My Swiss in-laws remark that Switzerland is the richest country in the world, but also the most expensive. However, they have not lived in New Zealand, the country that offers the least value for money of anywhere I have been! My wife and I did our sums on living in Switzerland compared to New Zealand. As a somewhat anal person with a background in investments, we meticulously keep track of every receipt and categorise it. We have been here for not even two months and we are thrilled to have escaped the incompetence, stupidity, corruption, extortionate living costs, and absence of professional opportunities in New Zealand. My wife is a Kiwi/Swiss who is Swiss citizen by descent and I am an American who moved to New Zealand three years ago after selling my business in the US.
At any rate, our monthly grocery bill in Switzerland came to slightly less than what we paid monthly in New Zealand! Admittedly, we buy most of our stuff from Aldi, a German discount grocery chain and then we buy some speciality things unavailable at Aldi at either Migros or Co-op, which are admittedly more expensive, but the quality of products would be impossible to find in New Zealand and the price is reasonable based on our earning power here.
Food is expensive in Switzerland compared to the rest of Europe because the government heavily subsidises farmers, wages are high, and rents for stores are expensive. Swiss farms are small (e.g. a Swiss farmer has a dozen cows compared to a few hundred for a New Zealand farmer) and the government wants to produce as much food domestically as possible should a war or international crisis prevent the importation of food, so it subsidises agriculture. The farming subsidies definitely increase prices, but I agree with the Swiss that having a domestic food supply is a matter of national security.
Anyway, I paid the following here when I went to the grocery store yesterday.
CHF 1.15 (NZ $1.55) for a litre of milk
CHF 5.99 (NZ $8.09) for a kg of honey
CHF 1.79 (NZ $2.41) for a kg of tangerines
CHF 1.49 (NZ $2.01) for a kg of bananas
Incidentally, the supermarket chain Aldi pays its employees a minimum wage of CHF 4,200 in Switzerland or CHF 54,600 (NZ $73,000) per year (You get paid double in December in Switzerland so it is x 13). For employees in Zurich, the minimum salary is CHF 4,600 per month. Here is the German article http://www.gmx.ch/themen/finanzen/wirtschaft/10ax80y-aldi-suisse-erhoeht-grundlohn-2-1-prozent#.hero.Aldi%20Suisse%20erh%C3%B6ht%20Grundlohn.606.329
The packaged products here are all generally cheaper than in New Zealand, but the products are high quality products that come from Switzerland, Germany, or Italy. It will no doubt amaze Kiwis that Aldi can pay its Swiss employees nearly triple what people earn at Countdown whilst charging lower prices and still manages to turn a tidy profit. Aldi is very efficient German company unlike Kiwi businesses comprised of busybody bogans.
You will see the supermarket employees in Switzerland work efficiently. If there are no customers, the people at the register stock shelves instead of blabber to each other about their cousin’s crazy girlfriend before they help the customer. Likewise, customers put a 2 Franc coin into the trolleys, which gets returned once they return the cart, so they do not have to pay a guy to push shopping trolleys. Kiwis always express indignation at automation or anything that improves a process believing incorrectly that reducing the need for physical labour produces unemployment. If this were the case, we should abolish machinery and all own little plots of land and start living as subsistence farmers. We would all be busily working acquiring the bare necessities with no time to do anything else.
You will notice that the job adverts here have very few openings for “managers”. I remember in New Zealand how an office of about twenty-five people was comprised of about sixteen managers and a CEO! At my wife’s company in Switzerland, they hardly have any managers. Not having an inordinate number of managers that “supervise” and produce very little means Swiss companies can pay people good wages. BTW, the median salary in Switzerland is CHF 6,000 per month, or CHF 78,000 per year (NZD $117,000) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_in_Europe_by_monthly_average_wage For illiterates, that means half the people earn more than NZD $117,000 per annum. You can get more detailed information confirming the information salaries for different professions, but you will have to know German, French, or Italian to follow it http://www.lohnrechner.bfs.admin.ch/Pages/SalariumWizard.aspx?lang=de. Many of the Swiss are highly specialised workers. Companies provide good apprenticeships or training programmes that match young people with the skills they need and suitable employment after they complete their training, hence unemployment is about 3% here. The tax system here rewards excellence and business. Cantons compete to lower taxes, so many large multinationals relocate to Switzerland or have a presence here. Businesses also want access to a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, so many have substantial operations here.
