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The hardest posting EVER- reality of switzerland

11 years ago
Offered a job in Geneva with a large salary it seems amazing and exciting! We have all heard of Geneva and what a great place Switzerland is.

THE REALITY OF LIVING HERE IS VERY DIFFERENT.

This has been my unhappiest posting and the most difficult to culturally adapt to. I have worked in many countries including some of the most restrictive in the Middle East as well as other European countries, but this has been by far the most difficult.

1. Finding somewhere to live is a nightmare. I have colleagues who ended up camping, sleeping on floors, living in serviced apartments and hotels. As an experienced re locator I had researched quite well and insisted on a company apartment to start with ( three months) even then it was a nightmare.
a) you need your work permit and attestation from employer before you start to look.
b) you have to bring a whole pack of paper work- more than applying for a job!! Most places ask fro three receipts from your previous three months rental.
c) Most contracts are for two years and they legally binding- it is up to you to find a replacement if you leave early.
d) estate agents will never get back to you. They really do not want to deal with "estranger" especially if your French is not perfect. None ever replied to any e-mail. They did not want to show me anything even on personally visiting.
e) Unless you have lived in Hong Kong you will be staggered at how small accommodation is for the money.
f) Things we take for granted like a washing machine will probably not be in it ( unless you are on a Mega salary and can afford something bigger) The furniture may be tatty and old. two kitchen cupboards, tiny fridge etc and mine was better than many!
g) I ended up in a tower block that would not have been accepted as a council flat in the UK. It had graffiti on the lifts, was a grim 60 concrete construction. My kids as students would certainly have turned up their noses at it.
h) IT IS SO EXPENSIVE- this one bed was 1,800 CHF a month and not near the centre of Geneva.
i) I managed to get a sublet for 6 months - often a way in- BUT even though the tenant wanted me to stay- the REGI ( who are like gods and dictate everything (except the colour of your knickers) would not let her rent to to me even for another month- she was threatened with eviction if she did - even though she was studying abroad.
j) every time you move it is a administrative nightmare and you have to pay fees.
h) dealing with utilities/ internet connection etc is really tough- nothing is straight forward.

2. Everywhere closes ALOT so the only time you can deal with anything or even to shop is in working hours. Geneva is like a ghost town on a Sunday. Finding places to eat out or have what I consider a normal life is not possible. My husband on visits said it reminded him of the MIddwich Cuckoos. It certainly is really spooky how you do not see anyone. In 6 months only one hello in a tower block.

3. Geneva is tiny. It does not have the facilities or activities that you would expect even in a small Uk town. It is SO boring.

4. You have to by law have medical insurance and they trace you and demand it - I delayed and had a threatening letter about a fine- they trace you as you have to register with "population controle cantonal" - and maybe you will also have to show this to rent a flat! I did for my last one. This is Expensive even for the most basic ( you will still have to pay costs on top if you visit a doctor. An EU medical card is not valid if you work here. 500CHF a month for basic. ( another dint in what looked like a great salary)

5. IT IS SO EXPENSIVE to do anything. Quite simply on the whole I only walk in the country side ( when the weather is good enough) and use the trains, unless you are on a huge expat package then you will feel really poor here.

6. PARKING is a nightmare - as described by previous helpful writers when I was researching.

7. You will not believe how not being able to wash your clothes can get to you! ( Again described by a previous poster I think) I nearly left after the shared 30 year old one- with tokens from the conceirge, and codes etc keep flooding, not opening etc and a horrible concierge shouting at me in french " essaurage essaurage" of course I want the bl---- thing to spin. I do not want my clothes left overnight in wet. Especially as you only get one 2 hour slot a week to use ( honest to god there is a rota and wo betide you if you do not stick to it.) I was lucky I had Sunday- what if has been one in daytime. In the end I bought a washing machine- the only way for sanity. It cost 700 chf for a mini thing that fitted in the bathroom - honestly you would not think they made machines like this now ( you open up the drum and it fitted a tiny load. the outlet pipe goes into the bath.)

8. The Swiss are just as cold as the country. They really have had enough of expats. I just missed the friendly smile and greetings of other cultures.

there are many other difficulties which make life hard- even if your job is great.

I know I am not the only one who feels this way, and now fly home most weekends to Uk ( easy jet are great from Geneva) I met someone who has only spent one weekend here in three years.


So my advice
1. Think long and hard before taking a job here.

2. Maybe come and spend a week here ( trying to find a hotel room and the cost might also give you a clue)

3. Unless your employer actually provides the apartment ( has it all sorted, paper work, internet etc) it does not matter if you have to pay them for it- do NOT come. If you have had any standard of living you will find it hard.

4. Factor the medical insurance into your calculations- or only take a job with it provided.

5. Know that this is not a glamorous exciting city. If you area skier on a really good salary ( none of my colleagues can afford to go! or travel into france) or a really big outdoor sort of person ( hiking is great here) and you do not mind really cold weather for long periods ( Oh factor in winter tyres 1,400 CHF if you drive)

Do Not come.

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