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Old 14.03.2017, 18:06
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Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Hi all,

I moved to the Geneva area about 3 years ago, hoping to move to a well run, clean and safe country with beautiful nature.

Weekends are certainly great here, so much to explore, and every season has its charm. However, daily life feels really worse than any place I have lived before, so I am not sure how quality of life can be considered the best in the world here. I look for guidance! What I am getting wrong here?

Let me explain:

- Even compared to our Swiss salaries, in percentage terms, services seem extremely expensive. To the extent that you end up avoiding dealing with anyone, do everything yourself or ask friends for favors. It's that bad. Services include babysitters, taxis, home repair, home delivery services, etc.

- There is in my mind a culture of scarcity in this country. Everything seems a scarce resource that you need to fight for, and which gives the seller a strong position, eventually reflected in pricing. Examples: housing (200 applicants for one apartment I heard in Geneva), childcare (long waiting lists), road infrastructure (try coming back from Valais on Sunday, crossing Geneva,etc.), spas and swimming pools (often overcrowded making the experience really unpleasant), want a spot to moor your boat on Lake Geneva --> years in a waiting list, etc.

- There is also a culture of doing the strict minimum: insurance coverage (limited scope, and an obsession with franchises), childcare opening hours (often until 6pm only!!), opening hours of shops (no Sunday, 7pm weekdays), call centers closed during lunchtime and in the evenings/weekends, architecture-wise it's usually purely utilitarian, indoor pools are kept at low temps, 25-27degrees which is too cold for young children, etc.

- There is a culture of "having to pay for everything", even for things you didn't know existed. Go to Zermatt and it's really in your face, even before you get there. You're paying your taxes but somehow there is more: "Firemen service insurance", the public broadcasting fee, "trash tax", etc. Sometimes you wonder what is the next fee you had not anticipated...

- Restaurants are significantly more expensive than eating at home. Like 5-10x more, and food is not particularly amazing. Food in France for instance is much more sophisticated in my mind. So you end up never eating out, and inviting people at your place (with the huge overhead involved in cleaning up and preparing food). Even on a daily basis at work, the canteen charges you 12CHF++, for canteen food that is, so that you end up eating sandwiches to keep budget reasonable.

- Public transport seems more expensive for a family than owning car. It's hard to believe but it seems true. Everybody here is praising the public transport network , but I feel it's rarely in my (financial) interest to use it. In the mountains and nature, a car is so much more convenient anyways. Now, talking about cars... it's a real nightmare to drive through Geneva, it feels like the traffic light system is archaic and not coordinated, generating artificial(!) congestion. Really frustrating and makes the city look so badly managed (ok some will say its an incentive for using public transport, but not everyone, especially families with young kids, can enjoy public transport). Not even talking about parking fees in Geneva (paid once 20++CHF for 3-4 hours).

- The concept of public good and space is not as developed as in other countries. The mentality is steered towards private ownership and capitalism (in a negative sense). Look at how most of Lake Geneva's shores have been sold to the rich and famous, leaving very little infrastructure for everyone to enjoy. Try riding a bike or go for a run along Lake Geneva, it's a terrible experience. Just go to Annecy and see what shared premium public places can look like. Similary, parking space across the country is under the dictatorship of private ownership, instead of shared or available for free. Just cross the border to France and you enjoy "freedom" to park wherever you. It feels good/much better.

- Early child education is a nightmare. First if you want to be subsidized (which with one salary you usually want to), you will be put on a waiting list at the commune and cannot directly contact kindergardens nor visit them!!! Very frustrating and you feel at the mercy of a system, no free choice. Then, when you get a spot, probably after 6 months or so, you have to pay the price, up to 2600CHF per month, which is steep. If the quality of education was great, you could still swallow it, but then, most creches are really just advanced "garderies", there is personalized child development, they don't learn anything really, mostly play in a supervised and unsupervised environment. So, you end up having to put your kid in a private school, not subsidized, which is typically good in terms of quality of early child education. Overall a poor system, depending on what you're used to in your own country.

