Monday, September 17, 2012

Zurich City - Just How Expensive Is It?

Zurich in Switzerland is a cultural Mecca and renowned for being one of the most desirable cities to live in many a survey. It is also however one of the most expensive cities to live in, ranking in the top ten worldwide and in Europe, in the Xpatulator Cost of LivingRanking Survey for 2012, being surpassed only by Hong Kong and Tokyo respectively.

Costs in Zurich, like the rest of the nation are particularly high for groceries, restaurant meals out, hotels and transport, for example a cappuccino costs around 4.95 CHF / 5.34 USD, while a litre of petrol / gasoline around 1.95 CHF / 2.10 USD.  It is also compulsory for expats to pay taxes, insurances and licenses, making life in this idyllic country extremely expensive, but comparatively it is also known for its high salaries, high buying power and high quality of life.

As in most of the cities we have covered to date, Zurich is no different when it comes to high costs, high competition and limited availability of accommodation. The Household Accommodation Basket has a weighting of 30%, this means that an expatriate who earns, for example 10,000 would typically spend 3,000 (30% of 10,000) on housing. Utilities are also paid out of an expats salary and can cost up to 10% of the cost of the rental amount.

Rental prices for a secure upmarket apartment in the city centre range from 2.59 CHF / 2.79 USD for one bedroom, while a 3 bedroom family apartment can cost up to 4,700 CHF / 5,069 USD per month.  Suburban accommodation is much cheaper and ranges from 1,500 CHF / 1,618 USD for one bedroom, while a 3 bedroom family apartment can cost up to 2,700 CHF / 2,912 USD per month. 

Interestingly the taxes you pay are correlated directly to where you live, if you live in a prosperous area you will pay a lower tax rate, the prosperity is what drives the rate down in that the higher the concentration of companies and wealthy people in a location the lower the rate, thereby benefiting those individuals who are not as well-off. The resulting impact is that as much as accommodation is expensive in cities, the tax rate is less in comparison to outlying areas.

Grocery costs in Zurich are extremely high, making this city one of the most expensive in the world. 
Food prices range from:
1kg of apples – 4.89 CHF / 5.27 USD,
1kg medium sized potatoes – 2.91 CHF / 3.14 USD,
1 dozen eggs -  7.06 CHF / 7.61 USD,
1 500g white bread  - 3.05 CHF / 3.29 USD,
1 litre full cream milk – 1.57 CHF / 1.69 USD
1kg boneless, skinless chicken breast – 31.41 CHF / 33.88 USD,
1.5 litre bottle of water – 1.14 CHF / 1.23 USD.

A good idea is to shop around and not in the City Centre as this is the most expensive place for goods, go to the Shopping Malls around Zurich for the best prices. At the Supermarkets buy unpackaged goods, which are much cheaper and avoid pre-sliced, pre-washed and pre-packaged fruits and vegetables. You can drink the tap water as it is pure and safe, so leave the bottled water in the shops. Meat is very expensive, so either buy conservatively or buy the meat that is in the discounted areas. This meat is close to the expiry date but if frozen at home it can last longer. Discounts are also available for toiletries and the Supermarket branded products are usually cheaper.

Education for expats is average, however expatriate international school costs can range from 30,000 USD for primary schooling to 35,000 USD for Secondary.  
The public schools in Switzerland are of a very high standard and each canton has its own head of education, there is also a Swiss Federation for Private Schooling. So look around before you head straight into the expensive international schools.

A three course meal out for two in a mid range restaurant will also cost up to   97 CHF/ 105 USD, while a burger meal similar to McDonalds will set you back almost 13.17 CHF / 14.20 USD and a Coke / Pepsi  4.56 CHF / 4.92 USD. The price of a monthly membership to a Fitness Club will cost 97.37 CHF / 105 USD per month.

Transportation costs are high for example a one way ticket on local public transport 4.28 CHF /  4.62 USD. The normal taxi tariff starts at 7.40 CHF / 7.98 USD, while a one hour standard taxi tariff is 56.82 CHF / 61.28 USD. One litre of petrol / gasoline will set you back by 1.95 CHF / 2.10 USD.  Many people opt to travel via bicycle to and from work as it is so much cheaper, a yearly bike licence will cost up to 10 CHF / 10.78 USD, it is obligatory and covers you for any personal liability.  If you do commute, look out for discounts and special fares.

Exchange rates as at 16 September 2012 : 1 CHF = 1.07926 USD.

Personalized cost of living indexes for Zurich in Switzerland are based on the basket groups and comparison location(s) selected in the Calculators.

In terms of the hardship people are likely to experience, assessed in global terms, Zurich in Switzerland is ranked as minimal hardship with a hardship index of 10%.

Personalized hardship index premiums for Zurich in Switzerland are based on the comparison location(s) selected in the Calculators.

Denise is an Expat and Marketing Manager at a website that provides cost of living index information and calculates what you need to earn in a different location to compensate for cost of living, hardship, and exchange rate differences. The complete cost of living rank for all 13 baskets is available here.

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