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How to spot a newbie

March 20, 2011
by

Geneva – where for the cost of a drink, you could feed an African family for a month.

This city* has a way of making you feel like a bit of a pioneer, an expatriate David battling a French-speaking, fondue-eating Goliath, encountering new and truly exceptional obstacles that, surely, are so extremely absurd that they can only be attributed to some seriously bad karma. But spend a night or two sharing horror stories at the dimly lit tables of Les Cinq Portes, or an hour or two browsing the forums on Glocals, and you’ll quickly find that your own experience is so far from unique it’s almost depressing.

Spotting a newbie in Geneva, then, is as simple as looking for the tendency to obsess over these commonplace obstacles. Next time you start chatting to someone while waiting in line to get into L’Usine** and they veer to any of the following topics of conversation, get them a stiff drink and listen to their troubles, because they’re going through tough times…

Finding accommodation/selling their firstborn child for accommodation/the fucking Regie

Everyone who moves to Geneva becomes obsessed with accommodation. Admit it, even you have been prone to dominating dinner conversation with horror stories about the friend of a friend who had to bribe incumbent tenants to recommend them to the Regie, stood in a queue 30 people long to view a flat for rent, or had to show a bit of leg on Rue de Berne in order to put down a deposit on a ridiculously expensive sublet. How much one pays in rent, which, in civil societies, is still beyond the realms of polite conversation, becomes public knowledge, and most newbies can recite with military precision the rental costs of every friend and acquaintance they have in Geneva. This experience messes with minds of people so much that their standards about what is or is not an acceptable cost of accommodation balloons, such that it is not uncommon to hear a seasoned expat Genevois, throwing down a Kronenberg at the Clubhouse, boasting about how his 10 by 10m studio in Grand Lancy is a steal at 1500CHF. He’s right. It is. Newbies haven’t quite come to grips with that, but the sooner they give up raging against the machine and hand over their thousand-franc notes to the American who is subletting the Regie apartment*** that he only got because he slept with the previous tenant, the better.

The boredom. Oh, the boredom.

Even if you’ve been warned about how boring Geneva is – and, let’s be honest, no one ever actually warns you, they use euphemisms like ‘quiet’, ‘peaceful’, and ‘a great lifestyle’ – you’re never quite prepared for the silence which echoes across the snow-covered Plain on a Sunday afternoon in January. Most newbies spend the first few weekends here walking the streets, wondering how it is possible that there is still a developed country on earth where shops and restaurants are closed on a Sunday, telling themselves that just up there, around the next corner, there will be a whole street of markets and boutiques and cafes buzzing with people and life.

Note to the newbies: ignore the warnings of reputable media sources at your own peril. Save yourself the heartache and spend your Friday nights in the line of traffic heading out to Chamonix, the packed TGV to Paris, or the teeming Geneva airport, all of which are far more happening than Geneva itself.

Money money money

It’s hard to convey to outsiders just how expensive living in Geneva actually is. You can try making impassioned appeals to budgetary sensibilities by telling stories of dodgy Indian meals that are a steal at 25 CHF or handing over 20 CHF for a vodka soda, but it’s hard to believe unless you have first-hand experience of watching your salary disappear before your eyes. Spotting a newbie in Geneva is usually as simple as looking for the poor sod walking through Globus with tears running down their face

When you find yourself calling the sushi place down the road “cheap” even though it’s evident that they charge per grain of rice, you know you’ve graduated from newbie-dom to the illustrious ranks of the seasoned (i.e. resigned) Geneva expat.

___________

* It’s a stretch, I know.

**Newbies love to frequent L’Usine, in an effort to cling any pale imitation of counterculture that Geneva might be able to offer.

***Thus sustaining the housing crisis in Geneva and keeping prices high, but don’t even get me started.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Chloe permalink
    March 22, 2011 4:59 pm

    That picture is from Pickwick’s isn’t it? Or Charlie O’Neils, can’t remember, but definitely looks familiar. Great read, keep up the writing!

    • March 22, 2011 6:04 pm

      It’s La Sip actually, but I’m thinking there are probably similar signs in those places too! Crazy, right? On the bright side, tequila shots were a lot cheaper!

  2. March 22, 2011 8:55 pm

    Excelllent list – great blog, will add you to my blogroll when I get a bloomin’chance…

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