- Housing is a nightmare. Another aspect where supply and demand are totally imbalanced. It's a seller's market, definitely, with as I said 10s or 100s of applicants per vacancy. Moreover many apartments are old, some expect you to share washing machines with others, etc. so you somehow feel you're paying a lot, but don't get much value or a high-end product.

- Taxes. They might look low or high depending where you're coming from. One thing is for sure, the system is so complex that in advance even tax advisors find it difficult to tell you how much you're going to pay. Moreover, married couples pay more taxes than singles, which goes against what most people think is right (i.e. state should incentivize marriage and having children).

- Healthcare and health insurance. International surveys say it's great, but my experience it's exactly the opposite. First coverage is really minimalistic (Lamal). No IVF covered for instance, no dentistry, etc. so you better safe 1000s of CHF just for such costs which are incurred by many at some point. If you want better coverage, the complementaires exist, but somehow only cover a limited number of things as well and require a 5-year commitment, which is crazy! Then this culture of having huge franchises and a quote-part is difficult to swallow and you always think twice before going to the doctor. No peace of mind! Finally, my experience is that doctors are so much overpaid here, it's quite ridiculous. They earn at least 5x more than in France I would say. Moreover, if you want an appointment on the same day or the next day with a GP, they apply a "emergency" surcharge. Also, every minute counts, i.e. there is no fixed cost for a GP visit. All in all, it's a stressful, painful and expensive system built in my mind rather for the medical profession rather than with the patients in mind.

- Switzerland is clean - well, Geneva is not clean with plenty of graffiti's everywhere and buildings not being well maintained.

- Switzerland is beautiful - well, architecture-wise in the cities, it feels mostly like the "soviet-union", minimalist architecture. Modern architecture is often not very inspired either. For some reason also, they kept these tram power lines everywhere which looks messy at best. Overall, the earlier you leave cities the better it gets in Switzerland (i.e. live close to the highway to escape!).

- Switzerland is safe - this is very true I must admit, to an extent I have never experienced elsewhere (postman leaving valuable deliveries in front your door outside the apartment building, etc.). That said, in Geneva at night, you often stumble upon drug dealers, junkies and people that make you uncomfortable. As a woman I would not walk alone at night in many areas of Geneva.

There is more to say, but this is probably a good list to start with. If my assessment above makes sense, at least to some extent and to some people, how on earth can this correspond to a highest quality of life on earth? In my mind the system doesn't give peace of mind, is very competitive and delivers little value at the end of the day. The beauty of the nature only compensates this partially. If you're local with a good network of friends and family you can rely on, or are an expat with an generous package, you might be fine, but otherwise, quality of life is quite low in my mind ! Also, how come it isn't better? In a highly democratic and rich country you would expect the system to be "customized for people" and not protecting special interests so much.
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Old 14.03.2017, 18:30
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Is it Friday already?
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Old 14.03.2017, 18:30
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Survival. You get on with it..plus if you don't come from the culture of scarcity and skills already, you will learn these competences mega fast. It is not so bad for you, at the end.
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Old 14.03.2017, 18:40
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Great! Different city, same complaints!
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Old 14.03.2017, 18:55
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

You know how some vinyl records come with two tracks on the same side which play randomly depending on where you drop the needle?

Well, Geneva works on the same principle.

I'm not familiar with the precise geography of the roads which enter the city, what with it being so deep into the Welschland where, I hear, there be dragons, but I know that several roads bring you to the Geneva you describe, whereas one very rarely taken road takes you to another Geneva, the one beloved by contributors to financial supplements, quality of life surveys and travel journals.

The other Geneva is a marvellous place, where the permanently snowy mountainsides glitter in the never dimming sunshine, while the residents of the city below stroll to work from their palatial waterside residences, occasionally jumping on an empty bus or tram to save their legs for their lunchtime pedalo voyage across the lake. The city's streets are barely distinguishable from a verdant tropical forest with all the lush greenery which lines the pristine, clean pavements.

Children cheerfully attend well-equipped schools, provided free of charge by the canton, in which they can take part in all kinds of extra-curricular activities run by smiling, kindly teachers, whose dedication to their jobs means they often stay until nine or ten o' clock at night to look after children who might otherwise go home to an empty house.

