1 year living in Geneva!

Life in Geneva: one year living in Switzerland. Photo credits: Cíntia Costa/J'habite à Genève blog.

January 9th, 2o13 was the day I started living in Geneva, Switzerland.

When my husband told me he had received a job offer here, I didn’t know much about this place. I knew about the Geneva Conventions, that the UN headquarters were here and that Switzerland was the land of chocolate, horology and cheese. But apart from that, it was a mystery to me.

So, one year ago, when we hopped off that plane on Cointrin airport and took a cab to our temporary home, a true adventure begun. I remember driving on the streets with my heart full of expectations and excitement.

But, God, I felt so uncomfortable in the first weeks. Not because of this city – I love Geneva and I loved it from the start. But because of the obstacles I faced. I didn’t know a word in French and had no mobile internet to help with translations, I knew no one in town, didn’t have winter clothes, a home nor a job. It was the living definition of “leaving your comfort zone”.

It also took me a while to understand Geneva’s dynamics, its rhythm and its ways – so different from that of huge, cosmopolitan, chaotic São Paulo, where I came from… I learnt that the genevois have their own routine, including shops closing hours that seemed too early to me and an amazingly efficient public transport timetable. If back home we’re all always in a rush, here, they’re always on time. I have learned the hard way that ordering food is definitely not a local habit and certainly a bad idea.

Well, once I got passed the initial shock and started to understand and embrace the local lifestyle, it became a time of great pleasant daily discoveries. From exploring the city’s touristic points of interest to finally finding something at the supermarket after days looking for it.

After one month, we found a house (house hunting in Geneva is a crazy experience, I’ve got to write about it one day!) and things started to settle. I also started taking French classes and felt very relieved to be able to interact with other people, even if only to say “hello”, “which floor?” and “how much?”.

Life in Geneva: one year living in Switzerland. Photo credits: Cíntia Costa/J'habite à Genève blog.

The personal relationships field also got better. After all the good-bye parties in Brazil, my first days here were suddenly quieter – no friends nor family around, no one to talk to during the day, almost no one on the streets (later I found out that it was partially due to the weather, since this city gets pretty lively on Summer). But then, after I started taking language classes I learnt how to make friends – and that’s a great way of knowing the city better, since they’re all going through similar experiences. A dear friend from Brazil moved here after a couple of months and we’ve been closer than ever. I met a French couple through this blog and they are such dear friends to us now! During holidays, though, it was a bit tough being away from our families (and our friends from here went away to be with their families, so it got a bit lonely), but daily life has been very pleasant!

Soon I found an exciting job at a social media agency, exactly my specialty, and then my days were completely filled with activities, people interaction and learnings. Because of my clients, I discovered the fine watchmaking market, visited a watch manufactory in La Chaux-de-Fonds and attended Baselworld, the world’s most important horology conference.

Life in Geneva: one year living in Switzerland. Photo credits: Cíntia Costa/J'habite à Genève blog.

We did a lot of traveling in this first year. One of the reasons we moved here was the opportunity to explore Europe and I can happily say we’re on the right track. It was very, very exciting to discover so many new things: the medieval towns like Yvoire and the region of Alsace, a real life castle in Chillon, the lovely cities au bord du lac, like Annecy, the cozy mountains villages, like Megève and Chamonix… So many different sights for this South-American woman, used to big cities and tropical beaches… And the European Summer experience, what a fun experience! Swimming at Lake Geneva, barbecuing at the parks, having sunlight until 9h pm…

There were I lot of first time experiences: I’ve seen snow falling for the first time on my second day here, I’ve been to Ikea for the first time (and came to love it), I’ve tried true champagne for the first time.

Oh, it was a good year. When I look back, I can see how much progress I made in adjusting to this life and how much I’ve learned (including my French, which is not perfect, but compared to day one, it makes me proud!).

The beginning was harder than I expected, I’ll admit. But I believe that we, expats, should look for what’s behind that though adaption process, for what we’re to learn and discover, and face our time away from home with an open heart. If we try to live our old lives here, in the exact way we did back home, it will definitely be frustrating… And if we try something and hate it, we can always go back to whatever we prefer, right? At least we’ll have seen a different way to do it. But Geneva has so much to offer and I’m glad I embraced it because now I simply love living in Geneva.

Anyway, instead of making new year’s resolutions for 2014, this time I chose to look back, meditate on the year that has passed with a thankful heart. Whatever comes next, I’m ready and open hearted!

Sorry for the huge post :), certainly the largest of this blog, but I felt like opening up with you fellows. Happy new year to you guys!

PS: you can find all these photos and many more on my Instagram. Continue reading

Genève du jour: the Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) on the Winter

Lac Léman or Lake Geneva in the Winter. Photo credits: Cíntia Costa/J'habite à Genève blog.

Winter have finally started, and the weather has been chilly, but not freezing yet. Last Tuesday, it was a beautiful day, not so cold and very sunny, and I took sometime to walk around Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).

