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Swiss pricing

This one is more for the Swiss locals. I know from personal experience that it's not cheap to visit Switzerland (but certainly worth it), I was killing time the other day and I pulled up the Coop supermarket website. I thought I would be blown away by the prices, yet as I kept looking I kept finding that they weren't so out of line with American supermarkets.

So if that's true, why is everything else so pricey? Labor and taxes?

Posted by
591 posts

There is no one answer and most locals, not living in other countries, wouldn’t have a bench mark to reference to. I strongly suggest you simply Google: “Switzerland expensive” and you will find numerous articles discussing the topic in depth.

Posted by
596 posts

I've watched several YouTube videos on grocery shopping in Switzerland and on many things they are much higher than the U.S. Try videos from the YouTube channel How to Switzerland made by a U.S.expat living there.

Why is most everything more expensive in CA than NM?

Posted by
15690 posts

Keep in mind that the 1 USD is only 0.9 CHF, so even if the prices seem comparable in CHF, it will cost 12% more. And it always has been common advice if you want to save money in Switzerland, eat most of your meals in your lodgings with food purchased at the Coop. What makes Switzerland expensive is hotels, restaurants, train tickets, gasoline (although that is cheaper than it's neighbors).

Posted by
3978 posts

Are you able to compare apples to apples, phred, or are some of the items kind-of Swiss apples compared to American oranges? Are some of the Swiss products higher quality, fewer preservatives, less chemicals, etc. and therefore maybe worth more?

Posted by
11898 posts

When we go to Switzerland we rent apartments for most nights and buy food at the local grocery yo cook at home. We have founded that grocery store prices for many things are not far out of linevwith what we would pay here in the US. Maybe 10'to 15 got some thingspercent higher, depending on the exchange rate. Currently thevSwiss franc is worth about $1.11. We have seen lower (80 cents, back around 2002)mand we have seen higher ($1.20).

Hotel and restaurant prices, on the other hand, are considerably higher in Switzerland compared to US prices, but they are not exactly comparable. The Swiss hospitality industry has very high standards, wherever you go. Not sure I could say the same of US hotels/motels and restaurants.

Posted by
17773 posts

Currently $1 (US) = 0.90 Swiss francs, so 1 Swiss franc = $1.11.

Posted by
11898 posts

You are right, acraven. I had it backwards. I have corrected my post accordingly.

Posted by
85 posts

American living in Switzerland here - I generally find that supermarket prices in Switzerland are not too over the top and not what stretches the budget. Prices have also been under pressure at Coop and Migros (the two big local chains) in recent years since the discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl started a mass expansion here. However there are certain items/categories that are definitely way more expensive: for example meat (especially beef but all meat in general), health/beauty products (shampoo, toothpaste, OTC drugs etc) and prepared foods. Also random things like Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which costs about 11 CHF here instead of $4-5. It is also very hard to find anything in bulk size here to save money that way. My fridge is also less than half the size of a standard US one, so it is hard to take advantage of sales and discounts by buying big quantities or cooking in batches.

Eating out in restaurants is expensive (even for relatively modest meals), hotels are expensive and transport is expensive - this is normally what tourists notice. Clothing is also expensive (and don't even mention housing!). Yes, some of that has to do with labor and operating costs, as well as (occasionally, but not always) higher quality. I do believe that some of it is just the market though - bargain-hunting is not a sport here like it is in the US and many people still have the attitude that cost must equal quality, especially if it's a product made in Switzerland. However this sometimes ends up pushing up prices even on mass-produced items. Many who live within easy reach of Germany do their shopping over the border because you can save a bundle - but I also have friends who look down on this because they insist that the meat and product quality can't be as good as Switzerland.

Just my thoughts after living here 15 years. I still miss shopping in the US, just for the variety on offer and old favorite products that I can't get here. And there are still things I just refuse to buy here on principle because I can't stomach the prices, even after all this time - made a little more difficult this past year without my annual trip home!