Their parents, meanwhile, work in bright, airy offices, with three hour lunchbreaks as the norm, and a spirit of democracy which means that all employees are effectively equal and there are no middle managers playing silly games with their subordinates' livelihoods.

There is no health or accident insurance in the other Geneva, as nobody ever gets sick or injured. Even the ski-slopes in the other Geneva are soft as a downy pillow, and warm as a puppy's bum.

As I said, there is only one road to the other Geneva, and it is hard to find. It's like dropping the needle on your vinyl record and getting the rare demo version of Stairway to Heaven featuring Lead Belly and Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Instead, you've ended up with the Hip Hop version of We Built This City featuring Mötley Crüe and Donovan.

Sorry about that.

Last edited by Dougal's Breakfast; 14.03.2017 at 19:07.
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Old 14.03.2017, 18:57
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Your profile says you're danish.

Well, my OH lives and works in Copenhagen at the moment and to be brutally honest Denmark's not exactly the paradise it's often made out to be either.

High taxes, overcrowded public transport, the city is grubby, children are over indulged and spoilt. Healthcare is expensive as on top of taxes you have to pay extra for everything beyond the first doctor's appointment (for which you'll wait several days, even if you're in pain).
Finding a place to live is a nightmare unless you know someone that's vacating an apartment, the housing stock is old and badly insulated; so you often know exactly what your neighbours are up to.
Bathrooms are usually just a shower-head attached to the washbasin in the toilet, laundry rooms are in the basement, food is expensive and a half-decent restaurant can cost a fortune.

Sounds familiar? Do you want me to go on??

Having said that, the people are mostly pleasant and the countryside is lovely and he's enjoying his time there.....

Stop being so negative, Geneva's a great place to live for a while; make the most of it.
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Old 14.03.2017, 19:05
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

I started typing out my reply but have finished a whole beer just digesting your post so no longer care about the details. Maybe tomorrow. Nowhere's perfect but I can sit on my patio with the sun going down sipping my Gralsburg which cost about 50c & I am at peace with the world.
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Old 14.03.2017, 19:24
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

There is certain streak in GE that keeps charming people enough: it is partisan, chic and sassy. It is not so logical, but that does not mean it is not quality.
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Old 14.03.2017, 19:27
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

People come to Switzerland excepting high salaries but they also expect people who provide services to make peanuts.
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Old 14.03.2017, 19:48
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

I've lived in Geneva for 5 and half years and my experience is overwhelmingly positive. I wanted to move to Geneva and so I'm personally invested in making it work.

However, you've articulated your views and experiences well, which is why I find myself thanking a post I disagree with much of.
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Old 14.03.2017, 19:55
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Whatever our opinions, nice post..
Better than the usual Geneva is crap posts.

I only lived in GE for 3 months and moved out to a village.. But I work there everyday and I can agree with a lot in the post.

Grafitti, litter etc.. Getting worse.. The quality of persons hanging around the station, even at 7am never mind night time is getting worse.

A lot though is just city living, that's why we moved out to a village.. Baby sitters, plenty and cheap.. Housing, bigger, cheaper, available, gardens.. etc.. Community, people know each other around the village. Creche, school etc, no waiting lists, facilities like pools, cheap and spacious.. No low life (not lower than me at least)..

So I guess you makes the choices.. I have a 50 mins each way commute for what I see as a better lifestyle.. Or I could live 5 minutes from the office with much of the crap described.
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Old 14.03.2017, 19:58
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Why not move out to France and get the advantages of a French life style with a Swiss salary? You just have to get up early to avoid the horrible traffic.
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Old 14.03.2017, 20:03
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

According to your other thread, you've been in Geneva for a year or less, as you were comparing salaries with your Singapore one last January.

https://www.englishforum.ch/employme...nt-salary.html

Perhaps you and aresid should get together and have a mutual moan off.

https://www.englishforum.ch/complain...ty-living.html
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Old 14.03.2017, 20:04
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

I hardly can grasp the idea of such posts. Even if everyone on this particular forum agree and state "No, the quality of life in Geneva (Zürich, Zug, Bern, Basel, insert your favorite Swiss city here) is really NOT that good"--would that change anything for you?

