Germany vs Switzerland: Where Life Is Better?

Oct 15, 2021Living in Germany, Move to Germany, Switzerland

Both Germany and Switzerland are two popular destinations for expats, researchers, and international students. They are very similar but also very different countries, for instance, Switzerland is significantly more expensive than Germany. Want to figure out what place will be the best for you?

Germany vs Switzerland

  • Main advantages of living in Switzerland are higher salaries and lower taxes.
  • Prices are much higher than in Germany.
  • Swiss salaries are at least 1,8 of what you will earn in Germany.

Are you planning to move abroad? Then you should do comprehensive research on any destination you are thinking about. This article explains the pros and cons of living in Germany vs Switzerland and the main differences between them two.

Which country is better for living: Germany or Switzerland?

Germany

Pros of living in Germany:

  1. Great employment opportunities for foreign specialists.
  2. Simple immigration policies.
  3. Large country – various cities to choose from.
  4. Relatively low cost of living when comparing to other Western European countries.
  5. Education including universities has great quality and is also free.
  6. High salaries in particular industries and professions. Overall salaries are high when comparing across the Europe.
  7. High living standards.
  8. Large, strong and stable economy.
  9. Liberal country.
  10. Home to many world’s biggest companies like Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Siemens.
  11. Low unemployment rates.
  12. Free health care.

Cons of living in Germany:

  1. Lower salaries than in Switzerland.
  2. Higher taxes – with gross monthly salary of 4,000 EUR you will get 2,539 EUR after tax. Taxes can be between 35% and 55% of your salary.
  3. Germany has more poor people – 16,7% are living beyond poverty line.
  4. Large number or refugees and other immigrants that tend to belong to the lower social classes.

To learn more about living in Germany, you can also read “Is Germany a good place to live?”.

Switzerland

Pros of living in Switzerland:

  1. Swiss salaries are the highest in Europe. The average hourly wage is 60 CHF.
  2. Low taxes and are also the lowest in Europe. With annual salary of 84,000 CHF you will pay in taxes only 9,280 CHF, which is just 11%!
  3. Quality of life is one of the best in the world. Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva are ranked second and eighth highest for quality of life in the world.
  4. Highly skilled professionals have great career opportunities in particular industries.
  5. Beautiful nature – lakes, mountains, rivers, forests and scenic hiking trails, all are a maximum of 3hrs away from the big cities (Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Bern).
  6. Very high standards of living.
  7. Second lowest unemployment rate in Europe – 1,7%.
  8. Active sportive nation – many people skiing or hiking or both.
  9. Very good ecology and air quality.
  10. It’s a very safe country. The crime rates are extremely low.
  11. Best place in the world for skiing.
  12. Multinational country – 32,4% of the countries workforce made up of expats. There are also four official languages, German, French, Italian and English. Foreigners account for nearly 25% of the population – one of the highest percentages in the world.
  13. World-class and almost free education – students only pay low tuition fees around 500 per semester. Switzerland ranks second-highest globally for the quality of its higher education institutions.
  14. If in Germany trains often tend to be late, Swiss public transport is super efficient. Trams, busses are 98% of the time on time and on to schedule.
  15. Great location and great neighbours. Switzerland is located in the centre of Europe. It borders France, Germany, Italy, Lichtenstein and Austria.

Cons of living in Switzerland:

  1. High salaries come with high prices – cost of living in Switzerland almost double what you would pay in Germany. Expats generally spend far more on housing, education, healthcare, and daily necessities than they do at home.
  2. Speeding fines are very high. 11 kmh faster on an Autobahn would cost you 20 EUR in Germany and well over 100 EUR in Switzerland.
  3. Social life is less prevalent
  4. As a foreigner integration in the society is hard. In a recent survey of expats living in Switzerland, 62% found it hard to make Swiss friends (compared to 36% globally).
  5. Swiss people don’t really like foreigners.
  6. Swiss people aren’t the most friendlier nation, but they are very polite and also reserved.
  7. Swiss culture can be overly reserved, polite, and traditional for foreigners. In fact, many expats get frustrated by this factor.
  8. Immigration to Switzerland and naturalisation is difficult and restrictive. It takes at least 5 years to receive a permanent residency.
  9. It might be boring – while Switzerland is a great place for families with kids looking for a quieter life, as a young expat you might this country boring.

