Whether you’re looking to move to Geneva, Vaud or a neighbouring area in France, there are many scenic places in the area to settle into life in Switzerland.
Living in Geneva
The area of the Geneva district is only 282 km2. It is an enclosed land encircled by France. It lies south of the Department of the Ain, and north of the Department of the Haute-Savoie. The frontier is 107.5km long, of which 103km is with France, and only 4.5km with the rest of Switzerland made up of a small area of land linking Geneva to the Canton of Vaud. Celigny is made up of 2 small enclaves within the Canton of Vaud but belongs to Geneva.
Geneva was the most heavily populated in the Swiss towns until 1870. Zurich has a larger population, and a recent survey showed that Geneva now outnumbers Basel by a few thousand and is well ahead of Bern and Lausanne.
The Genevese territory includes 7 other towns: Vernier, Lancy, Meyrin, Carouge, Onex, Thônex, and Versoix.
Where to live in Geneva
Geneva is a very small town, compared to the cultural advantages it offers. You can visually see the outskirts of the city from one side of the lake to the other. The best view of this is from the top of the Salève.
Honestly, there are no real bad, stay-away-from neighbourhoods in Geneva, although you might try to avoid the Pâquis area with children (the red light district between rue des Pâquis, Rue de Zurich, rue de Berne, rue Sismondi in general) other areas are fine. It does have character and the lakefront area is top-class. It is the best place for ethnic restaurants, as it is close to everything and has interesting shops. Since prostitution is legal and monitored in Switzerland, it is not as sleazy as you might expect. The ‘girls’ will even give you a polite hello as you pass by with your groceries and a screaming kid!
Large sets of apartment blocks, Avanchet Parc and Le Lignon, seem a bit scary and have groups of teens… being teens.
If you have a view of the lake from your house or apartment on the left bank, then you will be facing the Jura Mountains (sunset behind them). If you are on the right bank, you will have the most spectacular view of the Alps with the Mont-Blanc and the Salève (sunrise over them and pink reflections at sunset).
Views within Geneva include the Jet d’Eau or the Cathedral, both lit at night. The lakefront is lined with tiny lights and the reflections off the water are very colourful in the evening. From the top of the St-Jean neighbourhood, you get a spectacular view of the whole city and the Rhône River straight down the cliff.
Parks are in abundance in Geneva. If you are lucky enough to live next door to one, then you won’t miss the countryside so much, as it is never much of a walk to the closest one.
Buses and trams serve the whole area very well, and they are always tearing up the road to make more improvements. Trains will get you to anything out of town on the right bank.
The French border is very close to just about any side of town, and doing your shopping there on a weekly basis is very common and economical. Note: Be careful about your shopping allowances before crossing the border.
Living near the train tracks or the airport is not considered to be a disadvantage here as it is in other countries. The planes take off and land from opposite sides of the airport, depending on the winds. They do take off slightly more over Vernier, and if you live directly under the path, that might be a disadvantage. The Versoix side seems slightly quieter as they tend to land more from this direction unless you are in the direct line of arrival. Pollution is more of a problem in downtown than near the airport.
Living next to a school playground is noisy at recess, but quiet on the weekends.
Living in Vaud
Vaud has a much larger surface area than Geneva, with 19 communes. There is a total of 375 municipalities in Vaud. Lausanne and Montreux/Vevey are the big cities in Vaud. Smaller ones include Morges, Rolle, Gland, and Nyon.
Where to live in Vaud
People in Switzerland, on average, do not commute more than 30 minutes to work. Living in Nyon would be a likely place for either those working in Geneva or in Lausanne.
The La Côte and Riviera areas of Vaud (the stretch from Nyon to Montreux) are breathtaking. If you are lucky enough to have a lake/mountain view, then it would make your move to a new area all the more enjoyable.
Lausanne has lots of great neighbourhoods. Well-serviced areas include Epalinges, Preverenges, and Morges. Some choice spots are Pully, Ouchy, and St-Sulpice.
Montreux and Vevey areas are beautiful and there are also a lot of Anglophones in this area.
Living in neighbouring France
The surrounding Geneva area is divided up into 2 French departments: Ain (01) and Haute-Savoie (74). Licence plates reveal where the car is registered by looking at the last 2 numbers. If you see a licence plate reading 75 it is from Paris. The plates are usually yellow but you will have green or red plates depending on whether you are a frontalier or not.
Although the actual surface area is greater than the canton of Geneva, the population is smaller. Bordering towns are Ferney-Voltaire, St. Julien-en-Genevois, and Annemasse. Further afield you will find Thonon and Annecy. It is common to live in France and commute to Switzerland for work. You will need a frontalier status (www.frontalier.com).
Where to live in neighbouring France
Geneva is surrounded by small French towns. There are quite a few English-speakers around the St-Genis/Divonne areas, as well as the Douvaine areas.
Living in France is financially a good idea, but you may need special papers to be able to work in Switzerland while residing in France.
Régies manage rental properties. They have printed lists available, or you may check their websites for up-to-date lists. Some will send you an SMS when something might be of interest to you.
They do not take you by the hand, as some countries do. When you have decided that you would like to visit a rental, then you must either drop by the régie and pick-up (and then return) the key yourself if the accommodation is vacant or make an appointment with the concierge. If the property is still rented, make an appointment with the renter.
Note: In Switzerland, the number of rooms are counted in pièces. Geneva counts the kitchen as a pièce, but not in Vaud: a 4-pièces in Geneva is a 3-pièces in Vaud.
A good source are the free magazines, Tout l’Immobilier and Immorama, either delivered through the mailbox, some gas stations, or in newspaper containers around town. Be aware that the good ones go fast, and some people wait outside of the newspaper or magazine offices to be the first to get their hands on a gem. Check out the many websites for housing in the area or www.knowitall.ch for the free classifieds.
One of the best sources to find a place to live is through word-of-mouth.