It's not only the crisp Swiss air and nearby ski slopes that draw people to Geneva: the city is also a financial and diplomatic hotspot. Located on the southwest side of Lake Geneva and between the Alps and Jura mountains, the Geneva cityscape is as remarkable for its natural as its architectural beauty.
Its old buildings, such as the Cathedral St-Pierre, are mostly in the French-style. However, among Geneva's edifices is also La Clarté, an avant-guard building designed by Le Corbusier in the 1930's. The city, part of the French-speaking section of Switzerland, is famous for chocolate and watchmaking. Home to the United Nations headquarters, Geneva is also a beacon of international cooperation, building off of Switzerland's reputation for neutrality.
Business: Many multinational companies, such as DuPont, Electronic Arts, Procter & Gamble, and Caterpillar have headquarters in Geneva. A business internship in Geneva provides the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and build connections with internationally recognized companies. Geneva, as a hub business activity is a great environment to kickstart a business career.
International Relations: Home to the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the Red Cross, Geneva is truly an international city; about 44% of the population is comprised of foreign nationals. For those looking to break into the world of International Relations, it's hard to imagine a better city than Geneva in which to make a start. Geneva offers the chance to intern with an intergovernmental organization and see international politics at work first-hand, while also exploring a diverse and multi-national city.
Communications: Geneva is home to a thriving communications community. The flourishing economy and international atmosphere create a great environment to work as a communications intern. Many of these internships are offered through the businesses and intergovernmental organizations mentioned above. This gives you the opportunity to develop your marketing, PR, or web research skills while working for an internationally recognized company or organization.
When and Where to Look for an Internship
Internships are available year-round. They are often offered through international organizations and businesses in the country. Be sure to look into the European branches of companies that are headquartered in Switzerland to see what opportunities are available there.
Cost of Living in Geneva
Although Geneva ranks highly on lists of cities with the best quality of life, Geneva has also consistently been rated as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. However, many internships in Switzerland are paid and also may be willing to provide advice on finding housing for the duration of your stay. Here are some common expenses to help you get an idea of the cost of living in Geneva:
- Rent per month (1 bedroom apartment, city center): $2,000 US
- Monthly transit pass (regular price): $76.00
- Milk (1L): $1.74
- Apples (1kg): $4.35
Work Culture in Geneva
- Etiquette: The Swiss have a reputation for being punctual and neat. While many international reputations trade in stereotypes, arriving on time is considered a basic expectation in Switzerland. In addition, littering is publicly frowned upon. Initial meetings with people tend towards the more formal end of the spectrum, but, when greeting people you know, exchanging three kisses on the cheek is a common greeting.
- Language: Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. Geneva is located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. About a quarter of the local population and even more of the foreigners living in Geneva speak English, however French is the most prominent language. Although fluent French is probably not necessary to intern in Geneva, greeting folks with a Bonjour each day will likely garner the appreciation of your genevois(e) neighbors.
- Networking: Numerous international businesses and organizations have offices in Geneva, making the city a great place to develop your network. One such group is the Geneva Communication Network, which keeps its members current with the goings on in the PR, marketing, and communications fields in the city. Geneva also has a diverse expat community with a strong online presence; connecting with other foreign nationals in the city may help you transition into life in Switzerland for the duration of your internship.
Work and Labor Laws in Geneva
Many internships in Geneva are paid. For these, the standard Swiss labor laws apply. Interns with a US passport can stay in Switzerland for up to 90 days without a visa. More information on visas can be found through the US State Department or the Swiss Embassy.