Moving to Geneva
It’s not clear whether the city was named after the lake or the lake named after the city but what is certain is that both Geneva and Lake Geneva are integral to the identity of the other. The city’s extensive waterfront and famous Jet d’Eau fountain lend it the chic, tranquil aura that attracts tourists and international organisations. Its location at the point where the lake flows back into the Rhône made it an important town for merchants in ages past. The defensive qualities of the lake and surrounding mountains meant that Geneva was able to retain a degree of independence under the power of the Holy Roman Empire, Savoy and France before joining the Swiss Federation in 1815.
Today Geneva is a truly international city. Its financial institutions grease the wheels of commerce all over the world while the headquarters of the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation and the International Committee of the Red Cross make it a hotspot of diplomacy.
Geneva also has a diverse, multi-lingual population of whom around 44% are foreign nationals. These immigrants come to Geneva not only to work in the prestigious organisations based there but also to enjoy the city’s rich architectural heritage, temperate climate, truly 21st century infrastructure and living standards that have been ranked the third highest of any city in the world.
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Moving to Geneva from the UK
Though English is widely spoken in Geneva those moving from the UK would do well to learn some French if their stay is to be an extended one. Geneva lies in French speaking Switzerland and French is the official language in the canton. Luckily there are many French language courses on offer including a free language exchange programme for new residents run by the Geneva Welcome Center.
The Swiss Federation’s 26 cantons have a good deal of autonomy which means differences in taxes, laws etc exist between them. The canton of Geneva (GE) charges a top rate of income tax of 34.9%, payable on income over CHF 579,000. This is very favourable in comparison with the UK where income tax is charged at 50% on income over £150,000. Nevertheless, the tax rate varies between municipalities so it’s worth the additional research when deciding where in Geneva to live.
Property around Lake Geneva is some of the most expensive in Switzerland with the prices of houses having risen twice as fast as incomes in recent years. High demand from wealthy expats and a shortage of housing stock are the two key contributors. Mortgage rates are very low at present though banks are becoming stricter with their lending criteria, increasingly demanding larger deposits.
Comparing Geneva vs London
Geneva’s temperate climate is very similar to that of London’s. Temperatures in the summer reach average highs of around 26 °C - slightly warmer than London - and in the winter average lows of around -1 °C - slightly colder than London. Geneva sees more average annual precipitation than London, around 70% more in fact, of which a great deal is snowfall in December, January and February. By way of compensation Geneva experiences 23% more sunshine hours, on average, per annum.
The cost of living in Geneva is significantly higher than in London when prices are compared directly. While rent and property is marginally more expensive the costs of groceries, eating out and consumer goods are significantly higher. Average salaries in Geneva though are much higher than those in London leading to improved purchasing power.
On average Genevois report themselves as feeling just as safe as Londoners, experiencing marginally better healthcare, spending much less time commuting and putting up with less pollution.
Alongside architectural delights such as the Cathedral St-Pierre and the neo-Baroque Musée Ariana Geneva’s chief cultural attractions include the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the largest opera house in Switzerland; many museums and art galleries among which is the CERN Microcosm; and several local festivals including the feast day of Jeûne genevois, the summer Fêtes de Genève and the chocolate heavy L'Escalade.