I don’t write about Geneva a lot, because a) yes, it is a little boring compared to DC and b) this is more of a travel-focused blog in which Geneva plays the role of home base. However, I saw this article today about how Geneva is the worst-ranking city in Switzerland when it comes to expat life and it broke my heart a little bit. Yes, Geneva is expensive and a little dirty and a lot of the buildings give off major 1970s USSR vibes… but it’s also got plenty going for it. My personal reasons for liking Geneva are:
1. It’s diverse. By Swiss standards. At no point, at any time of day, am I ever the only non-white person on the street, which is something that matters a lot to me. There are a lot of people here who work for international organizations as well as foreign embassies. In French class, my classmates have hailed from countries like Spain, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mongolia, Russia, and Canada.
2. If you can cook, the food situation here is pretty good. My coworker and I moved to Geneva at the same time, she from London and I from DC. We were comparing notes a while back and realized that we’ve both lost weight since moving here. Not just weight loss from moving-related stress, but because the food at supermarkets is healthier, especially if you buy your own groceries and cook at home. The supermarket prices here are comparable to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in DC, so they weren’t shocking to me when I first moved here. It’s also kind of nice, say, buying a jar of tomato sauce knowing that somebody drove it over in a truck from Italy.
3. It’s super close to France without being too French. I am a proud Francophile. I used to go crazy googling articles like “how to dress like a French woman” and “how to make café crème like they do in Paris”. BUT I do also find the French — broadly speaking — to be a little too disorganized, laidback and brusque compared to what I’m used to. For example: there is a Carrefour in Ferney-Voltaire, a French town that is just half an hour from Geneva, whose front store windows have been broken and sat there unrepaired for at least a month. I can’t see this happening in Switzerland. Another example: If you order something at a restaurant in Lyon, which is just two hours from Geneva, the waiter will stalk off silently, come back in half an hour, and slam the order down on your table without a single word. The Swiss, on the other hand, are all about the niceties. “Bonjour ! Oui oui, c’est ça ! Et voilà, madame, bon appétit ! Merci, bonne journée !” Basically, Geneva is France with cream and sugar.
4. It’s in a great spot for train travel in Europe. Geneva is three hours from Paris and four from Milan. Amsterdam and Brussels can be reached in less than a day. I have an upcoming trip in February to the UK via Eurostar, which should allow me to get to London in under 8 hours. I remember being crushed earlier this year when I didn’t get a job in Vienna, but that was honestly a blessing in disguise; Geneva is in such a better location for travel!
5. Its natural beauty is stunning. From my kitchen window, I can see the famous Jet d’Eau (the giant fountain the city is known for) and the snow-capped Jura mountains in the background. On a clear day, the view is absolutely majestic.
My office sits on the banks of Lake Geneva / Lac Léman, which is a sight that I don’t have the poetic capability to describe. Every time I come back to Geneva from other parts of Switzerland, I sit on the left side of the train because the vision leaves me mesmerized every time.
Some more shots of Geneva at night taken this past weekend. The Swiss like to go all out for the holiday season! Apparently there was a big historical thing that I missed this weekend where the Swiss reenacted how the French invaded them at some point? (IDK I never took AP European History in high school.) I may not understand it, but I do love how psyched they get about their holiday traditions.