Posted by
24563 posts

great information, hopper18 - thanks

Just coincidentally, I get my toothpaste at Migros (own brand) because I prefer it to the world brands on sale in the UK. I find it also not excessively expensive because I usually get in the 3-pack offers and because a tube lasts a long time - only a little needed at a time.

Posted by
15690 posts

One factor is the fact that every kleptocrat and oligarch in the world likes to stash their ill gotten assets in Switzerland and have them denominated in Swiss Francs. From an American viewpoint, this has resulted in a massive appreciation in the CHF vis-a-vis the USD. 18 years ago, 1 USD got you 1.34 CHF, now it only gets you 0.9 CHF. That is a 50% increase in prices, at least from an American perspective. For a Swiss resident, nothing has changed, except that they notice that their Francs go a lot further when they vacation or shop outside the country.

When so much foreign money gets converted to CHF, it creates big issues. Switzerland only has 9 million residents, thus enough currency to handle the population's needs. For a long time, the Swiss National Bank tried to maintain a constant exchange rate with the EUR, their largest trading partner. But in 2017, they finally had to throw in the towel and let it appreciate against the EUR, making their exports a lot more expensive.

18 years ago, i thought the price level was "fair" vis-a-vis the USD. Now it is indeed expensive, but as I told a friend "Our problem is that there is only one Switzerland and they aren't making any new ones." So us tourists will just have to pay up to experience this beautiful country.

Posted by
5608 posts

First world country with first world pricing. Switzerland's a nice place to visit.

http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/switzerland/

While money may not buy happiness, it is an important means to
achieving higher living standards and thus greater well-being....

In Switzerland, the average household net adjusted disposable income
per capita is USD 37 466 a year, higher than the OECD average of USD
33 604....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report

The 2020 report features the happiness score averaged over the years
2017–2019. Finland is the happiest country in the world, followed by
Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway.

Posted by
5453 posts

So, its a trade-off: high cost of living for a high standard of living; high taxes for high level of services. Not too long ago they were voting on a national minimum wage requirement of (equivalent) 25$US/hour, but decided they didn't need it. Their economy is a lot more manageable with only 9 million people and strict limits on immigration.

Posted by
5608 posts

I understand that Switzerland has a temporary guest worker program to staff many of the seasonal tourist industry jobs. The foreign workers are more willing to work the low wage hospitality jobs during peak season and go back to their lower cost of living countries during the off season.

Posted by
3978 posts

the happiness score averaged over the years
2017–2019. Finland is the happiest country in the world, followed by
Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway

Maybe money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Posted by
85 posts

To respond to the last couple of posters: Actually, about 1/4 of the population are foreign nationals (majority German/Italian/French due to no language barrier, along with large population of Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish and those from the Balkan region among others), although quite a few are born in Switzerland but don't get the passport. As a 'foreigner' myself, I often feel tolerated by the country rather than accepted - there is a lot of political and social debate around foreigners and immigration which can make one feel less than welcome, even if you come from a relatively wealthy country like the US. This is a big contrast to the way most tourists are treated because they are here temporarily and spending a lot of money.

Immigration is not that restricted, at least for EU citizens. Because of "freedom of movement" agreements with the EU, any EU citizen can move to Switzerland and look for work for up to 6 months as long as they can pay their living expenses. Short-term jobs up to 3 months don't need any authorization and for more permanent jobs, you basically just have to register, very little red tape. You do notice many retail, service and hospitality positions are filled by those from other European countries, but also doctors and other high-skill professionals are often foreign because there aren't enough Swiss to meet the demand. Almost all of the doctors I've ever had here are from other EU countries (Germany, Hungary, Italy, to name a few), very rarely Swiss.

So-called third-country nationals (like USA) are another story - very difficult to get in. You basically need to be transferred here by your company or have a job offer in hand unless you are married to a Swiss/EU citizen.

