Geneva Trends in Relocation

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Geneva is home to hundreds of multinational companies and international organizations, making it a place where many people come to work and live, for either a short or a long stay. Over the years, the trends of people coming to and leaving Geneva have been changing. To discuss the trends and the types of expats who live in Geneva and how relocation companies adapt to these changes, we spoke to Pierre Jéronimo, Managing Director of Geneva Relocation and also the current President of the Swiss Association of Relocation Agents. He has been in the relocation business for over 20 years and in that period has observed that nothing is constant.

What are the main trends in relocation patterns?

When Mr. Jéronimo started working in relocation, there were more men than women being relocated and their wives would follow with the children. Most of the time, the “trailing spouse” was comfortable and was willing to move wherever her husband went. Those were single income families, with the other spouse staying home with the children. This is no longer the case. Today, if the trailing spouse is already working in their country of origin, s/he often wishes to continue with her/his career development or take up some volunteer work to keep busy. Relocation companies therefore have to find them these options.

Is there a different gender pattern?

More and more women are the ones getting the career move to Geneva – and they are bringing along their husbands and children. In many cases, the husband has a successful career and is therefore looking to find a job very fast. The relocation agents help put them in touch with recruitment agencies. The wife’s employer is willing to finance this extra service because they recognize that if the family is not happy, the employee is not be happy and so their performance at work is not the best it can be. Employers use relocation companies to make the move very fast, comfortable and easy for their employees.

Rise in commuter relocation

There are now more families where both partners have good job prospects. This makes the decision to move a lot harder, since there might be serious financial repercussions. For instance, if one spouse is offered a raise of 30% to move to Geneva, the raise might not be enough to cover the other spouse’s lost income. For this reason, they might decide to have a commuter relocation where they live in different cities during the workweek.

Has the age of the expats changed?

Years ago, companies were moving people who already had experience. Nowadays, dynamic multinationals bring young talents to their headquarters, where they are trained for a few years and then move on to other cities. Many do not have a family and bring few things for the move. They typically seek furnished apartments in livelier areas. This is not the case with families, who are more interested in schools and areas that have facilities for children.

Which nationalities generally come to Switzerland?

origin_127932603The nationalities of the expats have also changed. Twenty years ago, they were coming mostly from Europe, the United States and other developed countries. Nowadays, there are many emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa where Geneva-based companies recruit. In addition, companies from those regions are moving to Switzerland with their employees. This means that the cultural sensitivity and composition of the relocation agencies has had to adapt. They now hire people from these emerging markets or who have lived in them, so that they are more aware of the situations of where the expats are coming from.

What challenges do these trends pose to relocation agencies?

Most of the time, the expats are leaving their country and moving on to greener pastures. However, that is not the case for everyone. There are people who are being relocated because they have lost their jobs and so are moving with a sense of uncertainty. Geneva Relocation, for example, have an employee who works with outbound clients and she has had to deal with situations where people are not always happy to be leaving.

Despite the changes in these trends, the basic role of a relocation agent has stayed the same. The agent has to keep an emotional distance from the clients and know how to deal with the different emotions of different clients. All clients, regardless of gender, age or nationality, depend on the relocation agent to guide them during their move.

How do relocation employees respond to these new trends?

Geneva Relocation have their employees on the payroll, as opposed to hiring them as independent consultants. This creates an atmosphere where the employees are comfortable, can help each other and are able to give each other the support they need to do their jobs. It also ensures that they all have quality training, since Geneva Relocation is part of the Swiss Association of Relocation Agents (SARA) which provides professional development.

Furthermore, Geneva Relocation employees have a meeting once a week where they discuss what they have been going through with the clients they have, and what they need. The open discussion helps them to share their experiences and acts as a form of therapy for the employees. The team is also multilingual and multinational, so they have different experiences and share them with each other.

Mr. Jéronimo says that to be in the relocation business, you have to know the place well but maintain enough distance to be able to put things in perspective. His consultants are able to provide an objective comparison between the situation in Geneva and other cities in terms of traffic, crime rate or quality of life, for instance. You also need to know when to be available for the client and when to give the client privacy. The most important thing is the flexibility to accommodate change, and the awareness that what holds true today for one group, will not necessarily translate as true for the next group.

Source: Pierre Jéronimo, Managing Director, Geneva Relocation

Photo credits: xlibber via photopin cc, Piero Sierra via photopin cc


  1. Biriké

    The problem with relocation for expats is that the rents are very high. The result is that a native of Geneva can’t find an apartment, because a lot of companies are willing to pay huge rents for their expat employees.

  2. mercy odhiambo

    Yes Biriké the rents are high but I don’t really think it is due to the number of expats making the housing market saturated. It has more to do with the fact that in Geneva like the rest of Switzerland, the laws are very tight on improving things. There are few houses and not enough apartments. This is actually changing now.

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