I’ve been an expat for most of my life. Originally from Japan, I’ve lived in a total of six countries. For the past 15 years, I’ve called Geneva, Switzerland, my home.

When my then-husband and I decided to move here, to his hometown, our first child was just 10 months old. We wanted a change from the hustle and bustle of New York and London, where we’d worked long hours as investment bankers.

Raising a family here has been a tremendous blessing. Now my ex and I co-parent two teenagers. His house is just a five-minute walk from mine. Geneva is different from anywhere else I’ve lived, and I’ve found something that truly works for me.

A look inside our Geneva apartment

One of the first things I noticed about this apartment was its traditional charm and ornately decorated ceilings.

I have a spacious entryway, and two bathrooms located near the foyer. One bathroom has a bathtub, while the other is equipped with a shower and a washer-dryer.

One of our two bathrooms.

Photo: Shizuka McNeill

To the right of the entrance is the kitchen, where we spend most of our time. My daughter is a passionate baker and my son is an eager taste-tester. The walls are adorned with their childhood artwork.

The kitchen is a hub of activity for me and my two kids.

Photo: Shizuka McNeill

Homes in Europe typically don’t have as much storage space as ones in the U.S. We don’t have any built-in wardrobes, so we’ve improvised with closets in the entrance and drawers in the kids’ rooms.

We have three bedrooms. Mine also functions as my home office. My company AVoyage helps women advocate for themselves financially: I launched it in 2022 after consulting for a number of years. 

A calming space for both work and rest.

Photo: Shizuka McNeill

There are some great views from the apartment, including St. Pierre Cathedral and the region’s oldest public high school, where my son currently goes. You can get a glimpse of Jet d’Eau, the grand water fountain in Lake Geneva.

The cost of living in Geneva

Our lease is open-ended, and any rent increases are linked to an index based on inflation. We haven’t experienced a rent hike in the past 15 years, primarily because there hasn’t been significant inflation here.

When we first signed the lease, the security deposit was set at three months’ worth of rent. My monthly expenses include $6,970 for rent, $384 for parking, $1,452 for health insurance, $578 for heat and $266 for internet and phone.

A cozy nook for watching TV and just relaxing.

Photo: Shizuka McNeill

While the public school system here is great, kids don’t have class on Wednesday afternoons, so childcare can be an expensive scramble. 

Though life in general can be pricey, it feels worth it to me. The high cost of living is balanced by Geneva’s commitment to a high quality of life for its citizens. The city has strict regulations for environmental protection, food safety, and healthcare standards. The minimum wage is $27 per hour.

Switzerland consistently ranks one of the safest countries in the world.

I’ve personally found Geneva’s healthcare system to be exceptional. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, I was able to undergo surgery within nine days. I received excellent personalized attention from a team of highly skilled and attentive doctors during a very frightening time. Thanks in part to this rapid and effective response, I am still in remission six years later.  

I feel completely at ease with my neighbors, some of whom have lived here for 50 years. Being a part of this community gives me so much joy.

I love the neighborhood

Geneva is very accessible. When I need to get chores and errands done in the city, everything I would need — from the supermarket to the post office — is all so centralized.

In London, one chore would take me half a day. In Geneva, I can get six to seven done in that time.

We’re surrounded by charming bakeries, delightful ice cream shops, a yoga studio, stylish boutiques, cozy cafes and inviting restaurants. Serene Lake Geneva is less than a mile from our place and I often go there to jog, walk or even wakeboard.

One of my favorite neighborhood bakeries.

Photo: Shizuka McNeill

Geneva is a hub for organizations like the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Economic Forum and the Red Cross. The city attracts diplomats and expats from around the globe. Walking down the streets here, you’ll hear people speaking a variety of languages.

My children grew up speaking French, English, German and Japanese. (Even with the strong international presence here, in order to integrate fully into the community, you have to be willing to pick up some French.)

Geneva has a wonderful cafe culture, with many spots to enjoy a meal and people watch.

Photo: Shizuka McNeill

I love that we can travel to so many places, as the international airport is less than half hour away from the city center. One downside is a lack of direct flights to some areas of the U.S. Those stopovers can sometimes make my family in Japan seem even farther away.

The upside of our location is that a 30-minute drive in any direction from Geneva puts you into a stunning alpine landscape that is perfect for hiking and skiing. By car, we can visit France, Italy, Germany and Austria with ease.

Once my children are grown, I hope to spend more time in the U.S. and Japan — but home will always be in Geneva.

Shizuka McNeill is a finance specialist based in Geneva and the founder of AVoyage Financial Literacy. Shizuka is a seasoned speaker, investor and devoted mother of two teens. Her goal is to financially empower women all over the world.

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I'm an American living in a $2,100/month luxury, 2-bedroom apartment in Copenhagen, Denmark

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