Main differences between living in Germany vs Switzerland

So what are the main differences between these two countries? Here we have collected the significant factors which you need to consider before moving abroad.

  1. Obtaining Swiss citizenship is much harder than German. Do you want to get a passport as a result of working abroad? Well, Germany might be a better choice then.
  2. Salaries are much higher in Switzerland. If your priority is working and making money, Switzerland is the general better choice – higher paychecks, lower taxes.
  3. Immigrant population percentage is higher in Switzerland. Foreigners account for nearly 25% of the Swiss population.

To learn more about life in Germany, you can read living in Germany vs Austria.

What might surprise you in both countries

When you move abroad, many things will be different as you used to have. You will notice differences in people’s lifestyles, traditions, customs, and culture in both countries.

Switzerland and Germany are very similar in many ways, but if you never lived or have been to any of these two places, you will be surprised.

  • Cash rather than card

Both countries use cash more often than cards. So make sure you always have some on hand when going out for drinks.

Yes, many places do take cards, but if you are buying a coffee, ice cream, or something similar, you should have some money on you. Some shops and restaurants won’t accept your card if your bill is under some amount.

  • Alcohol is a big part of the culture and everyday life

In Switzerland and Germany, people tend to meet for a drink if they ever meet. The legal drinking age is also very low in both countries. You can drink beer and wine already at 16 and spirits at 18.

Drinking is a casual part of German and Swiss culture.

  • It’s clean

It’s clean everywhere you look. Switzerland is one of the cleanest countries ever.

  • Better work life balance

Work-life balance is great in both countries. People work to live. You will have between 37-42 hrs. a workweek and many holidays. You never have to work on a weekend.

Sunday is a rest day for everyone. Nothing is open on Sundays.

  • Focus on sports and group activities

People are sportive, they like to hike, bike, skiing, running, playing various sports. Everyone has a hobby. This can be related to sports and outdoors or just meeting with people for some social activity.

  • Free or almost free education

In Germany, you can study bachelor’s and master’s programs for free, while in Switzerland, it only costs 500 CHF per semester. This includes world-renowned universities like ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne.

Germany vs Switzerland: Cost of living

The average cost of living in Germany ($1,414) is 43% less expensive than in Switzerland ($2,497). Germany ranked 32nd vs 3rd for Switzerland in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.

Cost of living comparison Germany vs Switzerland

GermanySwitzerland
Cost of living for a single person$1,414$2,497
Cost of living for a family$3,471$6,578
Rent for one-bedroom apartment$746$1,329
Rent for a family$1,377$2,548
Food$407$815
Transport$124$126
Monthly salary after tax$2,864$6,194
Source: livingcost.org
GermanySwitzerland
Lunch Menu$11.8$23.7
Dinner in a Restaurant, for 2$52.6$104
 Fast food meal, equiv. McDonald’s$9.32$15.6
Beer in a Pub, 0.5 L or 16 fl oz$4.16$7.22
Cappuccino$3.37$5.1
Pepsi / Coke, 0.5 L or 16.9 fl oz$2.72$4.39
Rent & Utilities
1 bedroom apartment in Downtown, 40 m2 or 430 ft2$702$1,457
Cheap 1 bedroom apartment, 40 m2 or 430 ft2$532$1,073
 3 bedroom apartment in Downtown, 80 m2 or 860 ft2$1,408$2,789
Cheap 3 bedroom apartment, 80 m2 or 860 ft2$1,049$2,184
Utility Bill one person, electricity, heating, water, etc.$143$120
Utility Bill for a Family, electricity, heating, water, etc.$220$184
Internet plan, 50 Mbps+ 1 month unlimited$36.5$59.3
Mortgage Interest Rate for 20 Years1.92% 1.48% 
Apartment price to Buy in city Center, 1 m2 or 10 ft2$5,424$11,585
House price to Buy in Suburbs, 1 m2 or 10 ft2$3,824$8,414
Local transport ticket$3.26$3.87
Monthly ticket local transport$80.2$88.2
Taxi Ride, 8 km or 5 mi$23$39.1
Gas / Petrol, 1 L or 0.26 gal$1.66$1.74
 Gym Membership, 1 month$36.2$85.9
 Cinema Ticket, 1 person$12.4$19.8
 Doctor’s visit$66.6$124
 Haircut, simple$17.1$34.1
Brand Jeans$87.6$116
Brand Sneakers$94.5$129
Daycare or Preschool, 1 month$360$2,293