Public transport here is very cheap and of far superior quality to New Zealand. In Wellington, I would have to pay NZ $3.88 per bus trip (with the discount card) for a short ride to work or NZ $155.20 per four weeks/month or NZ $1,862.40. The bus was often late or would break down regularly and I would use my car the rest of the time because the bus in my area only ran during commute times. In Zurich, you pay CHF 729 (NZ $984) per year and you can ride unlimited on all trains, trams, buses, and boats within the city. You literally only have to wait a few minutes at most for a train or tram to come. The trains, buses, and trams are on time 99% of the time, very new, and clean. In Switzerland, you just board the bus or train with your ticket or card. The train crew or transit police occasionally check to see if you have a valid ticket in addition to your Swiss ID or relevant residence permit for foreigners. If you do not have a valid ticket, they issue a huge fine. However, not checking everyone’s ticket every single time makes things more efficient and quicker. I remember how much time ended up wasted for someone fumbling for change etc on the bus or the silliness of having several people standing around to sell train tickets on the Wellington trains. Here, they have machines and people are honest, so they pay. If not, they do end up getting caught during the random spot checks.
My wife and I have an annual GA card, which allows us unlimited use of all the public transport in Switzerland (trains, buses, trams, boats) for an entire year. She is under 25 and I get the partner discount, so we pay CHF 5,000 (NZ $6,750) for two people. Otherwise, you pay CHF 3,400 (NZ $4,590) for full price for one person. At any rate, we do day trips around Switzerland on weekends, which is awesome. You can go skiing, hiking, visit Christmas markets, go to old cities and towns on weekends in contrast to New Zealand where many people will not drive the car on weekend because the petrol is expensive. We take maximum advantage of the GA card and we have so much to do here compared to New Zealand. We can go to listen to music, watch sports, or check out a ballet.
As for housing, we move into our new apartment on 1 January. We will pay CHF 1,230 per month (NZ $1,660) for a 78 square metre apartment in a town about twenty-five minutes by train from the centre of Basel. In Wellington, the cost for our 90 square metre house In Broadmeadows was NZ $475 per week or about NZ ($2,058 per month), which takes about the same time to get to by bus or fifteen minutes by car. The difference is that our apartment has actual parquet and tiled floors rather than the unsanitary cheap carpet of New Zealand, a large refrigerator, proper tiles in the bathroom, and a kitchen that would be hard to find in New Zealand. Most importantly, we have central heating, so my poor wife no longer has to freeze in winter.
Utilities are very cheap here. I have not had an electricity bill, but my wife’s Swiss relatives were horrified at New Zealand prices. Fortunately, Switzerland has nuclear plants, which is taboo amongst anti-science and technology crowd in New Zealand but help produce cheap electricity. Telephone, Internet, and television are very cheap. You can get an entry-level package in Switzerland for CHF 89 per month (NZ $120) that provides you with unlimited calls within Switzerland, unlimited Internet, and 140 channels http://www.swisscom.ch/en/residential/packages/vivo-casa.html.
Taxes in Switzerland are much lower than in New Zealand and it is hard to compare because different cantons and municipalities tax differently. However, a married man earning CHF 100,000 (NZ $135,000) with two children will pay between 2.6% and 10.7% actual tax rate. http://www.expatica.com/upload/CH_Bonfina_table1.png. I would also add the other compulsory insurances (unemployment insurance, state pension, accident insurance, which add another 10%. This would still bring the actual tax rate to between 12.6% and 20%, which is still much lower than New Zealand. VAT here is 8% compared to 15% GST in New Zealand.
