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Geneva on one modest salary - can it be done?

(17 Posts)
npreston Tue 26-Feb-13 11:28:23

I'd agree wholeheartedly with MmeLindor. Living in France gives you so many advantages.. your'e doing the expat thing, children have exposure to languages, etc. We've been in GVA for nearly five years and the cost of living is still shocking to me. At the time we had offers for husband's work in both Brussels and Geneva. In the end, the work oppty was better for us in GVA but I'm certain that Brussels would have created more balance for the family.

Pros: safe, clean, lots for children if you like mountains and outdoors (not so much if you fancy museums, culture), VERY little traffic, easy to get to airport from most of the commuter villages.
Cons: costs, costs, costs. Cleaning ladies are 25-30CHF/hour, babysitters are circa 13CHF for teenager and 25CHF for an adult. Food is VERY expensive - you can shop in neighbouring France but can only bring over a small amount of key products per person in the car (500g meat, two bottles of wine...) Locals are polite but not at all warm. MANY other expats are here on huge packages (I know several who have 10kCHF monthly allowance for their home rentals) so your children, if they go to an international school, will have friends with lots of money.

Overall I'd say that the people who are happiest here are ones who adore mountains (skiing, hiking, etc) and the quiet, clean life and/or have a very good budget to manage with. We ended living quite far out in order to save on our rent and we still pay 5kCHF a month for a 3 br home... but I end up spending more than 2 hours in the car each day on the school runs. And having moved from London, we find it very, very, lets say.... calm.

natation Sun 24-Feb-13 21:42:57

Apply for both jobs, go and do a reccie if your husband gets and interview, if you hate it, then simply withdraw your application.

Taxation in Belgium is very much dependent upon personal circumstances, it's not the 50% tax you hear about for everyone, only those or relatively high incomes or self-employed. I can earn around 20k per year (I don't get anywhere near that) before I start to pay income tax. A Single person would pay income tax with a lower salary.

I think the biggest pull about the Brussels area is the quality of family life that can be achieved.

MmeLindor Sun 24-Feb-13 21:41:13

Oh. You are in France now?

Tbh, I wouldn't move to Geneva unless you were really looking to do something different. You are already presumably in a nice location and doing the expat thing.

Geneva is the kind of place that is fun if you have the money to live comfortably. Not great if you have to seriously penny watch. We were fine on DH's salary (which was a bit more than modest but not investment bank rich) because we were in paid accommodation.

It would have been a struggle otherwise.

ruthyroo Sun 24-Feb-13 21:05:02

Lordy thank you so much for all the info about Geneva and Brussels on the other thread. We are still swithering about applying as it would be a big move and change of working conditions for not much material gain - unless I was working too. And we have a nice life in France where we are... Anyway cheers again.

MmeLindor Sat 23-Feb-13 20:29:07

We lived in Geneva for several years, and had friends with kids at Ecolint. I would assume that your DC would go there?

As Maggot said, if your kids go to local schools then you do have to think about the school hours. 2 hour lunch break and Wednesdays off play havoc with working hours. What kind of job would you be looking for? Do you speak French?

Without accommodation paid for you, I would say you would likely have to look at living in France. Or live on a strict budget.

To give an example, our house was paid by the company, and cost CHF 5000 a month. It was a lovely house in a nice village, but the problem is that there are not a lot of cheaper 3 bedroom houses in decent areas of town. 3 bed starts around CHF 4k a month - you might get cheaper but you'd face tough competition.

Over the border would be much cheaper. The area around campus des nations is very expensive, I believe, due to the proximity to the UN and the airport.

Feel free to PM me if you need any other info.

natation Sat 23-Feb-13 17:16:53

As wrote above, the norm is to file taxes in the country of residence. The website confirms that is indeed still the case, whether you live in Vaud or Geneva, the difference is there is a special agreement with Geneva where tax is paid there. You still have to file your taxes in France. This does not mean you have to pay them there. So you'd effectively deal with 2 tax authorities. The bit about the small tax I am wrong on but no on the obligation to file taxes. My husband had to do the same thing, filing taxes in country of residence, in the end paying nothing there, paying the actual tax in another. I did it several years too, but I ended up paying in 2 countries and rather unusually paid 2 lots of social security which is not normal at all, but in my case couldn't be avoided. You'll have to declare all foreign savings, I bet you'll have to declare any foreign property. This doesn't mean you'll pay tax on them. It's the same if you were to take the Brussels job.

Just remember thousands of people work in Geneva and live in France, they wouldn't be doing it, if there weren't some advantage from it.

A final consideration of whether living in France is better is to compare the school systems. Swiss hours are very different to French ones, also starts 1-2 years later, but there must be advantages to Swiss schools too like numbers in the class.

As the helpful chap say in his postings he pays no French tax, and this specifically relates to an agreement with Geneva, not for example, Vaud.


I'm assuming you have some knowledge of French in light of your move, so this will be helpful:

As far as I am aware, my friend does NOT pay French tax, as I said earlier, by negotiations in Geneva and the local authority.

I am not referring to any general Shengen agreements here. For example in Germany you would pay tax and be expected to have a healthcare agreement for Germany, whilst paying a reduced percentage of tax to Switzerland.

