Is Geneva worth relocating to?

I'm currently London-based and playing with the idea of relocating to Geneva to take a private equity position. Could anyone please elaborate on pros and cons (work-, compensation-, lifestyle-wise) of working in Geneva?
Many thanks!

What's It Like Living in Geneva?

Deciding to relocate from London to Geneva involves many personal and career considerations. In general, Geneva is a nice place to live and it ranks quite highly on many quality of life indices (ex: OECD Better Life Index shown in image above). However, your experience may depend on what you are looking for in a city. Below, WSO community members share their opinions.

Pros of Living in Geneva

  • Good place to live and dine
  • Centrally located to easily reach other parts of Europe
  • Pay less taxes than in London
  • Nice outdoor activities
  • Known for PE, hedge fund and wealth management industries
  • Home to many international institutions

Cons of Living in Geneva

  • Expensive
  • Smaller nightlife vs London
  • Might be hard to get work permit
  • May be difficult to integrate with the Swiss

Other Considerations When Relocating to Geneva

  • Very career/self-oriented
  • Francophone city
  • Slower pace of life than London

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Comments (29)

Jan 4, 2011 - 7:10am

Funny you ask this, just today I was researching Zurich and Geneva for my next vacation. They top many lists for "most livable cities" and quality of life. Its an expensive city (as to be expected) and I can't add any commentary on work or compensation, but lifestyle wise it seems like a great city (mind you, this coming from someone who's never been.)

Jan 4, 2011 - 7:20am

I would recommed it for long term perspectives. Insanely good place to live, dine, party and its easy to reach everything in Europe in a short time frame. Given its Switzerland, comp should be pretty good plus you will pay way less taxes than in London so in the end financially it makes sense. Generally Switzerland is not cheap but neither is London. You can get an awesome flat with a view over the lake or the mountains. During the winter you can go skiing every weekend if you have time, during the summer you can sail on the lake or go to France or Italy in a minute. I think compared to the overall hectical live in London it would be a nice change. Geneva is also well connected in the HF and PE world so there will be lots to do.

"too good to be true"

See my WSO Blog

  • 1
Jan 4, 2011 - 10:42am

Is it imperative to speak French and/or German? Or will English suffice?

Geneva is the French part - and of course everyone whos educated (mostly everyone) speaks English as well. Zurich is the German part but again, almost anyone in finance is at least bilingual and usually tri if theyre living in Zurich.

@IBguy: Yes, he doesnt leave a poor lifestyle exactly, his monthly rent for a 1bedroom is CHF3000/month (not totally extravagant place, just the way the prices are) and a piece of prime steak at the super market costs CHF15... so theres are + and - to living there.

Theres no hobos either.

Jan 4, 2011 - 9:45am

Zero, thanks for the comment. Provided your friend is not leading a lavish lifestyle, that does seem to be on the expensive side. Come to think of it, London is similar; not sure about you guys but most savings come from bonuses, really. Given the UK govnmt's crackdown on banker compensation, this year is not looking particularly rosy...
Kimbo, it depends on the shop but business German would generally be very helpful in continental Europe. I speak German and a bit of French so I've never been too concerned.

Jan 5, 2011 - 5:23am

wowowowowow I dont even know where to start.

Geneva taxes are much much lower than london, switzerland is not a communist country unlike the UK.

Geneva is alot more beautiful than london and has a lot better weather.

Housing quality is much better in geneva than in london.

Geneva will be roughly as if not slightly more expensive than london, but given lower tax rates youll have much more monies left over anyway.

Swiss salaries in general are much higher than uk salaries(like the effective minimum wage in switz is 14£ per hour, compared to like what, 6£ in the uk lol?) but I cant comment on finance specifically.

If your into outdoor stuff and love the mountains geneva is muuuuch bettter than london.

Genevas only shortcoming will be in nightlife as it is much smaller than london and youll get bored of the few available places rather quickly.

Jan 5, 2011 - 2:14pm

German German or Swiss German? I speak regular german but have zero experience with swiss german...any thoughts on how that would effect things? Just curious

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford
Jan 5, 2011 - 2:22pm

Dont worry about the German, not an issue, they will understand, it can be a bit annoying at first. If chicks speak that accent though you might get turned off a bit. Good thing though there are probably tons of international girls in Geneva so no worries.

"too good to be true"

See my WSO Blog

Jan 6, 2011 - 12:37pm

Living in Geneva after college (Originally Posted: 08/02/2014)

Hi all! I am a frequent reader but this is my first post.

I am a rising junior at Yale with the goal of working at a hedge fund when I graduate. I have interned at hedge funds in New York the past two summers, but I am very interested in the idea of working overseas after college. If that is my plan then I think it makes sense to do my junior summer internship in the city that I plan to live and work in after graduating. I have a few questions about working overseas (specifically in Geneva, which is at the top of my list) and would really appreciate any insight that you can offer.

  1. 1. Is working overseas a permanent decision, or could I plan to do it temporarily and then switch back to New York?
  2. 2. I am fluent in French but I don't speak any German. Would that pose a problem living in Geneva?
  3. 3. What is compensation in Geneva like compared to New York, and how does the cost of living compare?
  4. 4. Any other advice you can offer about living overseas, especially in Geneva. Other places on my list are London, Paris, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, and Singapore (but again I am only really fluent in English and French).

I know some of these questions are probably too broad but if there is any advice you have, or resources that you think would help me make a more informed decision about this, I would be hugely grateful. Thanks!

Jan 6, 2011 - 12:38pm

Geneva is a francophone, cosmopolitan city, with a very high standard of living. Securing a work permit for a non-EU national might be difficult though.

