Date Night on the Lake

When we announced we were moving to Geneva, people usually had a word in mind that they associated with the city. I’d say the most common ones were related to its role in humanitarian and worldwide efforts – “The Geneva Convention” or “Red Cross headquarters”. What followed next was “expensive”.

And the expensive part is true. Geneva always ranks somewhere in the top 5 most expensive cities to live in the world, far more so that New York, Paris or London. However, for that expense, the Swiss enjoy the highest standard of living than anywhere in the world – Zurich being #1 and Geneva #2. Gabe and I are trying to learn the balance of this – to embrace the high quality of life available here, without going broke!!

In the US, there were so many restaurants that we loved that had entrees in the $10-$20 range. So we could frequently go out, have drinks with dinner and have a bill under $50 for the both of us. However, inexpensive dinners like this simply don’t exist in Switzerland. A hot dog on the street is about $10 CHF and lunch side salads average about $20 CHF. Thus, a mid-range dinner would cost about $100 CHF and a nice one around $200CHF, for two. Prior to moving, we planned 1-2 meals mid-range meals in order to manage our budget.

Our entire first week, I have made all our meals at home and we had our one budgeted meal for the week for Saturday lunch. We needed to get out of our little 1 BR flat and decided to get a bit creative and make a picnic to take and watch the sunset. We sat on the rocks by the baby beach to eat.

Later we moved up to the grass for a softer spot to watch the sunset.

We enjoyed the evening so much, we were questioning why we never picnicked in the park in the US since our home was so close to the largest park in Charlotte. We concluded it was because eating out didn’t seem so expensive enough to drive us to be creative. Thanks Switzerland for this lesson!

Saturday Morning in Carouge

We discovered Carouge on our very first trip to Geneva in January. It is located just outside of the centre-city and has a distinct Mediterranean feel that is different than the rest of the city. Our first house-hunter told us it was that it was designed by Italian architects working on the main part of the city but weren’t allowed to live in the city proper and so they developed this settlement as housing for themselves. i haven’t found that story anywhere else, but nevertheless, Gabe and I really enjoy hanging out here because of its quaintness and beautiful streets. In fact, we even tried to live there but there were no apartments available.

On Saturdays they have market day in the main square, Place du Marche. So we headed there for a coffee, a walk around the market and then lunch at Cafe du Marche as our one meal out for the week.

When we first got there, they were doing a flash mob of Renaissance dancing as can be seen above. Those in costume started, and all the plain-clothed brave market goers joined into the fun .

We loved all the dried fruits, cheeses, available on market day in Carouge. I look forward to buying flowers here once we get our permanent place.

For other Geneva folks, Carouge is just a quick 5 minute tram ride on #12 from Rive to Marche.

Settling In

Our first two days have been very good. I wanted to share a little bit:

Highlights :
-Our temporary housing is just one block of off the Jet d’Eau which is very conveniently located in a very scenic area. The flat is teeny tiny but it works for us while we wait on our lease to start. Especially since it has a little kitchenette so we can have meals at home as it is so expensive to eat out in Geneva.

Location of our temp apartment

Our first Geneva meal in our tiny temp kitchen

-I have already fallen in love with the farmers markets that are available daily all over the city. It is interesting ordering things in French, however. I am alright at the initial part of the order, “Je voudrais…..whatever” for what I want to buy. It helps that they have signs as can be seen above. What is tough is when they ask me how much of what I want. I am not really good at completely understanding when people speak back to me in French or even knowing the metric equivalents yet so I have gotten around this by using hand gestures. I am also weak at large numbers so when they speak the total to me without writing, I end up just giving them a larger bill that they need to get change. The grocery store is really easy comparatively as you can see your total!!! Hopefully I get better at this.

Plainpalais market

-We have gotten annual TPG (public transportation) passes and have already started to use them. Gabe took the train to work this morning and I did all my errands by hopping on and off the trams and buses. Gabe gets a car today but we don’t know if he’ll bring it home as we don’t have a parking pass and there are no spots this central in the city. Hmm.

-I can’t get a phone until we get a Swiss bank account and proof of residency. We are working on the bank account but aren’t sure if temporary residency counts as actual residency. In the meantime, I’ll just be available via email. Having no phone actually isn’t that bad, maybe I can slowly reverse the ADD that developed from checking my Blackberry for a third of my life.
-We don’t have a coffeemaker yet. Which requires us to go to Starbucks and get coffees to-go and to pay what is like $8 US dollars for a latte. This is going to be high on my list for activities this week as otherwise we will go broke on caffeine!
-We have tried a few programs we love like ABC app for ipad and Pandora and I am sad to report they don’t work outside the U.S. Gabe and I are still mourning but maybe we can find some replacements out there….

We’re here!!!

Post by Lauren

We have arrived to Geneva! All is well! As you can see, Spring is in the air and showing its beauty on the flower clock in the Jardin Anglais.

As some of you know, we are in temporary housing until our cargo shipment arrives. We are very fortunate that it is in the city-centre so we can start to acclimate and learn all about our new city.

We miss everyone already! Please send us your Skype names….we are happily loading everyone into our “contacts” there so we can chat with everyone in the next few weeks.

It’s official!!

Post by Lauren

Well, good news….Gabe and I are married!  Everyone had told us how quickly the ceremony and reception would pass. I think both Gabe and I wholeheartedly agree that we wish it would have lasted all night. It was perfect in both our eyes…simply us!

Anyhow, we are so happy with how the entire few days went and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend our last full weekend in Charlotte….celebrating our nuptials with our friends and family.

A sneak peek at our new neighborhood!

Post by Lauren

Last week, we heard that we were awarded our 2nd choice flat in Geneva. We were very excited as we only had to make one house-hunting trip were a few people we know had to make two to three. It’s interesting — searching for a place to live in Geneva is really quite different from the United States.

In Geneva, there is less than a 0.2% vacancy rate. So, in the entire city, there are only 200-250 apartments available at any given time. The majority of Swiss residents rent vs. buy because real estate is too expensive for the average person (which is also a big difference than the U.S.). With many companies relocating their headquarters and no more land to build on, it becomes quite a challenge to find homes for everyone.

Thus, most apartments, especially the awesome ones, can have up to 10 applicants in a period of 2 days after they become available. When you view them, you are sometimes given a shared time with other prospective renters and it is quite funny to see the competition. In the end, its completely up to the landlord to pick who is lucky enough to get the available apartment. What a great position it is to be a Swiss landlord!!!

So, based on the above, we were very pleased when we were awarded a place we liked. We were even more pleased the apartment we got is more spacious than we envisioned for a European flat. So, the good news for everyone is that we have a guest room and can host visitors!!

Once we knew the size of our place, we were able to select what furniture and items to pack and send. The movers came and cleared out our Charlotte house this week. I have a lot of people ask about how our stuff physically gets over there. So the answer is……it actually goes over on a cargo ship. It takes about 8 weeks to get there and will arrive about six weeks after us. So, in the meantime, we will be in furnished temporary housing until our stuff gets there.

Our lease at the new flat starts June 1st, so as soon as our things arrive from the sea shipment, then we can move in to our new home.

In the meantime, wanted to share an outside shot of our place from our March house-hunting trip so that you can visualize where we will be living shortly…more to come when we get settled and start making it “ours”…..