If you are considering a cross border lifestyle I can easily put you in touch with her to explain to you. PM me if you want more info.

natation Sat 23-Feb-13 15:31:44

PS Ruthyroo, I do know someone who moved from Geneva with privileges of a private bilingual education for their children who are now at public schools in Brussels. She's a mumsnetter too, so she'd be able to tell you the advantages of both places to live. I bet she'd say mountains and lake as the best things about the Geneva area! But the quality of life for children in Brussels is a great pull, you really would have to work out what money you'd have left after rent and utility bills, from Geneva or Brussels, then think about the fact that children's activities are cheap and plentiful here and I believe it's not quite the case in Geneva area (but having never lived there, just having visited, this is 2nd hand opinion of mine).

If you're on FB and join our private FB mumsnetters group, you'd get some further opinions.

natation Sat 23-Feb-13 15:25:22

Freedom of movement between the EU and Switzerland is almost 10 years old, not related to a lack of housing in the Geneva area.

There will be health insurance policies for cross border workers, there are thousands of them in this area.

Try looking on for some further views on this. You would normally file your taxes in the country of residence, I believe there is also a small tax to pay in Switzerland too. All 3 Ecolint campuses are near to France, 2 near to Ferney-Voltaire and the other near to Gaillard/Ambilly/Annemasse. You'd be near Ferney-Voltaire which is around 2kms from the school, walking distance even, that's closer than Geneva centre.

Geneva canton tax rate it quite high I think. It's 6% more than mine anyhow.

There is the option of living in France. I have a mate working in Geneva that lives just across the border. There is some kind of agreement Sans Frontieres thing, I think mainly due to the lack of housing in the area.

Anyhow I know she is earning just under 100000chf and they have a nice house in the Jura mountains. Her dh stays home, but they don't have kids. They shop in France too, which keeps the cost down.

I don't think she is entitled to French healthcare, she still has to pay private Swiss medical. But you can actually use private French doctors if the bills are cheaper. A lot of people here use German practices as it's cheaper and the insurance companies seem to encourage it.

It is a simple thought to say that you'll get some part time work when the kids are settled but one thing to take into account are the school hours! So if you are banking on having that extra salary to survive in the future make sure you are fully aware of school hours.

Local public schools are great, classes are legally 18 kids maximum, there is a local primarschule 1km from nearly everyone etc but, school hours tend to be : Monday, Weds, Fri 8am to 12pm and then on Tues and Thurs after a two hour lunch break the kids go back from 2pm-4pm. These are not easy hours to work around, and places for lunch clubs after school etc are limited.

More and more I am finding a lot of stealth taxes and unforeseen expenses creeping up, my salary compared to the UK is pretty good, and the tax rates make a big difference to take home pay. But we are lucky that we shop in Germany and France to keep the costs down.

You might find some help on the EnglishforumSwitzerland site. But please search carefully for a similar thread, the guys on there get very crabby about new "Can I live on this....?" postings.

ripsishere Fri 22-Feb-13 23:54:11

You need mmeLindor. She's your woman for Geneva.
We lived in Zug on a modest teacher's salary. It was doable, but not enjoyable. Housing and health insurance saw most of DHs salary gone. Each Canton has its own tax rate.
Presumably Ecolint is a school? can you ask for a housing allowance and some contribution to your health insurance along with a relocation advisor.

natation Fri 22-Feb-13 16:47:24

Yes you get housing covered, but it's certainly not luxury, unless you're the ambassador, next year I expect we'll get a 3 bed apartment to house 6 of us. It doesn't make salary any higher. It is certainly not comparable to a package provided by a multi-national.

drjohnsonscat Fri 22-Feb-13 16:34:04

natation presumably housing on top? That's what I got when I was a diplomat. Basic salary very similar to any public sector job but as housing is paid for when you are on posting, it makes it different to ruthyroo's position.

Perhaps it has changed since my day?

ruthyroo I wasn't a diplomat in Geneva but I did have my accommodation paid for while I was there so I can't add much that's helpful. I think it is probably doable. I would think it would be manageable if you didn't insist on living right in town and were flexible about that. But I do also know that the Geneva housing market is quite tight - one flat I applied for I wasn't allowed to have because it was a three bed and I was a single person. There was a weird housing allocation system which I didn't understand at all.

I didn't find the rest of Geneva particularly outrageous in terms of cost but then I'm from London so it seemed normal.

ruthyroo Fri 22-Feb-13 16:22:43

Oops my mistake. No offence intended,

natation Fri 22-Feb-13 14:08:08

As the dependent of UK diplomatic staff, I can assure you with 19 years experience and 2nd secretary level, that is a basic UK tax payer's salary, several k under 40k per year. Very few diplomats are well paid.

ruthyroo Fri 22-Feb-13 11:59:05

Hi all

Dh is looking at applying for a job teaching at Ecolint in Geneva. He has lived in Switzerland before and loved it but is very aware of how expensive it is. Anyone out there living in Geneva on a single modest ie not a banker or diplomat! I would plan to look for part time work after we got there but would be getting children settled etc for the first few months at least. I've no idea about our likely income, just looking for any useful feedback and stories.

Ps the job is at campus des nations.

Thanks all


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