Friday, October 30, 2009

Firs Impressions -- revisited

"You can never have a second chance to make a first impression"

So true. Having spent a month here my views on the city and life in Switzerland have changed a bit. Not a lot, mind you, they've just got a bit more ... thorough... Kinda like dating someone. The more you get to know the person the fonder (and more realistic) your emotions can grow. This is exactly how my initial crush on the place and lifestyle has transformed into real love. Yess, we do have our rows from time to time -- but we always reach some compromise. And the passion's still there to last.

What first caught me and still makes me smile is the general atmosphere. During those first days I kept telling my friends that life in Geneva was as clean and proper as in any German town, as stylish and refined as in the nicest parts of France and as sunny, lively and easygoing as in a small Italian town. And it still amazes me. Trams, trains and buses are all surprisingly punctual. Food is gooooood and folks are so cutely dressed (I'll ravel on that a bit later...). And they're ever so nice and easygoing. Well, certainly you can see a sour face here or there or get a bark from the other side of the counter -- but it's just so much easier to handle in such a friendly atmosphere.

I don't really want to go on about the city. I've been in pretty big cities and lived in one for almost 25 years. I'm definitely a city girl though I do love hiking. But I'd feel completely lost and ill at ease in a smaller town. In fact, Geneva's surprisingly small. Till I got used to public transport lines and their timetables I used to go everywhere (yes I know) on foot. I'd done the same in Nice and Glasgow and had no problem with it in Geneva either. Got anywhere in 30-45 minutes. OK, I didn't go to Bout de Monde (World's End) but still. So it's not a huge city.

What I've always loved about big towns was the fact that everything is within reach, you can fulfill your craziest wishes in an instant and it's never really boring. On the other hand I've always hated huge herdish crowds (think city center malls on a Saturday morning) and the smog.

I've found Geneva perfect. The crowds are easy to avoid (just don't enter that one particular mall) and compared to Budapest, my hometown, the air is crystal clear. And it has all the fun too, only due to its size you don't even have to stretch your arm so far =)

I promised a bite for the fashion minded. Well, here it is.
I don't know how to categorize Genevan style. Its most remarkable feature would be that it's personal. There are masses of people everywhere who just put on a sweatsuit for shopping in the morning. And those who wear the full attire displayed in a shopwindow. I ignore them when I think of style so I'll do the same here.

Genevan style is personal in the way that stylish people all add their own touch to their outfit. You can see women in ballerina pumps and leggings but their dress or tunique or sweater would be one of a kind. The same goes for coats and scarfs. I can always see an item or two that I envy so much but I know I could never find one like it in a high street store.

Again, I won't go on about food. I owe you a post on the Café du Soleil and their inimitable fondu. I'll save the praise. But gosh I love Swiss food!

OK, I think I've written about all my first impressions. In a retrospective way. They can never be the same as they were those first days. But I tried to keep my more particular experiences for later posts. This is just to give you all a hint what it feels like to be here.

Good night. Sleep tight.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All About Flats

So I spent the first 10 days looking for and looking at apartments. I saw a lot and sometimes it was enough to have a look at the surroundings to turn back. But some were quite nice and we finally got the one we were dreaming of.

I've outlined the process in Hungarian here -- so speakers of the language head there.

Let me explain how it all works in Geneva. Switzerland being Switzerland other cantons might handle things a bit differently but the general idea is... well... general =)

The land available in canton (and city) Geneva is pretty restricted and you cannot just build away as long as you have the money. So the number of apartments is practically fixed. No need to worry though, you'll get one if you try hard enough. ;)

So the thing is you don't choose an apartment as much as you're chosen. This means that if you like one you have to apply for it, submit your papers (I'll explain) and wait for the person(s) responsible to choose.

In reality it's not that horrible at all. As far as I know it goes like this in many countries so others won't even be as shocked as I was when I first heard it.

OK, so here's what you have to do:

1) Look around. <<- In the sidebar I've listed a couple of sites where you can sort and list and browse at your leisure. Some work in English as well and there are of course others as well. I tried to act as fast as I could because some apartments get rented quite soon (given the situation).

2) Call them and fix a date (La Visite). Sometimes there's a fixed rendez-vous or a number given especially for "visites". Sometimes English works as well but it helps a lot if you speak one of the "native" languages. (It's not a cliché. Here in Switzerland if you want to ask a favor it's best to do in the native language. However, as I'll relate later in the "IKEA chapter" =D English carries authority in some cases.) Most (99%) of the time you'll not be dealing with the owner of the flat. Apartments are owned in blocks (so I've heard) and the task is given to the régie, the real estate agency. (So when they say they cannot recommend you to the owner they're not actually lying but it's worth excercising your magical powers on them :D)

3) La Visite. Just have a good look at the apartment and the surroundings. I always used googlemaps to get there and sometimes the street view was enough to make me cross out the apartment. :)

4) Apply. Most of the time the régie/concierge/the person who arranges the visite will give you a form of application you have to fill in. This has to be handed in along with the documents required: most of the time a copy of your ID/passport; the details of your residence and work permit; the bank guarantee of the deposit (not always needed at this point but carries weight if you have a nice one), etc. They'll let you know which ones they need exactly.

5) Waiting, hoping, wishing. Of course you can "chase" the regie a bit. Sending in chocolates might be a bit too much though :D

If you have stuff to arrange (as we did) you can still get the keys for an afternoon or a day.

Well, we applied for 4 apartments and got 3 (we were a bit late with the third). Among them the one we really wanted. Some regies might charge you if you don't take the offer -- but mostly they don't bother. :)

So, as you can see, it's not so horrible at all!

One has to work hard if one wants to live in Switzerland but it's not hopeless and totally worth it.

Good luck! Hope this helped.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To set the ground

It all began some months back when my BF got a job in Geneva. So we packed up our little household (in 2 suitcases and a couple of boxes) and came over here.

And now here we are, first week in our new apartment. Some say it's (near) impossible to get an apartment in Geneva. People have always been saying things like that but most of the time I proved them wrong. So it's possible. Anything's possible if you try hard enough.

It's been demanding, this first month, but definitely fruitful. I'll try and make a feast of these "fruits" sharing the details and my tips with you.

Stay tuned.