Things to know for new families coming to Geneva-Things to know for new families coming to Geneva-cdl icon
Collège du Léman
02 May, 2023

Things to know for new families coming to Geneva

Things to know for new families coming to Geneva-Things to know for new families coming to Geneva-Road with flags
Families moving to Switzerland need to obtain a valid residence permit.

Families moving to Switzerland need to obtain a valid residence permit. This must be organised personally, however, the school is always on-hand to answer any questions that might arise.

For those joining the boarding side of the school, a student visa is required to enter Switzerland. Our admissions team will provide all the necessary documentation that is to be submitted to the Swiss Embassy in your home country and follow up the application on the student’s behalf. It is important to note that the visa application can take up to three months.

Once students arrive in Switzerland, a dedicated Admissions Representative will arrange the residence permit and provide all necessary support for this process.

The people and language

The current population of Switzerland is 8.5 million. The Canton of Geneva, covering the city and its inner suburbs, has a population of half a million, including 200,000 foreigners from 187 different nations.

There are four languages spoken in Switzerland - German, French, Italian and Romansh. French is the predominant language spoken in Geneva but most citizens speak at least one other language. English is widely spoken by the local population and the majority of foreigners.


Freedom of religion is a basic constitutional right in Switzerland. 38% of the population are Roman Catholic and 27% belong to the mainstream Protestant church. Many of Switzerland's festivals, customs and local traditions have their roots in religion.


The currency in Switzerland is Swiss Francs. Having Euros will be useful so shopping can be done over the border. France is less than 4km away from Geneva. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere and ATM’s are widely available. Access a currency converter.


Switzerland has very defined seasons; long, sunny summer days, colourful autumns, cold snowy winters and fruitful, warm springs. The weather in the Geneva area is predominantly affected by the lake and surrounding mountains, which can moderate any extremes. September and October are the rainiest months. January and February are the coldest. The winter brings an abundance of snow up in the mountains and temperatures can drop well below freezing, however, down by the lake and in the towns, the winters are much milder averaging around 4-5 degrees Celsius in January. For more information please consult the Federal office of Meteorology and Climatology – MeteoSwiss.

Healthcare system

The standard of healthcare in Geneva is extremely high but it is also very expensive. Health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland and premiums are based on geographic area rather than salary.

The hospitals in and around Geneva are generally excellent. Most medical staff tend to be highly qualified and speak English as well as French. There is a large pool of private doctor's practices in the canton of Geneva and a list can be found through the Association des Medecins, in French. Another option would be to check the general list of doctors in Switzerland.

Emergency contact numbers

SOS Médecins

These are physicians on duty 24 hours/7days a week who come directly to your home. They cover all type of medical consultations: emergency, general medicine, paediatrics, trauma and psychiatry. The visits are usually reimbursed by health insurance, but individual policies will need to be checked.

SOS Médecins: +41 (0) 22 748 49 50

Emergency Rescue: 144

Police: 117

Fire Department: 118


The transport system in Switzerland is similar to the rest of the country; punctual, reliable and of a high standard. Trains and buses in and around the Lake Geneva region usually have clockwork connections to make using public transport an efficient option.

The city can be easily reached within two hours by plane from most major destinations in Europe. Its international airport also has daily flights to many other countries. High-speed train connections to Paris and Milan as well as fast trains to Spain and Germany provide additional access.


Switzerland ranked first for safety and security in a 2017 expat poll and has always been in the top list of safe places to live due to its low crime rates and strict police force. However, no place is free of all crime and there are still risks to be mindful of when moving to a new country. Pickpocketing and minor property offences are the most common crimes committed in this part of the country.

Culture and customs

There are many iconic Swiss images including snowy mountains and skiing, there’s the food ones such as cheese and chocolate or perhaps most thought of are the banks and watches. The country is also known for its cleanliness, safety, efficient infrastructure and high prices. But what is important to most locals is considerate behaviour; behaviour that shows awareness of others and general helpfulness.

The reserved and organised Swiss locals are fiercely proud and protective of their customs and culture. They are also sticklers for unwritten social rules for daily life. Everyone is expected to follow these rules, which can make integration challenging.