And regarding "high taxes for high level of services" - taxes depend a bit where you live and whether your money comes from salary or other formats, but are not as high as many other parts of Europe. I end up paying slightly less percentage-wise than I did in the US, but it's not a massive difference unless you are really wealthy or live in one of the low-tax cantons or towns. Of course as an American, I also still have to file with the IRS every year too. Healthcare is paid for separately and is not cheap unless you are able to qualify for a subsidy. I actually end up paying more here for health insurance here than I did back in the US, and it doesn't include any dental/glasses/etc. (It does however have some maximum costs built in, so you're unlikely to go bankrupt, which is a plus). A lot of things are paid for by fees rather than taxes: for example, you have to pay a TV license fee every year, fee for each garbage bag you use in addition to trash collection fee, fee to contribute to the fire department, childcare is not subsidized as in other European countries, etc.

Also, 59% of people here rent rather than own (in cities, this is even higher - Basel is 84% for example). If you can afford to buy and don't want to live in a village in the middle of nowhere, that usually means an apartment too rather than a single-family home. If you really want to own a home with a big garage and a yard, this could count as a negative in the Swiss "quality of life" rating. My parents, for example, couldn't imagine downsizing to apartment life as I live it. Just depends on expectations and lifestyle.

Anyway - all very off topic from supermarkets, but maybe people find it interesting...! The reality is that yes, quality of life is generally high, but it's not perfect here either. Everywhere has its positives and negatives, but that's why I love to travel - you get to experience new things and learn how people live in other places!

Posted by
7201 posts

My daughter married a Swiss man and moved from the USA to Geneva. She now teaches 2nd graders in a Geneva school, and her salary is about 2.5 times of her teaching job here in the USA. Of course their small 2 br 1 ba apartment rent is more than my mortgage on a reasonably nice house here in the USA. Most everything in Switzerland is quite a lot more expensive than here in the USA. However, groceries are very similar in prices as here in Tennessee.

The difference is that jobs in Switzerland pay very well. Even jobs that we consider lower paid here in the USA (waiter/waitress) in Switzerland pay a very livable wage.

Posted by
1901 posts

hopper18 & Tim - Great information and quite similar to what we experienced living in Denmark. Taxes are high, but then again, so are wages. My wife teaches and with her years of experience, she was earning about $64K in the USA before we moved to Copenhagen. There, in a far-less stressful teaching opportunity - she was paid $112K for her years of experience. She did pay 42% in taxes. When we first saw that number - and you get your tax rate when you sign your contract - it was startling.

But even after paying those taxes (withheld monthly), her Copengahen take-home-pay was slightly MORE than her pre-tax earnings in the USA. Granted, the cost of living was much higher, but it was offset by the higher wages she was paid. (Not to mention, excellent healthcare was FREE!). Many of our Danish friends traveled often in Europe because they operated on a different standard of living, based on their wages.

A side-note, as her wages were contracted, so were her withheld taxes. The first week of January each year, she received a tax notification (from SKAT, the Danish tax service) stating you owe XX.XX DKK. For her, that statement was always 0.00 DKK taxes owed... and that was it... no further IRS-type paperwork to file. No, this is not a "why doesn't the USA do this" discussion - it's just the way the Danes do it!

So yes, coming into Switzerland (and Denmark also), it is more expensive for the foreign traveler, but locals are more insulated due to their wages. That's not to say there aren't concerns in Denmark for lower-paid earners - that tension does exist there. And it is undoubtedly more difficult for some foreign workers to assimilate. But it can explain a little bit of the sticker shock that a tourist sees when they travel/eat/shop in Denmark or Switzerland.

Posted by
2579 posts

Thanks, hopper18. I did find it interesting.

Posted by
22 posts

We visited switzerland in 2019 for about 12 days. We ate at the coop frequently as it was amongst the most affordable sites for food. The quality is great. I do warn, however, never to eat at their coops found in airports and train stations. I ate a cold chicken sandwich from a wrapping that looked properly stored and ended up with my first and only bout of travelers diarrhea in Europe. It ruined 3 days of my trip. I rarely if ever eat cold food traveling but I thought 'its switzerland! What could go wrong?'

The reason why coops are so affordable is due to their structure. Switzerland has some of the most stringent protectionist regimes for businesses in Europe. As a result, much of the distribution model that supports coop only supports coop. They are a swiss company making it hard for foreign competitors to encroach and due to govt subsidies are able to offer various products low cost.

