Geneva Expat 101, Lesson Four – Furnishing an Apartment on a Budget

Switzerland is expensive.  Very, very expensive.  The high value of the Swiss Franc hasn’t helped (thank you Switzerland for devaluing your currency).  As a result, we have been looking for ways to get the things we need here on a budget.

We went to Ikea*.  It still seemed rather expensive, or at least more expensive than Ikea in the US.  I know that their prices are, in theory, the same worldwide.  Although I haven’t done the calculations, I suspect Switzerland is an exception to their standard pricing and is more expensive.

We tried to make our new home  organized, warm and homey. To do this on a budget, I relied heavily on brocante (secondhand). Since Geneva is such a transient community, you can get lots of nice things used.  Some of the best stores to go are Caritas, CSP and L’Armee Du Salut (Salvation Army). A few weeks back, I went to check them out with some friends. We were amazed by what we saw and all of us found “treasures”. 

Sometimes, there are extra markdowns on certain items.

 

Sadly, none of us purchased the Courvoisier cannon.
None of us purchased the mounted fish head either. It is still up for grabs. Interested?
Seriously, they have tons of whatever kind of household item you need.
They have furniture too.
Tons of it.
On the hunt for a smokin’ deal
Rugs, books and CD’s. Oh my.

Here are some places you can go to get what you need on the cheap:

  • Salvation Army (L’ Armee Du Salut) – We purchased a giant armoire here to store all of my clothes and a nice lamp (it fits Swiss plugs).
  • CSP (Centre Sociale Protestant) they are all over – I purchased a ton of flower pots here.  This is a great place to go for books too. 
  • Caritas stores are also all over – you can get just about anything here.  One day, I spent 49 CHF and came home on the tram with a table for our kitchen, a vacuum cleaner, a steamer/rice cooker, and a plant stand.  It has been a great place to get appliances.  We have gotten a hairdryer, a rice cooker, a fan and a raclette set there.
  • The classifieds on glocals.com has also been a really useful.  We were able to buy our spare bed and TV there.
  • Advertised brocante weekend sales
  • Plainpalais flea market 
*I bought Ikea’s version of the Slap Chop.  It didn’t cut anything and was a big waste of money.  He just laughed at me because I’d wanted it so badly and had been so excited about it.
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Does Anyone Need A Sherpa?

I can now add a new position to my resume.  Sherpa.  If you need a Sherpa, I am your woman.

We live in an old building from the turn of the century. As a result, it does not have a garage. Rather than rent a parking spot for a few hundred Swiss Francs a month, we are leaving the car at work. We will be able to park in the neighborhood when our local registrations come through. In the meantime, we are hoofing it during the week.

Everything we buy, we must carry home ourselves.  It’s not a problem and we don’t mind it one bit. It does yield some interesting train rides. Here is a top ten list:
10. I purchased a shelving unit from Ikea for my (admittedly excessive) shoe collection. I received lots of honks on and even a thumbs up with an “Allez, Yeah” on the way to the station.  Enjoy the photo above even though it doesn’t do it justice.
9. Carrying 6 bottles of wine home.  I tried not to look like an alcoholic. Funnily enough, carrying 6 bottles of wine doesn’t even merit a raised eyebrow here.
8. Walking down the street carrying an iron (purchased from the Salvation Army for a steal) with no box.  I couldn’t fit it in my backpack because it was full of groceries.
7. He and I carried our (possibly too large) TV to our apartment.  We had to carry it from the other side of the city because we also purchased this secondhand.
6. Although technically not in the same category, I have been carrying magazines home.  Everyone recycles here (more about that in another post).  On Wednesdays, everyone puts their paper goods out in front of their doors for the city to pick up. On our Tuesday evening walks, I have seen perfectly good new French fashion magazines sitting on top of the recycling.  They are perfect for me because I can easily read them and the articles aren’t too long.  I have scooped them up and gleefully carried them home.  The $6-7 that they cost at the newstand is prohibitively expensive.  Free is the right price.
5. Lavender.  All the old ladies on the tram (and a few men two) wanted to ask me about the beautiful plant I was carrying.  They wanted to know where I got it, tell me how lovely it was, how nice it smelled, etc.  It is currently ailing.  Here’s hoping that it will pull through.
4. A toilet plunger (again the backpack was full). Enough said.
3. A lamp that was taller than me. It was a smokin’ deal that the Salvation Army and even has a dimmer! How could I have passed that up?
2. An excessive amount of wine and beer bottles to take to recycling (see #9). We invited all 7 people we know in Switzerland to dinner.  Funnily enough, this didn’t merit a raised eyebrow either.
1. One day I carried this table home. To it, I taped a vacuum cleaner, a steamer and a plant stand.  Oh yeah, I wore my backpack too.  It was full.*
*Swiss people have been very nice.  That day, I had no less than four people ask me where I was going so that they could help me carry it.  I politely declined. For me, it was a point of pride. How else can I train properly for my Sherpa job?

Dogless

Old habits die hard.  Both of our dogs are living at our new homes.   Even though I know this, I still find myself heading straight to the back door to let the dogs out as soon as I wake, wondering whether I can take them with me when I run an errand and checking the waterbowl to make sure they have water.

We have spoken with their new mommies and daddies.  It sounds like they are both doing well.  Here is a cute picture of them out and about with their friend Dixie.  Whenever we walked the three of them together, we got lots of attention and more than a few stares.