It is funny to see how the environment around the lake is so different from the Summer times. Back then, it felt like a crowded, livid beach, with lots of people having fun, swimming and drinking, fed by the energy of the sun. Now, it feels more like a peaceful place, filled with parents walking their kids on the stroller, some tourists taking pictures, couples holding hands and old people enjoying the view.

I spend sometime there, seating on a bench on the Jardin Anglais park, meditating and contemplating that scene, and felt very thankful to have such a beautiful piece of nature to go to when I need, so close from home.

Next time, though, I think I’ll stop at a coffee place first and bring some hot beverage with me :).

Photo credits: Cíntia Costa/J’habite à Genève blog. Continue reading

“L’Épiphanie” and the “galette de rois”

Galette des Rois and its paper crown. Photo: @luanash at Instagram.

La galette and the paper crown. Photo: @luanash at Instagram.

Happy new year, my friends! How were the celebrations chez vous? We spent some days in Paris for the reveillon and came back to Geneva last Sunday just in time to discover a new year’s tradition.

Yesterday, the 6th of January, was the day to celebrate the Épiphanie or Fête des Rois, a Christian holiday that marks the day that the three kings/magi visited the newborn Jesus.

The tradition here is to hide a small toy (“la fève“, roughly translated as “favor”) inside a galette des rois, a foil pastry almond pie (I heard there are different recipes in other countries). The person that finds the “fève” on its piece of the cake is then the king of the day and gets to wear a gold paper crown.

La fève dans une galette des rois. Photo: @suechacha on Instagram.

La fève. Photo: @suechacha on Instagram.

Well, since it was our first day back home and given that we ate like there’s no tomorrow during holidays, added to the fact I couldn’t find any small galette des rois for two, we decided not to buy one this year.

I tried to buy just the paper crown, since I like being silly :), but couldn’t find any one being sold separately… Anyways, thought it was worthy registering here this new discovery of mine. Continue reading

Swiss fondue recipe: how to make “moitié moitié” at home

How to make Swiss fondue moitié moitié at home. Photo: J'habite à Genève blog.

Winter started this week and one of the best ways Swiss people came up with to keep warm in cold days is fondue. There are many different ways of preparing it, depending on the region. The traditional Swiss recipe is called moitié moitié (as in “50/50”) due to its combination of two cheeses in the same amounts: gruyère and vacherin fribourgeois.

The other day, we were craving for this cheesy dish and couldn’t make reservations at any of the fondue restaurants in Geneva we know, so we took a leap of faith and hurried to the supermaket to buy all the necessary things to make it at home. Thanks to the folks on Coop, who helped me through choosing the right cheeses, wine and gear to go through with it, it was a success. We already did it again when having friends over… So here it is!


  • 200g of vacherin cheese (per person)
  • 200g of gruyère cheese (per person)
  • A clove of garlic
  • White wine to cook and drink (preferably Fendant du Valais, the Swiss wine they serve with fondue at the restaurants)
  • A pinch of black pepper (optional)
  • Bread (a baguete cut in chunks)
  • Charcuterie (dried meats like prociutto, bresaola etc.), pickles and onions

How to prepare it

  • Start by cutting the garlic clove in half and rubbing it all over the interior of the fondue pan (called caquelon), bottom and sides. Throw the garlic away after.
  • Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and add the cheeses.
  • Add just a little bit of white wine (around 50ml) and mix until it melts.
  • Keep mixing until the fondue starts to boil, then turn off the heat and take the pan to the fondue set rechaud. 
  • If you like, add a pinch of black pepper at this point.
  • Serve with a bowl of bread and a plate with the charcuterie, the pickles and the small onions.

PS: you can either buy the cheeses separately or a ready to melt fondue mix, both turn out great! Continue reading

“Marchés de Noël”: the Christmas markets on Switzerland

Marché de Noël in Switzerland. Photo credits: Cíntia Costa/J'habite à Genève blog.

During this month, some chalet shaped booths started to show up on some Geneva’s squares… It’s time for Christmas markets! I was really looking forward to them, as I told you on my last post

Last week we have been to the Marché de Noël de Montreux and I loved it! They had some very “montagne” style Christmas decoration stuff and awesome typical food and drinks. We had foie gras poêlé sandwiches (fried foie gras on a baguete), tartiflettes (cooked potatos with cheese, cream and lardons or bacon), artisanal beers, pain d’épices (a sort of a French gingerbread), vin chaud (hot wine) and thé de Noël (according to this recipe, it’s black tea with orange, cinnamon, vanilla, clove and spices). I obviously did not keep track of the calories 🙂 and just focused on the fun of all these recently discovered flavors…

In Geneva, I’ve been to the small marchés on Place de Mollard and Rue du Mont-Blanc, and I heard there’s a bigger one on Carouge. The CFF’s website (Switzerland rail company) has a list of some of the most interesting Christmas markets around Switzerland and on neighboring countries (along with special offers for train tickets to take you there).