Germany

According to the Federal Statistics Office, German households spend an average of 2,704 EUR per month, where 908 EUR goes to housing, energy, and maintenance.

Most Germans spend around 356 EUR on groceries, 351 EUR on transport, and 284 EUR on leisure per month.

For example, the cost of living in Berlin is estimated to be:

  • 45% cheaper than New York
  • 33% cheaper than London
  • 26% cheaper than Singapore
  • 22% cheaper than Paris

Switzerland

Switzerland has earned its reputation for being one of the most expensive countries in the world. Therefore, prices are easily manageable if you are working in Switzerland.

Yet, the high expenses are compensated by high wages, low taxes, and the high living standards you are paying for.

The most popular Swiss cities for expats, Zurich and Geneva, are among the most expensive cities in the world. 

In Switzerland, you will need to budget more for insurance than usual. Swiss people spend more on various insurances than the European average. Health insurance alone will cost significantly more than in Germany. On average Swiss pay around 450 CHF per month for health insurance.

Rent

Germany

The biggest monthly expense is rent. However, rents in Germany vary from city to city, with the highest in Munich.

As a student, you will pay between 290 EUR and 560 EUR per month for a room. As a professional, you might want to rent an entire apartment. Expect to pay between 600 EUR to 1,000 EUR for a one-bedroom flat.

One-bedroom apartment rent in the largest German cities:

  •  Leipzig €512
  •  Cologne €730
  •  Stuttgart €857
  •  Berlin €879
  •  Frankfurt €901
  •  Hamburg €911
  •  Munich €1,125

Switzerland

As an expat, you can expect to spend at least 30% of your salary each month on rent. In Zurich, apartments are rented for around 2,500 CHF-6,000 CHF, depending on the size. Additionally, utilities might cost up to 300 CHF.

Telephone and internet are added for about 60 CHF. For the Swiss GEZ, you pay about 40 CHF per month.

Cities like Zurich, Basel, Bern, or Geneva are among the most expensive places to live in the world. Due to strong immigration in recent years, rental prices have increased significantly (by 20% in the last 10 years). Swiss rents are at least twice higher than in Germany.

Food

In Germany average household spends 414 EUR on shopping for food and drinks. In Switzerland, food costs at least 20% – 30% more than in Germany.

Generally, Switzerland has the most expensive food and non-alcoholic beverages among the European countries.

Yet, there are more and more German discounters open up, such as Aldi and Lidl. By shopping there, you can save a significant amount of cash.

Eating out

Average German eats out in a restaurant 136 times a year. When considering average prices, it ranges between 147 EUR and 226 EUR per month on food outside the home

On the other hand, Switzerland is anything but cheap in terms of dining. A pizza in a restaurant starts at 14 CHF, a nice meal costs 40 CHF.

While a three-course meal with a glass of wine for two people at a mid-range restaurant could cost around CHF 100.

Wondering how much is the average salary for your profession? Check the Gehalt.de – the best German resource which provides information on all salaries in the country. You can add filters like location, experience, skills, size of the company, and others to see the most accurate numbers!

Germany vs Switzerland: Job opportunities

Expats and foreign professionals will have different job opportunities in Germany and Switzerland.