The social safety net is fabulous. If you become unemployed in Switzerland, you receive 70% of your previous pay capped at about CHF 100,000 per year, meaning you can get up to about CHF 70,000 for one year. However, they cut off your insurance after one year, so there is less of a benefit underclass than in New Zealand.
You must buy your own private health insurance here. We have the very basic plan, which is about CHF 400 (NZ $540) per month for two people. This covers doctor’s visits, hospitalisation, and free births. If we have surgery, we pay the first CHF 2,500, but no one ends up with a catastrophic medical bill like in the US. The quality is superb. My wife had to have an emergency appendectomy and the quality she received was superb. The hospital food was proper food, unlike the crap made in the US, UK, New Zealand, and other English-speaking countries that do not know the value of a good meal. The medical system is 100% private, except the government will help you pay for your health insurance if you are too poor to afford the premiums. The physicians and nurses were superb. They actually communicate with you and methodically explain what they intend to do. They come across as much sharper than the New Zealand doctors I have met.
We plan to have children in about two years, so we researched the schools. My wife went to a local Swiss school as part of her job induction. The facilities were superb and teachers receive excellent pay here. The average Swiss person knows 2 or 3 languages well, unlike the average Kiwi who does not even know his mother tongue properly. Switzerland was number one in Europe on the PISA results. The education system is very practical. For example, if you are not academically gifted, you start learning a trade at about 15. The schools segregate older kids according to ability, so there are separate tracks for people and gifted kids do not end up stunted. However, university attendance is not that high, as most people do apprenticeships that match young people with skills and employers. In New Zealand, the focus is on putting everyone through university. Consequently, most kids receive a pseudo intellectual education that is far below the standard of a proper university trajectory, so they do not actually learn anything useful. They also do not learn anything useful if they are less academic. Kids in New Zealand pay high prices for university, but cannot find jobs because they have learned nothing useful in New Zealand’s subpar academic institutions. In Switzerland, tuition is about CHF 1,500 per year (NZ $2,025). However, admission criteria are strict, so only top students go to university. The universities also focus extensively on business, engineering, and hard sciences, unlike New Zealand where the university education lacks rigour and students learn useless things, usually socialism masquerading as academic research in soft disciplines like the humanities. I happen to love the humanities, but they have suffered so much dumbing down.
Lastly, the professional opportunities are superb. My wife found a job earning triple her New Zealand salary within a week of landing here in late October working for a multinational. She has moved up considerably in terms of pay and responsibility.
I have not found a job yet, as the job market dies at the end of the year because no one wants to leave their job before the Christmas 13th month pay and companies generally do not recruit. However, I have spoken to a couple people in my profession, who said I should find something easily earning top money early next year. I am not too concerned and I expect to resume a proper career trajectory that took a tumble in New Zealand. While my wife works, I have been organising the new apartment, buying furniture, searching for a job, sorting out all the little logistical things, and posting on E2NZ!
At any rate, we are thrilled to have left New Zealand and we are not looking back. I just wanted to post this to encourage other migrants that are stuck. I know most other countries do not offer the phenomenal opportunities that Switzerland has, but there is life outside New Zealand. Even an expensive place like Switzerland is still cheaper and provides much better value than New Zealand in so many respects. My wife and I are looking forward to having our children here and raising them in Europe where having an intellect or drive is not a crime. We are also so close to so many places and things, so we will be doing a great deal of travelling.
My advice to migrants that are stuck in New Zealand is to cut their losses and leave. I also recommend the same to the intelligent and industrious Kiwis to take them and their skills with them overseas. New Zealand is a land of parasites that survives, in part, by lying and fooling credulous migrants and tourists into coming there. The best way to rectify the situation is to rid the parasites of their hosts.
We are thrilled to have escaped New Zealand and we are both very grateful to the person or people that run E2NZ. I hope that many of you avoid making a colossal mistake by coming to New Zealand.
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