I highly recommend it! Don’t forget to wear your winter clothes, though, to keep you warm since it’s an open air thing and the weather is very cold already! Continue reading

“L’Escalade”: an important Geneva holiday

Marmite de l'Escalade in chocolate in Geneva, Switzerland.

Today, December 12th, Geneva celebrates “L’Escalade“, a holiday that tells a lot about its history. In the same day of the year 1602, the Savoyard people tried to attack and invade the city (apparently with religious motivations, being Geneva a protestant republic and the Savoyards, catholics) by climbing its walls, and failed.

Rumor has it an old lady fought the attackers by throwing of her window a big pan of boiling legume soup over the head of a soldier. That’s the origin of the Marmite de l’Escalade, one of the biggest symbols of this celebration.

At my French school, I had the pleasant opportunity to participate in a funny tradition to celebrate the victory of Geneva over the Savoyards: singing of the Escalade hymn, toasting with cider and breaking of the chocolate Marmite with a saber, to find out it was filled with sweets!

Interesting and tasty traditions… 🙂 Continue reading

Chocolate for Human Rights

Chocolate for Human Rights: Manor, Favarger and WFUNA in Geneva. Photo credits: J'habite à Genève blog.

Today is the Human Rights Day and I have a cool thing to share with you guys (with a surprise in the end!). As you know, Geneva has a number of important organizations associated with this theme and one of them is the WFUNA (World Federation of United Nations Associations).

These holidays, they are encouraging people to support Human Rights in the sweetest way: buying delicious chocolate boxes.

WFUNA partnered with Favarger, one of the best Swiss chocolate producers, and the Manor shops to offer this special edition gift. Part of the money will be used to fund a Human Rights training for developing countries’s leaders here in Geneva in 2014. You can buy your chocolate boxes (small for 14.50 CHF and large for 24.50 CHF) at Manor Food (Rue Cornavin 6).

Here’s the fun part: you can win a box for free here at J’habite à Genève blog!

We’re going to do a quick photo contest: you have to publish a picture with your WFUNA chocolate box on your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook page using the hashtag #Choco4HR until the 23rd of December.

Me and WFUNA will choose the best picture and send the lucky winner a free its prize! Please, make sure your privacy settings allows us to see your pictures (or, if you want, leave a comment here with the link to the picture so that we can find you easily).

Good luck!

Chocolate for Human Rights: Manor, Favarger and WFUNA in Geneva. Photo credits: J'habite à Genève blog. Continue reading

Winter is coming in Geneva! So is Christmas…

Frozen rose during winter.

So this week we had the first snow of this semester in Geneva and many other places in Switzerland. Although it’s still Autumn, Winter is comming!

The only picture I was able to make in Geneva was this frozen rose here, it was a very light snow…

But look at how the office I work in Vevey (a farm in the mountains, or “ferme alpege” as they call it) looked like last Thursday!

Vevey, Switzerland during winter with snow.

I had to shop for winter clothes, ear warmers, gloves… The cold days are definitely here to stay!

The holidays spirit is starting to take over Geneva and I have been making a lot of interesting discoveries about Swiss/European Christmas.

Christmas decoration: rendeer ball at Manor.

First of all, I found out that everyone have natural Christmas trees around here, and that plastic ones (as we all do back home, since it’s a tropical country, where new year’s holidays happen during Summer) are not very popular. So I’m going to try and have a natural one this year… On the not so positive side, I’ve been told that, since natural trees don’t last long, I’m only supposed to buy it two or three days before Christmas Eve. A bit frustrating for me, since I used to have it for the whole month of December (and all my Brazilian friends keep posting pictures of their pretty Christmas trees already, making me a bit jealous).

Another cool tradition I discovered are the advent calendars (“calendrier de l’avent“): boards with small compartments for each day of December until Christmas, with small gifts in them – usually chocolate, but they have other options (I heard there’s one with whiskey shots 🙂 ). Loved it, certainly going to have one!

And finally, I also found out that there are a lot of Marchés de Noël, traditional Christmas themed street markets with food and decoration booths, music and everything. I’m looking forward to them, it sounds like a lot of fun!

So, our first Christmas alway from our families will be slightly compensated by the fun of getting to know and experience all of this new, different things and traditionsContinue reading

Genève du jour: beautiful sunset at the road

Beautiful sunset in Geneva. Photo credits: Cíntia Costa|J'habite à Genève blog.

Long time, no posting… I’ve been away for some holidays and then had family over in Geneva for some other couple of days. This is what we ran into when we were coming back from a visit to the Château de Chillon last Thursday.

I loved the colors on this sunset. They started with a pinkish tone, than it became orange and got very intense before the sun rested. The clouds really made it special!

The “autoroute”, as they call it here, can provide some breathtaking sights…

Photo: from my Instagram. Continue reading