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Cost of Living

Switzerland - Cost of Living

Switzerland has for a long time had a high cost of living, relative to its European neighbours. This does not seem set to change. In the 2011 Mercer Cost of Living survey, Geneva was ranked 5th in the world's top 5 most expensive cities, placing it below Tokyo and Moscow but well above London (18), New York (32), Paris (27), and Sydney (14), and even several places above Hong Kong (9). Zurich followed at number 7 in the world, and Bern at number 16. While it would be easy to be scared off by these figures, it is worth bearing in mind that as the average salary in Swiss cities also tends to be high, residents in full-time employment do not generally struggle any more than those in other major cities. Residents also learn where to find better value goods and services.

Following the recent global financial crisis, costs will feel high in almost every area of living expenses to anyone from the UK, US, or many other countries in comparison to your home currency. Living costs remain high throughout Switzerland as a whole, although cities will cost more. However, you may be pleasantly surprised at transport costs in Switzerland if moving from London, Sydney or Tokyo.

In Zurich expect to pay from CHF 1,500 for a 2 room apartment in a central location (prices are lower further out), and in the region of CHF 2,000-2,500 for 4 room accommodation.

CHF 2.00 Loaf of sliced bread
CHF 1.30 Litre of milk (supermarket own-brand)
CHF 4.70 180g Pack of sliced ham (supermarket own-brand)
CHF 4.10 200g Pack of inexpensive sliced cheese
CHF 5.80 Chilled ready-made pizza (4 Seasons)
CHF 4.80 500g branded cereal (Kelloggs Frosties)
CHF 1.60 500g Cornflakes (supermarket value brand)
CHF 1.15 Litre orange juice (supermarket own-brand)
CHF 1.80 500g Penne pasta (branded)
CHF 0.95 1kg Spaghetti (supermarket value brand)
CHF 1.25 500g Onions
CHF 4.50 100g Prawns (supermarket own brand)
CHF 5.80 200g Vegetarian sausages (branded)
CHF 1.80 125g Jar baby food
CHF 16.10 56 Midi (4-9kg) Nappies/Diapers (supermarket own brand)
CHF 7.40 12 Rolls toilet paper (supermarket own brand)
CHF 5.85 1kg Dry cat food (Whiskas)
CHF 8.00 5l Cat litter (Catsan)
CHF 6.95 4 x 300g Moist dog food (Pedigree)

Expect to spend anywhere between 100 to 300 CHF per week on groceries for 2 adults, depending on your lifestyle, alcohol consumption, and how much time you are prepared to spend in the kitchen. Shopping at Aldi, Lidl or Denner will cost less than shopping at Coop or Migros.

Eating Out:
CHF 12.00 Lunch in company cafeteria
CHF 12.70 Medium Big Mac meal with fries and drink
CHF 29.40 Pizza meal deal from Dominos: 30cm pizza, bread side, 1.5l drink
CHF 62.00 Meal at mid-range Italian restaurant comprising of 2 pizzas with side salad, 2 soft drinks, and 2 coffees.
CHF 140.00 3 course meal for 2 plus a bottle of wine at a good French restaurant

Heating and electricity may be included in the rent as part of the additional 'Nebenkosten' (utilities and common charges). Nebenkosten will vary depending on the size of the property. As a rough guide, expect to pay between 12% and 20% of the monthly rent as an additional Nebenkosten charge. If your personal expenditure for your own apartment is included in the Nebenkosten, you should expect a further bill at the end of the year (Nebenkostenabrechnung) over and above your monthly payments. Expats in rental properties have in recent years received annual bills in the region of CHF 1,500 to 3,000 from their landlords. For the monthly payments plus end of year bill (Nebenkostenabrechnung) for an average size apartment, allow for CHF 250 to CHF 300 a month.

Alternatively, you may be expected to settle your own electricity costs separately and your Nebenkosten will cover only central heating, water, use of shared facilities (e.g. laundry), and communal maintenance and consumption charges (e.g. heating and lighting for shared areas, upkeep of building and grounds). Allow CHF 50 to CHF 85 on average a month for electricity costs, depending on your consumption, size of property, and whether you are in a maintained apartment building or a detached home.

A TV licence (from Billag) is mandatory if you have equipment capable of receiving a TV or radio signal, including a car radio. The TV and radio (which also covers car and internet radio) elements of the bill are separate. In 2011, the private (i.e. residential use) monthly fee for radio reception was CHF 14.10 and for TV reception CHF 24.45. This is payable per quarter, making a quarterly bill for both TV and radio of CHF 115.60.

You may need to rent a blue zone parking space or to use on-street parking. A blue zone parking residents permit is CHF 240 a year (2011 price, Zurich). For on-street parking overnight, expect to pay CHF 250 to CHF 360 a year.

A combination Digital TV, Internet (50MB dowloand limit) and Phone cable package will cost CHF 80 to 110 per month. A 20MB VDSL contract will cost CHF 60 to 80 a month. The 2011 cost for a Swisscom package for TV, Internet, a fixed phone line and mobile (with free evening and weekend home phone and mobile calls) is CHF 144 a month.

2 cinema tickets will cost you between CHF 26 and 40. A gym subscription with classes will be between CHF 90 and CHF 170 depending on location and facilities and whether paid monthly or annually, cheaper with introductory offers or joint membership.

A general 2nd class season ticket for an adult was CHF 3300 in 2011. Discounts available for seniors, disabled, students and children. A dog is required to have a ticket and there is a season ticket available for canine passengers at CHF 700 a year. Monthly, allow CHF 305 for your season ticket, or CHF 455 for first class travel. A ZVV (Zurich) second class annual travelcard costs CHF 441 (local network) or CHF 711 for up to 2 zones. Monthly passes are CHF 49 for the local network and CHF 79 for 1 to 2 zones. A Unireso (Geneva) annual second class travelcard costs CHF 1000 (or CHF 100 for a monthly card). First class costs are CHF 1650 (or CHF 165 paid monthly).

Rail fares recently rose but are still less expensive than London or Sydney and Swiss transport is also clean and efficient.

Clothes shopping in Switzerland offers a variety of choice, from H&M, Zara and C&A to designer dresses and suits. Expect prices to be higher than in the UK/US, especially for leisure wear. H&M ladies jeans are priced around CHF 50 to 60. A dress for office wear is also approximately CHF 50. Trousers (pants) are on average between CHF 30 and 50. Mens jeans are CHF 60 to 70 from H&M. Chinos are CHF 30 to 40. Expect to pay considerably more in upscale stores.

Household Goods:
A 40 inch (101 cm) TV will cost in the region of CHF 800 to 850 from MediaMarkt. A basic sofa starts from around CHF 400 from Ikea, and a standard double bed frame will be around CHF 200 to 300. A small fridge will cost CHF 200 to 350.

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