Geneva, “Peace Capital,” is a city of pivotal importance in world affairs. It is where the Geneva Conventions were signed, which chiefly concerns the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war. Switzerland’s second-largest city also serves as a financial centre and a worldwide centre for diplomacy, housing numerous international organisations, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross.
French and English are the most widely spoken languages, followed by Spanish, Portugese and German. A whopping 44% of the population comprises foreign national residents, who bring a decidedly cosmopolitan flavour to the city. Les Genevoise are passionate about culture and sport. Geneva’s opera house, the Grand Théâtre de Genève, boasts the largest stage in Switzerland, and the city is awash with galleries and museums. Ice hockey is the city’s other passion, and it boasts major A-league team Genève-Servette HC.
Geneva may be the most densely populated city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (Romandy), but this has not detracted from its quality of life. After Vienna and Zurich, Geneva was ranked the best place to live (according to consulting firm Mercer’s 2009 survey results). Comfort comes with a price, however. Geneva was also ranked the world’s fourth and fifth most expensive city for expats to live in, in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
What is special or unique about your city?
Geneva is famous for the Jet d’Eau fountain (a water jet 130 meters high), the safety of the city and its international environment, with around 200 missions to the United Nations based here. The city is built on both sides of Lake Geneva, also called le Lac Léman, which is 582 square kilometres, the largest in Europe. The old town of Geneva is surrounded by some beautiful parks. It is really easy to walk from one side of the city to the other, enjoying some shopping, having a drink in one of the 1,400 coffee houses or visiting one of the 27 museums. Geneva boasts of a huge cultural scene with more than 40 theatres, 900 theatrical performances a year and over 140 art galleries. On a clear day, you can see the Mont Blanc, the Alps and the Jura mountains from the city. You also can enjoy the countryside, commonly referred to as “campagne genevoise,” where the area features many charming vineyards. The region of Satigny is particularly known for its beautiful vineyards. The city is often called “the international city of Geneva.”
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
All newcomers arriving in Geneva are surprised by the beauty of the region: the lake, the water jet, the mountains, the old town of Geneva and the impression of being in an international town. One finds people of almost all nationalities well-integrated in the city. As in the rest of Switzerland, Geneva is also a very safe place.
Are these impressions likely to change?
No. They are more likely to be reinforced with time.
What is the local language?
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
As Geneva has many international companies and international organisations, we can easily say that the second language here is English. However, it is advisable to start learning French without delay.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
It's important to remember that Geneva does not belong to France, but to Switzerland, and that Geneva is not only a city and canton but also a "republique."
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
In the summer, it can get as warm as 30° Celsius. In the winter, temperatures are between 0° to -20° Celsius with snowfall.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Geneva is easy to reach from anywhere in Switzerland: by road (the A1 motorways), by rail (both the Swiss Federal Railway network and the French TGV Paris-Milan line), by air and even by water via the Compagnie Générale de Navigation ferries along Lake Geneva. Geneva is close to many popular excursion destinations, such as Montreux and Chillon Castle, Zermatt and the Matterhorn, the Jungfrau and Lucerne, the historical region of Gruyères, the Les Diablerets Glacier, the Vaud Alps and the southern part of France.