Also, when you say "I moved to the Geneva area about 3 years ago, hoping to move to a well run, clean and safe country with beautiful nature."--where do you think the money to maintain it all should come from? Switzerland "just" operates on different principles than most of other developed western countries: the low taxes and high salaries do mean that citizens must sponsor the living standards, healthcare, "high" services costs, etc. There are alternative governing models, where citizens are charged via much higher taxes. The other "shortcomings" that you mentioned: traffic jams, high housing costs, etc etc--are all regulated by the demand-supply law: too many people want to drive cars, eat out, rent a house, etc--and they can afford what they have to pay for it.

That said, being unhappy about a particular city/country doesn't really leave you with many options but to try finding something better suited for your taste.
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Old 14.03.2017, 20:07
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Maybe you need to learn French or whatever, but you're certainly missing something.

Scarcity, the country is small and so resources are limited, we can't all have a bot on the lake ! What do you want a nice country side or an 8 lane highway between Sion and Geneva for 2 x per week, Friday evening & Sunday evening

Strict minimum, no we appreciate our time off and appreciate all people need time off !

If pools are any hotter they would be a breeding ground for bacteria, maybe Danish kids piss less in the water but 25-27°C is more than adequate.

Eating out is not so expensive, nor is food and wine, if you know how to shop

A car, according to the fisc costs Chf 0.70 to run, public transport is good and not expensive, get half price card.

Health care is excellent, IVF is not exactly health care but a choice, some of us can, some of us can't, but it's not life threatening in any sense whatsoever.
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Old 14.03.2017, 20:13
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

This is insanely subjective.

Geneva ?

OK I understand. Got to get things up-to-date and so on but holy moly.

Best wishes and so on.
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Old 14.03.2017, 21:02
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

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If my assessment above makes sense, at least to some extent and to some people, how on earth can this correspond to a highest quality of life on earth?
It reflects one of two things:
1) the people who vote on these things are from complete dumps, making Geneva relatively the best place ever (i.e., compared to everywhere except the western world).

2) clever marketing over decades to convince expats and UN officials to base themselves there, tolerating a crappy life but massaging the ego of the diplomatic groups.
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Old 14.03.2017, 21:04
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

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Why not move out to France and get the advantages of a French life style with a Swiss salary? You just have to get up early to avoid the horrible traffic.
Please refrain from using bad language. Move to France?
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Old 14.03.2017, 22:44
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Funny to complain about expensive restaurants, yet at the same time moan that there's a waitlist to moor your boat on the lake. Priorities?

My insurance covers dental at a minor additional monthly premium.

Healthcare in general is excellent.

IVF is a choice. Certain forms are indeed covered by even basic insurance, though to a limited extent. Beyond that, again, a choice, not a right.

Doctors are not overpaid. At all.

The pay-for-everything-extra mentality is true. That is why taxes are low.

Housing is only a nightmare in urban areas, like it is in most countries. Which is why I don't understand why everyone has to live in the "city" here, given most of them are small anyway and you often don't even notice if you cross into a suburb.

Public transportation is extremely affordable. Buy a Halbtax, it will pay for itself in no time.

Geneva shady in places? Maybe. As shady as pretty much any other city in the world? Nope.

No argument on the ridiculous price of childcare.
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Old 15.03.2017, 00:56
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Re: Is Quality of Life in Geneva really that good?

Many swiss also have this perception about cities in french-speaking switzerland. Still, compared to other cities in europe they are pretty good. The destruction of the coast is something that happened in the 60s, big planning mistakes back then in all of switzerland...
Regarding money just keep in mind that swiss have more disposable income at the end of the day than other europeans. But it's true it won't buy you restaurant meals as cheaply. Families just do not go to restaurants on a regular basis. That's the price of the high income equality.
As for public transport, it's a no brainer that when 3+ people are traveling the car gets much cheaper than public transport, I think that's true anywhere. But I would be happy about it since I'm not a fan of public transport.

My suggestion? Do what many families do, move to the suburbs.
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