Germany

Foreign workers will find greater chances in STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in Germany. The demand has increased to 338,000 specialists, 42,000 more than a year ago.

Germany actively welcomes foreigners to work in STEM fields. The government has even lowered the minimum required salary for EU Blue Card to 44,304 EUR annually. 

Every 5th employee in the STEM field comes from abroad, so ex-pats and foreigners have high chances of hiring.

After living in Germany on EU Blue Card you can get a permanent residency already after 2 years.

Check out the list of high demand jobs in Germany in 2021.

Switzerland

Switzerland’s economy is based on highly skilled workers and specialists. Low key, low qualified labor from other countries tend to have limited opportunities unless they are EU citizens.

Generally, Switzerland offers the best chances for highly educated specialists in niches like:

  • Microtechnology, hi-tech, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, as well as banking and insurance.

Since Switzerland is widely recognized as an international research center, research from various fields, you also welcomed.

In other industries, you might see the competition being higher, as non-EU citizens will have difficulties finding employment.

Career chances of native English speakers are higher. Americans with different backgrounds will find jobs easier. In addition, speaking one of the 4 official languages of the canton will give you an edge in landing a job there. 

Swiss economy

Switzerland’s economy is based on highly skilled workers in specialist areas such as micro technology, hi-tech, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and banking and insurance.

Switzerland is widely recognized as an international research center, with the private and public sectors strongly promoting science and technology.

More than 40% of Swiss exports come from the pharmaceutical, chemical, and biotechnology industries, and the health and technology sectors.

Over 1,000 biotech start-ups in fields ranging from oncology to neurology have a presence in the country, as do many major technology firms.

Germany vs Switzerland: Salaries

Switzerland is known for some of the highest salaries worldwide. Here, Germany can’t compete.

Germany

In 2021, the minimum wage in Germany is 9,60 EUR per hour or 1,585 EUR per month.

In Germany, the average income is calculated as a mean value of the gross salaries of all employees in Germany covered by pension insurance. 

In 2021, German employees earned a median of 43,200 EUR per year. Depending on location, annual incomes range by up to 19,000 EUR, and the differences between a salary in a small company and a large corporation are even bigger.

However, different resources show different numbers. So StepStone Salary Report 2021 (Stepstone Gehaltsreport 2021) has indicated the average gross salary in Germany as 56,985 EUR. 

Whereas the average gross household income in Germany is 4,846 EUR per month, the income of single people households is 2,812 EUR. 

The average gross monthly income of the household is 5,086 EUR in West Germany and 3,927 EUR in East Germany.

To learn how much taxes you will pay in Germany read this comparasion between taxes in US and Germany.

The average salary in Germany in 2021 in different industries:

ProfessionAvg. Gross salary (2021)
Medicine (doctors)€89.539
Finance€73.847
Lawyer€68.642
Business Advice€64.173
Banking€62.744
Engineer€62.564
IT€60.563
Marketing, PR€60.174
Production€60.046
Distribution and Sales€59.591
HR€58.029
Construction€57.270
Research€56.399
Logistics€50.358
Design€48.574
Source: housinganywhere.com

The average salary depends on the industry, position, and years of experience. The difference between different professions is still quite high, around 40,000 EUR annually. 

Check salaries in Germany yourself

Use this free tool to check average salaries in Germany. You can add filters like location, experience, skills, size of the company, and others to see the most accurate numbers!

Switzerland

Switzerland is home for 40 of the 2,755 wealthiest people in the world.

There is no national-wide minimum wage in Switzerland. The highest rate is in Geneva, Switzerland, and is 23 CHF per hour. In other cantons, it can be as low as 19 CHF.

Switzerland’s salary ranges from 31,300 CHF per year (minimum salary) to 553,000 CHF per year (average maximum wage, actual maximum is higher).

The average gross salary of an employee is 6,538 CHF per month, which is significantly higher than in Germany (approx. 4,748 EUR).