This is simply not the case for businesses without a national supply chain monopoly like local restaurants and even foreign chains like McDonalds- though they can compete marginally better. I found that the best foods was at places like McDonalds- the hamburger and cheese were both swiss and free range and were better than some high end restaurants we overpaid to eat at!

I dont think the prices you see at coop extend to other businesses as a result.

Posted by
1471 posts

speaking of supermarkets, I read somewhere recently that in Switzerland you're either a Migros family or a Coop family. No crossover.

Posted by
24563 posts

I'm happy to pop into each, but Migros is my fave. The Coop is a little different. It helps that I regularly stock several Migros own brand items. I just prefer it. (I'm not a Swiss family, but the visits to Migros are always part of the visiting ritual).

Posted by
5453 posts

Coop is just the business' name, right? Its not a "co-op" as in US usage - a cooperative - community-based, collectively-owned, members only, often non-profit operation. Someone correct me if wrong.

Posted by
1471 posts

I'm pretty sure it's just a supermarket, they probably took the phrase "co-op" and Swissed it up.

There's a store in Boston called the Harvard Coop, which probably began life as an actual co-op which everyone just called the coop.

Posted by
596 posts

Done lots of reading and watched YouTube videos on grocery shopping in Switzerland. Sarah from How to Switzerland has some nice videos on life there. As I understand the difference coop is slightly more expensive and sells alcohol and cigarettes. Migros doesn't. And no coop is not a cooperative and it's pronounced like chicken coop.

Both seem to have restaurants, take out food and a wide range of store sizes from megamarts to minimarts. I plan to utilize them when we can finally travel there.

Posted by
5608 posts

The Swiss Coop is a cooperative member organization: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coop_(Switzerland)

Coop (German pronunciation: [ˈkoːp]) is one of Switzerland's largest
retail and wholesale companies. It is structured in the form of a
cooperative society with around 2.5 million members.

BTW, the Norwegian Coop stores are similarly member owned stores: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coop_Norge

Coop Norge SA is a Norwegian cooperative. It is owned by 117 local
cooperatives with more than 1.3 million members

And in America not a single business entity but a form of ownership: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumers%27_co-operative

A consumers' co-operative is an enterprise owned by consumers and
managed democratically which aims at fulfilling the needs and
aspirations of their members.[1] They operate within the market
system, independently of the state, as a form of mutual aid, oriented
toward service rather than pecuniary profit.[2] Consumers'
cooperatives often take the form of retail outlets owned and operated
by their consumers, such as food co-ops.[3] However, there are many
types of consumers' cooperatives, operating in areas such as health
care, insurance, housing, utilities and personal finance (including
credit unions).

Posted by
24563 posts

The various Co-op supermarkets in the UK (and Funeral services, and Travel) are members of one of several cooperative societies. Starting up north, they were the first to look after the welfare of the workers and advocate purity. Have a look a representative society - https://www.centralengland.coop/

The cooperative movement is widespread in Europe.

Posted by
85 posts

There are some particular things I like better from Coop and some from Migros. Luckily almost every town has both.
Migros has more "own brand" products and the stores sometimes feel a little stodgier, although they have been improving in this area lately. They make a bigger deal about being Swiss too.
Coop has own brands as well, but far more international brands. I'd say they are also better at prepared foods and trying to bring in new products and food trends. To me, their stores and product selection feel more modern.
Quality is good at both though and with all the own brands, sometimes Migros can be better value for daily staples.
Both still have co-operative structures and both are far more than supermarkets - each company also owns other huge brands in Switzerland, from gas stations to electronics to bookshops to adult education to fitness centers to banking. Eventually you realize that between the two of them, they are running what seems like most of Switzerland!

Posted by
24563 posts

While the Migros electronics stores tend to be convenient I'm not sure that they are any better than Media Markt. Media Markt has much more choice and some fairly keen prices - and excellent service. The bargain bins near the door are little gold mines.