Geneva: the good, the bad and the beautiful

As those who’ve been following my posts here or on Facebook know, yours truly has been actively trying to improve my career by looking farther afield from the northeastern Switzerland market where I reside.

Since the end of last month I have been to Geneva almost every week and the city of Geneva has left its impressions on me.

The good:

It is not shy in promoting itself.

There is a wealth of information both online and in hard copy about the wonders of this city at the junction of the Rhone River and Lac Leman.

Three sources of info I can happily recommend:

Secret Geneva, by Christian Vellas (Jonglez Publishing), is “an indispensable guide for those who think they know Geneva well or who want to discover the hidden side of the city.”

Know-It-All Passport: Geneva/Vaud/Neighbouring France, edited and updated regularly by Lisa Cirieco Ohlman (Know It All Publishing) is “an informative guide for those wishing to know more about Geneva Canton, Vaud Canton and neighbouring France areas”, and is, in my opinion worth its weight in gold for those intending to resettle in this region.

http://www.glocals.com is a website by and for expats in Switzerland, with much of its focus on Geneva, and is the first stop for expats searching for contacts, work or accommodation.

As well what is great about Geneva are its sights, both natural and manmade:

Lac Léman, Western Europe’s biggest lake is a giant liquid mirror lined by elegance and beauty from cosmopolitan Geneva to trendy Lausanne to the twee towns along the shore.

Here one finds vineyards spreading from terraces below climbing the steep hills above.

Here there be fairytale chateaux and magnificent mansions and modest beaches.

Then there are the magnificent Vaudoises Alpes where hikers hike and skiers and snowboarders throw caution to the wind.

Here one can contemplate the origins, and possibly the demise, of the universe at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), a lab for research into particle physics.

(Actually more exciting than it sounds: The world’s biggest machine, a 27 km long circular tube, the Hadron Collider, acclerates protons and their collisions create new matter.)

The Palais des Nations, home to some of the United Nations’ organisations since 1966 and the former site of the League of Nations, is surrounded by a large expanse of parkland with ancient trees and resplendent peacocks.

The Musée International de la Croix Rouge et du Croissant Rouge is a multimedia exhibition showing humanitarian efforts coping with the atrocities of humanity’s wars and disasters.

It is a powerful place showing the depths of both the evil and good potential of people on this planet in unforgettable graphic detail that will leave even the most unemotional visitor visibly moved.

And these are only three of the many sights that one can visit in Geneva.

Geneva is SERENDIPITIOUS.

Everyday I have visited Geneva I discovered something new and fascinating for my wondering eyes.

Sometimes it has been natural, like the unfolding quiet beauty of a simple stroll along the Rhone.

Sometimes it has been manmade, like finding a café to call one’s own.

The bad:

Geneva is EXPENSIVE.

It feels Tokyo/Hong Kong expensive and it is amazingly easy to spend a fortune here without really trying.

The costliness of this city is a constant complaint on the lips of both the visitor and the resident.

Residents even darkly boast about taxis in Geneva being twice as expensive than Zürich taxis, which are astronomically costly.

(Think of pirates on wheels.)

This costliness of life is shown especially when it comes to accommodation, so that many people who work in Geneva live over the border in France where rent is said to be half the cost and double the space of a Geneva flat/apartment.

Geneva is BUSY.

Whatever it is you plan to do in Geneva, book ahead.

Hotels are invariably full 365 days a year, so simply arriving in Geneva hoping you will find an inexpensive room easily is an act of the purest folly.

Book at least a week in advance to be certain of having a bed for the night.

As well, sites like CERN, the Palais des Nations or ICT Discovery (an interactive mulitmedia museum showing the evolution of information technology and home to the ITU – the UN’s information and communication technology agency) not only require pre-booking because of their popularity but also demand you bring your passport for security reasons.

Geneva is TOUGH.

It is a city with a shortage of opportunity for many.

Talking to the local residents will reveal many a Genevois remaining in the job he has because he is unable to find other employment.

Because it is an expensive city, affordable accommodation, whether overnight or longterm, is damnably difficult to find.

(Similar to that of New York, London or Tokyo…)

Like NYC, London or Tokyo, though some folks make a reasonable salary, much of what is earned goes into maintaining a roof over one’s head.

Geneva has ATTITUDE.

Those that have wealth are not at all shy about exhibiting that wealth in this town.

In conversation with residents of neighbouring Vaud Canton, Genevois are snob elitists.

Prosperous Genevois view Vaudois as poor backward bumpkins.

The locals view the costliness of Geneva as the fault of the foreigners amongst them, for if foreign companies and organisations did not spend fortunes to maintain the lifestyles of their resident representatives then local businesses would not have the audacity to charge such outrageous prices for their goods and services.

Each racial distinction or linguistic difference is viewed as a diminishment of Geneva’s traditional purity and the resulting competition for jobs and accommodation makes it difficult for the average native-born Genevois.

And much like Thurgau Canton despises its German neighbour and blames it for whatever misfortunes afflicting it, so do many Genevois blame France for its troubles.

The beautiful:

Nature…

Mere words cannot fully capture how truly at home the heart feels when gazing out upon Lac Léman or meandering beside the Rhone River.

If one could afford it, how delightful a prospect it is to simply sit on the shores and absorb quietly the simple majesty of the waters.

People…

The locals who have affluence dress affluently and are “dedicated followers of fashion”.

I saw many a man in suit and tie and many a woman richly attired.

Many a time I worried about whiplash as my head frequently spun about to view yet another and another cover magazine beauty walking the streets with a be-suited male companion.

In fairness to Genevois, when I compare the ladies of Lausanne to their Geneva counterparts Genevoises do appear more fashionable.

Comparing Genevoises to Lausanoises is like comparing peacocks to dowdy chickens!

(At least, in the minds of Genevoises…)

For myself, with eyes increasingly opening wider and wider with each encounter, Geneva still appeals to me, but whether opportunity will allow me to call Geneva my second Swiss home remains to be seen.

All I know for sure is that Geneva is much more to me than just one of the big nine cities of Switzerland.

For me, Geneva is…an experience.

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