Ellen Roberts-James

Excuse My French: Bienvenue à Genève!

Ellen Roberts-James
Swiss Alps

Ellen Roberts-James

On Tuesday I finally arrived in Geneva! The journey involved a lot of waiting around (due to my dad’s eagerness to leave extra early to avoid traffic), lugging my enormous human-sized suitcase around on my own again, and then banging my head on the side of the taxi so hard that it bled and I went momentarily blind. It’s all part of the fun.

Flying over the snowy alps was a pretty cool welcome to Switzerland. I must admit I was very nervous moving (again), but this time there was the added terror that I really had very little idea of where I was going and living. The housing crisis in Geneva is worse than London – it’s nigh impossible to find a place to live, and when you do the places range from around 800-1000 Francs a month (£750-950) on average. And that can be just for the cantons around central Geneva –  to live in the actual main city itself is almost impossible.

That’s why I was so lucky – and in complete disbelief – that I managed to find the place I did. A friend also studying at the university put me in touch with a girl who was leaving and needed to fill her room. After a LOT of harassment on my part, I managed to secure the room. At the time, all I really knew was that it was a house in Carouge – a ten-minute tram from the centre and university – and that it was only 700 Francs a month. BARGAIN!

It was only after I had accepted the place that I found out anything about it really. I was that desperate. But in a weird twist of karmic fate, I had hit the jackpot. The house is more like a small mansion, if we’re being technical, and fully equipped with a pool, spa, my own separate bathroom and living room, a maid, and a chocolate Labrador. It’s insane. But I’m allowed to brag because I got severely ripped off last semester.

Unfortunately (for others), my situation is definitely the exception to the rule in Geneva. I was terrified before I found this place, having already been rejected from halls, and unable to find anywhere else I could afford. Most people end up living in France and commuting across the border every day. It was quite frightening still seeing posts in the Facebook group this week (welcome week) from people still desperately searching for a place to live.

If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that although it’s super pretty and cool and metropolitan, Switzerland in general is crazy expensive. Especially for groceries. It’s about £10 for a pack of chicken and around £6 for a block of cheese. Safe to say I’ll be leading a predominantly vegan lifestyle of culinary misery this term. After a basket shop in a Lidl or Aldi here, you still leave with a receipt that looks like you’ve just walked out of Waitrose.

You can pretty much forget about the empty purse, though, because the city is just so goddamn cool. And there’s a tram. I love trams. There is also an enormous array of cuisines, shops, gardens and architecture to admire, and brilliant transport links to nearby cities, so I don’t think you could ever get bored here.

Looking back, last semester was a bit…meh. As is quite obvious by the amount of complaining I did. I have the funniest and best memories of all the people I met and some of the amazing places I got to see, but on a day to day basis, it wasn’t exactly the experience of a lifetime. Geneva is already miles more metropolitan and cultured, which is all I really ask of a city, so I’m very excited to see what this semester brings!

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