While, the median salary is 119,000 CHF per year, which means that half of the population are earning less than 119,000 CHF, and the other half are making more than 119,000 CHF. 

Many rankings have shown that Switzerland has one of the highest annual salaries in the world, which are at around 6,500 CHF per month.

Average salary

The average hourly wage in Switzerland is 60 CHF.

In 2019, OECD reported that the average annual salary in Switzerland was 60,847 CHF. 

Average annual salaries in Switzerland in 2021:

OccupationAnnual salary (CHF)Monthly salary (CHF)
Teacher87,5007,292
Marketing officer90,5007,542
Product manager105,0008,750
Nurse68,0005,667
IT systems specialist117,0009,750
Account manager95,5507,963
Postal worker66,6005,550
Graphic artist55,0004,584

The worst-paid professions include sales and courier services.

Germany vs Switzerland: Living standards

Both countries have a high standard of living. However, Switzerland has less poverty, social tensions, or refugees than Germany and is way more relaxed.

For instance, 16,7% of the German population lives beyond the poverty line, whereas only 6,6% in Switzerland.

Germany

German living standards are considered to be high. Germany was continuously ranked among the top 5 countries in the world to live in.

Germany’s economy is among the world’s strongest, which allows the country to continue to invest in the future development and improvement of residents’ lives.

Furthermore, the ratio of prices and earnings is well matched, you can find ways to save but also to spend a lot.

People’s opinions and privacy are respected much more respected than in most other countries worldwide.

The social system is very strong in Germany. People receive support from the government in case of any hardship. Health care is paid with monthly payroll taxes and free for employees (all serviced are reimbursed by the insurance).

Education, including universities, has excellent quality and is also free. Students pay only a small semester fee that includes a monthly public transport pass.

Switzerland

Switzerland traditionally was known as a country with some of the highest standards of living in the world. However, in 2021 ranking Zurich was placed in the 7th position.

For a long time, it was rated as one of the top 3 cities in the world to live in.

Overall, Switzerland has a clean environment, low crime rates, well-developed infrastructure, and efficient public transportation. 

Indeed, the purchasing power is higher in Switzerland.

What is a good salary in Germany?

Overall, a good annual average salary in Germany is between 64,000 EUR and 81,000 EUR.

What is a good salary in Switzerland?

The annual salary above 72,000 CHF is considered to be good. Everyone getting between 6,000 CHF and 9,000 CHF per month is a good earner.

With that salary, you can afford a decent life in Switzerland.

Germany vs Switzerland: How international they are?

Germany

Over the centuries, Germany has been shaped by various migration movements and is now largely considered an “immigration country”. In 2019, 10,1 million foreigners were living in Germany, which accounts to 12%.

Furthermore, Germany has around 21,2 million people with a migration background. Which are:

  1. 13,2% have a Turkish background (around 2.8 million)
  2. 10,4% have a Polish background (around 2.2 million)
  3. 6,6% have Russian background (around 1.4 million)

Switzerland

Switzerland has always been one of the most international countries in the world. Moreover, it has experienced an immigration boom over the past 20 years.

In 2018, of the 8,4 million people living in Switzerland, nearly 2,1 million (or 25%) were foreigners. Yet, more than 2/3 of them are from EU and EFTA countries and only 1/3 from non-EU countries.

Furthermore, foreign nationals account for 32,4% of the workforce.

Can you live in Germany and work in Switzerland?

You can not live in Germany and work in Switzerland as a non-EU citizen. The residence and work permit issued for Germany doesn’t allow you to work in Switzerland.

Same applies to Swiss permits. A residence permit doesn’t give you a right to stay unlimmited amount of days in a year abroad, e.g. in Germany. You can travel to Germany occasionally but living there isn’t permited.

Consequetnly, only Germans and other EU- and EFTA citizens are permitted to work in Switzerland and live in Germany, but only the border region.

To learn more about life in Germany, you can read living in Germany vs Austria.

Recommended products and services in Germany:

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