Geneva is better known for wealth management. Could be a great place to work at international institutions like the United Nations, UNCTAD. Who do you plan to work for there ?

Winners bring a bigger bag than you do. I have a degree in meritocracy.
Jan 6, 2011 - 12:39pm

It's hard to get a work permit in Switzerland and only getting tougher. You should consider working in London/Paris (difficult for a non French to get a good graduate gig in this city though) /Frankfurt (may be a bit difficult if you don't speak any german) and try networking your way into Switzerland from there when you can hit Geneva with a 1 hour flight.
Compensations in Geneva are very generous but the col is also very high so more or less it will be the same as living in NY. Not speaking German in Geneva is not a problem if you want to work in a HF or as a trader (might be a bit more dfficult if you want to join a private bank).
I don't know much about HK,Singapore but the few people I know who get there seem to be enjoying it.

One more thing to consider for Geneva is that is WAAAAAAAYYYYYY different than NY. People are a lot more relaxed, there isn't 100 different places to hang out and it's small city, nowhere near London, so you have to be confortable with that as well. You have an almost endless number of outdoors activies at your disposal (~30/1h drive at most) if that's your think as well.

Jan 6, 2011 - 12:40pm

I know of a Partner at a HF who has always been on the buy-side since graduating. As a British passport holder he struggled to secure a role in the US, where he completed his studies. I can also think of another highly qualified professional who failed to secure a Visa in the US and is now in London within PE. Sorry to start on a negative note, but just being real.

There is no doubt I have noted international people getting hired in cities like NY and London but it is usually with larger firms running structured graduated programmes. Smaller firms tend to be sceptical when it comes to Visa.

As an American passport holder who has not studied in the UK it will be tough to secure a role in London. Any firm that will want to hire you will have to be registered with the UK Border Agency (UKBA). They need to pass the labour market test, i.e. advertise using two sources (one specific website I forgot and some agency like Michael Page) for 1-2 months (or 28 days, not too sure now). This way they prove that they have allowed locals to consider this role. Once that is done they can apply for your sponsorship, effectively proving that they have advertised the role to a mass local audience and only then selected you as you meet their requirements.

I have most certainly come across people in IT and even BO functions getting Visa in smaller firms as well. You'd be surprised, some firms end up registering only so they can hire one person at a low level (analyst for instance). For companies with an open mind and willingness to accept outsiders, they tend to look at costs and benefits. So say, a $5bn HF ends up hiring you, they can easily offer to pay you lowest possible wage as per UKBA rules (c. £21,000) and keep you on a tight leash (as in, hey we've sponsored you a Visa so you best you don't have high expectations). UK authorities will offer you a 3 year Visa at first. Once you get sponsored you can switch to another employer but they will then have to sponsor you as well, i.e. again advertise the role and so on.

Conclusion is that it is difficult to get sponsored but it is most certainly possible.

A tip would be to be very smart about how you mention your Visa issue. i.e. if you shoot a speculative email it might just get ignored. If you manage to speak someone on the buy-side by calling up their offices, it will usually be the officer manager, the receptionist or some other admin person. Avoid discussing much with them. Last thing they want is to take your issue up with some partner or PM who's running the shop and talk about Visa sponsorships for a guy so far away. Every firm has some top guys and you want to have a dialogue with them.

Might also want to consider IB roles; never worked in one but the people I have met did talk about sending analysts to NY from London for 2 years or so. One was from a structured side within global markets and another a prop. trader. Also came across a US graduate working straight for an IB in London and then making a move back to the US with another firm.

In terms of London, it's a great city. Definitely worth living for a few years especially since you are so young. It's cosmopolitan and even though it rains so often for some reason it's still all pleasant. If you are hungry and serious about career, all these things won't really matter.

Good luck!

Jan 6, 2011 - 12:42pm

Gcredit - Thank you very much for your detailed reply. That is all really helpful information. It seems like in Geneva and London alike, firms are required to make positions available to locals before they can resort to foreigners. Like I was saying to BatMasterson, I am definitely considering IB roles, especially if an IB role in London or Geneva would open the door to working on the buy side in one of those cities.

I'm going to start early in reaching out to offices, so I really appreciate the advice on how to broach the topic of my Visa issue.

Jan 6, 2011 - 12:41pm

Thank you so much for your answers.

I am reading about work permits in Geneva, I did not realize how tight it is for a non-EU citizen to get one: "A third state national can take a job in Switzerland only if a person cannot be hired from within the Swiss labour market or an EU/EFTA state. Employers must show that they made "intensive efforts" to find a Swiss, EU/EFTA citizen or any foreign national already in Switzerland with a permit to work. Moreover, employers must show why those with priority who applied were not suitable for the job" (Source:

BatMasterson - I'm not sure who I would work for there, I was just asking to see if I should explore opportunities in Geneva as part of my internship hunt for next summer (looking mostly at HFs in New York as well as S&T at i-banks). I know this is the HF sub forum but I was also wondering about the possibility of doing a 2-year i-banking analyst stint (at one of the major American firms or a boutique Swiss firm) in Geneva instead of New York.

TheSquale - The different pace of life is one of the big appeals for me, as is the abundance of easily accessible outdoors activities. That is a good idea starting in another city near Geneva and working towards there. I imagine it would also be easier to get a work permit a few years after college than right after college once I have developed my skill set more, but I guess that would also depend on how much work permit regulations continue to tighten.

Jan 6, 2011 - 12:45pm

I'd like to reaffirm the difficulty of getting a work permit in Switzerland. From what I remember, even EU nationals have a work permit cap, certain countries from Eastern Europe (inspite of being part of EEA) are not even eligible for that permit. I can only imagine how hard it would be as a fresh non-EEA graduate

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