10:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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